Godliness only when someone is looking

Now after the death of Jehoiada the leaders of Judah came and bowed down to the king. And the king listened to them. Therefore they left the house of the LORD God of their fathers, and served wooden images and idols; and wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem because of their trespass. Yet He sent prophets to them, to bring them back to the LORD; and they testified against them, but they would not listen.

2 Chronicles 24:17-19

Jehoiada was a godly priest when 7-year old Joash became king of Judah.  Obviously, Joash was not ready to rule the nation, so Jehoiada took the lad under his wing and saw that Joash led the nation back to serving the Lord.  “Back to serving the Lord?”  Yes.  During the previous six years Judah was ruled by wicked Athaliah (daughter of Israel’s Queen Jezabel!), who began her evil reign over Judah by murdering all the heirs to David’s throne—all but the baby Joash who was safely hidden.  During Athaliah’s disastrous usurping of the throne of David, Judah plunged headlong in to every sort of idolatry.  Not surprisingly, the nation suffered!

Under Joash’s reign (under Jehoida’s godly influence), Judah returned to the Lord and experienced God’s blessings.  When Jehoida died however, Joash listened to the people instead of to God, and like a dog returning to its vomit, the nation chose to return to their former ways of idolatry.  Not surprisingly, God’s displeasure was evident as the nation suffered under the rest of Joash’s rule.

Here are two take-aways:  First, that Joash was only good as long as Jehoida was alive, but turned from the Lord when the priest died, is a sober reminder that it isn’t enough to start well if one finishes badly.  This is also why we must not stop praying for our children’s salvation until they are walking with the Lord independently of us; since when many taste “freedom,” they lose all taste for the things of the Lord!

Second, why do people who have known the bitterness of sin and its consequences, who then taste the sweetness of God’s blessing, so often return to what they should know is a recipe for spiritual disaster?  It must be partly that we are forgetful and partly that we are stupid.  God have mercy on our nation, that is largely enamored with godlessness and sin—thinking that doing what history has demonstrated will not work, will be good.  It will be our undoing as it was in Joash’s day.