Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Need for Wise Counsel from Godly People

I am always intrigued by new discoveries that are made as I read through everyday narratives of Scripture in my times alone with God. This morning I was reading through some of the Chronicles of the Old Testament Kings and was struck by the faithfulness of an obscure priest that hardly anyone today would recognize or remember.

His name was Jehoiada. Now there are a couple of men by this name in the Old Testament, but this man was a high priest in the kingdom of Judah – a godly man who was faithful to God in the midst of a dark time.

Some background:

The Nation of Israel had been divided into two – the Northern Kingdom known as Israel was being led by the ungodly King Ahab, and the Southern Kingdom known as Judah was being ruled by King Ahaziah (whose corrupt mother named Athaliah was as much an influence as the King himself). King Ahaziah of Judah assumed his reign as King when he was 22 years old and it lasted only one year. He made the mistake of listening to the counsel of his wicked mother along with a select number of ungodly men, and as the ESV so aptly points out, this was “to his undoing.” (2 Chron. 22:4).

Not but a short time after ascending to the throne, King Ahaziah suffered a downfall that was “ordained by God,” (22:7) and it ended up that he was murdered by a group of thugs that God had raised up to execute judgment on Israel. Following his death, the King’s mother Athaliah decided to murder some of the remaining descendants of the godly line of David in what surely was a Satanically-inspired attempt to destroy the line of blood that was prophesied to one day produce a Messiah. But miraculously, Athaliah’s stepdaughter hid away one of the remaining heirs to the throne in order to prevent Athaliah from wiping out the entire royal bloodline. (Isn’t it interesting to see how God has a way of making sure his promises will come true as he preserved the line of David?)

Time passes, and Athtaliah, who was the mother of the dead King, has made herself Queen of Judah (the only female queen to occupy the throne of Judah). But six years later, in steps the godly priest known as Jehoiada, and he knows about the one remaining son (named Joash) who has been hidden for six years. He courageously rallies some of the faithful, believing commanders in Judah’s army and they go around and collect a group of Levite priests spread throughout the Kingdom. They find Joash (now 7 years old) and take him to the temple in Jerusalem and anoint him as King. It is a big deal with lots of noise, and when the wicked Queen Athaliah hears the noise, she comes running to see what all the hubbub is about.

When she entered the temple, she finds the people rejoicing and blowing trumpets as they celebrate the newly anointed King, and she is furious as you can imagine. She tears her clothes (a sign of angst) and shouts “Treason! Treason!” Just then Jehoiada the faithful priest orders that the Queen be removed from the house of God and put to death, and the wicked Queen meets her demise in public. Literally, the wickedness is removed from the kingdom of Judah.

And then we read this:

“And Jehoiada made a covenant between himself and all the people and the king that they should be the LORD's people. “ (2 Chronicles 23:16)

They subsequently removed all the sinful idols from the land, tore down the altars to Baal, and began worshipping the LORD again. The young King Joash grew, and Jehoiada the high priest became his advisor. And during this time, there was abundant favor and blessing that came upon the King and the land, as the Kingdom of Judah began to worship the One True God once again. Even the house of God was repaired and restored. For it had fallen in disrepair due to years of neglect. And text tells us that,

…they offered burnt offerings in the house of the LORD regularly all the days of Jehoiada. (2 Chronicles 24:14)

What a powerful story which gives us a brief glimpse at a godly man. This high priest, Jehoiada, was bold and courageous. He was willing to take a stand against evil and he successfully lead God’s people into a season of repentance from sin while calling them to an obedient life that honored and worshipped God. He lived a rich and long life, dying at the age of 130. And in honor of his life, the people of Judah buried him in Jerusalem alongside previous kings (an almost unheard of privilege since only Kings were allowed to be buried there.)

Oh how encouraged I was to see what a godly “pastor” Jehoiada was to the people of Judah. He had no fear, and he believed that God’s favor was uniquely linked to obedience to God’s Word – both for the King and for all of God’s people. He further poured himself into those who were leaders, and God brought about reformation and revival as they worshipped God together.

For pastors who wish to see God’s blessing on their congregations, they would do well to follow in the footsteps of godly shepherds like Jehoiada. Point people to Christ, give them the Word of God and godly counsel, and pour yourself into fellow leaders who along with you will help shepherd God’s flock under your care. And your life will be honored by both God and man.

Yet, in a frightening twist to our story, as soon as Jehoiada died, some of the ungodly princes of Judah who had not repented and turned back to God resurfaced again, and they came and flattered the king by paying homage to him. The young King Joash listened to their advice, and fell away from God. Yes, it seems that when one listens to bad counsel, it is only a matter of time before corruption sets in. Whether it was the wicked Athaliah’s counsel to her son the King before his untimely death, or Joash the new boy King who was ambushed with bad advice after the death of the Jehoiada, the godly high priest. Who one listens to is important.

Who do you listen to? Where do you seek counsel? Where do you turn for advice? Are they godly people? Are their views shaped by biblical convictions? Do their lives model faithfulness to God and His ways? These are all things that we have to question as we choose who we befriend and seek counsel from. For as Paul warned, “bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Cor. 15:33).

I have been fortunate to have had several different “Jehoiada’s” in my life, men who are full of the Spirit who have given me wise counsel. And by God’s grace, I hope to become one myself.