Halfhearted Obedience (2 Chronicles 23-25)

June 30, 2016 Melanie Newton

I remember the first time I read about Joash, the boy who became king of Judah as an 8-year-old. When our children were young, we read from the Muffin Family Bible Series every night as a family. One night we read about Joash, and his story fascinated me. His grandmother Athaliah killed all her grandchildren except for this one boy who had been hidden away as a toddler by his Aunt Jehosheba and Uncle Jehoiada (the High Priest). Keeping a small child hidden at the temple for 6 years was no small feat! I suppose Aunt Jehosheba passed him off as her own child. When Joash was brought out 6 years later and presented to the people as their king, was there any question as to whether he was really the former King Ahaziah’s son? Even if Joash were Jehosheba’s child, he was still David’s descendant. God’s promise to maintain David’s throne is preserved. Joash was presented to the people during one of the 3 festival times. Since apparently Yahweh worship had been banned in favor of Baal worship in Jerusalem, this might have been deemed a safe time for the people to gather without creating a stir in wicked Queen Athaliah’s mind. The coup was successful, Athaliah was executed, and the people worshiped Yahweh again openly. Hooray!

Uncle Jehoiada, though in his 80s-90s, was a better mentor for Joash than his own father would have been so God didn’t need Ahaziah alive. But why leave wicked Athaliah alive? I guess it is so Joash would be a bit older and not just a toddler when he took the throne. Yeah, here’s your king still in diapers. Probably wouldn’t go over very well. And, maybe the people needed to experience Athaliah’s wickedness to prepare their hearts to accept an 8-year-old as their next king. By now, I think they trusted Jehoiada. Jehoiada was a great High Priest. Powerful. Faithful to God. He was running the show as Joash grew up. And, he did a great job. “Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all the years of Jehoiada the priest (2 Chronicles 24:2).” Joash put a lot of effort into repairing the Temple during his early years as king. As long as Jehoiada lived, Joash outwardly conformed to God’s commands. But, where was his heart during that time?

AfterJehoiada died (age 130, mind you), Joash turned from God. His DNA from wicked great-grandparents, grandmother and father kicked in! But, he wasn’t alone in his fickleness in serving God. “After the death of Jehoiada, the officials of Judah came and paid homage to the king, and he listened to them. They abandoned the temple of the Lord…and worshiped Asherah poles and idols (verses 17-18).” That tells me Joash was only conforming on the outside all those years. His heart was not touched though he had the best mentor he could have had. And, God kept sending communications to the king and to the people. They were not left without a continual Word from the Lord. “Although the Lord sent prophets to the people to bring them back to Him…they would not listen (verse 19).” Halfheartedness is self-determined. God is constantly wooing. Then the Spirit of God came upon Jehoiada’s son Zechariah with a message for Joash, “Why do you dispobey the Lord’s commands? You will not prosper. Because you have forsaken the Lord, the Lord will forsake you (verse 20).” The king ordered Zechariah to be stoned! Yes, his own cousin. Son of the uncle who saved his own life! “King Joash did not remember the kindness Zechariah’s father Johoiada had shown him but killed his son (verse 22).” That is ungratefulness! God’s judgment on Joash came swiftly. Joash was executed by the end of the year by some of his officials who hated what he had done to Zechariah. At least someone was paying attention.

Sadly, Joash’s son Amaziah wasn’t much better. In 2 Chronicles 25:2, we read, “He did was was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not wholeheartedly.” That sounds like his dad. Like father, like son. Early in his reign when he made a rash decision to hire mercenaries from Israel, a prophet came to him and said not to do it because God would not give him success in battle. So, Amaziah obeyed and sent those guys back home. But, that made those mercenaries so angry that they destroyed and plundered the land on the way back to Israel (verse 13). I couldn’t believe what I read next. “When Amaziah returned from slaughtering the Edomites, he brought back the gods of the people of Seir. He set them up as his own gods, bowed down to them and burned sacrifices to them (verse 14).” Say what?! Why worship the gods that lost the battle? That’s illogical! In fact, that’s what God said to Amaziah through a prophet (verse 15). Why worship gods “which could not save their own people from your hand?” Yet, Amaziah ruled for another 15 years. He was hated by the people of Jerusalem (probably for that idol worship) and assassinated by them. God carried out His judgment through others. That 15 year wait allowed a one-year-old son Uzziah to grow up and be old enough to rule at age 16. The sovereign God had His plan. 

Both of these men did what was right in their younger years. But, even then, it was not wholehearted. Outward conformity doesn’t touch the heart. When the outward pressure or restraints are removed, the true nature of a man or woman is revealed. The goal of parenting should not be outward compliance but true obedience from the heart. Same holds true for discipling new Christians. The heart relationship with God is primary over behavior. Establish someone in a love relationship with their God, and they will want to live a life that pleases Him out of love and gratitude for what He has done for them. Otherwise, you might get halfhearted obedience. 

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Author: Melanie Newton

Melanie Newton helps women learn how to study the Bible for themselves through her Joyful Walk Bible Studies. She also teaches online courses for anyone to grow their Bible-teaching skills to help others—all with the goal of getting to know Jesus more along the way. She has lots of resources available on her website melanienewton.com for you to use in your life and ministry. Melanie believes that it’s always the right time for a Dr. Pepper, that her family is the greatest, and being outside for even a few minutes is a daily necessity. Woohoo!

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