This article can also be read in The Expository Files.
“When Athaliah heard the noise of the guard and of the people, she went into the house of the Lord to the people. And when she looked, there was the king standing by the pillar, according to the custom, and the captains and trumpeters beside the king, and all the people of the land rejoicing and blowing trumpets. And Athaliah tore her clothes and cried, ‘Treason! Treason!’ Then Jehoiada the priest commanded the captains who were set over the army, ‘Bring her out between the ranks and put to death with the sword anyone who follows her.’ For the priest said, ‘Let her not be put to death in the house of the Lord.’ So they laid hands on her; and she went through the horses’ entrance to the king’s house, and there she was put to death.” (2 Kings 11:13-16)
The nation of Judah had one ruling queen in its history. Her name was Athaliah and she was awful. Her son Jehu reigned for 28 years. During this time, she seemed content with her status as mother of the king. But after her son’s death, she went on a rampage, “and destroyed all the royal family” (2 Kings 11:1). Perhaps she saw that her influence over Judah would be lessened as the crown was passed to one of her grandchildren. So she ruthlessly set out to kill the next heirs to the throne (her own grandchildren!) so that she could become queen. Athaliah seemed to have succeeded in her evil scheme as she ruled Judah for six years.
But unbeknown to her, her infant grandson Joash was hidden during her rampage and was being raised in secret. During the seventh year of Athaliah’s reign, Jehoiada the priest instigated a rebellion. He took seven year old Joash—the rightful heir to the throne—brought him to the Temple, surrounded him with guards, put a crown on him, and publicly pronounced him as the rightful king. The people rejoiced because the rightful heir to the throne lived. Athaliah ran to the Temple to investigate the commotion, she witnessed the scene, and, “tore her clothes and cried, ‘Treason! Treason!’” (2 Kings 11:14). The scene ends with Jehoiada ordering her execution.
Athaliah cried, “Treason! Treason!” but who was the real traitor here? Athaliah was the one who killed her own family in order to take the throne for herself. Clearly Athaliah had no actual sense of treason or grasp of injustice—that is until she felt like it was happening to her. There is something here for us. Some are not bothered at all to lie, cheat, and hurt others to get what they want. But the second they feel they have been treated unfairly, they are quick to cry foul. Can we be guilty of this?
How often have we made decisions selfishly without thinking of the effect on others? Yet when someone does the same and it negatively affects us, we are quick to complain. Have you ever asked for forgiveness from someone you wronged and when the other person was hesitant, you preached how Jesus said we ought to forgive others if we expect forgiveness from God? Yet how quickly did you remind yourself of that truth when you were wronged? I tend to have a finely turned injustice censor that gets activated the instant some wrong has been perpetrated against me. I am ready to cry “treason!” and call in the air strike. Yet I often seem to be deaf, dumb, and blind toward my own sin.
Thomas A. Kempis observed, “How rarely we weigh our neighbor in the same balance in which we weigh ourselves.” Jesus put it this way: “why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Mt 7:3). When we only notice or care about sin and injustice when it happens to us, we are like Athaliah—a traitor crying “treason!”