Monday, June 24, 2024

2 Chronicles 27:17-27

2 Chronicles 24:17–27 (NIV)✞: The Wickedness of Joash


In the last passage we read about King Joash of Judah repairing the Temple, and everything seemed to be going well – except that we also read that the Chief Priest, Jehoiada, died, and I hinted that things might deteriorate after that.

Things go bad pretty much immediately after Jehoiada’s passing:

After the death of Jehoiada, the officials of Judah came and paid homage to the king, and he listened to them.

2 Chronicles 24:17 (NIV)✞, emphasis added

On the surface, that phrase “and he listened to them” isn’t ominous, but knowing what’s coming in the rest of the passage I think that phrase is exactly Joash’s problem: listening to the wrong advisors. And the next couple of verses bear this out:

18 They abandoned the temple of the LORD, the God of their ancestors, and worshiped Asherah poles and idols. Because of their guilt, God’s anger came on Judah and Jerusalem. 19 Although the LORD sent prophets to the people to bring them back to him, and though they testified against them, they would not listen.

2 Chronicles 24:18–19 (NIV)✞

God sends a prophet to the people, to tell them that what they’re doing is not good. In fact, the prophet God sends is Zechariah – son of the aforementioned Jehoiada. Not only do the people not listen, however, but Joash commands that Zechariah be stoned to death. Verse 22 makes this irony quite clear:

King Joash did not remember the kindness Zechariah’s father Jehoiada had shown him but killed his son, who said as he lay dying, “May the LORD see this and call you to account.”

2 Chronicles 24:22 (NIV)✞

And that’s exactly what happens: the Arameans attack Judah and, even though they’re a smaller army than Joash has, the Arameans are successful:

23 At the turn of the year, the army of Aram marched against Joash; it invaded Judah and Jerusalem and killed all the leaders of the people. They sent all the plunder to their king in Damascus. 24 Although the Aramean army had come with only a few men, the LORD delivered into their hands a much larger army. Because Judah had forsaken the LORD, the God of their ancestors, judgment was executed on Joash. 25 When the Arameans withdrew, they left Joash severely wounded. His officials conspired against him for murdering the son of Jehoiada the priest, and they killed him in his bed. So he died and was buried in the City of David, but not in the tombs of the kings.

2 Chronicles 24:23–25 (NIV)✞

The passage ends with mention of the people who conspired against Joash, and mention that his son Amaziah will succeed him as king.


After reading this passage I have some thoughts on Joash’s need for good counselors, as well as some thoughts as to the repetition we see in the Old Testament from God’s people.

Good Counselors vs. Bad Counselors

In the last passage I’d mentioned that I don’t so much see Joash as a “good” king or a “bad” one, so much as I see him as a weak king. As long as he was getting advice from someone who wanted him to see God, he sought God; when he started getting advice from people who wanted him to seek other gods, he did that.

With that in mind, let’s not pass judgement on Joash for being weak, only for the counselors he chose to listen to. Because the truth is that there are weak Christians, too! Maybe someone is new to the faith and doesn’t know a lot about it yet; maybe they’ve been a Christian for years, but for whatever reasons haven’t been good about reading their Bibles, and so also don’t know as much as they should about God and His ways; perhaps they have literal cognitive disabilities and simply need more guidance than others.

Whatever the reasons—good, bad, or neutral—Christians who find themselves in such a situation need to find good counselors to listen to. People who do have a strong faith, and knowledge of God and His ways.

How do we find such people? I’ll start with the obvious: you’re more likely to find them in your local church than anywhere else, so if you’re not attending a local church you’re at an immediate disadvantage. Can you find knowledgeable people on the internet? Yes, but:

  1. How can you tell the good ones from the bad ones, if you’re already a “weak” Christian? And,
  2. Even true, God-fearing, Bible-reading Christians on the internet, who give good advice and open up the Scriptures faithfully to their subscribers, don’t know you or your problems the way someone in your local church can.

Another piece of advice I’d give is that someone who’s always telling you what you want to hear is probably not a good counselor. I can’t say this for sure, there are definitely times when the right thing to do is what we want to do, but… if the advice is consistently what you want to hear, it’s probably not good advice. (Sorry.)

Why Does This Keep Happening?

These passages might seem strange to modern ears, especially when reading about hundreds of years of history condensed into a small amount of text. Why in the world do the people of God keep reverting to idols?!? When we just read the book of Chronicles—or Kings, or Samuel (to a certain extent), or Judges (to a great extent)—it’s tempting to wonder: when you see the pattern over and over and over again of God saving His people, and then them abandoning Him, and then suffering the consequences, and then starting the pattern all over again, why are they being so… stupid?

It’s helpful to remind ourselves of a couple of points:

First, although we’re sitting down and reading large swaths of history in one sitting, years were passing between events. Yes, the pattern I mentioned above holds true, but it’s more like: 1) God saves His people; 2) years or even decades pass; 3) after that long amount of time, the events of God saving them start to seem less real; 4) the people start following other gods.

I’ll use myself as an example: Twenty years before writing this post God gave me a loving friend and partner as a wife. Aside from salvation itself, I’m pressed to think of a more important, more impactful gift He’s ever given me. Then, the day before I wrote this post, I went to my church’s annual BBQ and had some good food. Then, at the very minute I was typing this paragraph, I was sipping some very good coffee. If I were to rank those blessings in terms of how “big” or “important” they are as opposed to how “real” they felt to me as I typed this, the lists would come out in opposite orders!

How Important Is It? How Real Does it Feel Right This Minute?
1. My marriage 1. A great cup of coffee
2. A great church BBQ 2. A great church BBQ
3. A great cup of coffee 3. My marriage

It’s human nature that things fade and become less real in our memories, regardless of how important they are. And that’s just within the span of twenty years! How much less real do things feel when they happened to my parents, instead of me? Or my grandparents?

Second, we can’t underestimate how much the people of Judah were being just like the peoples around them. That was exactly the problem God had warned them about, and it’s what happened. (No, it should not surprise us that the thing God predicted came to pass…) It’s easy enough for us to wonder why in the world they would keep worshipping other gods—gods who had never even come close to proving themselves the way the LORD their God had—but it wasn’t something they were doing in isolation, they were doing what literally everyone in the known world was doing!

It’s simply how paganism worked. Are you taking a trip? There are probably some rituals you’ll need to perform for the god of the land you’re visiting. There might even be a god of travels; you probably want to appease that god, too. If the voyage is a sea voyage, then there’s likely a specific sea god you’ll want to appease. Want to have good crops? Healthy children? Success against your enemies? Find the appropriate god(s) and perform the proper rituals, which probably involve sacrifice of some kind, but… honestly, the kind of ritual isn’t important to this discussion.

I’ve written about it before, but this type of multi-god worship is called syncretism (and I’m positive I’ve mentioned it before, but I don’t see the word “syncretism” in the blog when I search for it). The people of Judah didn’t think it was any big deal; they worshipped their LORD and they worshipped the other gods. Why not hedge your bets, right? But God won’t just be “one of” our gods; not even the primary god. He is the God, the only God, and will only be worshipped as such.

And again, when the modern reader reads Judges / Samuel / Kings / Chronicles, that seems obvious. Of course the Israelites should have been worshipping God and God alone. But, if I may bring up the obvious example we all use in the 21st Century, are modern, Western Christians worshipping God and money? How much do we rely on God compared to how much we rely on our assets? If God appeared to me and told me He had work for me to do, but I had to leave all of my money behind and I had to give up my house (not sell it, just give it up), He’d take care of me in different ways, how comfortable would I be? (Not comfortable at all is the answer to that rhetorical question.)

My [obvious] point being that we do the same that Joash and his people were doing: of course I worship God—I go to church every Sunday!—so what’s the problem if I prioritise the way I make as much money as I can over my worship of Him? I need that money, to… take care of the things He doesn’t, I guess.

And if God-worshipping people from other cultures, from other time periods, were to see how much we prioritise money over God they’d probably think we were silly, just like we think the Old Testament people of God were. (Of course, if we were to examine their lives, those theoretical people would have their own blind spots, where they worship God plus something else…)

Anything that steals our worship of and/or trust in the God of the universe is harmful to us, but is also very difficult for us to see, in our own time and place, so we have to prayerfully read the Scriptures, and search out ways they apply to us. I’ve said this many times, but the examples we see in the Bible are not intended for us to feel superior, they’re intended to make us question our own views and priorities and beliefs to search out ways we need to change.

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