This series of articles in Salt Shakers concerns the lives of covenant youths. Joash, king of Judah, qualifies as a covenant youth; and yet he doesn’t. He qualifies as a covenant youth because he was born in the lines of the covenant and lived many years as a child of God’s covenant. But he is disqualified from the role of covenant youth because he turned his back on God toward the end of his life and led Judah into idolatry. He did not belong to God’s covenant in
There are some interesting events in the history of Joash, however, that are of importance to understand Joash’s life, and are also instruction for youth today.
It all began with Jehoshaphat, Judah’s God-fearing king. Although he did much to establish Judah as a nation that feared God, he had one fatal weakness: he was intent on forming an alliance with Ahab, wicked and godless king of the northern kingdom, composed of the ten tribes of Israel, now an independent nation. Ahab needed help to defend his land against the Syrians who had come to destroy Israel (2 Chron. 18). I am sure that Jehoshaphat could defend his actions of agreeing to form an alliance with Ahab with strong arguments. They might even have persuaded us. What are they? Syria was a threat to Judah as well as Israel, and Judah might be next on the list of conquests. Why not join in the battle against a common enemy?
Furthermore, the northern kingdom was still part of the Old Testament church: it had 5,000 in it who had not bowed the knee to Baal; it had the pure preaching of the Word in it, for Elijah, a great prophet, still preached in the nation; and there was always the hope of the two nations being united once again as they had been under the reigns of David and Solomon. What could be a better bit of diplomacy?
But it was not God’s will. Jehoshaphat learned that on his return. He found the prophet Jehu waiting for him. Jehu sharply reprimanded Jehoshaphat: “Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord? Therefore is wrath upon thee from the Lord” (2 Chron. 19:2).
Jehoshaphat did not listen, but continued his efforts to form an alliance with Israel’s king (2 Chron. 20:35-36), and again he was rebuked (2 Chron. 20:37).
What has all this to do with Joash?
Well, because of Jehoshaphat’s insistence on an alliance with Israel’s kings, his son, Jehoram, quite naturally, carried the alliance further and married the daughter of Israel’s king, Ahaziah. But Ahaziah, king of Israel, was also wicked, and Jehoram followed in his wicked ways and in his granddaughter Athaliah’s wicked ways. He was as wicked as Ahab’s family. He killed six of his brothers and other princes in Judah, because he considered them threats to the throne (2 Chron. 21:4). When God killed him (2 Chron. 21:18-19), what was probably written on his gravestone (if they used gravestones in those days) would have read: “He reigned in Jerusalem eight years, and departed without being desired” (2 Chron. 21:20). That word summed up the fruit of his whole life. Nobody cared when he died. Maybe they breathed a sigh of relief.
Many events, into which we cannot go, paved the way for Athaliah, Jehoram’s wife and daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, to bring the nation of Judah to sin. She came to the throne of Judah as the Queen mother and ruled the land. But she killed all the royal seed – except one, Joash. Cooperation between a God-fearing man and a wicked man led to marriage between the two families. It oftentimes does. And such a marriage was fatal.
Although this is not part of our story, you now also understand that Joash was now the only one left in the royal line that would bring forth Christ. If Joash would have been killed, Christ could not have come, born of Mary, from the line of Judah’s kings. As far as Jehoshaphat was concerned, his conniving with Ahab, a great sin, nearly destroyed Christ! Only by God’s intervention was the line preserved.
Association with and joining in the same cause as the wicked leads to God’s anger and the cutting off of our children from their being, even outwardly, from God’s covenant.
Joash escaped because, when still a baby, he was spirited away by his aunt Jehosheba, the wife of Jehoiada, who hid him in the temple for 7 years. She did this at the risk of her life. It was undoubtedly during this period that Joash was taught by his aunt and uncle the ways of Jehovah and the calling to walk as a covenant child. But he must also have been taught the responsibilities of being king over God’s people, for he ruled well. At the age of seven he was considered ready to be anointed king of Judah.
It was a coup d’ etat, led by Jehoiada and the temple guard that set Joash on the throne and resulted in the death of Athaliah.
As long as Jehoiada lived and served as an advisor to Joash, all was well. Joash considered the priority in his reign to be the repair of the temple, for it had been stripped of its utensils and left a broken-down building by Athaliah. Further, when the Levites were lax in collecting money for the repair of the temple, Joash devised another way of collecting the necessary funds. He put a box at the entrance of the temple into which the people had to drop their money. This method of collecting money proved successful and was still used in Jesus’ day.
But when Jehoiada died, the princes persuaded Joash to return to the worship of idols. Jehoiada had been so zealous for the cause of God that he was, so far as I know, the only non-king buried among the kings of Judah. Joash had, therefore, during all the years of Jehoiada, put on a show of being devoted to the cause of God. Only after Jehoiada died, Joash was revealed not to be a true son of the covenant that God established with Abraham.
It is unspeakably sad. The church has always had such people. God promises to save his covenant people in the line of generations, but not all children of believers are true children of Abraham. The sin of Joash was so great that Jesus incorporates him in those upon whom he pronounced his awful woes just before his death (Matt. 23:34-35). Zacharias, the son of Barachias, is the same as Zachariah, son of Jehoida, who was high priest in the place of his father, and who was stoned at the command of Joash (2 Chron. 24:20-22).
Some leave the church over doctrine or are cut out of the church for teaching false doctrine as were those who brought about the split in our own churches. Some leave for falling into some gross sin such as immorality or divorce and remarriage. Some leave because their parents did not teach them the ways of God’s covenant (Judg. 7:7-11).
I visited an aged saint who was near the end of his life. He wept as he told me, “All my children have left the church and it is my fault, for I never taught them God’s word”.
But those who leave the church of Christ are described in 1 John 2:19: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they no doubt would have continued with us; but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us”.
All this confronts us with a very serious calling. In 2 Peter 1:10, we are admonished to make our calling and election sure, for “if ye do these things, ye shall never fall”.
Paul calls steadfastness that gift of the Christian who in the face of all temptation and trouble is faithful. He concludes his glorious chapter on the resurrection of our bodies with the words: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:48).
And, do not fail to teach your children, beginning at their birth, the ways of God’s covenant. With the warnings and promises of the Scripture part of your instruction, be faithful, for these precious little ones are, if you are faithful, the church of tomorrow.
Our fathers would often pray (in Dutch), “Cut us not off in our generations”. I still pray that often; God grant that you do the same.
Written by: Prof. Herman Hanko | Issue 50