Joash was rescued by his aunt and then reared by her and her husband Jehoiada the priest. After six awful years under Queen Athaliah, Jehoiada led the insurrection to depose her. He gathered five military captains, each with a hundred men. These captains recruited the Levites and heads of households, who met in Jerusalem to establish Joash as king. These men (probably thousands) made a covenant regarding Joash.
On the planned day, the men divided into three groups at strategic locations. The Levites led the revolt, and the rest of the people stood by to protect the king, ready to kill anyone who interfered. Athaliah must have been shocked. Unaware of a royal heir, she suddenly heard shouts, singing, trumpets, and a threatening declaration, "Long live the king!" (23:11). When she protested, she found no helpers but was immediately put to death. Joash was king.
Joash had amazing potential in spite of his heritage. The three previous rulers were all wicked, but Joash was not influenced by any of them. He was only a year old when his father died and when he was isolated from his grandmother. Replacing that evil influence was his uncle's godly rearing.
Joash had tremendous potential because of the spiritual inclination of the people. After suffering under wicked rulers, the people's hearts were receptive to God. They eagerly overthrew the queen and rejoiced at being delivered from her wicked rule (23:3,6,12-13,20-21). Anyone supporting the queen was to be killed, but apparently only the priest of Baal was (23:7,17). The people made a covenant to be God's people; they readily rooted out idols (23:16-17). They rejoiced as they reestablished worship (23:18) and they joyfully and abundantly contributed to the repair of the temple (24:10-11). When Jehoiada died, they honored him by burying him with the kings (24:16). Such spiritually sensitive people would have been easy to lead in the right way.
Joash had remarkable potential because of his godly mentor. Jehoiada the priest was seven-year-old Joash's chief counselor. Jehoiada's character was unquestioned. He had already shown his bravery and integrity. Joash and Jehoiada worked together on a regular basis (24:3,6,12,14). Jehoiada's influence was so great that "Joash did what was right in the sight of the LORD all the days of Jehoiada" (24:2), whom God allowed to remain with Joash until the incredible age of 130. When Jehoiada died, the people acknowledged that "he had done well in Israel and to God and His house" (24:16).
Joash showed promising potential in his early reign. His greatest action was spiritually significant and of his own initiative. "Joash decided to restore the house of the LORD" (24:4). After years of neglect, Joash gathered the proper people for the task and asked them to work quickly. His orders were not followed quickly, so he called Jehoiada for help and then established a different method for accomplishing the important task. Joash monitored the process until it was completed. The final aspect was the offering of sacrifices, which was done "continually all the days of Jehoiada" (24:14).
That was precisely when Joash's potential came up empty. After Jehoiada died, Joash changed completely. He listened to other counselors, with devastating results. "They abandoned the house of the LORD . . . and served . . . idols" (24:18). God sent many warnings to reach Joash (24:27), but he and the people "would not listen" (24:19). The turning away from God brought consequences. "Wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this their guilt" (24:18).
God's greatest warning came through Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada. He came and questioned the people: "Why do you transgress the commandments of the LORD?" (24:20). Zechariah warned, "Because you have forsaken the LORD, He has also forsaken you" (24:20). Joash ought to have listened to this son of the mentor he had greatly respected and willingly followed. Instead of listening to his cousin with whom he had grown up, Joash was so rebellious against Zechariah that "at the command of the king they stoned him to death" (24:21).
With this rejection of God, the kingdom declined quickly. "The Arameans came with a small number of men," but they easily defeated Judah's "very great army" (24:24). The reason was clear; Joash "had forsaken the LORD" (24:24). All the officials were killed, spoils were carried off, and Joash himself was badly wounded. The servants of Joash, aware of the king's wickedness, took advantage of his weak condition to kill him, believing he deserved such a fate for murdering the prophet. Sadly, Joash's reputation had fallen so far that the people "did not bury him in the tombs of the kings" (24:25).
Joash had incredible potential within Judah's history. In today's world, he would be the kid in the youth group that seems to have it all together - the right family, the right training, the right talents, the right outward actions. Everyone expects to see such a young person grow up to make a difference for God and serve Him faithfully, yet he turns away from it all as an adult. Like those young people, Joash's following of God was merely conformity rather than conviction. Once out from under the guidance of the one person who had influence over him, Joash forsook God, rejected His warnings, and killed His prophet. His great potential was wasted because he was merely copying the faith of others but did not personally desire God. The life of Joash demonstrates that it is never enough to act like a Christian or submissively fall in line. Without a heart for God and a personal relationship with Him, even the most convincing facade will be worthless.