There’s no way that the life of Joash, the kid king, isn’t a warning for those who have ears to hear. That his life isn’t a shot across the bow that clearly illustrates Paul’s cautionary charge to the Corinthians, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals'” (1Cor. 15:33).
His was the dramatic beginning of which legends are made (2Chr. 22:10-12). Had a crazy grandma who, when his dad the king died, conspires to kill all her grandsons so she can claim the throne of Judah. But Joash’s aunt hides her one-year-old nephew from her sister-in-law’s murderous rampage. And she and her husband, Joash’s Uncle Jehoiada the priest, raise the boy in secrecy for the next six years while crazy grandma reigns over the land.
But, say the Scriptures, in the seventh year, Uncle Jehoiada “took courage” and decided it was time for the kid to be king. Time for the rightful heir to be put on the throne. And the rest of 2Chronicles 23 tells us how that happens. Then we read this:
Joash was seven years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Zibiah of Beersheba. And Joash did what was right in the eyes of the LORD all the days of Jehoiada the priest.
(2Chronicles 24:1-2 ESV)
The kid king would reign for 40 years. That’s a pretty good stretch. And under the kid, some pretty impressive reforms were undertaken — the most impressive was his determination to restore the temple which had fallen into severe disrepair. But if you know the kid’s full story, those words, “all the days of Jehoiada the priest”, have an ominous ring. And that phrase, all the days of Jehoiada, is repeated twice in 2Chronicles 24.
As long as Uncle J. was living, as long he had the kid’s ear — even as that kid grew up — Joash pursued the things of God in the way of God. But Uncle J.’s don’t live forever. And at 130 years old, the faithful priest died (2Chr. 24:15-16). And a void was left in Joash’s cadre of counselors. And voids have a way of being filled by something.
Now after the death of Jehoiada the princes of Judah came and paid homage to the king. Then the king listened to them. And they abandoned the house of the LORD, the God of their fathers, and served the Asherim and the idols. And wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this guilt of theirs.
(2Chronicles 24:17-18 ESV)
What happened?!? From temple restorer to temple abandoner. From doing what was right in the eyes of the LORD to serving the Asherim and the idols. From knowing God’s favor from birth to bearing God’s wrath until his death. What changed? Simply, those who the king listened to.
Sure, you can make the case that the king’s faith should have been enough his own that he should have been able to stand on holy ground with his own two feet. Not gonna argue that. But, at the end of the day — at the end of his days — it was who had his ear that determined so much of what King Joash did. So be warned, says Paul, bad company can ruin good morals. Or, as another wise man puts it:
Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.
(Proverbs 13:20 ESV)
We have Jesus living in us through His Spirit. We have the word of God in front of us able to transform us through the renewing of our mind. But let us not think ourselves so strong, in ourselves, that who we have around us will not influence us. We need to beware of the voices which have our ears. We need to surround ourselves with “good company” if we want to continue to walk with “good morals.”
We’ve been brought into gospel community not just as a benefit of the gospel, but also as an integral dynamic through which the gospel continues to have it’s reign over us. So let’s leverage gospel community for kingdom living.
‘Cause I’m thinking we all need Uncle J.’s in our lives.
They’re part of God’s grace. They help us to live for God’s glory.