Never in the history of Israel or Judah did a King rise to power amid such upheaval and drama. Snatched from the jaws of death by his aunt Jehoshabeath, he was protected by both her and her husband Jeohoiada, the High Priest, until the time when he could be crowned. With the wicked Queen Athaliah usurping the throne, imposing her immoral agenda on the people of of God these were dark and dangerous times. For six years Jehoiada plotted and prepared for the moment when the young King would be crowned and Athaliah would be overthrown. He led a revolution when the priests were to the fore, anointing seven year old Joash in the temple and ushering in a new order. It seemed that a new day was dawning in Judah. Joash represented all the hopes and ambitions of the people of God.
The reign of Joash was one of the longest, lasting forty years. While good things were accomplished during his monarchy he will forever be remembered as a shallow and fickle man. All of the characteristics of shallow spirituality are seen in the life of Joash; changeable in nature, inconsistent in character, easily swayed by others. We ought to fear shallow spirituality because according to our Saviour the seed that is sown on stoney ground, where the roots cannot find depth and moisture will not produce fruit nor will it survive.
There are too many people in the evangelical community today who are accusing others of compromise and shallowness. Such a spirit often lacks humility and is laced with pride. The spirit of the Scriptures encourages us to examine own hearts first before seeking fault in others. All of these Kings and their flaws encourage us not to pick holes in others but rather to examine our own garments and do some mending.
Shallowness has been the bane of the Church in every generation. We don’t have the adequate depth and we don’t yield enough fruit – there is no-one that does not require more progress, not one believer is as strong as he or she could be. One way of encouraging more depth and deeper maturity is to hear the warning regarding the dangers of shallowness. It is the desire to press on that marks out God’s true people. For that reason Joash is an important case study.
1: Refusing Privilege
Joash was blessed with the most outstanding privilege imaginable. He alone was rescued from the massacre of the royal household perpetrated by Athaliah. Being bereft of parents and siblings Joash was placed at an enormous disadvantage. Into that enormous void stepped Jehoshabeath and Jehoiada who raised him as their son with all the love and care that they could muster. It was this couple who gave the young prince a sense of his purpose, under God, and prepared him for the crown that would one day weigh heavily upon his tender brow:
“And Jehoash did that which was right in the sight of the LORD all his days wherein Jehoiada the priest instructed him.”2nd Kings 12:2
He was favoured with a godly teacher and mentor in his adoptive father, who instructed him in the things of God. Despite all of this privilege and opportunity, however, Joash would become a bitter disappointment.
Joash is an example of the importance of personal responsibility. While Jehoiada could guide and teach Joash he could not live his life. Only Joash could do this. Sadly, in terms of responsibility the king would fail and spurn all his gracious privileges.
The greatest of privileges can be so easily lost by our failure to listen, remember and practice what we have been taught. Take care lest that happens to us.
2: Reasonable Pretence
A large part of Joash’s life reads rather well. He appears to be a reforming King and without doubt God in His providence used him to do good and great things. But herein there is a word of warning:
God overrules in the affairs of men, because He uses us, does not necessarily imply that He approves of everything in our lives. God’s blessing does not mean that there is no room for spiritual improvement. If we think in this way we are puffed up by our foolish pride.
The reason why Joash accomplished this work of spiritual reform was more of a blessing upon the leadership of his adoptive father, Jehoiada the High Priest. The influence of this man was considerable. He is one of the greatest leaders in the history of the Old Testament. He protected the young prince, brought him to the throne by leading a revolution and then guided his reign for several decades.
Jehoiada secured the royal lineage by selecting for the young Joash wives who bore him sons and daughters. While we reject the idea that Joash required more than one wife (proving that even the godly Jehoiada was tainted by the mindset of the times), we recognise the significance of princes in the House of David. The Kingdom was secured for future generations (v3).
Comparing 2nd Chronicles with the account in 2nd Kings we discover that a remarkable work of reformation began in the 23rd year of Joahs’s reign, when he was 31 years of age. This reformation was instigated by the King because the priests failed to follow the example of Jehoiada. All that Joash accomplishes during this period is quite remarkable:
“But it was so, that in the three and twentieth year of king Jehoash the priests had not repaired the breaches of the house. Then king Jehoash called for Jehoiada the priest, and the other priests, and said unto them, Why repair ye not the breaches of the house? now therefore receive no more money of your acquaintance, but deliver it for the breaches of the house. And the priests consented to receive no more money of the people, neither to repair the breaches of the house. But Jehoiada the priest took a chest, and bored a hole in the lid of it, and set it beside the altar, on the right side as one cometh into the house of the LORD: and the priests that kept the door put therein all the money that was brought into the house of the LORD.”2nd Kings 12:6-9
The fifteen years of apostasy under Jehoram, Ahaziah and Athaliah had seen the temple fall into a state of disrepair. Athaliah’s policy especially was to desecrate and destroy the beating heart of Hebrew worship:
“For the sons of Athaliah, that wicked woman, had broken up the house of God; and also all the dedicated things of the house of the LORD did they bestow upon Baalim”2nd Chronicles 24:7
The enemy comes to kill and to destroy. Satan and his forces of darkness are especially interested in attacking the true Church, sowing seeds of discord, removing us from the solid ground of truth, infecting us with worldly habits and wicked lifestyles and so robbing us of true spiritual vitality. Apostasy will have such an impact upon the witness of the Church.
Joash and Jehoiada led a work of rebuilding the temple, restoring the House of God and rolling back the years of decline. The King, now mature in years, proved himself to be an able and inspiring leader who energised the priests and encouraged the people to give.
As the programme reached a conclusion the temple was set in “state”, which literally means , “as at the first”. God gave a plan for the temple to David, he passed this onto Solomon who effected the work but under Joash and Jehoiada the same plan had to be referred to once again.
God’s work must always be accomplished according to God’s plan. We evangelise through the preaching of God’s Word, we worship with Biblical praises, we gather for prayer and we rely upon the infilling of the Holy Ghost. We must never deviate from Biblical principles!
Sadly for Joash though, this was a practical work but not a spiritual one. He only did good during the days of Jehoiada the High Priest. He worked well with his adoptive father, he respected and honoured him but he did not honour Jehoiada’s God. Joash rebuilt the temple but it seems he was more interested in the architecture than in serving the God of Israel. All the good that he did was a pretence.
May God deliver us from pretending to be Christians, from acting out the reformed, evangelical and fundamentalist perspective.
There have been Jehoiada’s and Joash’s in every era of the Church. Jehoiada represents good and strong leaders who can influence and motivate the weakest of people. Joash represents those who go along with the leadership but their heart is not truly in the work. A people who follow a different course after a godly pastor is taken away are suffering the symptoms of shallow spirituality. If we are only as good as our leaders then our leaders have failed and we ourselves are not what we ought to be.
May God also deliver us from being engaged in the work for the sake of the work, not for the glory of God.
Joash worked well and hard in a good work yet his heart was miserable, dry and barren. In all of our busy lives may we never fail to take time for God.
Jehoiada continued to exercise a godly influence until his death at 130 years of age. His epitaph is striking and one of the finest we read anywhere in the Scripture. He would have been broken-hearted had he known what would transpire after his passing:
“And they buried him in the city of David among the kings, because he had done good in Israel, both toward God, and toward his house.”2Chronicles 24:16
3: Rejecting Principles
It seemed that there was a group of leaders within the nation who were resentful towards the old priest and who hankered after what Athaliah had offered them. They waited for their moment and it came with the death of Jehoaida. As a consequence of their pernicious influence Joash did a 360 degree spiritual turn:
“Now after the death of Jehoiada came the princes of Judah, and made obeisance to the king. Then the king hearkened unto them. And they left the house of the LORD God of their fathers, and served groves and idols: and wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this their trespass. Yet he sent prophets to them, to bring them again unto the LORD; and they testified against them: but they would not give ear.”2nd Chronicles 24:17-19
Abandoning the temple, restored at such expense, the King led the nation back to idolatory refusing to listen to the prophets whom the Lord set. A most tragic turn of events.
The seed was only sown on stoney ground!
As with Simon the Sorcerer, who appeared to be a genuine convert Joash’s heart was not right in the sight of God (Acts 8:21). A sober warning indeed!
4: Ruinous Prospects
Joash’s reign was heading for a disastrous end. The full evidence of his total apostasy is the manner in which he dealt with Jehoiada’s son Zechariah, a man whom he ought to have looked as a brother as well as the priest of God:
“And the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, which stood above the people, and said unto them, Thus saith God, Why transgress ye the commandments of the LORD, that ye cannot prosper? because ye have forsaken the LORD, he hath also forsaken you. And they conspired against him, and stoned him with stones at the commandment of the king in the court of the house of the LORD. Thus Joash the king remembered not the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him, but slew his son. And when he died, he said, The LORD look upon it, and require it.”2nd Chronicles 24:20-22
This particular act of murder, betrayal and ingratitude is one of the darkest moments in Hebrew history. Christ drew comparisons as He condemned the Scribes and Pharisees, and the apostate Jewish nation with those who cast the stones at the Lord’s High Priest:
Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to cityupon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.Matthew 23:33-36
Such an attack on the Lord’s anointed was a sign that God’s restraining influence was removed from Joash. He suffered a catastrophic military defeat at the hands of the Syrians, after which he himself was assassinated by two of his servants. Joash, whose reign began so well, and seemed to progress in a promising fashion was concluded in disgrace. He was refused a burial among the Kings of Judah, such was the lack of support and affection he enjoyed among his people.
A lack of consistency and an abandonment of principles will earn us few friends. Joash ended his time in no man’s land with everyone clearly aware that he had not only abandoned God, but God had abandoned him.
It was time for yet another new beginning…
My closing thought takes us back to the moment when the 7 year old Joash was crowned. He had opportunity, teaching and example yet by the time he died all was forgotten. We look at our children in their tenderness and innocence and we wonder about their future. How will they finish the course? Opportunity, teaching and example is not enough. They need depth and such depth will only be created by a saving work of grace in their hearts. We don’t them to please us but to please God. We don’t want them to live for our honour, for a tradition, for a family name or a denominational identity. They must have Christ. Nothing else will replace Him. No-one else is sufficient. Let us pray for our children today that God would deliver them from the shallow spirituality that so ruined Joash’s soul!