Introduction: 2 Kings 16 tells of the spiritual decline of Judah under King Ahaz. He “walked in the way of the kings of [Northern] Israel” (2 Kgs. 16:3). As a result, he caused both the High Priest and the nation of Judah to corrupt their walk with God. This in turn caused the entire nation to suffer. From King Ahaz’s mistakes, God reveals seven deadly sins that will corrupt both your walk with God and the Church. These include: (1) worldliness, (2) disobedience, (3) faithlessness, (4) compromise, (5) rebellion, (6) unrepentance, and (7) ungratefulness.
First, King Ahaz followed after the worldly 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. His acts corrupted the entire nation. From Ahaz’s mistakes, God warns that accepting worldly doctrines will corrupt you and the Church. 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 corrupt both you and the Church. Third, 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 failing to have faith in Him will corrupt both you and the Church. Fourth, to please his new Assyrian masters and to cause others to embrace his idol worship, Ahaz directed the High Priest to build 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 compromising His Word will corrupt both you the Church. Fifth, Ahaz rebelled against God’s law by assuming the role of High Priest. From Ahaz’s mistakes, God reveals that rebellion against His Word will corrupt both you and the Church. Sixth, as part of his counterfeit religion, Ahaz marginalized God’s method for cleansing sin. From Ahaz’s mistakes, God warns that minimizing sin and repentance will also corrupt both you and the Church. 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 of his sins. From Ahaz’s mistakes, God warns that ungratefulness will eventually corrupt both you and the Church.
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: “1 In the seventeenth year of Pekah the son of Remaliah, Ahaz the son of Jotham, king of Judah, became king. 2 Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem; and he did not do what was right in the sight of the Lord his God, as his father David had done. 3 But he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, and even made his son pass through the fire, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord had driven out from before the sons of Israel. 4 He sacrificed and burned incense on the high places and on the hills and under every green tree.” (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 like the kings of Northern Israel. 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 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). Ahaz also made Baal idols for all his people to worship: “But he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel; he also made molten images for the Baals.” (2 Chron. 28:2). Likewise, while his predecessor kings displeased God by tolerating pagan worship in the high places (Hosea 4:13), Ahaz actively participated in this type of pagan worship as well (2 Kgs. 16:4).
Ahaz likely cited to Solomon to justify his conduct. The Bible does not record any acts of protest or opposition to Ahaz’s actions. If anyone did complain, Ahaz could have 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)). As one commentator points out, the child sacrifice included horrific torture for the child before 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 . . . This reminds us that the war against the Canaanites in the Book of Joshua – as terrible and complete as it was – was not a racial war. God’s judgment did not come upon the Canaanites through the armies of Israel because of their race, but because of their sin. If Israel insisted in walking in the same sins, God would bring similar judgment upon them.” (David Guzik on 2 Kgs. 16). God’s anger at the Jews’ worship of Molech was the act that finally lead 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 nearly 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?
Don’t use your freedom in Christ to adopt worldly ways and return to bondage. 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: “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them.” (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?
Ahaz’s disobedience cost Judah land, lives, and placed many into bondage. Because Ahaz turned his back on God, God removed His hand of protection and allowed the pagan King Resin of Syria and King Pekah of Northern Israel to attack Judah: “5 Then Rezin king of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah, king of Israel, came up to Jerusalem to wage war; and they besieged Ahaz, but could not overcome him. 6 At that time Rezin king of Aram recovered Elath for Aram, and cleared the Judeans out of Elath entirely; and the Arameans came to Elath and have lived there to this day.” (2 Kgs. 16:5-6; 2 Chr. 28:5-15). 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. 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 from his disobedience.
God disciplined all of Judah for Ahaz’s disobedience. Although God protected Judah from total defeat, there was a cost for their 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: “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). In addition, God allowed the Syrians to capture the important port of Elath in the northern tip of the Gulf of Aqaba (2 Kgs. 16:6).
God promised Ahaz that the Jews would prevail because He is faithful to keep His Word. During these battles, many lacked faith and believed that the line of David would come to an end. Yet, God sent Isaiah to Ahaz to reaffirm His promises to David and to stop their 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). God is also faithful to keep His promises to us despite our unfaithfulness to Him.
Out of mercy and grace, God then freed the captured Jews. As a sign of His faithfulness, God also sent the prophet Oded to convince Northern Israel to free the captured Jews that were 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.”’ (2 Chr. 28:9-11). Under the influence of the Holy Spirit, the captors then freed the Jews: “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. 28:15). This again proved God’s faithfulness to His unfaithful people (2 Tim. 2:13).
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’s promises, Ahaz turned to the King of Assyria to defeat the Syrians and the Jews of Northern Israel: “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). In his weakness, Ahaz called himself both the “servant” and “son” of the pagan Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser III (2 Kgs. 16:7). 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 his own title as king. In exchange, he placed his people into economic bondage and the Jews of 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, rebellion, and lack of faith. In contrast, when David was in distress, he cried out to God for deliverance (Ps. 18:6).
Have faith and 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?
The High Priest agrees to Ahaz’s request to create 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” “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. Yet, Ahaz went a step further by shutting down normal Temple worship devoted to Yahweh and replacing the Temple contents for idol worship: “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.” (2 Chr. 28:24). Sadly, 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 lead to the spiritual decline of both him and his country: “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. 28:23).
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 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?
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 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 assumes the role of priest and performs the 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). Yet, 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 seen his grandfather Uzziah become a leper for the lesser sin of assuming the priest’s role in worshiping Yahweh: “19But Uzziah, with a censer in his hand for burning incense, was enraged; and while he was enraged with the priests, the leprosy broke out on his forehead before the priests in the house of the Lord, beside the altar of incense. 20 Azariah the chief priest and all the priests looked at him, and behold, he was leprous on his forehead; and they hurried him out of there, and he himself also hastened to get out because the Lord had smitten him.” (2 Chr. 26:19-20). This suggests that he had no fear of God (Ps. 111:10; Prov. 1:7; 2:5).
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 lead 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.
Ahaz removes the means for the Jews to cleans their sins. As part of his counterfeit religion, Ahaz also threw out the means that God set up for cleansing sin: “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. Thus, the cleansing bowls were now removed. Yet, the priests needed to be clean before they could make the sin offerings. Because there is no indication that either the offerings ceased or any indication that the priests were “killed” for making “unclean sacrifices”, we can assume that God acted out of mercy and grace to allow the unclean priests who entered the Temple to live.
Ahaz corrupted God’s Temple in slow steps. With the changes to the Temple and the contents inside of the Temple, each act was separated by a statement that the High Priest obeyed Ahaz’s commands (2 Kgs. 16:11, 16). The removal of the bronze lavers and other changes at a later time suggests that Ahaz made gradual changes to God’s laws. This suggests that people were more willing to accept the gradual corruption of God’s law. The fact that the High Priest did not approve of these final changes suggests that his acts of self-preservation were worthless. Eventually, Ahaz eventually found the High Priest to be useless and made the changes to the Temple without his involvement.
Ahaz removes the place for Sabbath teaching to please the Assyrian king. The gradual corruption of God’s religion concluded with the removal of a place where people taught on the Sabbath. This was done to please Ahaz’s new Assyrian master (2 Kgs. 16:18). This again has lessons for the modern Church. Observing the Sabbath was never viewed as a means for salvation. Yet, until recently, the Church taught the importance of the voluntary observance of the Sabbath to worship God and refresh oneself. Yet, gradually, the Sabbath has been taught to be a burdensome legalistic requirement. Without any need to observe the Fourth Commandment, many have decided that the other Nine Commandments must not be important either. Thus, many churches have simply stopped teaching altogether about the Ten Commandments.
Let Christ expose your hidden sins. The changes to the Temple were all the work of Satan’s influence in corrupting God’s plan for cleansing sin. God warned the priests to only approach Him with a clean heart. He made this clear through the symbolism of the bronze laver, the “kiyyor”, which sat in front of the Tent of Meeting (Ex. 30:17-21). Like everything else, the bronze laver pointed to Christ and what He does for believers. A priest who entered the Holy of Holies without washing his feet would die (Ex 30:20). The reason for this is that God is a consuming fire that destroys any evil in His presence (Ex. 24:17; Heb. 12:29). The laver was made of bronze (Ex. 30:18). The bronze symbolized God’s judgment of sin. Jesus wants you allow Him to expose and cleanse your hidden sins (Ps. 19:12). By removing the bronze lavers, Ahaz undermined the importance of identifying and cleansing sin. This is also a problem in the Church today. Many churches avoid teaching about sin and repentance because those messages are not viewed as attractive messages for gaining new members and the growth of a church.
Reading God’s law allows the Holy Spirit to convict you of your hidden sins. The bronze wash basin would have been highly reflective. If a priest looked down, he would see his own reflection. In a similar way, God’s law reflects the sin in your heart: “23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.” (Jam. 1:23-25). To emphasize this point, God told the Jews to use mirrors for the bronze laver: “Moreover, he made the laver of bronze with its base of bronze, from the mirrors of the serving women who served at the doorway of the tent of meeting.” (Ex. 38:8). Ahaz removed God’s Word from worship. Thus, he removed God’s means for exposing sin and edifying the people. Today, many pastors minimize the use of God’s Word to a single verse or two during a sermon. This also minimizes the ability of the Holy Spirit to convict and edify people.
Jesus’ warning to wash your feet before you approach Him. At the Last Supper, Peter initially refused Jesus’ offer to wash his feet. Jesus responded by rebuking him: “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” (Jo. 13:8). Peter then asked Jesus to wash his feet, hands, and head. Jesus responded: “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet.” (Jo. 13:10). “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.” (Jo. 15:3). In other words, Christ died once for your sins (Heb. 10:12), but your flesh gets dirty each day and must still be washed. To wash yourself, you read God’s Word: “so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word . . .” (Eph. 5:26). The process of washing feet also implied that the person with the dirty feet was allowing his or her life to be closely examined by someone else. Are you submitting yourself to be accountable to someone else?
Failing to let Jesus wash you will also “hinder” your prayers. The priest first had to pass through the altar of sacrifice and the laver before he could reach the altar of incense. This means God wants you to have a clean heart before you pray. In the Old Testament, God warned that He will not hear the prayers of a sinner: “So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood.” (Is. 1:15; 59:2-3; Prov. 15:29; 8:9; Ps. 66:18). Jesus later repeated these warnings (Jo. 9:31). Although many claim that Jesus was only speaking about non-believers, the New Testament clarifies that sin can “hinder” your prayers (1 Pet. 3:7). Thus, approaching God in prayer without first repenting of your sins will hinder God’s ability to hear you. “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (2 Cor. 7:1).
God allows Ahaz to be buried in David’s tomb and Judah to have a God-fearing king. 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: “19 Now the rest of the acts of Ahaz which he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? 20 So Ahaz slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the city of David; and his son Hezekiah reigned in his place.” (2 Kgs. 16:19-20). Ahaz did not deserve any honors at his death, and Judah did not deserve another king. Yet, out of mercy and grace, God gave Judah King Hezekiah, who would undue his father’s evil edicts. He restored the Temple, and he issued strict orders that limited all worship in the Temple to Yahweh. Yet, 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 for all that He has done in your life: “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) “always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;” (Eph. 5:20; Ps. 34:1). Do you give thanks on a regular basis for God’s many blessings and His 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?