It is interesting to read God’s word and look more closely at the lives of the judges and the kings of Israel and Judah.
Having a royal family was not God’s plan for the people of Israel. He didn’t want “royalty”, He wanted a “theocracy” (a country in which people depend on God to lead them).
After Moses’ death, Joshua led God’s people into the Promised Land of Canaan. But it is easy to see the disagreements and jealousy between the different tribes.
Then came the time of the Judges, chosen from different tribes and put in charge. Deborah, Gideon, Jephtah and Samson are the best known of the twelve Judges. The judges had to deal with all sorts of disasters in Israel. But God did not abandon his people.
Samuel – which means “heard by God” – the son of Hannah and Elkana, was the last of the Judges. Even though his childhood and his ministry were a fine example, his sons, Joel and Abijah, even though they were selected by their father as judges at Beer-Sheeba, did not follow in his footsteps. They were greedy, took bribes to influence their judgments and gave justice a bad name (1 Samuel 8:1-5).
All this led the Elders of Israel to ask Samuel for a king so they could be like other countries (1 Samuel 8:6-9). So, God got Samuel to anoint Saul the first king of Israel…and when Saul was disobedient, the young David became king instead, first at Hebron, and later in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 5:5).
After Solomon’s reign (David’s son), under the leadership of Rehoboam (his son), the kingdom was divided into two: the kingdom of Judah in the south and Israel in the north (1 Kings 12).
Rehoboam’s attitude was similar to that of Joash, who became king of Judah many years later.
Joash, king of Judah (2 Kings 11, 12) is not the same Joash who was king of Israel (2 Kings 13:8-13).
Joash – which means “God has given” – had a grandmother called Athaliah who wanted to kill all the descendants of her son, king Ahaziah (Joash’s father). His life did not start well! His aunt Jehosheba took him and hid them both in the Temple. The grandmother murdered all the king’s other sons, but she couldn’t touch Joash who remained hidden for six years.
Jehoiada, Jehosheba’s husband, was a priest who protected the future king (2 Chronicles 22:10 and chapter 23).
What a childhood! No mother, no father, but an aunt and a man who served God! What sort of influences was he under? Did he feel like a prisoner with no choice? Did he accept the authority of Jehosheba and Jehoiada? Did he feel God’s presence? What was his development like? He was no doubt brought up to believe in the importance of God’s Word, and that he was of royal blood. What sort of things had he heard about his father, his grandmother, and about the kingdom of Israel?
At the age of seven that Joash was officially recognised as the king and all the people cried, “Long live the king!” Jehoiada organised things in such a way that everyone attended the ceremony for the young Joash, descended from king David, in God’s House, the temple at Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 23). Athaliah was put to death and Joash reigned for forty years.
One verse that seems very positive reads, “Taught and trained by Jehoiada the priest, Joash did what pleased GOD throughout Jehoiada’s lifetime.” (2 Chronicles 24:2, MSG)…but read 2 Chronicles 24: 17 to 19, “But after the death of Jehoiada things fell apart. The leaders of Judah made a formal presentation to the king and he went along with them.”
Joash’s heart was not steadfast, not truly turned towards God.
He had been pushed around during his childhood, protected certainly but probably used by Jehoiada to reestablish God’s place in the kingdom of Judah.
Jehoiada’s intentions seem to have been good, but at what cost? Joash was open to influence and had never been able to exercise his own judgment, “Do not allow yourself to be carried away by every wind of doctrine.” (Ephesians 4:14).
What about us? We who communicate the gospel of Christ to children? How do we do it and why?
John says, “These are written down so you will believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and in the act of believing, have real and eternal life in the way he personally revealed it.” (John 20:31 MSG)
Are we helping these children that God has entrusted to us to show them the difference between the truth and worldly lies? Do we encourage them to think, to get themselves ready for each stage of their development?
Is God’s Word just a succession of nice stories or God’s power for the salvation of those who sincerely believe? (Romans 1:16, Psalm 145:18).
Is learning and reciting Bible verses just a memory game like reciting stuff at school or are they the weapons of defence and attack during each stage of a child’s life, in their decision-making and in their personal choices.
Is the group more important than each individual? Do we pay attention to each child, to whether they understand what is going on, to the reasons behind their choices, to their commitment which needs to be reconfirmed from time to time and owned personally by them (Romans 10:8-9)?
It’s good to remember the different phases that children go through on the road to maturity: impregnation phase, reformulation phase,<–> appropriation phase, transmission phase. It is worth noting that these four phases do not follow-on from each other, but quite often overlap.
Let’s follow the apostle Paul’s advice to Timothy, “Keep a firm grasp on both your character and your teaching. Don’t be diverted. Just keep at it. Both you and those who hear you will experience salvation.” (1 Timothy 4:16 MSG) and we can add Jesus’s words to Peter, “…Feed my lambs!” (John 21:15).
The spreading of the gospel to children is indeed a ministry which goes beyond repetitive learning or indoctrination without the ability to question and exercise personal choice.
Communicating the gospel involves heart speaking to heart, spirit to spirit so that God’s perfect plans, His will, and the person of Jesus take their rightful place inside every one of those that God asks us to get involved with and lead along the path of eternal life in the anointing of the Holy Spirit.