Went back and read last year’s thoughts as I noodled on the story of the kid king, Joash, in 2Chronicles. And while I think I still agree with me on the importance of having Uncle J.s in our lives, I’m asking myself a different question this year than last.
In considering how well Joash started and ruled for most of his reign — made king at 7 years of age by Jehoiada the priest; ruled 40 years with Jehoiada at his side; eliminated Baal worship and restored the glory of the temple — when, after Jehoiada died, Joash abandoned the house of the Lord and dove into idolatry, I asked the following question, “What changed?” My answer then? “Those he listened to.”
This year, as I hover of this tragic turn of events, I find myself asking a different question, “What didn’t change?” Short answer: the kid king’s heart.
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. Yet He sent prophets among them to bring them back to the LORD. These testified against them, but they would not pay attention.
(2Chonicles 24:17-19 ESV)
Grew up in the nurture of a faithful priest of Jehovah. Throughout his life, trained up in the way he should go. Made king at seven years of age. His faithful mentor always by his side. And the holy record says that he “did what was right in the eyes of the LORD.” Yet, with this qualifier, “all the days of Jehoiada the priest” (2Chr. 24:2).
Doing the right stuff, but you gotta wonder if from the right place. Practicing what was prescribed yet apparently never really internalizing the principles. Faithful to the counsel he heard, though apparently never doing so with a whole heart.
Is the “guardian” nature of this Old Testament story “tutoring” us to Christ (Gal. 3:24), teaching us that only a redeemed heart can result in real, enduring piety? That only a heart made new can respond in true, long-lasting, circumstance-independent faithfulness? That we can do all the right stuff under the right conditions with the right positive peer pressure, but to stand fast when the tide changes and our natural anchors are ripped up requires a supernatural working of the Spirit at the deepest of levels of our soul in order for us to keep on keepin’ on? I’m thinkin’ . . .
The kid king had authentic works down pat. But you gotta wonder if he had authentic faith. For many years he led with righteous acts but seemingly without a regenerated heart.
I sit back after reading Joash’s story this morning and I’m thankful for a gospel with the power to transform from the inside out. A gospel which credits the righteousness of Another to our account and then enables us to draw on that account to continually walk in enduring acts of righteousness. Good works born of out of so great a salvation. Piety not based on performance but founded in the depths of a supernatural work of the Spirit conforming us more to the image of God’s own Son.
Not making us perfect (yet) by any stretch of the imagination, yet leading us to pursue a walk worthy of our calling. A new heart, desiring the fulfillment of it’s new potential, confident in a new power to produce new fruit. And that for as long as we live.
Only by God’s redeeming grace. Only for God’s everlasting glory.