An Appearance of Godliness (Pt 23): King Joash

2Ki 12:1-3 In the seventh year of Jehu, Jehoash began to reign, and he reigned forty years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Zibiah of Beersheba. (2) And Jehoash did what was right in the eyes of the LORD all his days, because Jehoiada the priest instructed him. (3) Nevertheless, the high places were not taken away; the people continued to sacrifice and make offerings on the high places.

Sometimes the appearance of godliness can persist for a long, long time before the fraud is exposed. Such is the case in the life and reign of King Joash (aka Jehoash) of Judah. These were the days of the divided kingdom – Israel in the north and Judah in the south. Joash was king of Judah, the captial of which was Jerusalem. He was of the line of David, the northern king and kingdom being a fraud.

Joash was crowned king when he was only seven years old, having been hidden from the murderous impostor queen, Athaliah who had murdered all of the other descendants of the royal line. Joash’s life was preserved because a courageous lady named Jehosheba took the infant king and hid him for 7 years (being reminciscent of the infancy of Moses and the actions of Pharaoh’s daughter).

In the seventh year of Joash’s life, a priest named Jehoiada came on the scene. You probably have never heard of him, or if you ever did, you have long since forgotten. This should not be. Jehoiada is one of the most remarkable men of faith to be found in the Bible. He protected Joash and it was Jehoiada who ensured that the rightful Davidic king would be anointed and come to power. Joash was crowned and the wicked Athaliah put to death.

Then, look at what Jehoiada did-

2Ki 11:17 And Jehoiada made a covenant between the LORD and the king and people, that they should be the LORD’s people, and also between the king and the people.

It is at this point that we read:

2Ki 12:2 And Jehoash did what was right in the eyes of the LORD all his days, because Jehoiada the priest instructed him.

A time of wonderful reformation and revival in Judah took place. The temple, long neglected due to the wicked idolatry that permeated the land, was repaired. But then something remarkable happened. It’s like one of those movies or novels in which the glorious and good times of “Camelot” occur and yet…there is this troubling minor note playing in the background all along. And now that theme shows itself:

2Ch 24:15 But Jehoiada grew old and full of days, and died. He was 130 years old at his death.

Did you notice that Joash did what was right because Jehoiada the priest instructed him? And again, “…Jehoash did what was right in the eyes of the LORD all his days, because Jehoiada the priest instructed him.” Once Jehoiada departed from the scene however, check out what happened:

2Ch 24:17-18 Now after the death of Jehoiada the princes of Judah came and paid homage to the king. Then the king listened to them. (18) 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.

2Ch 24:20-22 Then the Spirit of God clothed Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, and he stood above the people, and said to them, “Thus says God, ‘Why do you break the commandments of the LORD, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the LORD, he has forsaken you.’” (21) But they conspired against him, and by command of the king they stoned him with stones in the court of the house of the LORD. (22) Thus Joash the king did not remember the kindness that Jehoiada, Zechariah’s father, had shown him, but killed his son. And when he was dying, he said, “May the LORD see and avenge!”

Isn’t this remarkable? For nearly 40 years King Joash appeared to be a truly godly king. But as it turns out, the real power of godliness rested in the priest, faithful Jehoiada. Who was Joash, really? He was an unregenerate, faithless man whose “godliness” was merely external. Have you ever known someone like this? They have no inner “spark plug” of godliness. All the show of religion that they make is something that is the result of someone or something else outside of them. In the case of Joash, that someone was Jehoiada. But the moment he was gone…

I have certainly known people just like this, and I suspect that most of you have as well. That troubling “minor key tune” is always playing in the background. You sense that they have to be constantly pushed in the right direction. Their religion is something that is like a mirror reflection of the truth, yet not the truth itself. And when the eventual test finally comes, their true self is revealed.

People like Joash are traitors. They are betrayers like Judas. So many of you have told me of your experience with this kind and I have known far too many of them as well. The test comes. For all appearances these people can be counted on when you expose your abuser. You tell them. You trust them. But when whatever that “Jehoiada” has been is gone that has been the real push to their “godliness,” they turn out to be an enemy of righteousness.

Paul warned Timothy, and us, about such people:

2Ti 3:5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

And again –

1Ti 5:24-25 The sins of some people are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later. (25) So also good works are conspicuous, and even those that are not cannot remain hidden.

Therefore, we must be wise. We may not immediatley recognize a Joash, but we must be aware that his kind exist, and that their numbers are not few. Trust in the Lord, but take care about trusting in men.

If You Stand Against Evil, Don’t Expect to Have Many Stand With You

2Ti 4:9-17 Do your best to come to me soon. (10) For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. (11) Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. (12) Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. (13) When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments. (14) Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. (15) Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. (16) At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! (17) But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.

The common, regular experience of Christ’s genuine people as they stand faithfully for Him is exactly what Paul describes here. “All deserted me.”

2Ti 1:15-16 You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes. (16) May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains,

Over and over again it is the same:

Php 2:20-21 For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. (21) For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.

Mar 14:50 And they all left him and fled.

This is why I am immediately suspicious of any kind of “ministry” that claims to serve Christ and yet enjoys popularity and a large following. By “large,” I do not necessarily mean the tens of thousands in a so-called “mega-church.” Rather, I mean even a much smaller number. How, for example, do you attract, say, several hundred people nowadays and still faithfully and accurately proclaim God’s truth and follow Him? And yet this kind of thing is thought to be the norm, something we must expect to happen and if it does not then we are miserable failures.

Joh 6:65-66 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” (66) After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.

Jesus failed, you see. At least by current measures of ministry “success.”

You say that you want to follow Christ? That you want to be light and stand against the darkness of evil? Well, make no mistake. Largely you are going to be doing this alone. If you are really blessed, you will have a few faithful brothers and sisters in Christ who will stand with you, but not many. And even that number may grow thinner when the times get tougher and the cost grows higher. I am sure that this is the reason Jesus said:

Mat 10:36-39 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. (37) Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (38) And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. (39) Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Think it through. Think of the Old Testament prophets. Think of the other Apostles. Think of the Reformers in the later history of the church. Think of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Betrayed and abandoned. Alone. Why do we expect that it will be different for us? Why do we envy “ministries” that attract lots of people, put up big new buildings, and are abuzz with all kinds of activity? The biblical pattern of faithful, genuine service of the Lord is nothing like that.