Joash came to the throne at the tender age of seven, reigning for forty years (2 Chr. 24:1). Athaliah’s takeover had left Judah in spiritual shambles and its leadership adrift. However, Jehoiada the priest adroitly managed the situation, restoring order from the chaos as Joash’s guide during those early years. Indeed, the scriptures record, “Joash did what was right in the sight of the LORD all the days of Jehoiada the priest” (2 Chr. 24:2). Under Jehoiada’s guidance, Joash married (2 Chr. 24:3) and then led a restoration of the temple to address the harm done by Athaliah, raising money through individual donations, so that the worship according to the law was resumed under his leadership (2 Chr. 24:4-14). However, Jehoiada finally died at the age of one hundred thirty, appreciated greatly throughout Judah and buried with royal honors for all that he had done (2 Chr. 24:15-16). Unfortunately, despite all of his time with Jehoiada, Joash failed to develop a personal faith. Instead of stepping up to lead for God himself, he listened to a group of leaders from Judah who led the kingdom back into idolatry in rebellion to God (2 Chr. 24:17-19). Jehoiada’s son, Zechariah, prophesied to Joash, trying to convince him to repent, but for this he instead was stoned to death at the command of the king, completely turning his back on all he previously had held dear (2 Chr. 24:20-22). However, the LORD having withdrawn his protection due to the king’s rebellion, Syria defeated Judah in battle and wounded Joash, who was then killed by his own servants (2 Chr. 24:23-27). Joash showed such promise. With the aid of Jehoiada, he led Judah faithfully for years. Unfortunately, Joash lacked the strength and the faith to lead on his own. Without his mentor to guide him, he quickly changed direction when strong personalities asserted themselves.
This story has far more parallels than we would ever like to admit. Many preachers and elders over the years have echoed Joash’s pattern, standing firmly for truth in the beginning only to waver and then fall the greater distance they found between themselves and their mentors. Perhaps this shows the limitations of such training. Maybe it illustrates one of the great challenges of leadership. Regardless, its sadness affects all those caught in its wake. This is why leaders need to be proven under fire. They need to show where they stand and that they can stand when left on their own and without anyone else to lean on. Failing to do so can have terrible consequences for God’s people, as Joash’s examples makes clear. What if a preacher is sound due to his relationship with a mentor? What happens when the mentor dies? What if an eldership’s strength lies in the personality of just one man? What will happen when he passes away? No one should try to live on borrowed faith, yet people do so regularly. We should not encourage this at any level. No matter how flattering it may appear on the surface, it is deadly in the end. Second hand faith is not faith at all; it is evidence of a lack of faith.