Second Chronicles 23 and 24 tell the story of King Joash who followed the Lord and did many holy things for the Lord during his reign. In conjunction with his friend and mentor, Jehoiada, the king destroyed the altars of Baal, set things right in the kingdom, and took up an offering to repair the house of the Lord. Because of his loyalty and faithfulness to God, the people lived in peace and prosperity.
But take a close look at the last phrase in II Chronicles 24:2, which says, And Joash did that which was right in the sight of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest.
It doesn't say he did right all of his own days, but as long as Jehoiada was alive. Why? Well, if we read on, we'll see that Jehoiada (who was VERY old) died, and soon after, Joash fell into bad company.
Now after the death of Jehoiada came the princes of Judah, and made obeisance to the king. Then the king hearkened unto them. (vs. 17)
This verse sounds innocent enough, but to see what's really happening here, we need to finish the passage and read between the lines a bit. We know that these princes were negative examples because the very next verses tell us,
And they left the house of the Lord God of their fathers, and served groves and idols: and wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this their trespass. Yet he sent prophets to them, to bring them again unto the Lord; and they testified against them: but they would not give ear.
After all his hard work and faithfulness to God, all it took was falling in with the wrong crowd to cause Joash to do a complete 180. As if it weren't bad enough that he served other gods, the story gets worse. Jehoiada's son, Zechariah, comes to Joash and tries to set things straight, but Joash refuses to listen. In fact, he had become so hard-hearted and has fallen so far from God that he had Zechariah killed.
Thus Joash the king remembered not the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him, but slew his son. And when he died, he said, The Lord look upon it, and require it. (vs. 22)
In the end, Joash paid for his wickedness with his own life, and his people also perished. He led his kingdom to defeat because he made an unwise decision about the "friends" he chose to hang with. What a sad story!
Unfortunately, the same thing still happens today. I am thinking of a young man in our church who has walked away from God. He was raised in a good Christian home. For a while, he served the Lord in the church and hung around with good godly examples. But one day, a new "friend" entered his life, and before long, everyone began to notice a change in the young man. He became more distant and less excited about the work of God, which broke his parents' hearts. But nothing could compare to the day that he left home, walked away from the church and moved out into a world of sin. And it all began because he fell in with the wrong crowd.
This young man has not gone so far as Joash, but he is not living a life that is pleasing to God. We, as a church and his real friends, daily lift up his name in prayer, pleading that God will do a great work in his heart and bring him back home. I implore you to also pray for him. I know his family would greatly appreciate it.
The point I'm trying to make is that people have a lot more influence on us than we realize, so we need to be careful who we hang around with. It's true that one bad apple can ruin the entire bushel. Beware of who you call "friend." Joash should have been able to identify from the very start that these princes were bad news and did not share his faith in God. That should have been an immediate turn-off. Witness to them? Sure. Work with them? If he had to. But give in to them? It should have never happened, but they made him feel good and said all the right things, and in the end, the entire kingdom paid the price.
Please, oh please, choose your friends carefully. I don't want you to suffer the fate of Joash.