But after Jehoiada’s death, the leaders of Judah came and bowed before King Joash and persuaded him to listen to their advice. They decided to abandon the Temple of the Lord, the God of their ancestors, and they worshiped Asherah poles and idols instead! Because of this sin, divine anger fell on Judah and Jerusalem. Yet the Lord sent prophets to bring them back to him. The prophets warned them, but still the people would not listen.
Then the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah son of Jehoiada the priest. He stood before the people and said, “This is what God says: Why do you disobey the Lord’s commands and keep yourselves from prospering? You have abandoned the Lord, and now he has abandoned you!”
Then the leaders plotted to kill Zechariah, and King Joash ordered that they stone him to death in the courtyard of the Lord’s Temple. That was how King Joash repaid Jehoiada for his loyalty—by killing his son. Zechariah’s last words as he died were, “May the Lord see what they are doing and avenge my death!”
(2 Chronicles 24:17-22)
King Joash and the nation of Judah had taken a wrong turn, abandoned God, and begun worshiping idols. God’s anger burned. But before punishing them, “the Lord sent prophets to bring them back to him.” God wanted to warn his people that they were headed for destruction because of their unfaithfulness. Among others, God sent Zechariah to call them to repentance.
God longed to show the people mercy, and he wanted to give them every chance to change their ways. In the face of the people’s unfaithfulness, Joel’s words rang true: “Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love” (Joel 2:13).
God does not abandon us or lash out in anger the moment we sin. Instead, he aggressively pursues us through his Word, his Spirit in us, the words of others, and sometimes discipline. He does not want to destroy us but to urge us to return to him. “Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?” (Romans 2:4).