Athaliah had established idol worship and set up a temple for Baal in Jerusalem. She most likely commanded Judah to worship Baal and forsake the LORD. The Temple was neglected and the service of the Levites, that they were to perform in the Temple daily, was forbidden. This is why after Athaliah was killed, Jehoiada had to reappoint the Levites in their divisions to attend to their service, because it had been interrupted (2 Chr 23:18-19).
The people so hated the Baal worship, that they rejoiced to see Athaliah killed, the son of David restored to his throne, and the temple of Baal torn down. But in the next generation, after the death of Jehoiada, it was the leaders of the people who came to Joash to ask for a return to idolatry, and it was the people who stoned Zechariah with stones until he died in the house of the LORD.
Israel faced the same dilemma after the death of Joshua and all his generation. While Joshua was alive, and all that generation, Israel served the LORD and walked in His ways that they received from Moses. After that generation died, Israel forsook the LORD, and did not obey His commandments, so that they could not prosper (Jud 2:7-13).
This is our challenge, we who love the LORD: we have Joshua’s challenge, and Jehoiada’s challenge, to ensure that the generation which arises after us, also loves and serves the LORD. God did not leave us without hope or instruction as to how to accomplish this; the book of Deuteronomy plainly tells us.
We, the parents, are to LISTEN to the word of the LORD (Deu 6:4-9). This means more than just letting the sound waves of the words bounce off our ears. A common phrase Jesus used is, He who has ears to hear, let him hear. We have to have ears to hear, first of all. We have to have hearts and minds which are turned to receive instruction and even correction from the word of the LORD.
But we do not stop with hearing: then we have to TAKE HEED, pay attention, be careful, and beware that we do not forget what what have heard, that we keep what we have heard before our eyes, ears, and hearts (Deu 6:10-15). We guard what we have received, the word of God, as precious treasure, and preserve it.
But knowing what God’s word says is not enough. We must then OBSERVE the word we have heard and paid attention to (Deu 6:11-19). We must diligently keep His commandments and not forsake them.
The final component, in transferring faith and trust in the LORD our God, from our generation to the next, and perhaps the one that Joshua’s generation and Jehoiada’s generation lacked, is to TEACH God’s word and His ways to our children (Deu 6:20-25). Teaching in the Hebrew sense involves more than just informing. It also involves enforcing compliance. Of Abraham the LORD said:
“For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.” Gen 18:19
This is part of the responsibility of fathers. They must do more than inform in their teaching; they must also enforce righteous and just behavior within their children and their household. This is why the LORD has given fathers authority, to use their authority to establish godliness from the heart within their households.
So what do we do, if we come to this realization late in life, and we have missed the window of opportunity to teach our children when they were young? What do we do if we are seeing a generation arise that does not have a heart to love and serve the LORD?
“… return to the LORD your God and obey His voice, according to all that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul, … and the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.” Deu 30:1-6
We, us, the parents, are to return to the LORD our God. If we see our children going astray, then if we loved our children, we ought to get on our face before the LORD, humble ourselves, and ask with a sincere heart, Show me, LORD God, where I have not obeyed You fully! How may I change, to align my heart and my ways with Your heart and Your ways? What have I missed? And then whatever He reveals, change! Implement! Begin doing! The promise of His word which is truth, is that He Himself will then circumcise the hearts of our children after us!
We have seen the LORD do this. He will do this, when the fathers repent and return. Their sons will follow them, because a son does what he sees his father doing (Joh 5:19).