When We Abandon God
Most of us would probably agree that as believers we would never, ever abandon God. How could we ever turn our backs on the very One who planned for our redemption before we were ever even born? How could we forget the One who has walked with us through hard places, blessed us in countless ways, and who gives our lives purpose and meaning? Yet, we do it all the time.
We abandon God in many of the same ways that the nations of Israel and Judah turned away from Him. In spite of the many ways that God showed up to protect them from their enemies, make them victorious in battle, and to supply their every need, time after time they abandoned God and pursued other gods. And we do the same, today – not just as a nation, but personally as well.
The Old Testament books of Kings and Chronicles recount the various rulers of both Israel and Judah. There were those who “did what was right and good in the eyes of the Lord his God” (2 Chronicles 14:2). There were others who “did evil in the sight of the Lord” like evil kings before them (2 Chronicles 22:4). And, sadly, there were even some who were so evil that they died “to no one’s sorrow” (2 Chronicles 21:20). But, perhaps just as sad, often those who did right and good and whose reigns were blessed by God ended their reigns turning from following God and from pursuing Him wholeheartedly.
One of these rulers was Joash who became king of Judah at the tender age of seven. Joash was the son of the evil king Ahaziah. When Ahaziah was killed, his mother, Athaliah destroyed all the royal heirs and assumed rule over the land. However, Joash, the infant son of King Ahaziah was hidden by the wife of Jehoiada the priest so that he was not killed. For six years, Joash was hidden by the priest and his wife in the house of God.
After six years of Athaliah’s evil rule, Jehoiada worked out a plan with the religious and civil leaders and covenanted to overthrow Athaliah and restore the throne to Joash, the rightful heir. Jehoiada’s plan succeeded and Joash became king. With Jehoiada serving as his guardian and counselor, Joash “did what was right in the sight of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 24:2).
Unfortunately, that is not the end of Joash’s story. Although Joash repaired the temple and restored the house of God to its original condition and served the Lord, he, too, abandoned God at the end of his reign. After Jehoiada died, King Joash listened to other leaders of Judah and began to serve wooden images and idols. God sent prophets to try to bring them back to God, but Joash would not listen to them. Even the son of the priest Jehoiada, Zechariah, spoke to all the people and asked them why they were transgressing the commandments of God. He warned them that they were forsaking God and that God would forsake them. But Joash and the people refused to listen. Then, Joash, who had been protected, guided, and counseled by Jehoiada, commanded that Jehoiada’s own son, Zechariah, be stoned to death. Joash, himself, was severely wounded later in battle as God delivered Judah into the hands of the Syrians. Joash’s own servants killed him as he suffered on his bed. (see 2 Chronicles 24).
The life of Joash depicts the downward spiral that occurs when we abandon God.
- We forget.
Joash forgot the kindness of Jehoiada. He forgot his help, his guidance, his advice, his counsel, and all that he had taught him. He forgot God, how He had prospered Joash’s rule as long as he sought Him with his whole heart.
- We listen to the wrong advice.
After Jehoiada’s death, other rulers in Judah came and bowed down to Joash. He listened to their advice rather than remembering the godly advice of Jehoiada. They left God and served wooden images and idols.
- We abandon worship.
Joash abandoned the house of God. They abandoned the daily burnt offerings that indicated obedience and faithfulness to God and instead worshiped images and idols. They forsook worship of the one true God.
- We fail to obey God’s commands.
Joash refused to listen to the prophets that God sent to try to bring the people back to God. Instead, he conspired and killed God’s messenger.
And we do the same in our own ways.
1. How do we forget?
Do we forget God’s past mercy, grace, and faithfulness?
2. Who do we listen to?
Do we become prideful because of past accomplishments and trust our own wisdom and judgment? Do we listen to advice that the world or our non-Christian brothers and sisters offer? Do we test advice we receive against truths contained in Scripture?
3. Who or what do we worship?
Do we love God with all our heart, soul, and mind? (See Matthew 22:37.) Do we seek Him, honor Him, and serve Him?
4. Do we obey God?
Do we only obey when it is easy, or do we obey when it’s hard as well? When God’s commands run counter to culture, who do we obey? When God’s commands are in opposition to activities we practice, who do we obey?
As the lives of the kings of Israel and Judah so aptly demonstrate, when we continue to turn our backs on God and abandon Him, we will reap the consequences of the choice we make. But no matter where we find ourselves on this downward spiral, our lives do not have to finish like the life of Joash. God is ever merciful, gracious, ready to forgive and restore each one who will repent and turn to Him. “’Now, therefore,’ says the Lord,
‘Turn to Me with all your heart,with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.’ So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the Lord your God ,for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm” (Joel 2:12-13).
The choice is ours. Will we abandon God or will we choose to seek Him in all things? I pray that I will seek God so that like those good kings, it can be said about me that she “did what was right and good in the eyes of the Lord her God.”