Few have entered the world with such a dramatic story as Joash. Born in the midst of a bloody revolution in the Southern Kingdom of Judah, Joash barely escaped the edge of the sword wielded by his Grandmother, Athalia. Athalia was a ruthless monarch, who clawed her way to the throne after her husband’s death by murdering nearly every male heir.. But her royal and bloody ambitions conflicted with God’s promise to preserve the bloodline of King David. Unbeknownst to Queen Athalia, a courageous woman, Jehosheba and her husband, the priest Jehoiada, hide baby Joash, the last remaining heir, in a hidden room in the Temple, where they covertly raised him for six years. When Joash turned seven, Athalia was defeated in a military coup and Joash was crowned king.
Joash began his reign with great promise. Preserved by God for this moment, he led necessary reforms in Judah. For most of his tenure, he wisely adhered to the biblical guidance of his uncle, Jehoiada, the nation’s spiritual leader.
But after his uncle died, Joash’s faith collapsed and the child of promise became an enemy of God’s people. In the last years of his reign, Joash allowed Judah to pursue false idols; he participated in the lynching of a prophet, and was eventually killed by his own advisors.
The one line bio offered in 2 Chronicles shares the tragic reality of Joash’s unfulfilled life:
And Joash did what was right in the eyes of the LORD all the days of Jehoiada the priest. 2 Chronicles 24:2 (ESV)
Joash did was right in the eyes of the Lord, as long as his mentor, Jehoiada was around. But when the priest passed from the scene, Joash’s faith was found to be empty, even nonexistent. And the last years of his life were so full of wickedness that they eclipsed the good work of his earlier life. The Scriptures tell us that Joash was not even buried among the great kings of Judah (2 Chronicles 24:25).
Joash’s life is a cautionary tale for those born with such promise. Jesus reminds us that a heritage alone doesn’t guarantee spiritual success. “To whom much is given,” he said, “Much is required” (Luke 12:48). Joash was given great tools for spiritual impact, but failed to personally wrestle with the faith and accept it as his own. This hand-me-down approach failed him in the end.
If you’ve grown up in church, you can be sure that you will, in some season of our life, face a “Jehoiada Moment,” where you will be forced to decide what it is that you believe. That moment may be in the University classroom with a hostile professor. It may be in a private moment with an attractive coed. It may be when you become a parent and have an innocent set of eyes staring back up at you. It may be in the boardroom as the pressure to make a deal overwhelms the ethics of your Christian upbringing.
At some point you’ll have to dig deep and ask yourself, what is it that I actually believe? Not what you’re parents taught you to believe or what your pastor preached or what your campus leader encouraged you to know. You must have you’re own encounter with the risen Christ, appropriating the truth of Scripture to your heart.
What is interesting to me is how long Joash survived with a hand-me-down faith. From all appearances, he seemed to be on track to becoming one of Judah’s great kings. But it seems as if Jehoiada was pulling the spiritual strings. The Scripture is pretty sparse on the details of Joash’s life, but it seems as if he had no personal quest for godly wisdom, no intellectual and spiritual curiosity. He was content to merely coast on the devotion of his uncle. His was a stale, borrowed faith.
It’s easy and comfortable to live the Joash life, isn’t it? To settle for a spoon-fed spiritual diet, scraping out a lowest-common-denominator Christianity, pursuing the minimum level of engagement with truth and doctrine. But this is dead, lifeless religion that collapses under the weight of life’s many challenges.
The writer of Hebrews compares such spiritual laxity to the eating habits of young children. I’m the father of four young kids, including a baby girl, Lilly Mae, who is under a year old. Like the rest of our children, we started Lilly off with simple milk in a bottle. We have formula designed specifically to meet her nutritional needs. But as she grows, her digestive system is ready for more solid foods. Soon, like the rest of our children, she’ll be eating chicken and bread and ice cream and hot dogs. But imagine, if in a couple of years, she is still receiving her primary nutrition from a baby bottle. Something would be tragically wrong. We’d consult every pediatrician and consultant in the country to find the problem with her digestive system.
It’s much the same with Christianity. A new believer needs to absorb the “milk” of the word, in smaller doses and easily digestible forms. But the goal is to spiritually grow. The writer of Hebrews says that there are some followers of Christ who are still sucking milk from a bottle, when they should be knocking down the “steak” of God’s Word.
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, (Hebrews 5:12 ESV)
Excerpted from Real, Owning Your Christian Faith.