King Jehoash of Judah began to reign when he was seven years old. He was raised in the temple by the godly priest, Jehoiada. Yet later in life he turned from the Lord. Read or listen to this chapter from the Work and Rest God’s Way Family Guide to learn from his sobering example.
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Let me illustrate the importance of pointing our children toward Christ and preaching the gospel to them by sharing about King Jehoash of Judah, the youngest king in the Old Testament.
King Jehoash of Judah Is a Sobering Example
King Jehoash of Judah began his reign when he was only seven years old (2 Chronicles 24:1)! His grandmother was arguably the wickedest woman in Scripture, Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel.
When Athaliah saw that her son (King Ahaziah of Judah) was killed, she wanted to keep the throne for herself and her family, the house of Ahab. To prevent it from returning to the house of David, she murdered all her grandchildren. This was a satanic act because, by it, she would’ve destroyed the line of David and thereby prevented the Messiah from coming into the world—if she had succeeded.
When Jehoash’s aunt, Jehoshaba, saw what was happening, she saved her infant nephew by hiding him in the temple. This gave Jehoash one of the most unique childhoods of anyone in history. He was raised—literally—in the temple. He couldn’t leave because if Athaliah knew he was alive, she would’ve murdered him. As Christian parents, we want to shelter our children. There’s probably never been a more sheltered child in all of history. Jehoash might have known there was evil in the outside world, but he wouldn’t have witnessed much of it.
Making Jehoash’s spiritual upbringing even better, he was raised by two godly people. His adoptive father was the devout priest, Jehoiada. His adoptive mother was Jehoshaba, the woman who risked her life to save him when his siblings were being murdered.
King Jehoash of Judah’s upbringing produced exactly what we would expect: a child who “did what was right in the sight of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest” (2 Chronicles 24:2). Jehoash was a good son who obeyed, behaved, and was interested in spiritual matters. But did you notice anything odd about the verse? Unfortunately, it suggests he only did what was right during “the days of Jehoiada the priest,” which makes us wonder what happened when Jehoiada died.
Second Chronicles 24:4 says, “Jehoash set his heart on repairing the house of the Lord.” This is wonderful. He restored the temple. Going well so far. Second Chronicles 24:15 says, “Jehoiada grew old and was full of days, and he died; he was one hundred and thirty years old when he died.” The moment of truth. What’s going to happen with Jehoash now that Jehoiada is dead? This is the critical moment of his life. His adoptive father, the man who’s been his spiritual leader and the moral compass in his life is out of the picture. Jehoash is on his own now. No more godly man telling him what to do and when to do it. He has a big vacuum in his life.
In many ways, Jehoash is like children who grow up in Christian homes and move out on their own. Jehoash used to have Jehoiada directing his life, just as young people used to have their parents directing their lives. Jehoash must decide whether to follow God on his own, just as young people must decide whether to follow God on their own.
Present-day examples would be young people raised in Christian homes who head off to college and hear teaching that contradicts God’s Word, or enter the workplace and find themselves around non-Christian employees who use language they’re not used to hearing. Friends and coworkers invite them to compromising places they’ve never frequented before, such as bars and clubs. They’re on their own for the first time; what are they going to do with their new freedom? Will they bring things into their home that they never thought of bringing into their parents’ home? What will they do on the computer when nobody is around to monitor their internet usage? Growing up, Sunday meant going to church. What will they do on Sundays now? Will they even go to church?
What happened to King Jehoash of Judah?
2 Chronicles 24:17-20 records:
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. Then the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, who stood above the people, and said to them, “Thus says God: ‘Why do you transgress the commandments of the Lord, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the Lord, He also has forsaken you.’”
The vacuum was filled with ungodly “leaders of Judah.” They influenced King Jehoash of Judah toward idolatry and apostasy. God reached out to him through the prophets to bring him back, but he wouldn’t listen to them. Then God graciously sent Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada, to Jehoash. Since they grew up together, Zechariah would’ve been like a brother to him. If there’s anyone we’d expect Jehoash to listen to, it would be him! When Zechariah confronted Jehoash, he faced the same choice all of us face when we’re confronted: respond humbly and repent or respond pridefully with anger. Sadly, in 2 Chronicles 24:21-22, we learn how Jehoash responded to Zechariah:
So they conspired against him, and at the command of the king they stoned him with stones in the court of the house of the Lord. Thus Jehoash the king did not remember the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him, but killed his son; and as he died, he said, “The Lord look on it, and repay!”
He Was Never Changed Inwardly
Jehoash’s problem is found in the words, “the king did not remember the kindness Jehoiada his father had done to him.” This doesn’t mean he didn’t remember as we think of people not remembering. He didn’t forget how he grew up, or what he was taught, or how kindly he was treated. Instead, it means none of it was in his heart. He was the young man who could say all the right things outwardly, but it didn’t change him inwardly.
If you’re a young person reading this, you need to remember what your parents have taught you! Remember “the gospel which [your parents] preached to you” (1 Corinthians 15:1). Keep in mind how blessed you are to be raised in a Christian home. You are in a small percent of the population, and “To whom much is given, much is required” (Luke 12:48). Keep Jehoash’s example in mind. You can grow up in the temple and be sheltered from evil in the world, be raised by godly parents like Jehoiada and Jehoshaba, have godly siblings like Zechariah, but if you haven’t embraced the gospel, then it means nothing.
If you’re a parent reading this, you should keep Jehoash’s example in mind too. You must think about what happens when your children move out, and you’re no longer watching them. Does it really matter if they learned academics and were hard workers who conformed outwardly when they were under your roof, but their hearts didn’t belong to the Lord, and so when they moved out, they didn’t serve Him?
We don’t want to be fooled into thinking our children are saved if they act a certain way. King Jehoash of Judahwas able to “[do] what was right in the sight of the Lord,” even though he wasn’t converted. It’s not just about our children conforming to rules or becoming hard workers. The unbelieving world does as much with their children.
The Need for the Gospel
We must be concerned about our children’s hearts, which can only be changed by the gospel. As parents, we don’t want to be deceived into thinking our children “are safe” simply because we sheltered them. We want our children to know about the evil that’s “out there”—in the world—and we want to protect them from it. But we also want them to know about the even greater evil that’s “in here”—in their hearts—that they must be protected from. The account of King Jehoash of Judah’s apostasy should encourage all parents never to tire of preaching the gospel to their children, and to pray earnestly that God will open their hearts to receive it.
Our children need the gospel more than anything else. Notice I didn’t say they only need the gospel, as though they don’t need anything else. They do need to learn academics, a good work ethic, biblical morals, social skills, and the list goes on. But they need the gospel more than they need anything else because only the gospel saves them and changes them from the inside out.
- List some advantages and disadvantages of sheltering your child?
- What are some intentional things you can do to instill kindness in your child’s heart?
- Write a prayer to the Lord for each of your children.
- What does it mean to “embrace the gospel” and live a godly life? Do you sense the Lord is convicting you about anything ungodly in your life?
- How does the story of Joash motivate you to do things differently as a family?
- Find additional biblical examples of wisdom.