I have some questions about King Joash's prudent management. When instructions are given, does this story establish that they should be followed up regularly? Could you explain the renewed financial policies of King Joash? What do you think caused the people to respond as they did in II Chronicles 24:10? II Kings 12:4 and II Chronicles 24:5-6 seem to present slightly different stories. What do you think?
King Joash came to power at a young age (seven years old) after the corrupt reign of the evil queen Athaliah. Athaliah was not popular so when the High Priest, Jehoiada, led a rebellion against her, the people celebrated by tearing down the temple of Baal whom Athaliah served (II Kings 11:18). Jehoiada served as regent for the king until he was old enough to reign on his own and while Jehoiada lived, Joash was faithful to God (II Kings 12:2-3).
The temple of God had been neglected for many years during the reign of the previous rulers and Joash decided to reinstate the Mosaical Laws regarding the funding of the temple and the priesthood. You should take note that Joash did not create a new method for funding God's worship. He only reinstated the laws which had been neglected for many years. The census money of a half-shekel per person was commanded in Exodus 30:12-16. Money assessed for vows was specified in Leviticus 27:2. The voluntary contribution was regulated by the law found in Exodus 35:5. The parallel account in II Chronicles 24:9 makes this clear, "And they made a proclamation throughout Judah and Jerusalem to bring to the LORD the collection that Moses the servant of God had imposed on Israel in the wilderness."
The initial order to reinstate the collection so that the temple could be repaired was not immediately carried out by the Levites. We don't know when Joash first decided to restore the temple, but we do know that by the twenty-third year of his reign, he orders remained unfulfilled (II Kings 12:6; II Chronicles 24:5). From II Kings 12:7, it appears that money was collected, but none of it reached Jerusalem so that repairs could be made. King Joash convinced the Levites to stop pretending that the money they were collecting was for the temple. The High Priest then made a collection box which he placed at the door of the temple and the people were encouraged to place their voluntary contributions there. So much was collected that they had to hire people to track the funds and see that they were used for their intended purpose (II Kings 12:10-14). The money was not used to furnish the temple, but to pay the workmen to repair the existing structure. Only the voluntary contributions were used in this manner. "The money from the trespass offerings and the money from the sin offerings was not brought into the house of the LORD. It belonged to the priests" (II Kings 12:16).
It was likely that the voluntary contributions increased when the people saw that their money was actually being used and that it was not simply lining the pockets of the priests (II Chronicles 24:10). Recall the zeal in which they tore down the temple of Baal when Athalia was overthrown. It is likely that the people were still desired to make a statement against the corrupt reign of the evil queen. They wanted to see the temple restored, but they had not been giving when they could not see results. By eliminating the middlemen, Joash placed the control back into the hands of the people and they responded with joy.
Only after the temple was fully restored, were the excess funds used to furnish the temple (II Chronicles 24:14).
King Joash's desire for a restoration of God's temple was initially hindered by lax tax-gatherers. He overcame the problem by allowing the people to bypass the middle men so that their funds when directly to the need. In the New Testament, we see similar concerns. When Paul ordered a collection to be made to help the famine victims in Judea, he asked the churches to select men to carry their funds to Jerusalem. "And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem. But if it is fitting that I go also, they will go with me" (I Corinthians 16:2-3). It is not that Paul was untrustworthy to carry these funds. Instead, they were "taking precaution so that no one will discredit us in our administration of this generous gift; for we have regard for what is honorable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men" (II Corinthians 8:20-21). Paul did not want anyone to even think there was a possibility that the funds would not be used for their intended purpose. I am sure that this extra precaution caused people to be willing to be generous with their gifts (II Corinthians 8:2-3). There was no middle man. The funds were collection by each congregation and sent in the hands of people the congregations knew personally. I'm sure that when they returned, they were able to report precisely how their gifts were used.
This is one of many reasons that missionary societies do not accomplish the will of God. They impose a middle man; isolating the giver from the recipient. People are more generous when they know that their gifts are helping and such knowledge must come from the confidence that they are being used solely for their intended purpose.