Side note: as much as I like pure writing I’m trying to incorporate some pictures into my posts because I get it that images are accessible to more people, and in general readers these days have limited attention spans. Having said that, this is a long post (like 8 times the word limit of a Twitter post!) and no pictures, haha. Sorry!
When it comes to age not necessarily making people wiser, there are some shocking examples in 2 Chronicles.
Now, most of us are familiar with the story of King Solomon, who asked for and was granted wisdom from God. His unparalleled wisdom was renowned in Israel and beyond, and authorship for the Bible’s “books of wisdom” are attributed to him. However, he accumulated hundreds of wives and concubines and “when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods” (1 Kings 11:4). Despite being both the political and spiritual leader of God’s nation for forty years, later in his life he indulged his wives in their idolatry. He set up places of worship for various foreign gods. Surely Solomon in all his wisdom knew that serving other gods and setting up idols is breaking the first of the ten commandments (Exodus 20:3-6).
But this was not a one-off incident. Throughout 2 Chronicles, there were many more less known kings who started well but did not grow wiser as they grew older.
By his time Israel and Judah had split into two separate nations. King Asa was serious about removing idolatry from Judah. He even burnt the image of his mother’s foreign god and removed her from her position as queen mother because of her idolatry. He led the people to renew their promise to serve God with all their hearts and souls.
Earlier on in his reign when a huge army from Ethiopia attacked him, King Asa prayed and relied on God to defeat the enemies. In the last few years of his reign Asa was threatened by the king of Israel. This time, he sought an alliance from Syria, taking “silver and gold from the treasures of the house of the Lord” as a tribute to the king of Syria. When rebuked for trusting in other kings instead of God, Asa was angry with the prophet and “put him in the stocks in prison”. Not only that, when he subsequently became severely inflicted with some sort of disease of his foot, he was unrepentant and refused to seek God. What a contrast from his early life! All this unfortunate deviation from godly wisdom came after the 36th (out of 41) year of his reign.
King Joash lived in tumultuous times. His father died during his infancy and after this, his grandmother seized the throne. She ordered all members of the royal family to be killed. Joash alone was rescued and raised in secret in the house of God by his paternal aunt and her husband Jehoiada, who was a priest. When the boy was seven, Jehoiada spoke to the leaders and Levites and together, they reinstated him as the rightful king.
Evidently, Jehoiada led young Joash to follow God and later supported him in undertaking repair of the temple that had been neglected and been damaged by his grandmother who despised God. Joash did “what was right in the eyes of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest”. More than a godly mentor, his uncle seemed to have also been a father-figure and even found wives for him. When his uncle died, Joash would have been at least 30 (in the 23rd year of the king’s reign, Jehoiada was still alive – 2 King 12:6). But for the last decade or so of his life, similar to what king Asa had done, Joash was influenced to worship idols and took from the temple of God to appease other nations.
Here’s the shocking part. God sent prophets but king Joash would not listen. Even when Jehoiada’s own son (who was also a priest) came to rebuke Joash for his disobedience, the king ordered him to be stoned and so “they stoned him with stones in the court of the house of the Lord“. The house of the Lord, in which he was raised! And this is despite everything Jehoiada’s family had done for him, from the personal risk they took in rescuing him from death, to protecting and nurturing him throughout his life. This happened in the last year or so of his life.
Of course it’s not that people are more disobedient in their last days, but rather, Asa and Joash’s disobedience at least partially contributed to their shortened lifespans. Nevertheless, they are just several examples of the many kings who were radical about serving God, then became older (perhaps more powerful too) and went to do their own thing in disobedience.
In talking about how marathon runners try to run the second half of the race faster than the first, Francis Chan says:
In America, the norm is to do the opposite: do radical things for Christ when you are 18-25, then slow down once you are married. When you have children, your service to Jesus slows to a crawl – you have your family to think about. Then it’s only a matter of time before you forget you are even in a race. Instead, you focus on building a home and settling down. But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can run faster as the race goes on. In our final years, we can sprint, knowing that we can collapse into His arms. – You and Me Forever
I don’t know if what he’s saying about real life marathon is true. But I have reflected on how after we have been Christians for awhile, are comfortably familiar with the Bible, go to church regularly, and avoid doing anything that we consider to be major sins, we are content to be stagnant in a way that we would not be happy with, if it we were to apply the same attitude to other areas of our lives.Which serious runner doesn’t try to run faster? Which gamer doesn’t try to level up? Which musician doesn’t try to expand their repertoire? Which artist doesn’t try to master or expand their technique? Which doctor stops at the level of knowledge or skills they had as an intern? If God is really important to me, why am I not pursuing growth in my knowledge of him, and in living in a way that’s fruitful in his eyes (Colossians 1:10) more and more?
I think for us, and for these kings, it’s not that we set out to be enemies of God. But if it’s not God we run after, we will run after something (like money and work from part one, but it could be anything), get distracted and despise God by our actions, even if we don’t blatantly say it with our words. In our old age, if we live that long, may God give us the perseverance to be able to honestly say, and sing:
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. – 2 Timothy 4:6-7
And on that day when my strength is failing,
The end draws near and my time has come
Still my soul will sing Your praise unending,
Ten thousand years and then forever more – 10,000 Reasons