Summary: Kings of Judah, Pt. 7


Thomas J. Watson, Jr. had big shoes to fill. His father was the first president of IBM, building a worldwide industry during his 42 years at IBM. The senior Watson was named chairman of IBM in September 1949 and was presented with honorary degrees by 27 colleges and universities in the United States and four abroad. A month before his death in 1956, Watson handed over the reins of the company to the older son, Thomas J. Watson, Jr.

Being the son of IBM’s iron-willed chief weighed heavily on the younger Watson. In 1986 he told the Wall Street Journal, “The biggest motivation to me was fear and pride. Once I’d been around here a little while, I decided that my ambition was to prove to the world that I could run on the same race track as my dad. I liked the old gentleman; there was tremendous competition between us.”

The younger Watson pushed strongly to enter corporate computing. His father initially resisted the huge investment required to build plants and laboratories to create a new generation of products and to hire armies of people to sell them.

During the younger Watson’s leadership, IBM grew from a medium-sized business to one of the dozen largest industrial corporations in the world. When he became CEO in 1956, IBM employed 72,500 people and had a gross income of $892 million, but when he stepped down in 1971, employees numbered more than 270,000 and gross revenue was $8.3 billion. Fortune magazine called him “the greatest capitalist who ever lived.”

Judah’s most overlooked and most unassuming king was the greatest king of the southern Judah’s history, but he was almost history’s forgotten king. One is more likely to hear of the names of Asa, Josiah, Jehoshaphat and Hezekiah than of Jotham. One of our church members named his son Asa. My wife has a nephew named Josiah. My favorite king is Jehoshaphat and my wife’s favorite is Hezekiah. Uzziah is unforgettable every time “Holy, Holy, Holy” is sang. I read a sermon on Uzziah and his idolatrous father Amaziah, but I could not find a sermon of Uzziah and his righteous son Jotham. Good guys like Jotham do not have compelling or dramatic stories, but they sure do a lot of good and helped a lot of people.

How does one improve on good? What is excellence like? Why are progress and consistency not an unreachable goal?

Let Your Wisdom Do the Talking

27:1 Jotham was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. His mother’s name was Jerusha daughter of Zadok. 2 He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, just as his father Uzziah had done, but unlike him he did not enter the temple of the LORD. The people, however, continued their corrupt practices. (2 Chron 27:1-2)

An irritated boss tells his new employee, “Integrity and wisdom are essential to success in every business. By integrity I mean when you promise a customer something you must keep that promise even if you lose money.”

The puzzled new employee then asked, “And what is wisdom?” The boss replied, “Don’t make any such foolish promises.”

Strangely, today’s society glorifies a person’s wisdom in learning from one’s own mistakes. However, the person is merely wiser, not wise. Some people are wiser profiting from their own mistakes; some are wiser benefiting from their own mistakes, but that kind of wisdom is nothing to crow about. The truly wise learn from others’ mistakes, not one’s own mistakes. Not learning from one’s mistake is stupidity, learning from one’s mistake is experience, but learning from people’s mistake is wisdom.

People also confuse being clever from being wise. For example, getting away with speeding is merely clever, never wise. Those truly wise follow legal limits and refrain from speeding. It is absurd to think a person who is not addicted to alcohol, drugs or smoking after trying them is wise; he is merely trying to be clever. Society has got it backwards; the one who refrains from trying is wise.

Jotham was a true learner; he could learn from history, people, family and himself. In today’s society Jotham would more likely be considered nerdy and boring than sporting. He was as promising and capable as his father even though he was never as popular or charismatic. Unlike his precocious father Uzziah who was the people’s choice by the time he was 16 (2 Chron 26:1), Jotham never received such accolade, but he exceeded all expectations. Jotham was as outstanding, even though he was never as outlandish, as his father. He did not have a magnetic personality but he sure had a magnificent record. Unlike the father, the son was not known for having a well-trained army (2 Chron 26:11), organizing his soldiers to fight by divisions (2 Chron 26:13) or amassing the latest weapons of war (2 Chron 26:15), but he went about doing his business and getting the job done.

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