Read 2 Kings 16
Ahaz King of Judah
16 In the seventeenth year of Pekah son of Remaliah, Ahaz son of Jotham king of Judah began to reign. 2 Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. Unlike David his father, he did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord his God. 3 He followed the ways of the kings of Israel and even sacrificed his son in the fire, engaging in the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites. 4 He offered sacrifices and burned incense at the high places, on the hilltops and under every spreading tree.
5 Then Rezin king of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel marched up to fight against Jerusalem and besieged Ahaz, but they could not overpower him. 6 At that time, Rezin king of Aram recovered Elath for Aram by driving out the people of Judah. Edomites then moved into Elath and have lived there to this day.
7 Ahaz sent messengers to say to Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria, “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.” 8 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. 9 The king of Assyria complied by attacking Damascus and capturing it. He deported its inhabitants to Kir and put Rezin to death.
10 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. 11 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. 12 When the king came back from Damascus and saw the altar, he approached it and presented offerings on it. 13 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. 14 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.
15 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.” 16 And Uriah the priest did just as King Ahaz had ordered.
17 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. 18 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.
19 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? 20 Ahaz rested with his ancestors and was buried with them in the City of David. And Hezekiah his son succeeded him as king.
Ahaz is one in a long line of kings that had a short reign full of evil. We see that he not only replaced the Lord’s altar and spoiled the temple, he even burned his own son as an offering, much like the people God had previously driven out of Israel. Ahaz returned to the times of sinful offerings in the high places and reigned in wickedness.
While it is easy on this side of history to judge Ahaz and kings like him, theologian Matthew Henry reminds us: “It is common for those who bring themselves into straight by one sin, to try and help themselves out by another.” Ahaz’s failure to respect the Sabbath “opened a wide inlet to all manners of sin.” Haven’t we all found ourselves in that unfortunate cycle? One small sin leads to another, and eventually we find ourselves idolizing success, prosperity, and living in a way that we never thought possible. We look up and find we are in the “high places” offering up our time and talents to the wrong things.
As the son of Jotham and an ancestor of David, Ahaz had plenty of examples of how to live a God-fearing life. Instead, he rejected the ways of God and chose to live in ungodly ways. Micah 7 provides a stark and bleak description of the result of Ahaz’s failures. The only way we can prevent ending up in the same situation is to keep an eternal focus through time in the Word, time spent in communication with God, and Biblical community surrounding us and pushing us in the right direction.
As Matthew Henry explains, our natural tendencies when not regulated by the Word of God “produces absurd superstition or detestable idolatries….or at best quiets our conscience with meaningless ceremonies and ridiculous falsehoods.” We know that the Word of God is living and active and sharper than a two-edged sword. (Hebrews 4:12). We also know that prayer and confession have great power (James 5:16). We need to arm ourselves with these three things as we head into the spiritual battles we face each day. Today as we pray and reflect on this passage, instead of sitting back and judging the actions of Ahaz, let’s acknowledge that our natural tendencies would lead us to be exactly like him.
- What meaningless ceremonies or ridiculous falsehoods might be crowding out the presence of God in your life?
- If you find yourself in a place where you are giving offerings to the wrong gods if your life (success, fame, anger, justice), spend time in prayer and confession today.
- Are you trying to help yourself out of one sin by committing another? Write down anything the Holy Spirit lays on your heart as a sin that is keeping you from living the life God desires for you.
Did You Know?
Dr. Thomas Constable, a retired seminary professor and commentator, noted this about the death and burial of Ahaz:
“The godly people in Judah gave Ahaz a respectable burial (v. 20), but they did not honor him by burying him in the royal tombs with the good Judean kings (2 Chron. 28:27).”
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