A robin built a nest on top of the light at my back door this spring. Growing up, we always had a bird’s nest right under the awning of the big picture window up front. My dad had put a piece of wood up to help the birds out, and it was so much fun to watch the robin build her nest and lay her eggs and feed the hungry little baby birds. I was really looking forward to watching my own birds do the same. I wish I could have seen into the nest to get a better view, but … short people problems.
The baby birds grew up and one by one left the nest, but I actually got to see the last little bird leave. And something remarkable happened–something I’ve never seen before. I was glad I was looking out the back door right as this was transpiring. Eugene–yes, I named him–was getting ready to fly, but he was hesitating, and there were at least a dozen robins flying from branch to branch and chirping at Eugene. It was kind of bizarre. They were encouraging him, I think. They were showing him what to do and convincing him he could do it! I don’t speak “robin”, so I’m interpreting, of course. It just struck me as such a neat thing for God to do. It would’ve been logical for Eugene’s mom to send him inspiration and train him to fly, but this was more than just his parents–it was a whole community of birds encouraging Eugene’s progress. Who were these birds? Where did they come from? How did they know they were needed to be right here to help give Eugene the push he needed? Maybe Eugene’s mom tweeted it out. (See what I did there? I’ve literally been waiting two whole paragraphs to make that joke :).)
God made community important to us human-folk, too, and the people we surround ourselves with have incredible influence on us. They can build us up in encouragement or provoke us to good works, or they can persuade us to evil or tear us down. So yes, community is important, but so is the quality of our community. Who are we listening to? Who are we letting influence us?
I want to share a story found in 2 Chronicles 22 – 24 to illustrate. I would encourage you to read the story in its entirety when you have a chance.
“Ahaziah was forty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Athaliah the granddaughter of Omri. He also walked in the ways of the house of Ahab, for his mother advised him to do wickedly.”2 Chronicles 22:2-3
Ahab was a very wicked king and Ahaziah was following his example at the advisement of his mother. Ahaziah was someone who was directly influenced by who he was listening to, and he was listening to the wrong person. Athaliah was corrupt and was leading him into that corruption too.
Ahaziah went with Ahab’s son Jehoram, to fight against Syria. In the course of this battle, Scripture says that Ahaziah’s affiliation with and support of Jehoram was God’s occasion for Ahaziah’s downfall. He used Jehu to accomplish cutting off the house of Ahab and executing judgment on Ahaziah in this battle.
When Athaliah heard that her son was dead, she destroyed all the royal heirs and assumed the throne herself. Well, at least she thought she destroyed all the heirs, but Jehoshabeath, the wife of Jehoiada the priest took Joash (one of Ahaziah’s sons) and hid him to spare his life and preserve the true kingly line.
Athaliah reigned for six years until Jehoiada the priest decided it was time to make Joash king since he was the legitimate heir to the throne. In the 7th year, Jehoiada arranged for Joash to be anointed and crowned king behind the back of Athaliah. Athaliah heard the noise of them proclaiming Joash king, and she tore her clothes and cried out, “Treason!” Jehoaida commanded that she be put to death, so they took her out and killed her.
“So all the people of the land rejoiced; and the city was quiet, for they had slain Athaliah with the sword.”2 Chronicles 23:23
I find it interesting how Scripture words that … the people rejoiced and the city was quiet because Athaliah was dead. She couldn’t exert her influence any further, and it seems the effects of her words reached throughout the entire city. That tongue was powerful. Our tongues are powerful–for good and for evil.
The people then went into the temple, destroyed Baal, broke the altars and images in pieces, and killed the priest of Baal. The city seemed ready for revival and to place God in His rightful place once more.
“Joash was seven years old when he became king, and he reigned forty years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Zibiah of Beersheba. Joash did what was right in the sight of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest.”2 Chronicles 24:1-2
He did what was right … all the days of Jehoiada the priest. This little seven year old king whose life had been spared by the courageous act of Jehoiada’s wife was set up for success. He had a great advisor at his disposal, and he listened to him, for awhile. The Bible says that Joash set his heart on repairing the house of the Lord, and he saw to it that it was repaired and used in a right manner.
“Now after the death of Jehoiada the leaders of Judah came and bowed down to the king. And the king listened to them. Therefore they left the house of the Lord God of their fathers, and served wooden images and idols; and wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem because of their trespass. Yet He sent prophets to them, to bring them back to the Lord; and they testified against them, but they would not listen.”2 Chronicles 24:17-19
And the king listened to them. It seemed that Joash wanted to please the Lord with his actions as he was restoring the Lord’s house and re-establishing God’s rightful preeminence. I can’t definitively say what Joash’s motivations were for what he did, but upon the death of Jehoiada, the king started listening to a new set of people. And those men influenced Joash and Judah as a whole to return to idolatry. This should serve as a caution to us. We must exercise discernment over who we are listening to, holding everything up to the light of Scripture, and we must seek to please and glorify God alone–not a man, even a godly one.
Zechariah, Jehoiada’s son, warned them of coming judgment, and they stoned him with stones in the court of the house of the Lord. Joash didn’t remember the kindness of Jehoiada, Zechariah’s father. This is such a sad turn of events.
“So it happened in the spring of the year that the army of Syria came up against him; and they came to Judah and Jerusalem, and destroyed all the leaders of the people from among the people, and sent all their spoil to the king of Damascus. For the army of the Syrians came with a small company of men; but the Lord delivered a very great army into their hand, because they had forsaken the Lord God of their fathers. So they executed judgment against Joash.”2 Chronicles 24:23-24
The Lord delivered the great army of Judah into the hands of a lesser enemy. Joash was left severely wounded, and Joash’s own servants conspired against him to kill him because he had murdered Zechariah, Jehoiada’s son.
Joash did right in the sight of God, and Joash did evil in the sight of God, and it seems whatever result manifested was directly tied to who he was letting influence him.
Who are we listening to? The latest talk show host? Celebrities? The trendiest “Christian” blogger? A popular podcast? Our pastors? Godly Christian women? Others in the body of Christ? Our friends? Our own inner dialogue?
Whatever our answer is … that thing/person is influencing us. Is it for good or evil? Is it to bring glory to God or ourselves? It could very well determine whether we fly in faith or stay in the nest in fear.