Lessons from Joash

by Harry Osborne

The life of Joash, king of Judah, is an interesting study of a character who started in the right path, but ended in shameful disgrace (see 2 Chron. 22:10 - 24:27). His forty year reign saw him go from a zealous advocate of serving God to a murderer of one speaking the will of God. His reign began with joyful exclamation, "Long live the king!" It ended when his own servants killed him in bed after he was severely wounded in battle. His coronation took place in the house of God as he stood in the place of the kings (2 Kgs. 11:14). By the time of his death, his disgrace was so complete that he was not buried in the tombs of the kings. What lessons can we learn from such a life? How can we spot the danger signs and avoid the pitfalls which overcame King Joash?

A Faithful Beginning

As a baby, Joash was saved from his ruthless grandmother, Athaliah, who tried to kill him and take the throne for herself. Joash was taken to the temple and raised for six years under the care of Jehoiada, the faithful priest of God. Joash became king at seven. At that time, Joash was given the testimonies (the Law) which he had obviously studied at the feet of Jehoiada. Following the coronation, the record says, "And Jehoiada made a covenant between himself, and all the people, and the king, that they should be Jehovah's people" (2 Chron. 23:16). The next verse shows their willingness to put God's law into practice as they destroyed the temple of Baal and put to death the idolatrous priest. The good influence of a faithful teacher is seen in Joash's early life by the statement, "And Joash did that which was right in the eyes of Jehovah all the days of Jehoiada the priest" (2 Chron. 24:2).

On one occasion, Joash's zeal to do good even exceeded that of those who had helped teach him the principles of God's law. Joash wanted to restore the temple and he commanded that it be done speedily. Those in charge procrastinated and he rightly reproved them. At his insistence, the money was gathered more quickly, the work was undertaken, and the task was completed. In this instance, Joash showed that not only was he influenced to do good, but he also influenced others to do good. It was a noble beginning.

The Process of Apostasy

After the death of Jehoiada, the life of Joash took a downward turn. The Bible shows how evil companions appealed to his pride:

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 forsook the house of Jehovah, the God of their fathers, and served the Asherim and the idols: and wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this their guiltiness (2 Chronicles 24:17-18).

The faithful servant of God who formerly bowed in humility to God now was flattered by the evil men who made obeisance to him. As a result, Joash ceased listening to the counsel of righteous men and began listening to the counsel of the ungodly (cf. Ps. 1:1). Following that advice, Joash forsook God, forgetting the law he had been taught in his youth. He began to practice evil and progressed in that evil until he had influenced all of Judah to follow his wicked ways. The good king who had influenced the people to serve God was now the evil king who led his subjects into condemnation. A tragedy!

The Hardening of the Heart

God did not give up on Joash and the people at their first rebellion. The Bible records the Lord's appeals for their return and their resistance to His pleas:

Yet he sent prophets to them, to bring them again unto Jehovah; and they testified against them: but they would not give ear. And the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest; and he stood above the people, and said unto them, Thus saith God, Why transgress ye the commandments of Jehovah, so that ye cannot prosper? because ye have forsaken Jehovah, 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 Jehovah. 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, Jehovah look upon it, and require it (2 Chron. 24:19-22).

Jehovah called them to repent through prophets (plural), but they would not. When Zechariah rebuked them, they killed him instead of changing their ways. Of course, killing the prophet did not change the truth spoken. It just cut them off from the truth directing them back to righteousness. The culpability of Joash is clearly stated. He turned from his beginnings in a disgraceful way. All of the good he did in his early days would not be remembered. He had renounced it to become the standard-bearer of evil. God did not remember the good, but viewed him as a traitor to evil (Ezek. 33:13). However, the paradox is that his own contemporaries, whose favor he sought, also forsook him in his death by burying him away from the kings (2 Chron. 24:25). They used him to get what they wanted, but discarded him in the end. The cause of sin cost Joash everything, but gave him nothing in return. Such is the bargain of sin!

Applications to Us

The life of Joash is the classic example of apostasy. Those who leave the Lord and cause others to stray often have the noblest of beginnings. They are raised by godly parents or benefit from the influence of faithful saints, elders and preachers. Those influences last for some time and bring about a zealous burst of action for the cause of Christ. But when the trying times come, the way of truth is left for the paths of sin and error. The downfall frequently occurs at the entry of pride (Prov. 16:18; 29:23). When a man starts to listen to the vain flattery of those whose seek to use his influence, disaster is going to be the result. The Bible is replete with examples affirming this fact.

A brief look at Restoration history in more recent times shows the same thing. How many times have popular preachers strayed from the "straight and narrow" as they listened to the adulation of adoring brethren? How many times have those of modest beginnings started to compromise the truth as their brethren offered them the presidency of a college, an editorship, or other places of influence? The perks offered by those who love the way of evil many times blind the eyes of the godly soul who is then seduced by pride.

Yet, it is truly said that the pleasures of sin are only for a season. When one leaves his place as a servant of righteousness to become a master to those in apostasy, his glory will be short lived. Those who have used his influence to aid their evil ends will dump him quickly. They want to go even further into apostasy and he is only a tool to start the process. In the end, one so used will be negatively viewed by both sides. Christ and those who continue to stand for His truth will view him as a traitor. Satan and those who proceed in error will forget him because he is merely a transitional figure to them.

The so called "conservatives" among our erring, liberal brethren are now in that place. Preachers like Wayne Jackson, Alan Highers, Johnny Ramsey, Gary Workman and others are now being cast aside by the majority of their fellow apostates as the progression of evil continues. These men helped the "progressive" crowd justify their unauthorized institutions and sponsoring churches, but now cry out over the "evils" of equally unauthorized gyms, instrumental music and women preachers called for in many churches among them. They have sown the wind, and they are reaping the whirlwind.

The effects of pride and apostasy are not unknown among our own brethren. Sadly, many of the popular preachers among us are on the same road with Joash and the crowd. Each of us must make a choice in our own life: Do I follow the crowd into evil and error, or serve God no matter the cost?