By Stephen Terry
Jehosheba looked up from playing with her one-year-old nephew. Had she heard something? All of a sudden her flesh crawled as she heard a blood-curdling scream. Then the sounds drew closer. She could hear the shrill voice of the Queen Mother barking out commands and the unmistakable sounds of the feet of marching soldiers in the palace. More screams were heard and wailing and weeping as the sounds drew closer. Not sure what was happening or what to do; she picked up her nephew and ran in search of a safe hiding place. Hiding him and his wet nurse in one of the royal apartments, she knew this was not safe either and searched for a safer location. Her husband was a priest, perhaps he would know what to do.
For the past year, Ahaziah had reigned as king in
Upon learning of the
death of her son, King Ahaziah, the queen mother, Athaliah, decided to eliminate anyone who might possibly
oppose the house of Ahab in
Because Athaliah did not love or serve the true God, she probably stayed as far away from the temple as possible. This helped to make it a safe hiding place for young Joash. The priest Jehoiada was Joash’s uncle for he was married to Jehosheba. Together they raised Joash as though he were their own son, since Joash had lost his own family to Jehu and to Athaliah. No doubt this faithful couple did what they could to raise Joash in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Since he came to live with them as a baby, he had not had the misfortune to learn the evil ways of the false worship promoted by the house of Ahab. Surely Joash must also have seen the neglect of the temple and of God by the people and the rulers during this time.
continued to build her power over
When Queen Athaliah heard the noise from the temple, she ran over to see what was happening. Seeing the boy with his crown, she began screaming in protest, but she had left the palace in such a hurry, she had forgotten to bring her loyal guards. Jehoiada then commanded the temple guards to remove her from the temple and take her life and the life of anyone who tried to save her. In this way the blood of the royal children she had slain was avenged. In her place, King Joash, with the priest Jehoiada acting as regent made a covenant to be faithful to the true God. Jehoiada even chose the king’s wives for him.
As long as Jehoiada remained alive, Joash remained faithful to God. When he was 30, the age of full adulthood among the Jews, he noticed that the money to repair the temple had been going into the priest’s pockets instead. He challenged Jehoiada on this and asked why it was happening. He commanded them to take no more money but to repair the temple. Jehoiada, at the king’s command, then made a collection box to raise funds to repair the temple. Perhaps Jehoiada’s unfaithfulness in repairing the temple for 23 years had a bad influence on Joash toward the end of his reign.
Jehoiada lived to be a hundred and thirty
years old and Joash remained faithful to God during
that time. But after Jehoiada’s death, he
instead listened to the counsel of the officials and nobility in
Zechariah, one of Jehoiada’s sons began calling the people to return to
worship the true God. For this faithful preaching, Joash
had Zechariah stoned to death. Zechariah was his cousin and Joash had grown up with him in the temple as a young
child. Yet the influence of the wicked officials in
Sensing an opportunity
for plunder, Hazael, King of
Such was the tragic end of King Joash. How did he go wrong? He was raised by God fearing people. How could he turn against them? Knowing how he had barely escaped as a child from those who did not love God, how could he then join their number? With the 20/20 vision of hindsight we can look back and say that we would have known better. We would have been stronger and made better choices. We would have done the right thing. Would we?
We raise up children in Godly homes today only to see them rebel and go their own way, leaving church and family behind. Often these lives end up tragically destroyed. Today the dangers are everywhere: alcohol; drugs, including methamphetamines, one of the swiftest acting and diabolically deadly drugs ever pushed on the streets; sexual abuse; domestic violence. These are the idols and gods of this present age. We cluck our tongues and say how could anyone have ever placed their children into the burning hands of an idol to be slain as an offering to a false god, and yet we willingly offer our own bodies to drugs that will cause us to age and die in a few short years, coughing up pieces of our lungs that have been destroyed by crystal meth. We are in no place to self righteously condemn the evil practices of Joash’s day. As the Bible tells us “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23
Does this mean we are powerless in the face of evil? Must we retreat into the hidden recesses of the temple to be safe from the Evil One who seeks our life? Satan would like nothing better. While we hide, his Queen Athaliahs are free to rule the land. And in hiding, we do not develop the strength needed for the battle at hand. Well-meaning Jehoiada monitored everything for Joash. In his mind, until the day he died, he probably continued to view Joash as the young child in his care that must be protected at all costs. With others to continually protect him, Joash probably never learned the skill of protecting himself from the influences of others. He never learned the skills necessary to keep others from violating his boundaries.
When we hide behind the boundaries of others, we are subject to their desires and must follow their leading to remain safe. Jehoiada provided those boundaries for Joash. However, those same boundaries that keep us safe prevent us from seeing the necessity for developing our own boundaries. Having our own boundaries, allows us to carry our protection with us instead of relying on the presence of others to be safe. We no longer have to “hide in the temple” but can go forth knowing we have strong boundaries that God has helped us to develop. A child with strong boundaries can say no to drugs, realizing that if he has to take drugs to keep his friends then they are not really friends anyways. A child without strong boundaries in the same situation will look around to see if the person who has been setting his boundaries is present and if they are not, he will feel lost and confused. He will most likely seek a surrogate boundary setter and since the only ones present are his friends who are urging him to participate, he will make the poorest choice possible.
This is probably what happened with King Joash. When the officials of Judah came to him and urged him to take questionable actions, he could not look to the one who had set all his boundaries for him as Jehoiada was dead. Instead he began to develop surrogates among the officials. Perhaps the very ones who seemed the most friendly to him contributed the most to his demise. What could Jehoiada have done differently to help him develop strong personal boundaries for good?
Strong boundaries have three key features: (See "Boundaries" by Townsend & McCloud, Zondervan Books, 1999, pgs 72-73)
1. One must have the ability to become emotionally attached to others without giving up a sense of self and one’s freedom to be apart. A child must be able to see that it is OK to have close relationships without having the same boundaries.
2. One must have the ability to say appropriate no’s to others without fear of a loss of love. If a child says no and the parent becomes angry or withdraws love then they teach the child that it is not OK to say no. This reaction also teaches a child to react in an unhealthy manner to number 3.
3. One must have the ability to take appropriate no’s from others without withdrawing emotionally. If we teach a child that they must accept our no’s and not to say no to us then we teach the child to shut down their ability to set boundaries for the sake of peace and if our message is strong enough (i.e. yelling, etc.) then they will learn to let others violate their boundaries for the sake of survival.
God is highly in favor of developing proper boundaries. An excellent example of God’s endorsement of boundaries is the story of Eli’s two sons Phineas and Hophni.(Samuel 1-4) These two priests consorted with prostitutes by the tabernacle gates and violated Gods commands on how the offerings were to be prepared. Much of the blame rested on their father Eli.
On the one hand Eli was very good at point number one. His two sons grew up with a very good understanding that they were distinct individuals with their own desires and self identities. However, with point number two they never learned the difference between appropriate and inappropriate no’s. For example, if a child says no to something harmful such as inappropriate or painful touching, the parent should listen as failure to accept the no is to violate the child’s boundaries and make it harder for the child to assert those boundaries in the future. But if the child says, “No” to doing the dishes, then the parent should help the child to understand the appropriateness of the no by consequences.
The consequences should be appropriate also. Screaming at the child or withdrawing love from the child is not appropriate. An appropriate consequence would be if you do not do the dishes you will not have TV or video game time this evening. And then offer the child the option to choose so they can learn to develop appropriate boundaries. Does this mean they will willingly and happily do the dishes? Not necessarily, but they will become a stronger child in the face of tough choices for the experience.
The child’s willingness to accept appropriate no’s from the parents should be handled in the same manner. Although the Bible tells us that Eli reproved Phineas and Hophni, there were never any consequences when they failed to honor his appropriate no’s. In the end they learned that those no’s were not important enough to be concerned about. They probably said to themselves if their father is not very concerned about their behavior, why should they be?
The problem with King Joash, however, was of the opposite sort. Jehoiada was extremely concerned about protecting Joash. Joash would have had a hard time learning to set boundaries for himself in an overly protective environment. Surely Jehoiada was concerned about the ultimate consequence of allowing Joash to set his own boundaries…the loss of his life to Athaliah. There are many ways that Jehoiada could have taught him boundary setting with tasks around the temple, but even there he may have feared that the child would be discovered and someone would report him to the Queen Mother. In 2 Kings 11:4 it appears that only then, when Joash was seven, did he reveal him to anyone else.
Often when a child feels threatened or unsafe, they will not be able to adequately learn to set boundaries. Their overriding concern will be safety without regard to the consequences associated with securing that safety. If they learn that setting appropriate boundaries will enrage the other party to the point of sacrificing their safety and freedom from injury, they will allow others to freely violate their boundaries. Perhaps Joash while young was constantly told that anything he might do or say could cost him his life. Not knowing what to do or say that was “safe” he might give up all decision making to those who professed to know what was “safe.”
God does not expect us to give up our decision making ability to others…not even to Him. The Bible says “Come now let us reason together…” in Isaiah 1:18. A healthy Christian is a reasoning Christian. We should never surrender our decision making ability to someone else…even if they are making good decisions.
Eventually when the decision maker is no longer around, and we have not learned ourselves how to make right decisions, we turn to others who may not have our best interests in mind. The consequences can be as disastrous as they would have been had Athaliah found Joash as a child.
Moses was an example of
a child who learned strong boundaries. Even though it cost him a life of
privilege and drew the anger of the Pharoah, he had
no trouble with making the choice to stand with God’s people. Joshua was
another example of a man with strong boundaries. Even as the Jews were
already starting to be influenced by the inhabitants of the
God does not stop loving us when we say “No.” He cannot for Love is who He is. (1 John 4:8) God wants us to develop strong boundaries, and He develops appropriate consequences to help us to do so. We are told that He will not allow us to be tempted beyond our ability and will also prepare a way of escape. (1 Corinthians 10:13) This is a God who is more interested in helping us become strong than in violating our boundaries.
May all children have the privilege of having parents that will help them to develop strong boundaries in this manner. May all parents have the privilege of having strong boundaries themselves. If boundaries were not learned in childhood it is not too late to learn them. God is well able to give us a new heart. He has given us a lifetime to become all that we can be. Let’s follow God’s leading and find strength to stand when the decisions come.