Introduction: 2 Chronicles 28 tells of the spiritual decline of Judah under King Ahaz. He “walked in the way of the kings of [Northern] Israel” (2 Chr. 28:2). This included child sacrifices and Baal worship. He refused to repent, even when God allowed Judah to be defeated in battle. As a result, he caused the nation of Judah to suffer. From his evil reign, God reveals seven signs of a rebellious nation. These include: (1) the embrace of evil, (2) spiritual bondage, (3) faithlessness, (4) worldliness; (5) compromise, (6) unrepentance, and (7) ungratefulness.
First, King Ahaz followed after the evil practices of the wayward Jews of Northern Israel and the pagan nations around him. This included both idolatry and the abhorrent practice of child sacrifices. From Ahaz’s mistakes, God warns that a rebellious nation will embrace evil. Second, because Ahaz disobeyed God, God removed His hand of protection. As a result, his nation lost land, lives, and many people were placed into bondage. From Ahaz’s mistakes, God reveals that disobedience to His Word will place you into spiritual and sometimes physical bondage. Third, although Judah showed no faith in God, God was faithful to keep His promises to David by sending a prophet to free the Jews from captivity. God also sent the prophet Isaiah to encourage Ahaz to have faith. But Ahaz refused to trust God. From Ahaz’s mistakes, God reveals that a rebellious nation will remain faithless, even when He encourages it and delivers it. Fourth, instead of trusting in God, Ahaz turned to the King of Assyria for protection and turned Judah into a vassal state. This placed his people into economic bondage and the people of Northern Israel into physical bondage. From Ahaz’s mistakes, God warns that a rebellious nation will turn to worldly solutions for problems stemming from its sins. Fifth, to please his new Assyrian masters and to cause others to embrace his idol worship, Ahaz built idols in God’s Temple. Instead of standing up to these evil directives, the High Priest compromised his beliefs to keep his political power. As a result, the entire nation suffered. From the mistakes of both Ahaz and the High Priest, God warns that a rebellious nation will compromise His Word. Sixth, as part of his counterfeit religion, Ahaz marginalized God’s method for cleansing sin. He removed the instruments needed to atone for sins during the sacrifices. From Ahaz’s mistakes, God warns that a rebellious nation will minimizing sin and refuse to repent. Finally, out of mercy and grace, God did not strike Ahaz down. Instead, He allowed him to live a normal life and honorable death. Yet, Ahaz took God’s mercy and grace for granted and never repented. From Ahaz’s mistakes, God warns that a rebellious nation is ungrateful and misuses His mercy and grace.
Ahaz becomes King of Judah and does evil in God’s eyes. As King of Judah, King Ahaz engaged in evil acts that exceeded even his most evil predecessors: “Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem; and he did not do right in the sight of the Lord as David his father had done. 2 But he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel; he also made molten images for the Baals. 3 Moreover, he burned incense in the valley of Ben-hinnom and burned his sons in fire, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord had driven out before the sons of Israel. 4 He sacrificed and burned incense on the high places, on the hills and under every green tree.” (2 Chr. 28:1-4; 2 Kgs. 1:1-4). Following King Jotham’s death, his son Ahaz became King of Judah and reigned for 16 years, from 731 to 715 B.C. While his predecessor kings at times tried to do what was right or had mixed records as kings, Ahaz continually did evil in God’s eyes. His sins went far beyond tolerating evil as his predecessors had done. Instead, he actively participated in some of the worst forms of pagan worship, including child sacrifices to the Molech, an idol whom the Canaanites worshiped (2 Chr. 28:3). This even exceeded the idolatry adopted by most of the Kings of Northern Israel. Childhood sacrifices were in God’s eyes one of the most abhorrent evils that anyone could practice (Lev. 18:21; 20:2-5; Dt. 18:10; Jer. 7:31; 19:5; 32:35). The children were further tortured as they burned to death: “The pagan god (or, demon, more accurately) Molech was worshipped by heating a metal statue representing the god until it was red hot, then placing a living infant on the outstretched hands of the statue, while beating drums drowned out the screams of the child until it burned to death.” (David Guzik on 2 Chr. 28). Ahaz also made Baal idols for all his people to worship, the god he alleged would give them many more children if they burned at least one child for Baal. Likewise, while his predecessor kings displeased God by tolerating pagan worship (Hosea 4:13), Ahaz actively participated in this type of pagan worship (2 Kgs. 16:4). Like many people today, Ahaz rebelled against God’s standards of morality in His Word. What God called evil, Ahaz saw as good (Is. 5:20). He likely spoke against the alleged religious intolerance. The Valley of Hinnom, located to the southeast of Jerusalem, was the scene of many of Judah’s child sacrifices and other forms of divination (2 Chr. 28:3; 33:6). King Josiah later made it the place for the city’s trash (2 Kgs. 23:10-11). It later became referred to as Gehenna, and it represented the fires of hell (Mk. 9:43).
Ahaz likely cited to Solomon to justify his conduct. The Bible does not record any acts of protest or opposition to Ahaz’s actions. Sadly, there is no recorded opposition to Ahaz because he said what the people likely wanted to hear. Ahaz may have even cited to King Solomon (once the wisest man on Earth) to justify has actions. To satisfy his many foreign wives, Solomon built temples to both Molech and other pagan idols: “Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable idol of Moab, on the mountain which is east of Jerusalem, and for Molech the detestable idol of the sons of Ammon.” (1 Kgs. 11:7). In Judah, King Manasseh followed after Ahaz’s example to sacrifice his son to this false god (2 Kgs. 21:6). Yet, King Josiah stopped God’s immediate wrath by destroying these idols (2 Kgs. 23:10). The lessons for the Church are clear. Open rebellion against God’s Word and the embrace of sin will stumble others.
The warnings to those who kill their children. God makes each child within the womb (Ps. 139:13). A parent is merely a steward of His children. He gives people children to teach them His laws (Dt. 4:9-10; 6:7; 11:19; Prov. 22:6; Ps. 78:4-6; Eph. 6:4). Thus, child sacrifices to the gods of that time (whether born or unborn) were expressly prohibited as an abuse of the parent’s stewardship of God’s children: “You shall not give any of your offspring to offer them to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your God; I am the LORD.” (Lev. 18:21). For those who engaged in this practice, God warned: “I will also set My face against that man and will cut him off from among his people, because he has given some of his offspring to Molech, so as to defile My sanctuary and to profane My holy name.” (Lev. 20:3-4). He also warned the Jews that He would curse the land if they sacrificed their children: “And shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and their daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; and the land was polluted with the blood.” (Ps. 106:38). God also warned that self-destructive behaviors between parents and their children is one sign of a curse on a nation (Lev. 26:29 - “Further, you will eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters you will eat.” Dt. 28:53 (same)). The child sacrifice included horrific torture for the child before death. God’s anger at the Jews’ worship of Molech was also the act that finally led to the captivity and exile of all of Northern Israel (2 Kgs. 17:17).
God’s protections against child sacrifices include unborn children. When God gave the law of proportionality, He singled out killing an unborn baby as a crime worthy of death: “If men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she gives birth prematurely, yet there is no injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman’s husband may demand of him, and he shall pay as the judges decide. But if there is any further injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.” (Ex. 21:22-24). Thus, believers are foolish if they believe that abortions are in any way acceptable to God.
The Church is meant to be God’s salt and light against the sacrifice of unborn children. Making a child sacrifice for yourself or for a better life is also a form of idolatry (Is. 47:8-10). Since 1973, there have been at least 58 million U.S. abortions. There is nothing in the New Testament to suggest that child sacrifices are now allowed. God took His laws so seriously that He sent the Jews into exile when they ignored them. Thus, believers should not expect God to bless the Western world if it openly rebels against Him. The Church was meant to be God’s salt in the wound of sin. If it ignores its role, it is worthless: “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.” (Matt. 5:13). Does your church avoid controversial subjects like abortion out of fear of offending others and to recruit new members?
God allows Judah to be defeated and taken into bondage. Because Ahaz turned his back on God, God removed His hand of protection and allowed the pagan King Rezin of Aram and King Pekah of Northern Israel to attack and defeat Judah: “5 Wherefore, the Lord his God delivered him into the hand of the king of Aram; and they defeated him and carried away from him a great number of captives and brought them to Damascus. And he was also delivered into the hand of the king of Israel, who inflicted him with heavy casualties. 6 For Pekah the son of Remaliah slew in Judah 120,000 in one day, all valiant men, because they had forsaken the Lord God of their fathers. 7 And Zichri, a mighty man of Ephraim, slew Maaseiah the king’s son and Azrikam the ruler of the house and Elkanah the second to the king. 8 The sons of Israel carried away captive of their brethren 200,000 women, sons and daughters; and they took also a great deal of spoil from them, and brought the spoil to Samaria.” ” (2 Chr. 28:5-8; 2 Kgs. 16:5-6). There was a cost for Judah’s decision to live without God. By trying to rely upon their own strength and not in God’s strength, Judah lost 120,000 soldiers in just one day and 200,000 women and children as captives. God further allowed the Syrians to capture the important port of Elath in the northern tip of the Gulf of Aqaba (2 Kgs. 16:6). God revealed through the prophet Isaiah that the two kings sought to place a puppet king in Judah: “Because Aram, with Ephraim and the son of Remaliah, has planned evil against you, saying, let us go up against Judah and terrorize it, and make for ourselves a breach in its walls and set up the son of Tabeel as king in the midst of it,” (Is. 7:5-6). The two sides sought to force Judah into their alliance against the Assyrian empire.
In addition to bondage and defeat, the Jews of Judah lived in fear. The Jews in Judah did not look to God. As a result, they became filled with fear: “1 Now it came about in the days of Ahaz, the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, that Rezin the king of Aram and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up to Jerusalem to wage war against it, but could not conquer it. 2When it was reported to the house of David, saying, ‘The Arameans have camped in Ephraim,” his heart and the hearts of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake with the wind.”’ (Is. 7:1-2). Ahaz did not deserve God’s help. Yet, God protected Judah from total defeat to keep His prior promises to David (Is. 7:7-16). His nation, however, still suffered a defeated as a result of Ahaz’s rebellion.
Don’t use your freedom in Christ to adopt worldly ways and return to bondage. Judah’s physical bondage was the outward manifestation of its spiritual bondage to false idols. Ahaz observed the many judgments that had fallen on his wayward Jewish brothers. Yet, he still chose to adopt the practices of Northern Israel and the pagan nations. Those who are freed and willingly return to their sins face the greater judgment (2 Pet. 2:20-21). “Like a dog that returns to its vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.” (Prov. 26:11). Are you misusing your freedoms to sin more?
Satan’s goal is to create chaos by causing God’s people to rebel against His Word. Satan’s goal has always been to break down order through rebellion. His goal is to create chaos and misery. Satan first led a third of the angels in rebellion against God’s rule (Rev. 12:3-9). He then led Eve to rebel against God’s rules (Gen. 3:1-4). He then led Adam and Eve to rebel against each other (Gen. 3:16). Satan also becomes the father of those who rebel (Jo. 8:44). Jesus once quoted a prophesy: “I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.” (Mk. 14:23). When influenced by Satan, the corrupt “despise authority.” (2 Pet. 2:10). Solomon later said that rebellion was the sign of an “evil man.” (Prov. 17:11). According to Paul, rebellion is also part of the spirit of “the prince of the power of the air.” (Eph. 2:2). Samuel also said that: “. . . rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft . . .” (1 Sam. 15:23). After leaving Egypt, the Jews’ lack of faith caused them to repeatedly rebel against God and His appointed leader Moses (Nu. 14:22). As a result of the Jews’ repeated refusal to obey and have faith, God eventually banished them to spend 40 years wandering in the desert (Nu. 14:34). For everything good and holy, Satan has created a counterfeit to deceive people. If God’s perfect government leads to peace and harmony (1 Tim. 2:1-2), rebellion only brings strife, death, and misery. For those who rebel and follow Satan, Satan can only offer misery and pain.
Out of mercy and grace, God spares His faithless people. Under Ahaz, the Jews lacked faith in God. Thus, they never cried out to God for their deliverance. Nevertheless, God remained faithful to keep His promise and sent the prophet Oded to free the captured Jews. Ironically, the Jews of Northern Israel showed more faith in listening to God’s Word than the defeated Jews from Judah: “9 But a prophet of the Lord was there, whose name was Oded; and he went out to meet the army which came to Samaria and said to them, ‘Behold, because the Lord, the God of your fathers, was angry with Judah, He has delivered them into your hand, and you have slain them in a rage which has even reached heaven. 10 Now you are proposing to subjugate for yourselves the people of Judah and Jerusalem for male and female slaves. Surely, do you not have transgressions of your own against the Lord your God? 11 Now therefore, listen to me and return the captives whom you captured from your brothers, for the burning anger of the Lord is against you.’ 12 Then some of the heads of the sons of Ephraim—Azariah the son of Johanan, Berechiah the son of Meshillemoth, Jehizkiah the son of Shallum, and Amasa the son of Hadlai—arose against those who were coming from the battle, 13 and said to them, ‘You must not bring the captives in here, for you are proposing to bring upon us guilt against the Lord adding to our sins and our guilt; for our guilt is great so that His burning anger is against Israel.’ 14 So the armed men left the captives and the spoil before the officers and all the assembly. 15 Then the men who were designated by name arose, took the captives, and they clothed all their naked ones from the spoil; and they gave them clothes and sandals, fed them and gave them drink, anointed them with oil, led all their feeble ones on donkeys, and brought them to Jericho, the city of palm trees, to their brothers; then they returned to Samaria.” (2 Chr. 28:9-15). Under the influence of the Holy Spirit, the captors responded to God’s Word by freeing the Jews (2 Chr. 28:15). God’s Word is sharper than any two edged sword (Heb. 4:12). This again proved God’s faithfulness to His unfaithful people (2 Tim. 2:13). Yet, though the parallel accounts of this incident, the Bible reveals that Ahaz continued to show a lack of faith in God’s Word.
God tested Ahaz’s heart to show his lack of faith. God frequently tested the hearts of His people to show where their hearts were evil (Dt. 8:2). During these battles, Ahaz lacked the faith to believe that God would continue to honor His promises to David. God then sent the prophet Isaiah to Ahaz to reaffirm His promises to David and to encourage Ahaz to show faith in the face of his combined enemies: “3Then the LORD said to Isaiah, ‘Go out now to meet Ahaz, you and your son Shear-jashub, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool, on the highway to the fuller’s field, 4 and say to him, ‘Take care and be calm, have no fear and do not be fainthearted because of these two stubs of smoldering firebrands, on account of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and the son of Remaliah.’’ . . . 7thus says the Lord GOD: ‘It shall not stand nor shall it come to pass. 8 ‘For the head of Aram is Damascus and the head of Damascus is Rezin (now within another 65 years Ephraim will be shattered, so that it is no longer a people), 9 and the head of Ephraim is Samaria and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah. If you will not believe, you surely shall not last.’’” (Is. 7:3-9). Sadly, not even the personal encouragement from God’s prophet Isaiah was enough to cause Ahaz to trust God. While the Jews from Northern Israel responded to God’s Word by freeing the Jews, Ahaz responded by seeking an alliance with Assyria to place his Jewish brothers into bondage.
Out of mercy and grace, God promised Jesus as the fulfillment of His promise to David. One might have expected God to have used the attack on Judah to finish off Ahaz. Instead, as a sign of the mercy and grace that He offers to all sinners, God chose the sinner Ahaz to reveal His promise that the Messiah would be born through a virgin. This was done to encourage Ahaz to trust Him that He would fulfill of His Covenant with David: “10 Then the LORD spoke again to Ahaz, saying, 11 ‘Ask a sign for yourself from the LORD your God; make it deep as Sheol or high as heaven.’ 12 But Ahaz said, ‘I will not ask, nor will I test the LORD!’ 13 Then he said, ‘Listen now, O house of David! Is it too slight a thing for you to try the patience of men, that you will try the patience of my God as well? 14 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel. 15 He will eat curds and honey at the time He knows enough to refuse evil and choose good. 16 For before the boy will know enough to refuse evil and choose good, the land whose two kings you dread will be forsaken.”’ (Is. 7:10-16). Yet, despite this promise, Ahaz refused to trust in God.
Ahaz forms an unholy alliance with Assyria. Instead of trusting in God, Ahaz turned to the King of Assyria to defeat the Arameans and the Jews of Northern Israel: “16 At that time King Ahaz sent to the kings of Assyria for help. 17 For again the Edomites had come and attacked Judah and carried away captives. 18 The Philistines also had invaded the cities of the lowland and of the Negev of Judah, and had taken Beth-shemesh, Aijalon, Gederoth, and Soco with its villages, Timnah with its villages, and Gimzo with its villages, and they settled there. 19 For the Lord humbled Judah because of Ahaz king of Israel, for he had brought about a lack of restraint in Judah and was very unfaithful to the Lord. 20 So Tilgath-pilneser king of Assyria came against him and afflicted him instead of strengthening him. 21 Although Ahaz took a portion out of the house of the Lord and out of the palace of the king and of the princes, and gave it to the king of Assyria, it did not help him.” (2 Chr. 28:16-21). The book of Kings provides further detail regarding this unholy alliance. In his weakness, Ahaz called himself both the “servant” and “son” of the pagan Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser III: “7 So Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, saying, ‘I am your servant and your son; come up and deliver me from the hand of the king of Aram and from the hand of the king of Israel, who are rising up against me.’ 8 Ahaz took the silver and gold that was found in the house of the Lord and in the treasuries of the king’s house, and sent a present to the king of Assyria. 9 So the king of Assyria listened to him; and the king of Assyria went up against Damascus and captured it, and carried the people of it away into exile to Kir, and put Rezin to death.” (2 Kgs. 16:7-9). Thus, Ahaz agreed to make Judah a vassal state of Assyria in exchange for its protection. This required Judah to give up the gold in God’s Temple and its royal treasuries (2 Kgs. 16:9). Moreover, the Jews had only recently replaced this gold. King Jehoash of Northern Israel plundered the Temple gold during Amaziah’s reign (2 Kgs. 14:14). Ahaz showed that he only cared about his own needs. While God used a prophet to convince the Jews of Northern Israel to show mercy to the captured Jews of Judah, Ahaz did not ask the Assyrians to show mercy to his fellow Jews. In essence, Ahaz made a deal with the devil. He kept the title of king. In exchange, he placed his people into economic bondage and Northern Israel into physical bondage. He had seen God stop the enemy forces at Jerusalem. He also heard God’s prophet Isaiah. But he still would not believe. Even worse, he proclaimed with false humility that he did not want to test God: “But Ahaz said, ‘I will not ask, nor will I test the LORD!’” (Is. 7:12). In fact, he did test God with his idolatry and lack of faith. In contrast, when David was in distress, he cried out to God for deliverance (Ps. 18:6).
Place your trust God instead of trusting in your own understanding. Ahaz never sought God’s guidance in prayer. Instead, he surrendered to his fleshly instincts by doing what seemed wise in his own eyes: “There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.” (Prov. 14:12). “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel.” (Prov. 12:15). It is, however, not enough to simply pray for God’s guidance, you must also make no provision for the flesh when your flesh tells you to do something different: “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” (Rom. 13:14). “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” (Gal. 5:16). “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Gal. 5:24). “[K]nowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;” (Rom. 6:6). Is there any area where you are trusting yourself instead of trusting in God?
Don’t look to worldly solutions for spiritual problems. Ahaz showed himself to be an enemy of God by looking for a worldly solution to a problem that arose because of his sins: “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (Jam. 4:4). Ahaz must have believed that he was clever to pit his enemies against each other. But his actions only made Judah weaker and poorer.
Ahaz creates a pagan Assyrian temple for the Jews. In addition to placing his people under economic bondage, King Ahaz placed his people under spiritual bondage by creating an Assyrian temple for the Jews to use for worship: “22 Now in the time of his distress this same King Ahaz became yet more unfaithful to the Lord. 23 For he sacrificed to the gods of Damascus which had defeated him, and said, ‘Because the gods of the kings of Aram helped them, I will sacrifice to them that they may help me.’ But they became the downfall of him and all Israel.” (2 Chr. 28:22-23). The book of Kings adds further detail to this incident. Ahaz used the High Priest as his instrument to desecrate God’s holy Temple: “10 Now King Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, and saw the altar which was at Damascus; and King Ahaz sent to Urijah the priest the pattern of the altar and its model, according to all its workmanship. 11 So Urijah the priest built an altar; according to all that King Ahaz had sent from Damascus, thus Urijah the priest made it, before the coming of King Ahaz from Damascus.” (2 Kgs. 16:10-11). Ahaz must have known that Jews would have been upset after seeing the gold in God’s Temple being sent to Assyria. Thus, he used the High Priest to do his dirty work. The High Priest should have led the opposition to Ahaz. But the High Priest sought the favor of his king over his relationship with God.
Ahaz rebelled against God and sacrificed to the Assyrian gods because he trusted in idols. Ahaz did not merely build a pagan altar to curry the favor of the Assyrian king. Instead, this was a voluntary act that showed his misguided belief that the Assyrian gods had saved him. Yet, this sadly led to the spiritual decline of Judah (2 Chr. 28:23).
The High Priest was a coward in the face of political pressure. The High Priest put an unholy political order above God’s law. He would soon compromise again in a foolish effort to keep his job and his political influence with the king (2 Kgs. 16:16). In contrast, the prior High Priest risked his life by confronting King Uzziah (2 Chr. 26:20). Believers are normally required to submit to human authority: “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority,” (1 Pet. 2:13, 17; Ro. 13:1-5). Yet, that rule does not apply when a believer is asked to violate God’s law. This has application for the Church today. Many civil laws now celebrate what the Bible calls evil. Churches should never put their political interests above God’s law. If God’s law is ridiculed, will you defend and explain it to skeptics? (1 Pet. 3:15).
Ahaz also assumed the role of priest and performed pagan sacrifices. If the High Priest thought that he was preserving his job by obeying Ahaz, he was mistaken. Upon his return, Ahaz assumed the role of priest in performing the initial pagan sacrifices: “12 When the king came from Damascus, the king saw the altar; then the king approached the altar and went up to it, 13 and burned his burnt offering and his meal offering, and poured his drink offering and sprinkled the blood of his peace offerings on the altar. 14 The bronze altar, which was before the Lord, he brought from the front of the house, from between his altar and the house of the Lord, and he put it on the north side of his altar. 15 Then King Ahaz commanded Urijah the priest, saying, ‘Upon the great altar burn the morning burnt offering and the evening meal offering and the king’s burnt offering and his meal offering, with the burnt offering of all the people of the land and their meal offering and their drink offerings; and sprinkle on it all the blood of the burnt offering and all the blood of the sacrifice. But the bronze altar shall be for me to inquire by.’ 16 So Urijah the priest did according to all that King Ahaz commanded.” (2 Kgs. 16:12-16). By assuming the role of priest in the sacrifices, Ahaz acted like Jeroboam when he set up a fake religion in Northern Israel. Jeroboam also assumed the role of priest in performing sacrifices: “Jeroboam instituted a feast in the eighth month on the fifteenth day of the month, like the feast which is in Judah, and he went up to the altar; thus he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves which he had made. And he stationed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made.” (1 Kgs. 12:32). Both ignored God’s law that placed the duties of the priesthood with the Levities (Nu. 18:7). Yet, while Jeroboam claimed to worship Yahweh with the aid of golden calves, Ahaz outdid him in his evil by worshiping the Assyrian idols. To make this new religion seem palatable, he included blood sacrifices, a peace offering, and a drink offering to make the counterfeit feel genuine (2 Kgs. 16:13). But his new pagan religion downplayed the atonement of sins. Thus, he moved the bronze altar used for the atonement of sins (2 Kgs. 16:14) that had sat undisturbed since Solomon dedicated it (1 Kgs. 8:22, 54, 64; 2 Chr. 4:1). Its new location symbolically downplayed the importance of atoning for sin. The fact that he used the bronze altar “to inquire by” (2 Kgs. 16:15) also suggests that the bronze altar had a new role for divination, which God strongly prohibited (Dt. 18:9-14). The High Priest again sadly obeyed King Ahaz’s evil directives (2 Kgs. 16:16).
Ahaz was foolish not to fear God. Ahaz did not need to be a Bible scholar to know that there would be consequences for his actions. He had likely seen or knew that Uzziah became a leper for the lesser sin of assuming the priest’s role in worshiping Yahweh (2 Chr. 26:19-20). This suggests that he had no fear of God (Ps. 111:10; Prov. 1:7; 2:5).
Do not conform to this world. Ahaz and the High Priest were guilty of following worldly wisdom instead of God. Believers should avoid letting their thinking conform to the world: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Ro. 12:2). Letting the cares and concerns of the world control you is one of the many steps that lead to compromise in your walk: “And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.” (Matt. 13:22; Mk. 4:19). Have you conformed to the world in your walk?
Compromise with the world can lead to spiritual blindness. Paul warns “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.” (Rom. 8:5). They are people “whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.” (Phil. 3:19). “For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.” (Rom. 16:18). They are spiritually blind to the path leading to salvation: “These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,” (2 Thess. 1:9). The High Priest’s compromises also blinded him to the nature of the evil that he embraced. Like Ahaz and the High Priest, many live according to their own standard of morality. “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Jdgs. 21:25; 17:6). Many who make compromises with the world become spiritually blinded. Have you guarded your heart and prayed for the Spirit to keep you on the narrow path?
Trust in God and not the powerful rulers of the world. Unlike Ahaz and the High Priest, God does not want you to trust in powerful people, powerful nations, or human institutions. “Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.” (Ps. 146:3). “It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man.” (Ps. 118:8). The Apostle Paul warned: “For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.” (Gal. 1:10). “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (Jam. 4:4). “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 Jo. 2:15). “but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts.” (1 Thess. 2:4). If you love the praise of people and the honors of the world, your loyalties may also become divided.
Ahaz removes the means for the Jews to cleanse their sins. As part of his counterfeit religion, Ahaz also threw out the means that God set up for cleansing sin: “24 Moreover, when Ahaz gathered together the utensils of the house of God, he cut the utensils of the house of God in pieces; and he closed the doors of the house of the Lord and made altars for himself in every corner of Jerusalem. 25 In every city of Judah he made high places to burn incense to other gods, and provoked the Lord, the God of his fathers, to anger.” (2 Chr. 28:24-25). The book of Kings again adds detail to Ahaz’s corruption of the Temple. In addition to destroying the utensils needed for the sacrifices, he removed the bronze laver used to wash the priests following any blood sacrifices: “17 Then King Ahaz cut off the borders of the stands, and removed the laver from them; he also took down the sea from the bronze oxen which were under it and put it on a pavement of stone. 18 The covered way for the sabbath which they had built in the house, and the outer entry of the king, he removed from the house of the Lord because of the king of Assyria.” (2 Kgs. 16:17-18). God’s Temple had 10 lavers for the priests to wash themselves after performing sacrifices (1 Kgs. 7:27). There were ten movable bronze stands (1 Kgs. 7:27-37). There were also 10 bronze basins that served as water containers (1 Kgs. 7:38-47). The repeating sets of ten for the Temple components all had meaning. Ten is a number of divine order. There are Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:1-17; Dt. 5:4-21). There were 10 components to proper incense (Ex. 30:34-38). Likewise, Jesus revealed that there are exactly 10 components to the Lord’s prayer (Matt. 6:5-14). Ahaz removed these lavers because the system for cleansing sin did not fit within his new pagan religion (2 Kgs. 16:17). He also replaced the molten sea with a stone base (2 Kgs. 16:17). His removal of these bronze lavers and the molten sea symbolized his removal of God’s divine order for judging and cleansing a person’s sin. There is no indication that either the offerings ceased or any indication that the priests were “killed” for making “unclean sacrifices”. Thus, we can assume that God acted out of mercy and grace by allowing the priests to live. God knew that Hezekiah would soon reform the priesthood (2 Chr. 29:4-19).
God allows Ahaz to be buried in David’s tomb and Judah to have a God-fearing king. Ahaz never repented of his actions. If anyone deserved to die, it was him. But God is filled with mercy and grace. Thus, following Ahaz’s evil reign, God allowed him the honor of being buried in David’s tomb, and He gave Judah one of its greatest reformers Hezekiah: “26 Now the rest of his acts and all his ways, from first to last, behold, they are written in the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel. 27 So Ahaz slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the city, in Jerusalem, for they did not bring him into the tombs of the kings of Israel; and Hezekiah his son reigned in his place.” (2 Chr. 28:26-27; 2 Kgs. 16:19-20). Ahaz did not deserve this honor, and he had no right to an heir. Yet, out of mercy and grace, God gave Judah King Hezekiah, who would undo his father’s evil edicts. He restored the Temple, and he issued strict orders that limited all worship in the Temple to Yahweh. But because the people were ungrateful, they returned to their sins.
Be thankful for God’s mercy and grace in your life. Unlike Ahaz, God calls upon every believer to be thankful: “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess. 5:18). “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” (Col. 3:17; Eph. 5:20; Ps. 34:1). Do you give thanks on a regular basis for God’s forgiveness of your sins?
If you are grateful, live as a new creation. Ahaz showed that he was not grateful because he continually returned to his sins. Unlike Ahaz, God wants you to show your gratitude by living as a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). Are you living a holy life out of gratitude?