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Folly Like Fine Wine

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Joash was one of those kings who began well and ended poorly. He served God for most of his days, but turned away spectacularly at the end. (2Chron 24.1-25.) And Joash was joined on this upside-down path by his contemporaries among the leaders of Judah (2Chron 24.17-22). In that generation, it was not the young who went astray, but the old. Which goes to show that while folly is common to youth, it is not the preserve of youth. Age and success bring their own temptations. Those who avoid folly when young will have another chance when old. Some treat folly like fine wine, letting it age well before opening the bottle.

Joash’s veering from the path was precipitated by a significant change of circumstance — the death of Jehoida, who had been Joash’s counselor and protector since he was a child (2Chron 24.1). When I have seen older Christians veer badly, it has usually been precipitated by a similar chance of circumstance — often the death of a spouse. This is a hard providence, and no one expects the survivor to be unfazed. But still, we are left wondering, as with Joash, what was the basis of this Christian’s walk? As a youngish king, Joash had some spiritual conviction and gumption of his own (2Chron 24.4-6). But at the end of his forty-year reign, he had spiritually reverted to childhood. Having learned to ride well when young, Joash needs training wheels again when old. It wasn’t apparent until Jehoida died and the training wheels were gone.

This retrogression is easier to succomb to than we think. As we mature, we accrue relationships and responsibilities — marriage, children, calling — that tend to define us and hedge us about, keeping us on the path of responsibility — which from the outside looks a lot like walking with God. But when we lose one of our hedges, we can discovery quickly that we have not so much been walking with God as we have been channeled down the path of responsibility. There is nothing wrong with hedges, mind you, but there is a difference between walking a path with hedges and needing hedges to walk the path.

As we get older, the landscape of life changes. And because the landscape has changed, it is easy to believe the issues have changed. But they haven’t. Life is still and always a matter of trusting God or not, leaning on our own understanding or not, acknowledging God or not, being wise in our own eyes or not (Prov 3.5-8). Solomon taught these things to his son when young, not because they are the issues of youth, but because they are the issues of life, and they don’t change.

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  1. As I approach middle age (50’s are the new 30’s you know) I’ve found that in some ways the Christian life is easier and in some ways harder. There doesn’t seem to be the temptations of youth but like marriage after 30 years, it’s easy to forget that relationships, divine or human, require constant diligence and vigilance lest they grow old from a lack of effort.

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