“How could this have happened? They were raised in a good Christian home?” Many of us have witnessed this type of situation where a young person who was so promising and seemingly innocent suddenly turns out to be a devil. This is what happened in the case of Joash, king of Judah.
Joash was providentially saved as a young child from being murdered by his evil grandmother Athaliah after his father was killed (2 Chronicles 22). He was protected by Jehoiada the priest. When the time was right, godly men rose up to make Joash king at seven years old (2 Chronicles 23). With the help of Jehoiada, his foster father, and Jehoiada’s sons, his foster brothers, Joash ushered in a period of revival that put down Baal worship and restored God’s temple and Mosaic law (2 Chronicles 24). Joash rose to acclaim as a righteous young king and things were moving along impressively for several years.
Then Jehoiada the priest died. Highly regarded as a godly reformer who helped Judah prosper, the priest was buried among the deceased kings. The people of Judah assumed King Joash would continue the legacy of his foster father, but he morphed into a good boy gone bad. How could it have happened after God blessed him immensely, after he was raised in a godly home, after he raised all the money to restore the temple and was active in temple worship and the holy feast days?
Joash turned out to be what I would call a spiritual chameleon. He took on the appearance of what was spiritually prevalent in his surroundings. While Jehoiada was alive, Joash was surrounded by godly men and their influences, so he outwardly displayed that because it was flattering for him. Once Jehoiada died, the evil princes of Judah whose hearts were toward Baal came and “made obeisance” to Joash (2 Chronicles 24:17). That means they showered him with flatteries and made quid pro quo agreements with him having to do with bringing back open and widespread Baal worship. Spiritual chameleon Joash embraced Baalism immediately.
Jehovah responded by sending prophets to Judah warning them to turn from their wicked ways before he unleashed his judgment and nullified their prosperity. One of those prophets was Joash’s own foster brother Zechariah, Jehoiada’s son. However, Joash was so callous at that point that he ordered Zechariah stoned and his other foster brothers killed.
Nevertheless, that was the last straw for God and for many people in Judah, given the respect they had for Jehoiada. Joash and Judah were punished with an invasion and defeat by the Syrian army. Then Joash was assassinated by his own servants who were upset about Jehoiada’s sons. The people considered him such a shame that they refused to bury him among the previous kings.
Whenever we see good boys or girls gone bad in Christian circles, you can best believe their path is similar to Joash’s. Their “Christian” appearance is not rooted and grounded in a faith relationship with the Lord, but in religious pretense. As soon as an opportunity presents itself where the world flatters their prideful fallen nature (e.g. the secular entertainment industry), they jump on board. Situations like this should serve as reminders for us to follow Paul’s advice to examine and test ourselves to make sure we are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5) as well as Peter’s advice to make our calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10).