Joash: Rise, Revival and Rebellion
By Will Graham
I wish I could end the message right here. But the truth demands that I continue. I promised I would share about Joash’s rise and revival but I also mentioned his rebellion. Our text tells us that Joash did the will of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada, that godly influence steered the nation of Judah in the right direction. With Jehoiada, all was well. But the moment he went, untold disaster breaks loose. The princes of Judah came to him, and through their flattery, persuaded the king to build groves and idols. It’s a proud and carnal man that listens to flattery. The man of God knows that he’s a no-one, and if he thinks otherwise, he’s a fool (Gal.6:3). In being so easily led astray, Joash rejected the Lord. Apostasy was setting in. In spite of the great revival of the true worship of the Lord and the restoration of the Temple of the Lord, Joash’s was more in love with his own self than with the Lord. He had experienced the glory of revival, yet rejected the Lord as soon as the man of God was out of the road. When a revival is left in the hands of godless men the result is calamity. George Whitefield wrote: “As God can send a nation or people no greater blessing than to give them faithful, sincere and upright ministers, so the greatest curse that God can possibly send upon a people in this world, is to give them over to blind, unregenerate, carnal, lukewarm and unskilled guides”. It would have been better that Joash went to the grave rather than Jehoiada. The revival was mere sensationalism and emotionalism: where were the lasting effects on the hearts of the people of God?
We know that the groves and idols were built to cover up the awfulness of the altar-sacrifices. People who want groves are those who want the sting taken out of the Gospel message. Tone the message down- don’t take the Word so seriously! “Yes, talk to me about Jesus meek and mild, tell me about the Saviour who did good to all and loves us all no matter what we do. But don’t talk to me about death to self, about a whole-hearted commitment to God, about the necessity of a life of prayer, holiness and obedience to the commands of the Almighty God of judgment and wrath. Don’t preach against sin”.
It’s the whole Gospel or it’s no Gospel. This Book is worth everything or it’s worth nothing, and if you take anything out of it or add anything to it, you’re in trouble.
It’s interesting that these princes, sons of Belial, came to Joash when Jehoiada was dead. That man of God would have never given a moment’s notice to that rubbish. The Holy Ghost always expels that which is uncrucified. Flattery and popularity deceived the king’s heart. God’s judgement was going to come.
We don’t build groves (altars to the goddess Ashtorath or trees) today in the church; but we do bring in entertainment and trust in man’s wisdom, strength and riches. Nowadays we’ve everything to offer the world except the fiery Gospel of our great God and Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. Worldliness in the church doesn’t speak to me of success and growth; it speaks to me of defeat and failure. A church that has stopped dwelling in the secret place of the Almighty! Why is it that it’s always the folk who pray most who are the weariest and most worried about bringing in schemes and strategies into the house of the Lord?
Apostasy comes when man falls from grace. He rejects the Holy Spirit and decides to walk in his own way. Paul wrote to the Ephesian church the most wonderful Epistle, revealing the spiritual glories, truths and riches that are found in Jesus – some call it “the Alps of the NT” – it makes your heart warm to read it. But 40 years later John writes to exactly the same church and rebuked it for their love had grown cold for God. What started in revival doesn’t always necessarily end in revival. Once the hand of man touches the move of God, it dies.
Joash had no spiritual hunger or commitment to, or firmness in, God. Before God sent His judgment, He warned the king by raising up prophets. The Spirit of God filled Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada, who prophesied thus to Joash: “Thus says the Lord, Why transgress ye the commandments of the Lord, that ye cannot prosper? Because ye have forsaken the Lord, He has also forsaken you!” You never hear a word like that from the pulpit nowadays where all are at ease in Zion. A pastor once told me that we shouldn’t preach against sin in case we upset the people. Here we find a Spirit-filled man and the message cuts sin to the heart.
You don’t have to be an expert to know that Zechariah was going to pay with his life for his message. As apostasy set in, God still had a people willing to preach His true Word. There are still 7,000 who haven’t bowed the knee to Baal.
Joash killed Zechariah. Could he be any more ungrateful? He was rescued by Zechariah’s mum as a baby; protected and coronated by Zechariah’s father. And he stoned him to death in God’s house. Pure grace had rescued him. Pure grace put him on the throne. For crying out loud, he was a seven-year old boy. And yet look how he repays God and His prophet.
Savanarola rose up with holy fire burning within his bones before the European Reformation, preaching against sin, idolatry and superstition. He burned vanities in the streets of Florence and preached of coming judgement. Thousands came to hear this man whose words were as lightning. But when their hearts grew cold, they took him to the place where he had previously burned the dirt and filth of the revived people, and burnt him at the stake. Preaching the Truth will cost you something. A friend called Ralph asked me, “When was the last time you were stoned on the street?” If we preach the first-century Gospel, we’ll face the first-century persecution.
The prophets are like thunderstorms – they go against the wind, terrify sinners and cleanse the air. May such souls arise once again in this decadent age. Men who have the air of another world about them: men who have spent day and night in prayer to God and speak in the Name of God Almighty and righteousness.
God wasn’t going to stand for this. The Jewish tradition teaches that Joash’s sin was seven-fold in killing Zechariah. He killed a prophet, a priest, a judge, shed innocent blood, on the Sabbath and on the Day of Expiation.
He killed a sacred man with a sacred message in a sacred place on a sacred day.
Call a man ungrateful and you can call him no else. Joash had rejected God and experienced one torment after another. His last state was worse than the first. The gold had become dim, the fine silver had changed. He began in the Spirit and ended in the flesh.
Hazael of Syria invaded Gath, and Joash in fear bribed him by offering him the riches and goods of the Temple of the Lord. Far from God, he feared man and impoverished the nation of Judah in the process. He held the things of God in little esteem, and the Lord was the only One who could deliver him from foreign invasion. His carnal methods failed him, for in a years time Hazael came back and as Joash had nothing to bribe him with, they went to battle and he ransacked the nation. Joash was left afflicted in mind and body and was killed by his own servants while asleep in his bed. Here we see the lot of a man that forsakes the Lord. Satan came to seduce him first, then he persecuted him. If you give the devil any space in your life, it’s only a matter of time before he destroys you. He knows no mercy. You kill him or he kills you. It’s a fight to the death.
Joash died in torment and agony, killed and hated by his own people, faced by the wrath of a jealous God. Jehoiada took his stand in God, paid the price, and lived to see the glory of the Lord in his generation. He saw the salvation of the Lord. Are you a Joash or are you a Jehoiada? Will you take the stand? Will you pay the price? Will you seek God no matter what the cost? 99% won’t do in the kingdom of God. A lot of folk have given their lives to Jesus, but very few have given their all to Him.