Do not mistake the lessons learned at your mother's knee — for the teachings of the Holy Spirit!
(Charles Spurgeon, "Joash and His Friend Jehoiada")
"Joash did what was right in the eyes of the LORD — all the years of Jehoiada the priest." 2 Chronicles 24:2
After the six years living in the house of God, Joash had a grand start in life with everything to his advantage. Alas, alas, alas, that, with such a bright beginning — he should come to such a wretched end!
Notice also that, being thus well-started, "Joash did what was right in the eyes of the LORD — all the years of Jehoiada the priest." While that godly priest lived, the king was under his influence; he consulted him in every matter of importance. He was plastic under Jehoiada's hand, and he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord — not only that which was right in the sight of godly people. His life seems to have been at least outwardly obedient to the law of Jehovah, and he yielded himself up, apparently, at any rate, to be a loyal servant of the great King; and that he did, not for a short time only — but all the years in which Jehoiada lived.
But Joash buried all his religion in Jehoiada's grave!
The graven images which he had broken down — were set up again.
The Asherah poles which he had cut down — were worshiped again.
And he who seemed so zealous a servant of Jehovah — had now become a worshiper of the foul idols, and bowed before the accursed Baals. Oh, sad, sad, sad!
There was a lack of godly principle in Joash — and it is of this, that I want to warn all.
Do not be satisfied with the practice of piety — without the principles of piety.
It is not enough to have a correct creed — you must have a renewed heart.
It is not sufficient to have an ornate ritual — you must have a holy heart and life.
If this change is not wrought in you by the Holy Spirit — you who yield so readily to godly parents, will yield just as quickly to evil companions when on your own out in the world.
Well, now, have we not known men and women, whose lives have been under the benignant influence of some kind father or mother, and they have done what was right year after year — as long as their godly parents lived? They have been diligent in going up to God's house, apparently devout in Bible-reading and prayer, willing to assist in work in the church and all sorts of service for the Lord, and leading outwardly most useful, admirable lives — all the time that these nobler influences were over them.
More than this, Joash was zealous for the externals of religion: "Joash decided to repair and restore the Temple of the LORD." Yes, and there are some whose hearts are not right towards God, who nevertheless are very zealous about the externals of divine worship. It is a much easier thing to build a temple for God — than it is be a temple for God. Just so, it is a much more common thing for people to show zeal in repairing churches — than in reforming their own lives.
Likewise, there are many who, trained up in the ways of the Lord, are indefatigable in rendering some external service to the cause of the Lord Jesus Christ. They would give to the building of a church; they would work hard to construct it, and so forth. But, alas, you may give, and you may work, and you may attend to all the externals of religion — and yet have no part nor lot in the matter!
All this while, Joash influenced other people for good. As king, he kept back the nation from the worship of idols. As king, he threw the cloak of his patronage over those who worshiped Jehovah; and things seemed to go well for years, "all the days of Jehoiada the priest." As long as Jehoiada lived, Joash seemed to be all that he should be!
All that Joash had done, was to give his heart to Jehoiada — not to Jehovah. It is very easy to be outwardly religious — by giving your heart to your mother or your father — or some godly person who helps you to do what is right. But God says, "My son, give Me your heart." If your religion is taken up to please any creature — it is not the religion which pleases the Creator. Your homage is due, not to anyone here below, but to Him who sits in the heavens, whose kingdom rules over all.
This yielding to godly influences may exist without any personal, vital godliness whatever! You may meet with God's people — and yet not be one of God's people. A young man may yield to his mother's advice — and yet never be really repentant on account of sin. He may listen to his father's word, and pay respect to the externals of his father's religion — but yet never have sincerely believed in the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is so easy to have been under religious influence from our youth up, and then to go on, year after year, never having raised the question whether we are true Christians or not!
Many young people are like Joash: sinful human nature is held in check for a while — not the Spirit of God creating a new life, and infusing a new character into the soul.
Do not imagine that natural religion is spiritual religion. Do not mistake the lessons learned at your mother's knee — for the teachings of the Holy Spirit! Though you were raised under the most hallowed influences, you only need an opportunity, a temptation, a peculiar stress laid upon you — and you will go off where the old nature carries you, and you will find out for yourself, and to the horror of others — that all your early religious training had effected nothing!
Oh, if I could tell some of you what will become of you — you would be so angry with me! If I could prophesy to some good young fellow — I mean, outwardly good as Joash was at first, but without a new heart, without the grace of God in his soul — if I could prophesy to him what a monster he will become — he would spit in my face in indignation that I should dare to foretell such a thing!
Yet there is not a man or woman who is safe from the most abominable sin — until they sincerely yield themselves to Christ. There is not one who is sure that the deepest damnation of Hell will not be their portion — unless they sincerely come and commit their soul into the hands of Jesus!