By Harry R. Osborne
The life of Joash, king of Judah, is an interesting study of a character who started in the right path, but ended in shameful disgrace (see 2 Chron. 22:10-24:27). His forty year reign saw him go from a zealous advocate of serving God to a murderer of one who spoke the will of God. His reign started amidst joyful exclamation, “Long live the king!” It ended when his own servants killed him in bed after he was severely wounded in battle. His coronation took place in the house of God as he stood in the traditional place of the kings (2 Kgs. 11:14). By the time of his death, his disgrace was so complete that he was not buried in the tombs of the kings.
What lessons can we learn from such a life? How can we avoid the pitfalls which overcame king Joash? How can we spot the danger signs?
A Faithful Beginning
As a baby, Joash was saved from his ruthless grand-mother, Athaliah, who tried to kill him and take the throne for herself. Joash was taken to the temple and raised for six years under the care of Jehoiada, the faithful priest of God. At the age of seven, Joash became king. At that time, Joash was given the testimonies (the Law), which he had obviously studied at the feet of Jehoiada, to guide him as king.
Following the coronation, the record says, “And Jehoiada made a covenant between himself, and all the people, and the king, that they should be Jehovah’s people” (2 Chron. 23:16). The next verse shows their willingness to put God’s law into practice as they destroyed the temple of Baal and put to death the idolatrous priest. The good influence of a faithful teacher is seen in Joash’s early life by the statement, “And Joash did that which was right in the eyes of Jehovah all the days of Jehoiada the priest” (2 Chron. 24:2).
On one occasion, Joash’s zeal to do good even exceeded that of those who had helped teach him the principles of God’s law. Joash wanted to restore the temple and he commanded that it be done speedily. Those in charge procrastinated and Joash rightly reproved them. At his insistence, the money was gathered more quickly, the work was undertaken, and the task was completed. In this in-stance, Joash showed that not only was he influenced to do good, but he also influenced others to do good. It was a noble beginning.
The Process of Apostasy
After the death of Jehoiada, the life of Joash took a downward turn. The record shows how evil companions appealed to his pride. In 2 Chronicles 24:17-18, we read:
Now after the death of Jehoiada came the princes of Judah, and made obeisance to the king. Then the king hearkened unto them. And they forsook the house of Jehovah, the God of their fathers, and served the Asherim and the idols: and wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this their guiltiness.
The faithful servant of God who formerly bowed in humility to God now was flattered by the evil men who made obeisance to him. As a result, Joash ceased listening to the counsel of righteous men and began listening to the counsel of the ungodly (cf. Psa. 1:1).
Following that advice, Joash forsook God, forgetting the law he had been taught in his youth. He began to practice evil and progressed in that evil until he had influenced all of Judah to follow his wicked ways. The good king who had influenced the people to serve God was now the evil king who led his subjects into condemnation. A tragedy!
The Hardening of the Heart
God did not give up on Joash and the people at their first rebellion. The Bible records the Lord’s appeals for their return and the growing resistance to his pleas:
Yet he sent prophets to them, to bring them again unto Jehovah; and they testified against them: but they would not give ear. And the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest; and he stood above the people, and said unto them, Thus saith God, Why transgress ye the commandments of Jehovah, so that ye cannot prosper? because ye have forsaken Jehovah, he hath also forsaken you. And they conspired against him, and stoned him with stones at the commandment of the king in the court of the house of Jehovah. Thus Joash the king remembered not the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him, but slew his son. And when he died, he said, Jehovah look upon it, and require it (2 Chron. 24:19-22).
Jehovah called them to repent through prophets (plural), but they would not listen. When Zechariah rebuked them with the truth, they killed him instead of changing their ways. Of course, killing the prophet did not change the truth he spoke. It merely cut them off from the source which could turn them back to righteousness.
The culpability of Joash is clearly stated. He had turned from his beginnings in a shocking and disgraceful manner. All of the good he had done in his early days would not be remembered because he had renounced it to become the standard-bearer of error and evil. Surely, God could not remember the good, but viewed him as a traitor to evil (Ezek. 33:13).
However, the paradox is that his own contemporaries, whose favor he sought, also forsook him in his death by burying him away from the kings (2 Chron. 24:25). They used him to get what they wanted, but discarded him in the end. The cause of sin cost him everything, but gave him nothing in return. Such is the bargain of sin!
Learning the Lesson Today
The life of Joash is the classic example of apostasy. Those who leave the Lord and cause others to stray are often those who had the noblest of beginnings. They are raised by godly parents or benefit from the influence of faithful saints, elders and preachers. Those influences last for some time and bring about a zealous burst of action for the cause of Christ. But when the trying times come, the way of truth is left for the paths of sin and error.
The downfall frequently occurs at the entry of pride (Prov. 16:18; 29:23). When a man starts to listen to the vain flattery of those who seek to use his influence, disaster is going to be the result. The Bible is replete with examples affirming this fact. A brief look at Restoration history in more recent times shows the same thing. How many times have popular preachers strayed from the “straight and narrow” as they listened to the adulation of adoring brethren? How many times have those of modest beginnings started to compromise the truth as their brethren offered them the presidency of a college, an editorship, or other places of influence? The perks offered by those who love the way of evil many times blind the eyes of the godly soul who is then seduced by pride.
However, it is truly said that the pleasures of sin are only for a season. When one leaves his place as the servant of righteousness to become the master of those heading to apostasy, his glory will be short lived. Those who have used his influence to aid their evil ends will dump him quickly. They want to go even further into apostasy and he is only a tool to start the process. In the end, one so used will be negatively viewed by both sides. Christ and those who continue to stand for his truth will view him as a traitor. Satan and those who proceed in error will forget him because he is merely a transitional figure to them.
Parallel Apostasy of Liberal Brethren
The so called “conservatives” among our erring, liberal brethren are now in that place. Preachers like Wayne Jackson, Tom Warren, Garland Elkins, Wendell Winkler, Gary Workman, Buster Dobbs and Roy Deaver are now being cast aside by the majority of their fellow apostates as the progression of evil continues. These men helped the “progressive” crowd try to justify their unauthorized institutions and sponsoring churches, but now cry out over the “evils” of the equally unauthorized gymnasiums, instrumental music and women preachers called for in many churches among them. They have sown the wind, and they are reaping the whirlwind.
Instead of admitting the obvious and correcting their error, some of our liberal brethren are seeking to deny the connection between their past actions and the present trends among them. In correspondence with this author, Wayne Jackson demanded that I give documentation from his paper when a previous article identified his Christian Courier as “a paper published by our liberal brethren.” Those references were furnished by showing his defense of the unauthorized, sponsoring church arrangement and by refer-ring to a letter (published in Christian Courier) by the elders where he preaches verifying their action as a sponsoring church. Along with this documentation, propositions from Larry Hafley were sent to brother Jackson asking him to affirm his practice regarding the sponsoring church. Possibly seeing his dilemma, brother Jackson has remained suspiciously silent since that time. I do not blame him.
In the latest issue of the Spiritual Sword, Alan Highers has also objected to the connection between his justification of error and the progress of error among his brethren. His denial is given as follows:
The problems of theological liberalism in our midst have not arisen because we support orphan homes or engage in church cooperation. The very suggestion that this is the case (as found occasionally in the periodicals of our anti-cooperation brethren) manifests a myopic analysis and a failure to recognize that some of the most liberal thinkers among us came from the most conservative backgrounds, including some from their midst.’ (The footnote cited the following proof: Edward Fudge, who denies eternal punishment in hell, came from the anti-cooperation movement. Leroy Garrett and Carl Ketcherside emanated from the anti-college, anti-located preacher faction [Spiritual Sword, October 1992, pp. 1,51).
For those of you unfamiliar with the “liberal lingo,” their term “cooperation” refers to their unauthorized practice of the sponsoring church which fosters centralization, not cooperation. With the aid of his prejudicial terms, Highers blindly accuses faithful brethren of “myopic analysis” when they correctly show the effects of his error on apostasy in his presence.
Highers commits the ultimate Freudian slip while speaking of Edward Fudge, Leroy Garrett and Carl Ketcherside (despite his recent death) by describing them as “some of the most liberal thinkers among us.” I know of no faithful brother who would describe Fudge and Garrett as being “among us,” but Highers says they are “among” his folks. Hence, Fudge and Garrett presently reside with Alan Highers and his Spiritual Sword comrades — though the household is not a happy one.
It is also worth noting that Edward Fudge is an example of the apostasy discussed in this article. After the death of his good father, Bennie Lee Fudge, Edward left the fellowship of faithful brethren as he continued to promote error. And where did Edward go? That’s right, over to Alan Highers and his Spiritual Sword comrades who received him with open arms. They congratulated him for joining in their unauthorized sponsoring churches and limited social gospel efforts. Now, they give an expression of concern when Fudge adds to his support of one unauthorized practice like the sponsoring church by defending another unauthorized practice like women preachers. In like manner, Highers and his associates protest that they cannot see the connection between those “among” them who have moved from kitchen defenders in their unauthorized “fellowship halls” to athletic supporters in their equally unauthorized “family life center” gymnasiums. While Highers and his Spiritual Sword comrades claim the problem is our myopia, their blindness is as apparent as that of Joash! May God help them open their eyes that they might see.
Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 2, p. 20
January 21, 1993