Following Somebody Else's Religion

By Bill Stough

A shocking story is recorded in 2 Chronicles chapters 23 and 24 about King Joash of Judah. It is a warning to all of us and may be especially significant to us today.

Joash was about to be murdered by Athaliah of Israel who seized power and murdered Judah's royal family. But Jehosheba, wife of the priest Jehoiada, rescued the infant and hid him in the temple six years. Athaliah, the usurper, reigned as queen of Judah while Joash was in hiding (2 Chronicles 22:10-12).

Jehoiada the priest next showed his strength by organizing an overthrow of Athaliah and installing the proper heir, king Joash. Jehoiada then helped reform Judah and restored worship of the true God (2 Chronicles 23). Joash becomes king when he is seven years old. He had a strong, godly helper in Jehoiada, the priest. But there is a negative side to all this.

"Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest (2 Chronicles 24:2)." But humans die, and Jehoiada did. What happens when the mentor goes away and internal character is what shows up?

"After the death of Jehoiada, the officials of Judah came and paid homage to the king, and he listened to them. They abandoned the temple of the Lord, the God of their fathers, and worshipped Asherah poles and idols. Because of their guilt, God’s anger came upon Judah and Jerusalem (2Chron 24:17-18)."

Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada, came to warn Joash of his path of leaving God. Joash has him stoned to death! "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 24:21-22)."

Disasters soon come upon Joash and Judah.

Learning from Joash

The problem with Joash is that he had external character but not deep internal values. He knew what rules to follow as long as Jehoiada was alive, but those were just rules. When presented with other ways to live which seemed appealing, Joash dumped the way he had been living. In effect, he had been following somebody else's religion. Joash was not a transformed person who identified with God directly. A person who is transformed, or converted (changed), is "turned on" by what God truly is. Such a person does not just throw out the way he has been living, for he has been seeking to please God, not man.

Many a young person follows his parent's religion then leaves it when given the choice. Where is the deep individual connection with God in that? What this demonstrates is that they have only been following a person, or a religion.

What do we do if the ones we look up to change? Do we even know if we are following people rather than being attached to God? What is in our hearts? Are we concerned about pleasing God, or are we just members of a church?

It seems to be innate to most people to be followers and not leaders. But we all ought to think about whether we are following God or man. It is God and scripture that should be the basis of our strength, not a church, a minister, another Christian, or worldly philosophies that somehow just creep into our thinking.

Churches like to put out booklets about their "statement of beliefs" which state "we believe such and such." Should someone else decide for us what we personally believe?

Some beliefs are essentially harmless, but some can be very dangerous. We should connect with God and not just a church. Prove where we stand, and don't let our peers remove our connection from God.

I recently talked to an older lady who had just received an updated copy of her former church’s statement of beliefs. She read me a paragraph and said, "So that’s what we believe." I asked her what she believes and she was very confused. She has since joined a new church in her town and attends a class so she can learn "what we believe." She is still looking to an organization, human authority, for her connection to God and her beliefs.

A minister or spiritual leader should teach people to lean on God and not just on other people. Paul said, "Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ (I Corinthians 11:1)."

God is real and close at hand. Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me (John 10:14)." If we are truly of Christ and we take a wrong turn, then the Holy Spirit will convict us internally that we are heading into sin. God may also send someone or some circumstance to warn us. He has ways to get to us and knows each of us personally, for we are his children. Beware of other voices which seem appealing and offer an easier way to go.

Joash never transferred his trust to God directly. He did not seek God wholeheartedly. He listened instead to ungodly human voices and that did him in. Joash, like some of us, was alright as long as his mentor Jehoiada was around, but Joash lacked an internal anchor. All of us should always look to Christ as our mentor. He is always around and never changes.

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