2 Kings 16

2 Kings 16
Pastor Mark Hudson

There are a number of subtle expressions of abhorrence in this chapter. Not every narrator’s evaluation of character’s is obvious to a reader who reads quickly and not carefully.  To the careful reader, though, the narrator is clear.  This chapter demonstrates why Israel and Judah are in such upheaval.  Ahaz, king of Judah, receives this evaluation: “he did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord his God . . . but walked in the ways of the kings of Israel.”  No king of Judah wants to act like a king of Israel.  This is a not-so-subtle reminder that Judah is turning into Israel.  Israel has already turned into the Canaanites.  So why would you want to be like Israel?  But that sums up the story of Israel and Judah prior to the exile.  Israel went into exile in 722 yet Judah rushed to be just like them and were carted off to Babylon in 586.

If that evaluation is not damning enough, notice v. 3, “He even burned his son as an offering, according to the despicable practices of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel.”  This is one of the many low spiritual points in Judah.  Unfortunately, both Israel and Judah stay near the bottom of the pond.

In vs. 5ff, we may be reading a shortened story of Judah’s refusal to join hands with Syria and Israel.  But once again, instead of a king in Judah or Israel turning to God, they get real, solid, practical help from . . . Assyria.  God can’t help.  Why ask Him? Ahaz wanted military help.  Something reliable.  How sad that instead of asking God for help, which is all he would have to do to get God’s help, he has to bribe and flatter the king of Assyria.  He sent messengers to Tiglath-pileser saying, “I am your servant and your son . . . .”  This is exactly what Ahaz should have said to God.  That request, had it turned into a prayer, would have resulted in protection and blessing.  Blessing is not what happened.

Seven times in Kings, we see the temple treasures given or taken away.  I Kings 14:26; 15:18; 2 Kings 12:17-18; 14:13-14; 16:7-8; 18:14-16; 24:13-14 are the section that show this problem.  Ahaz got the help he wanted.  Ahaz went to meet his foreign friend.  While Ahaz is there, he takes a fancy to an Assyrian altar.  King Ahaz tells his priest to build this altar.  So, Uriah the priest does what the king says!  We needed the priest to be like Azariah in II Chronicles 26:16ff and oppose the king.  But Uriah just does what he is told.  In v. 14, they remove the true altar.  Then after Solomon had built the altar according to God’s specifications, Ahaz decides he will improve on God’s plan.  He made these changes “because of the king of Assyria.”  As Iain Provan writes, “Never before has a Judean king taken it upon himself to redesign the Solomonic temple in such a way”  (I and II Kings, p. 246).

The verse we highlighted is v. 12.  The author repeats the word king three times. Kings don’t do the work of the priests and when they do (see II Chr. 26:16ff) God’s judgement follows.  With the author’s repeated word ‘king’ he may be underscoring the tragedy that is unfolding before our eyes.

Notice at the end of v. 12, “Then the king drew near to the altar and went up on it.”  Listen to D. R. Davis on this verse, “That is the same language used of Jeroboam in I Kings 12:32-33 (3 times!): ‘he went up upon the altar.’  So, ‘Jeroboam’, pioneer of a deviant worship, is not in Judah.  This is one way the writer can register his disgust over Ahaz”  (D.R Davis, p. 236).  If you are not a careful reader, you may miss his clues.  If you chase after authorial intent, you have a greater chance to understand the narrator.

Certainly innovation, creativity, and flexibility are valued traits and may be successfully used in many areas of life including the church.  But it is helpful to know when to be faithful to a pattern of worship and when we can expression ourselves differently.  Do I mean being faithful is signing a hymn written in the 1700’s or 1800’s?  Does it mean we can’t write new songs.  Of course not.  As the old saying goes, “Before you take a fence down, you better understand why it was put up in the first place.”  We may not incorporate every element of a worship service in every service but we should see prayer, Bible reading, signing, preaching, confession of sin and assurance of pardon and benediction.

In our case, Ahaz seemed to be infatuated with Assyrian ways.  There is nothing wrong with being interested in other cultures.  In fact, the church should encourage that interest. To do otherwise is to undercut God’s desire to reach all nations.  That does not mean we get our ideas on how to worship God from secular or pagan nations.  This is what Ahaz did.  King Ahaz visits Assyria and then changes the temple, the altar, and the way Judah worshipped to make it more like Assyria.  But we want Assyria to be more like Jerusalem.  We don’t want to think like the world, we want the world to think like Christ.

Dear Lord, living in this wicked world and believing in the gospel causes tension within a believer’s heart.  That is to be expected but, often we don’t resolve that tension in wise and godly ways.  We find it hard to trust You preferring our own ways or looking to anyone else but You.  Forgive us when we think Your ways are . . . well, not practical, not well-thought out, and just not reliable.  That type of thinking reminds us that our problem is a lack of trust in who You are.  Lift us up to drink for the eternal fountain of joy, to drink living water, and to learn to experience joy when our heart is breaking.  Call us to Your Son the very One who offers all we need.  He sticks closer to us than a brother.  He is a friend who can supply our every need.  We pray this in the glorious name of Christ who lives forever and will put all His enemies at His feet.  Amen.