Who is influencing YOU?

influence-1024x652At Southern Calvert Baptist Church, we are continuing our journey through the entire Bible over a 3 year period. We are currently in the Old Testament book of II Chronicles. Many times, when people seek to read through the entire Bible, they tend to lose steam somewhere in the historical books of First and Second Kings or First and Second Chronicles. Has that ever happened to you before? I have mentored many people in Bible study who have shared that testimony. I find these books fascinating to study because they are historical narratives, revealing the real life struggles of real people as they maneuvered living in a difficult society, trying to walk with God and interact with fellow human beings. As I mentioned in my last article, one of the major themes of the Old Testament is the worship of idols, which, when reduced down to the nuts and bolts, is really the worship of self. This lesson, although it deals directly with idol worship, is really about the importance of the people who influence you. We live in an age of social media influencers. When a person, in our modern world, asks children what they want to be when they grown up, he no longer hears answers like, “I want to be a doctor”  or, “I want to be a fireman” or, “I want to be a policeman“. Today, the number one answer when children are asked what they want to be when they grow up is . . . “an influencer“. These impressionable children are influenced by social media influencers, many of whom are not good role models. We have sayings like, “bad company corrupts good morals” and “if you lie down with dogs, you rise up with fleas“. Another one that I heard as a young adult was, “tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are“. The question is not, “are we being influenced or not“. The question is, “who is influencing us“?

This brings us to King Joash. He is an interesting character in II Chronicles 24. The fact that he became king was an absolute miracle. The mother of the previous king tried to put him to death when he was an infant. He was the only child to survive the rampage of the previous king’s mother. Joash came from an intriguing family. His heritage was one of periods of faithful obedience to the Lord and then periods of utter disregard for the commandments of the Lord. Much of those periods were marked by the influences on the leaders. Joash followed the same pattern of his ancestors.

I. The power of good influences

Joash began his life as the result of a miracle. He was not supposed to survive infancy, yet, by the grace of God, he did. His mother was a great influence on his life until his mentor took over and influenced him for good.

Joash was seven years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem forty years. His mother’s name was Zibiah; she was from Beersheba. (II Chronicles 24:1)

The name Joash means, “given by Jehovah“. His life was a gift from the Lord and the fact that he survived to become king was also a miracle. Joash’s name was a constant reminder of the goodness of God. The first major influence in Joash’s life was his mother, Zibiah. The name Zibiah means, “honor“. She was faithful to the Lord and she influenced her son to be faithful to the Lord.

Joash did what was right in the sight of the LORD all the days of Jehoiada the priest. (II Chronicles 24:2)

The influence that Joash’s mother had on him manifested in the fact that when he was old enough to live on his own, he continued to do what was right in the sight of the Lord. Once Joash was grown, the priest Jehoiada became the main influence in his life. With these two influences in his life, Joash made a plan of action to rebuilt the house of the Lord. It had fallen into disrepair under the leadership of the previous kings, especially under the influence of Athaliah, the wicked woman who tried to have Joash put to death when he was an infant. She worshiped Baal and forced others to do the same while her son was king.

4 Now it came about after this that Joash decided to restore the house of the LORD.
5 He gathered the priests and Levites and said to them, “Go out to the cities of Judah and collect money from all Israel to repair the house of your God annually, and you shall do the matter quickly.”

8 So the king commanded, and they made a chest and set it outside by the gate of the house of the LORD.
9 They made a proclamation in Judah and Jerusalem to bring to the LORD the levy fixed by Moses the servant of God on Israel in the wilderness.
10 All the officers and all the people rejoiced and brought in their levies and dropped them into the chest until they had finished.
11 It came about whenever the chest was brought in to the king’s officer by the Levites, and when they saw that there was much money, then the king’s scribe and the chief priest’s officer would come, empty the chest, take it, and return it to its place. Thus they did daily and collected much money. (II Chronicles 24)

Under the positive influence of Jehoiada, Joash formed a plan of action, recruited the people, and got to work.

12 The king and Jehoiada gave it to those who did the work of the service of the house of the LORD; and they hired masons and carpenters to restore the house of the LORD, and also workers in iron and bronze to repair the house of the LORD.
13 So the workmen labored, and the repair work progressed in their hands, and they restored the house of God according to its specifications and strengthened it.
14 When they had finished, they brought the rest of the money before the king and Jehoiada; and it was made into utensils for the house of the LORD, utensils for the service and the burnt offering, and pans and utensils of gold and silver. And they offered burnt offerings in the house of the LORD continually all the days of Jehoiada. (II Chronicles 24)

As long as Jehoiada was there to influence Joash, he followed the Lord and influenced the people to do the same. But, Joash’s life changed dramatically upon the death of his positive influence.

15 Now when Jehoiada reached a ripe old age he died; he was one hundred and thirty years old at his death.
16 They buried him in the city of David among the kings, because he had done well in Israel and to God and His house. (II Chronicles 24)

Everything changed in Joash’s life after this major event. Up until this point, Joash had positive influences and that manifested in the decisions that he made. The results spoke for themselves. The people were influenced to follow the Lord as their king did. The land had peace and the people prospered.

II. The enticement of bad influences

Those who had worshiped Baal under the influence of the previous king had not gone away. They were waiting for their opportunity to influence the new king. They saw their opening once Jehoiada passed away.

17 But after the death of Jehoiada the officials of Judah came and bowed down to the king, and the king listened to them.
18 They abandoned the house of the LORD, the God of their fathers, and served the Asherim and the idols; so wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this their guilt. (II Chronicles 24)

These men came and sought to manipulate the king. The best way to do this is through flattery. These men came and flattered the king, probably while he was still vulnerable after losing his mentor and main influence. Whatever they did, it worked because the king began to listen to them. They became his new influences. These influences led the king to make some very poor decisions. Why would idol worship be so appealing to Joash and the officials of Israel? The idol that they wanted to reintroduce was Asherim the Canaanite goddess of fortune and happiness. This is why idolatry was so appealing. What are people not ready to sacrifice for fortune and happiness? People then, and today, worship at the altar of happiness. What does that look like, practically? We live in a society that is obsessed with happiness. We seek happiness in many forms. Some chase happiness in the form of drugs. Others chase happiness in the form of intimate relationships, moving from one partner to another thinking that “this time I’ll be happy“. The king of Israel was ready to turn his back on the God of the universe to worship at the altar of his own happiness. Don’t we do the same today? How many times have men and women given their unborn children a death sentence because they were not ready for a baby? A baby would ruin a young woman’s chance at a happy future. A man leaves his wife and children because he thinks that he will be happier with another woman. A woman leaves her husband because she wants the happiness that a more “romantic” man will offer. How much money do we spend on hobbies and things that we think will make us happy? You see, today, we still worship at the altar of Asherah. We just call it something else. I see many parents today trying to relive their own childhoods through their children. It is harming the children but the parents feel that this will make them happy and are willing to sacrifice the children on the altar of their own happiness.

God did not leave Joash in the dark about what was going on. He reached out to Joash to rebuke him, that is, to show him where he was wrong.

19 Yet He sent prophets to them to bring them back to the LORD; though they testified against them, they would not listen.
20 Then the Spirit of God came on Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest; and he stood above the people and said to them, “Thus God has said, ‘Why do you transgress the commandments of the LORD and do not prosper? Because you have forsaken the LORD, He has also forsaken you.’ ” (II Chronicles 24)

God sent prophets but Joash would no longer listen to sound advice. He was seeking after fortune and happiness. In fact, Joash was so enthralled with seeking fortune and happiness that he had no problem murdering his previous mentor’s son.

21 So they conspired against him and at the command of the king they stoned him to death in the court of the house of the LORD.
22 Thus Joash the king did not remember the kindness which his father Jehoiada had shown him, but he murdered his son. And as he died he said, “May the LORD see and avenge!” (II Chronicles 24)

As we all know very well, the bill is coming. We can see it in the life of Joash but what about in our own lives? Are we worshiping at the altar of fortune and happiness? Can we avoid the bill when it comes?

III. The consequences of bad choices

The Lord intervened. The Lord sent prophets. The Lord gave every opportunity to Joash to repent of his mistakes but Joash never listened. Now, the consequences are about to be unleashed.

23 Now it happened at the turn of the year that the army of the Arameans came up against him; and they came to Judah and Jerusalem, destroyed all the officials of the people from among the people, and sent all their spoil to the king of Damascus.
24 Indeed the army of the Arameans came with a small number of men; yet the LORD delivered a very great army into their hands, because they had forsaken the LORD, the God of their fathers. Thus they executed judgment on Joash.
25 When they had departed from him (for they left him very sick ), his own servants conspired against him because of the blood of the son of Jehoiada the priest, and murdered him on his bed. So he died, and they buried him in the city of David, but they did not bury him in the tombs of the kings. (II Chronicles 24)

The Arameans, a word that means, “exalted” were moved by the Lord to come and bring the consequences of Joash’s actions upon him. Joash was killed by his own servants as he lay in his bed. The pursuit of fortune and happiness was all in vain. It was all for nothing. The people who influence you really do matter. Modern Media seeks to influence you. Politicians seek to influence you. Writers seek to influence you. Peer groups seek to influence you. Who are you allowing to influence you? Are you influenced by someone like Jehoiada or Zibiah, or are you being influenced by people like the officials of Judah? How are you influencing others? Like Jehoiada and Zibiah or like the officials of Judah?

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