This podcast covers Lesson 8 of Reboot Renew Rejoice Bible Study by Melanie Newton.
The Deception of Halfhearted Obedience
In 1630, a group of about 1,000 Puritan refugees from England settled the Massachusetts Bay Colony in present-day Massachusetts. Deeply committed to God, they sought to form a colony that was under God’s sovereignty. Only those who had experienced a genuine conversion to Christ with signs in their lives of being saved could be members of the church and voting members of the community. But, as life goes on, those very faithful Christians began to die.
By the 1660’s, it became evident that the younger generation was drawn to the materialistic success of the growing towns and not as interested in being saved and living out their Christian life. Therefore, they could not become official church members and voting participants in the community. Yet, these descendants of the godly Puritans did not want to abandon their faith completely. They still wanted their children to be baptized as part of God’s community.
So, a group of ministers in Boston came up with a compromise known as the Halfway Covenant. This allowed the children to be baptized even if their parents were not saved. The hope was that the children would grow up and want to be saved themselves and become church members. This compromise rewarded halfhearted obedience. And, nothing good can come out of that. We see that in the life of King Joash.
Joash, the boy king
I remember the first time I read about Joash, the boy who became king of Judah as a 7-year-old. When our children were young, we read from the Muffin Family Bible Series every night as a family. One night we read about Joash, and his story fascinated me.
His grandmother Athaliah declared herself Queen then killed all her grandchildren except for this one boy named Joash. How could she do that! It baffles me how wicked people can be.
Thankfully, the toddler had been hidden away in the Temple by his Aunt Jehosheba and Uncle Jehoiada who was the High Priest. Keeping a small child hidden at the Temple for 6 years was no small feat! Perhaps Aunt Jehosheba passed him off as her own child. We don’t know.
When Joash was brought out 6 years later and presented to the people as their king, apparently there was no question as to whether he was really the former King Ahaziah's son. Yet, even if Joash were the king’s sister’s child, he was still David's descendant. God's promise to maintain David's throne was preserved.
Joash was presented to the people during one of the 3 festival times. Apparently, the worship of the Lord had been banned in favor of Baal worship in Jerusalem. So, a festival time might have been deemed a safe time for the people to gather without creating a stir in wicked Queen Athaliah's mind. The coup was successful. Athaliah was executed, and the people worshiped the Lord again openly. Hooray!
Even in his late 80s, Uncle Jehoiada was a better mentor for Joash than his own father would have been so God didn't need Ahaziah alive. But why leave wicked grandmother alive? It might have been so that Joash would be a bit older and not just a toddler when he took the throne. Probably presenting Joash still in diapers and saying, “Here’s your king” wouldn't go over very well. And, maybe the people needed to experience Athaliah's wickedness to prepare their hearts to accept a 7-year-old as their next king.
By now, I think they trusted Jehoiada. He was a great High Priest. Powerful. Faithful to God. He was running the show as Joash grew up. And, he did a great job because Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all the years of Jehoiada the priest. Joash put a lot of effort into repairing the Temple during his early years as king. As long as Jehoiada lived, Joash outwardly conformed to God's commands. But, where was his heart during that time?
Joash’s true heart revealed
Jehoiada died at the ripe old age of 130. I’m thinking God kept him alive and kicking for Joash’s benefit.
Anyway, after he died, Joash turned from God. His DNA from wicked great-grandparents, a wicked grandmother and a wicked father kicked in! But, he wasn't alone in his fickleness in serving God. This is what surprised me so much!
The officials of Judah influenced a now 47-year-old King Joash to abandon the Temple of the Lord and to worship Asherah poles and idols instead. That tells me Joash was only conforming on the outside all those years. His heart was not touched though he had the best mentor he could have had. And, God kept sending communications to the king and to the people. They were not left without a continual Word from the Lord. Yet, they would not listen!
Halfheartedness is self-determined. God is constantly wooing. In 2 Chronicles chapter 24, the Spirit of God came upon Jehoiada's son Zechariah with a message for Joash saying,
"Why do you disobey the Lord's commands? You will not prosper. Because you have forsaken the Lord, the Lord will forsake you." (2 Chronicles 24:20)
Instead of repenting, King Joash ordered Zechariah to be executed! The Bible says that King Joash did not remember the kindness Zechariah's father Jehoiada had shown to him but killed his son (verse 22). Yes, Joash killed his own cousin. The son of the uncle who saved his life! That is ungratefulness!
God's judgment on Joash came swiftly. He was executed by the end of the year by his own officials who hated what he had done to Zechariah. At least someone was paying attention.
Halfhearted obedience was modeled and adopted
Sadly, Joash's son Amaziah wasn't much better. In 2 Chronicles chapter 25, we read,
"He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not wholeheartedly." (2 Chronicles 25:2)
That sounds like his dad. Joash’s halfhearted obedience was modeled to his son who adopted that response to God as well. Like father, like son.
Early in his reign when Amaziah made a rash decision to hire mercenaries from Israel, a prophet came to him and said not to do it because God would not give him success in battle. So, Amaziah obeyed and sent those guys back home. But, that made those mercenaries so angry that they destroyed and plundered the land on the way back to Israel.
I couldn't believe what I read next. After winning the next battle, Amaziah brought the gods of the defeated people to his house and started worshiping them. Say what?! Why worship the gods that lost the battle? That's illogical!
In fact, that's what God said to Amaziah through a prophet. He said, why worship gods that could not save their own people from your hand?
Amaziah ruled for another 15 years. He was hated by the people of Jerusalem (probably for that idol worship) and then assassinated by them. God carried out His judgment through others. That 15-year wait allowed a one-year-old son named Uzziah to grow up and be old enough to rule at age 16. The sovereign God had His plan.
Both Joash and his son Amaziah did what was right in their younger years. But, even then, it was not wholehearted. We see the deception of their halfhearted obedience. We see the deception of outward conformity because outward conformity doesn't change the heart.
Outward conformity doesn’t change the heart
Halfheartedness is self-determined. And, it is deceptive. It makes you think that you are being good when you obey sometimes, especially in behavior visible to onlookers. But, when the outward pressure to obey or restraints are removed, the true nature of a man or woman is revealed.
That’s why legalism is so dangerous to Christians. Legalism is trying to earn or maintain God’s acceptance by one’s performance. That would include following human “religious” laws imposed by others or even self-imposed rules that you feel make you more spiritual than others. Or acceptable to others. But, when you are forced to show outward conformity to religious laws, you’re actually drifting your focus away from the Person of Jesus Christ. You will be straying from enjoying a relationship with the one who loves you dearly to practicing a religion that might make you look good.
Here’s a key truth: The heart relationship with God is primary over behavior. God wants your heart first. Only the power of God’s presence will change a heart. Jesus Christ deserves your loyalty. Loyalty requires humility. Humility leads to obedience from the heart.
I heard an illustration many years ago that I’ve never forgotten.
A mother was driving to school one day, and her youngest child was standing in the seat beside her. Realizing the danger, she said to him, "Sit down, dear, I may have to stop suddenly and you'll be thrown against the windshield." "No!" the little boy refused. "Please sit down, dear, I don't want you to get hurt," the mother insisted. "No!" came the stubborn reply. Finally, she reached over and pulled him down. He sat there sullenly for a moment, then said, "I may be sitting down on the outside, but I'm standing up on the inside."
How often we respond to authority that way. We submit to it on the outside, but inside we're saying, "I resent it." God doesn’t want our outward compliance. He wants our obedience from the heart. That’s true for earthly parenting as well. The goal should not be outward compliance but true obedience from the heart. That same goal holds true for discipling new Christians. Establish someone in a love relationship with their God, and they will want to live a life that pleases Him out of love and gratitude for what He has done for them. Otherwise, you might get halfhearted obedience. Sitting down on the outside, but standing up on the inside.
As we have seen throughout our study of Chronicles, God is constantly wooing us. He continually offers us Himself and the power of His presence in our lives. Today, we get that through knowing Christ Jesus. Pastor Tony Evans calls Jesus, “God’s selfie.” When you know Jesus, you know God. When you have Jesus in your life, you have the presence of God in your life.
Let Jesus satisfy your heart with the power of His presence. Then, live in that power!
Until next time, I’m Melanie Newton. And, this is Series 6 of Satisfied.
Joyful Walk Bible Studies by Melanie Newton are available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble.