During our family’s devotional reading this morning, a particular scripture jumped out at me. “And Joash did that which was right in the sight of the LORD all the days of Jehoiada the priest.” (2 Chronicles 24:2, KJV)
Jehoiada’s wife, Jehoshabeath, saved Joash from an untimely death when his grandmother, Athaliah, went on a killing spree in order to obtain – and retain – the throne of Judah for herself. His life was spared because of a godly man and woman who wanted to see the lineage of David preserved. This was in accordance with God’s promise that David’s seed would forever sit upon the throne of Judah. Joash had much to be thankful for, to both God and Jehoiada’s family. He was hidden in the Temple until the age of seven, when Jehoiada risked his own life in order to see Joash made king, thus taking Athaliah’s place upon the throne in Jerusalem.
Joash reigned the nation of Judah for forty years. And, he seemed to take Jehoiada’s leadership to heart. “And it came to pass after this, that Joash was minded to repair the house of the LORD.” (2 Chronicles 24:4, KJV) Joash put the principles of tithing into place once more and bade the people to give, monies were gathered, and the Temple was restored. The articles within the temple were replaced, and 2 Chronicles 24:14 says, “And the burnt offerings were sacrificed continually in the Temple of the LORD during the lifetime of Jehoiada the priest.” (NLT)
The sad part of this time in history takes place a few verses farther into its recounting. “And after the death of Jehoiada the rulers of Judah came and bowed down to the king. And the king listened to them. And they left the house of Jehovah, the God of their fathers, and served Asherahs and idols. And wrath came on Judah and Jerusalem for this their guilt. Yet He sent prophets to them to bring them again to Jehovah. And they testified against them. But they would not listen.” (2 Chronicles 24:17-19, MKJV)
As soon as the one who had raised him, taught him, and led him for most of his life passed away, Joash quickly agreed to undo all that he had done to further the worship of the One True God. The temple was left unused, idols were built, and all thought of worship to Jehovah was removed.
Why was it so easy for Joash to walk away? It all comes down to relationship. Joash did not seek to instill the precepts of scripture into his own life. Instead, he relied upon Jehoida’s relationship with God. The priestly leadership spurred him to rebuild, convinced him of its necessity, and he seemingly took all of these things to heart. But, while he repeated directions to the people and worked to convince them of their truths, Joash did not apply them to his own life. A further degeneration of his ‘godly’ behavior is evidenced by yet another action, as he even went so far as to kill the son of the man he had followed for so long. “And the Spirit of God came on Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, who stood above the people and said to them, So says God, Why do you transgress the commandments of Jehovah so that you cannot be blessed? Because you have forsaken Jehovah, He has also forsaken you. And they conspired against him and stoned him with stones at the command of the king in the court of the house of Jehovah. And Joash the king did not remember the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him, but killed his son. And when he died, he said, Jehovah will seek you out.” (2 Chronicles 24:20-22, MKJV)
How many, who grow up attending church, never seek to deepen their personal relationship with God, instead relying upon their parents and leaders to show them the way? Then, when they are old enough to direct their own life, the path diverges from following Christ because they have not actively worked to build their own, very personal relationship with Jesus. I faced this in my early twenties when I moved away from home to another state, then married and went even farther from my home. I could no longer ride on the coattails of my parents’ relationship with God – it was time to work out my own salvation with fear and trembling. I admit, it was a hard thing to do! But, I knew that it was the right thing to do, and I made the decision to follow the teaching that had been placed inside of me over the years. I thank God that He helped me!
But, Joash didn’t do that. His path diverted following Jehoida’s death and he never returned to walk with the Lord. Eventually, his own servants conspired to take his life because he had killed Zechariah, Jehoida’s son. “And when they had departed from him (for they left him in great diseases), his own servants conspired against him for the blood of the sons of Jehoiada the priest, and killed him on his bed, and he died. And they buried him in the city of David, but they did not bury him in the tombs of the kings.” (2 Chronicles 24:25) His supposed friends ended up being the very enemies that took his life, and Joash ended up with the equivalent of a dishonorable discharge, in that he wasn’t even buried with the other kings. With just a few actions, he had forever shamed his memory in the mind of everyone. The good, positive actions that Joash had performed in his youth were overwhelmed by the negative, godless things that he did later in life.
Paul exhorted the church in Philippi on this very thing. “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, cultivate your own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12, MKJV) He understood the necessity of an individual’s walk with God, for if one simply follows a man, they are certain to be disappointed, for none is perfect but God.
“Ponder the path of your feet, and all your ways will be established.” (Proverbs 4:26, MKJV)
Above all else, I must be saved. Above all else, at the end of this life, I must live in Heaven with Jesus. For me, there is no other option. This means that I must ponder the path of my feet. I must establish my ways in scripture. I must seek to make God top priority. And, I must pass these principles to my children so that they will be empowered to do the same.
I choose to be as Paul, for I want to be able to say, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8, MKJV)