Monday, May 16, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 99. Ahaz King Of Judah, Part 3

Prophets And Kings
Day 99
Ahaz King Of Judah
Part 3

We conclude ours study of King Ahaz of Judah today.

2 KINGS 16:7-20, 2 CHRONICLES 28:23-25
Instead of turning to the Lord for help against his enemies, Ahaz appeals to the king of Assyria. "Ahaz sent messengers to say to Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria, saying, 'I am your servant and vassal. Come up and save me out of the hand of the king of Aram and of the king of Israel, who are attacking me.' And Ahaz took the silver and gold found in the temple of the Lord and in the treasuries of the royal palace and sent it as a gift to the king of Assyria." (2 Kings 16:7-8) Ahaz is willing to buy the favor of Tiglath-Pileser however possible, up to and including taking the articles from the temple and giving them to him. What makes Ahaz's treachery so astonishing is that the chapter we are studying goes along with Chapter 7 of the book of Isaiah. The Lord sent Isaiah to tell King Ahaz not to be afraid of the king of Aram and the king of Israel. The Lord urged Ahaz to trust in Him and not be afraid, to ask for a sign that the Lord would not allow these kings to conquer Judah. But Ahaz refused to ask for a sign, putting on a righteous front as if he respected the Lord too much to ask a sign from Him, saying, "I will not put the Lord to the test." So instead of repenting and turning away from the Edomite idols he's been worshiping, Ahaz remains stubborn against the Lord and turns to the Assyrian king for assistance. 

What Ahaz is promising the Assyrian king is that he and Judah will become subject to Tiglath-Pileser and Assyria if the king will come to their rescue. Ahaz is willing to submit to a foreign pagan king but not to the living God. The sovereignty of the nation of Judah hangs in the balance here. Offering to serve a foreign king is giving up some of Judah's status as an independent nation, something he would not have done if he had listened to God's word through the prophet Isaiah. God alone is the One who keeps Judah safe, who keeps her a sovereign nation. God alone is her helper and defender. But because of the words of submission Ahaz speaks and the riches he sends to him, Tiglath-Pileser is happy to come to Judah's aid at this time. "The king of Assyria complied by attacking Damascus and capturing it. He deported its inhabitants to Kir and put Rezin to death." (2 Kings 16:9) The Assyrian king conquers Damascus, the capitol city of Aram, and puts Rezin the king of Aram to death, temporarily neutralizing this enemy of Judah. 

But Ahaz's alliance with a pagan king will led him even further into apostasy. He goes to Damascus to meet with the Assyrian king who has helped him and there he sees a pagan altar he wants to copy. "Then King Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria. He saw an altar in Damascus and sent to Uriah the priest a sketch of the altar, with detailed plans for its construction. So Uriah the priest built an altar in accordance with all the plans that King Ahaz had sent from Damascus and finished it before King Ahaz returned." (2 Kings 16:10-11) The spiritual decay in Judah during the reign of Ahaz is so severe that even the priest Uriah sees nothing wrong in building an altar to a god that the people of Israel and Judah never knew. He has no problem with building an altar to a god that never brought Israel out of Egypt, that never led them through the wilderness, that never planted them in the promised land. 

"When the king came back from Damascus and saw the altar, he approached it and presented offerings on it. He offered up his burnt offering and grain offering, poured out his drink offering, and splashed the blood of his fellowship offerings against the altar. As for the bronze altar that stood before the Lord, he brought it from the front of the temple---from between the new altar and the temple of the Lord---and put it on the north side of the new altar." (2 Kings 16:12-14) The offerings mentioned here are offerings the Jews were commanded to present to the Lord, but Ahaz presents them to a false god instead, even daring to take the bronze altar from the temple to put it by the pagan altar. The author of 2nd Chronicles tells us that King Ahaz says to himself, "Since the gods of the kings of Aram have helped them, I will sacrifice to them so they will help me." (2 Chronicles 28:23) He believes his enemy the Arameans were so powerful and fierce because they worshiped the gods of Damascus. Ahaz believes if he serves these gods himself, they will help him become powerful and fierce.

Uriah is not just any priest but is apparently the high priest because Ahaz gives him instructions of how to move the religious services from the temple of God to this pagan altar. "King Ahaz then gave these orders to Uriah the priest: 'On the large new altar, offer the morning burnt offering and the evening grain offering, the king's burnt offering and his grain offering, and the burnt offering of all the people of the land, and their grain offering and their drink offering. Splash against this altar the blood of all the burnt offerings and sacrifices. But I will use the bronze altar for seeking guidance.' And Uriah the priest did just as King Ahaz had ordered." (2 Kings 16:15-16) I don't know how the citizens of Judah felt about having their offerings taken and given to this foreign god but I imagine they felt they had no say in the matter. The king has the authority to put them to death if they object. The high priest, who should be an example of godly living, is carried away by this madness. The people can't fight the king and high priest. We don't know whether the people are troubled by these events or whether most of the citizens have fallen too far into idolatry to care. Maybe they are happy to serve whatever god the king tells them to serve. But, as we've seen before in our study of the kings, God always has a remnant who is faithful to Him. He always has His prophets who speak out against sin. He always has His ordinary citizens who quietly continue to live according to His laws. Unless the Lord leads us otherwise, I hope to study the book of Isaiah when we finish with the kings, and in that book we will see the patience and the grace and the mercy God shows His wayward people, how long He pleads with them through the prophets, how many opportunities He gives them to repent and be healed.

Next we find Ahaz carried away by political correctness, something which has invaded our own country to the point that, as the saying goes, "Some people's minds are so open their brains have fallen out." In other words, being obsessed with the fear of saying or doing something offensive has led people to stand for nothing at all, just like Ahaz. It has led people in our country to fear mentioning the name of Christ lest somebody be upset. Ahaz fears that when the king of Assyria comes he will be offended by any reminder of the God of Judah, so he begins putting the things of the Lord out of sight, "King Ahaz cut off the side panels and removed the basins from the movable stands. He removed the Sea from the bronze bulls that supported it and set it on a stone base. He took away the Sabbath canopy that had been built at the temple and removed the royal entryway outside the temple of the Lord, in deference to the king of Assyria." (2 Kings 16:17-18) The author of 2nd Chronicles adds these details, "Ahaz gathered together the furnishings from the temple of God and cut them in pieces. He shut the doors of the Lord's temple and set up altars at every street corner in Jerusalem. In every town in Judah he built high places to burn sacrifices to other gods and aroused the anger of the Lord, the God of his ancestors." (2 Chronicles 28:24-25) The temple of the Lord is closed for business. Ahaz doesn't want his ungodly friend, the king of Assyria, to notice or think about the temple. He wants him to believe the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob has been forgotten.

The name of Jesus Christ is always going to be offensive in a fallen world. He promised us we would be hated for His name's sake. He promised that His name would cause division, even among family members. Should we let that cause us to turn back? Should we stop proclaiming the name of the One who bought our souls from death and hell by His own blood? Should we refuse to stand for the One who hung on a cross for us? Should we fear ridicule from a world that spit on our Redeemer? Should we deny our Savior out of a reluctance to seem politically incorrect? No! We must stand for the honor of His name more and more as the clock of this world winds down and as the day of His appearing draws close. It's a sin against our Savior if we don't proclaim Him to a fallen world. It's a sin against the world if we don't tell them they have a hope above all hope in Jesus Christ. Someday we will all stand before God and what help will those be who approved of us not speaking in the name of Jesus? They won't be able to defend us against the righteous Judge. Only the Lord Jesus will be able to defend us by saying, "This one is Mine! This one's sins are covered by My blood." Only Jesus will stand before His Father and say of me, "She was not ashamed of Me and I am not ashamed of her!" 

"As for the other events of the reign of Ahaz, and what he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah? Ahaz rested with his ancestors and was buried with them in the City of David. And Hezekiah his son succeeded him as king." (2 Kings 16:19-20)

Let's never be like King Ahaz who thought so little of the glory of a holy God that he cast Him aside to please a godless king. Jesus Christ died for us and we must never be ashamed to stand up for Him. This world grows darker by the day and, instead of letting ourselves become discouraged and afraid, it should compel us even more to stand up in these last days and say boldly, "Jesus Christ is Lord! Jesus Christ is my Lord!"  

No comments:

Post a Comment