2 Kings 16
Up to now the Kings of Judah and done what was right in the sight of the Lord. Although they had left the high places and let the people of Judah worship idols there, they themselves had not participated in that idol worship and had worshipped The Lord properly at the Temple and His altar. But this is not the case with Ahaz. Verses 1-4 read,
“In the seventeenth year of Pekah the son of Remaliah, Ahaz the son of Jotham, king of Judah, began to reign. 2 Ahaz was twenty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. And he did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord his God, as his father David had done, 3 but he walked in the way of the kings of Israel. 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. 4 And he sacrificed and made offerings on the high places and on the hills and under every green tree.”
Ahaz was completely dedicated to his idols. He worshipped at the high places and even at the trees and hills of Judah, taking God’s creation and turning it into an altar to false gods. He even sacrificed his own son to bow down to counterfeit deities. How did it get that bad? His father, his grandfather and his fathers’ fathers before him had tolerated idolatry in Judah all the way back to Solomon. At some point what his father taught him with his mouth was superseded by his actions and inaction of allowing the high places to remain. Ahaz explored the religions that some of the Judahites practiced and chose to follow them instead of The Lord. Ahaz cared about pleasing people, not God.
Ahaz’s idolatrous sin was not the only legacy he got from his father’s lack of action. While his father Jotham was king “The Lord began to send Rezin the king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah against Judah” (2 Kings 15:37). But scriptures don’t record that Jotham responded to the threats. With Ahaz as king, leading Judah to sin worse than any Israelite king had led Israel to sin, The Lord let Syria and Israel attack. Verses 5-9 describe it.
“Then Rezin king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, came up to wage war on Jerusalem, and they besieged Ahaz but could not conquer him. 6 At that time Rezin the king of Syria recovered Elath for Syria and drove the men of Judah from Elath, and the Edomites came to Elath, where they dwell to this day. 7 So Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, saying, “I am your servant and your son. Come up and rescue me from the hand of the king of Syria and from the hand of the king of Israel, who are attacking me.” 8 Ahaz also took the silver and gold that was found in the house of the Lord and in the treasures of the king's house and sent a present to the king of Assyria. 9 And the king of Assyria listened to him. The king of Assyria marched up against Damascus and took it, carrying its people captive to Kir, and he killed Rezin.”
Ahaz did not turn to the Lord, he turned to Assyria. He didn’t make sacrifices and offerings to The Lord, he offered Assyria the treasures of The Temple. He tried to save himself and submitted to an earthly king when he could have submitted to the King of kings and let The Lord save him. He gave what was precious and made for worship to the king of Assyria and made it cheap capital.
Then Ahaz traveled to Damascus. Verses 10-11 read,
“When King Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, he saw the altar that was at Damascus. And King Ahaz sent to Uriah the priest a model of the altar, and its pattern, exact in all its details. 11 And Uriah the priest built the altar; in accordance with all that King Ahaz had sent from Damascus, so Uriah the priest made it, before King Ahaz arrived from Damascus.”
He saw Jeroboam’s imitation altar he had built for his fabricated and bogus religion meant to allow the people of Israel to worship The Lord without having to go to the true Temple in Jerusalem. The passage implies that the Assyrian king was impressed with this false altar. Ahaz wanted to impress and please the king of Assyria. He wanted Tiglath-pileser to come to Jerusalem and be further impressed. The bells and whistles and the finery of the imitation altar appealed to Ahaz and he wanted one just like it in Jerusalem. Jerusalem had the true Temple, but Ahaz didn’t want to worship The Lord, he wanted to lift himself up. His worship would not be about blessing God but enjoying the experience himself and looking good. While he stayed in Damascus and learned Jeroboam’s twisted religion, Uriah built Ahaz the altar he desired.
How many churches and denominations have taken the pure worship and relationship with The Lord and added to it to make it appealing to the masses? Today there are churches who meet in bars while people eat and get drunk, advertise their tolerance of sexual immorality, and otherwise change worship to make people want to come to church rather than testify about the love of Jesus Christ and eternal life. In order to avoid offending anyone many churches have removed the cross from their sanctuaries. Worse yet, they refrain from the name of Jesus Christ. They have twisted Christianity into something that looks like Christianity but is not. They bless the congregants and exalt the preachers instead of blessing and exalting The Lord. God is not mocked (Galatians 6:7). These churches mock Him and lead people to Hell. They will pay
Christianity is beautiful, but not in the way the world wants it to be. It is real, it involves difficulty and suffering. Matthew 10:32-39 says it this way,
“So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.
34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person's enemies will be those of his own household.37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Christ didn’t bring a pretty “feel good” message, He brought the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God which divides soul and of spirit, joints and of marrow, and discerns the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). False worship is false worship. Without the whole Word of God, without Jesus Christ, there is no worshipping in spirit and in truth. 2 Peter 2:1-3 describes these churches and preachers.
“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.”
Ahaz went home after Uriah had built the false altar and he worshipped there. Verses 12-20 read,
“And when the king came from Damascus, the king viewed the altar. Then the king drew near to the altar and went up on it 13 and burned his burnt offering and his grain offering and poured his drink offering and threw the blood of his peace offerings on the altar. 14 And the bronze altar that was before the Lord he removed from the front of the house, from the place between his altar and the house of the Lord, and put it on the north side of his altar. 15 And King Ahaz commanded Uriah the priest, saying, “On the great altar burn the morning burnt offering and the evening grain offering and the king's burnt offering and his grain offering, with the burnt offering of all the people of the land, and their grain offering and their drink offering. And throw 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 Uriah the priest did all this, as King Ahaz commanded.
17 And King Ahaz cut off the frames of the stands and removed the basin from them, and he took down the sea from off the bronze oxen that were under it and put it on a stone pedestal. 18 And the covered way for the Sabbath that had been built inside the house and the outer entrance for the king he caused to go around the house of the Lord, because of the king of Assyria. 19 Now the rest of the acts of Ahaz that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? 20 And Ahaz slept with his fathers and was buried with his fathers in the city of David, and Hezekiah his son reigned in his place.”
Not only did Ahaz built a false altar but he defaced The Temple. He removed the sea which was made for the cleansing of the priests. He derided The Sabbath so that the people would not be reminded to keep that day holy, as they were supposed to be holy, as God is holy. And he made the king’s passage to the Temple go around the Temple instead of to it. He did this to impress Tiglath-pileser. He did not care about pleasing The Lord. He cared about exalting himself in men’s eyes and especially in the eyes of the Assyrian king.
Ahaz’s fathers tolerated idolatry and led him to practice it. Israel’s mockery of worship enticed him to sin worse. And he then led Judah to sin with him. We have to safeguard our children and teach them the truth. We have to safeguard the truth. We have been entrusted with preaching and teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ and keeping that message pure (1 Corinthians 9:17). Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, there is no other way to The Father than Him (John 14:6). We preach the Gospel. Jesus is the Christ, The perfect Son of God crucified and resurrected. We do not appeal to men’s sensuality, Jesus appeals to the spirit and the soul. Galatians 1:6-10 reads,
“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
Believer, be aware of who you are trying to please. Whose approval are you seeking? If you are trying to please men, you are a slave to the men you want to please (2 Peter 2:19).
1 Kings 14:21-31
Worldly substitutions will never be equal to The Lord. Books about the Bible cannot replace the Bible. Listening to worship cannot replace worshipping. Idols cannot replace God. Men cannot replace the Holy Spirit. And pastors, popes, and apostles cannot replace Jesus Christ.
The last couple of days we’ve been reading about Jeroboam, the man to whom The Lord gave 10 tribes of Israel and who disregarded the Lord to create a false religion in order to keep Israel from returning to Jerusalem and joining Judah. But in the meantime Rehoboam was still king over Judah. Verse 21 reads,
“Now Rehoboam the son of Solomon reigned in Judah. Rehoboam was forty-one years old when he began to reign, and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem, the city that the Lord had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, to put his name there. His mother's name was Naamah the Ammonite.”
Rehoboam was the son of Solomon and Naamah the Ammonite. Interestingly enough he was not the son of Solomon’s favorite wife the daughter of Pharaoh, for whom Solomon built her own palace. But Naamah may have been Solomon’s first wife. She was the only queen mother to be a foreigner and this may have played a part in Rehoboam’s choices. Rehoboam was forty-one when he began ruling after Solomon’s death. Solomon had reigned as king for forty years, placing Rehoboam’s birth in the last year of King David’s reign. (1 Kings 11:42). That means that Rehoboam had every advantage. He was raised while Solomon was still following the Lord, while his father was using his vast wisdom to prosper Israel and he understood the importance of The Temple. But his mother must have had more influence on him than Solomon. We already read how foolish Rehoboam was, even at forty one when he should have had a measure of wisdom, he made a stupid choice that resulted in losing Israel to Jeroboam. (1 Kings 12). He replaced the joy of the Lord with the pleasures of the world.
Verses 22-24 read,
“And Judah did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and they provoked him to jealousy with their sins that they committed, more than all that their fathers had done. 23 For they also built for themselves high places and pillars and Asherim on every high hill and under every green tree, 24 and there were also male cult prostitutes in the land. They did according to all the abominations of the nations that the Lord drove out before the people of Israel.”
Israel had a past filled with times of evil, rebellion, and idol worship, yet Rehoboam led Judah to be worse than at any time in her sordid past. They followed the false religions of the nations who had been driven out of Canaan. They went further than Israel had ever dared to go, including sexual worship of cult idols. So the Lord had to move against Rehoboam and He did it using Egypt. Verses 25-26 read,
“In the fifth year of King Rehoboam, Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem. 26 He took away the treasures of the house of the Lord and the treasures of the king's house. He took away everything. He also took away all the shields of gold that Solomon had made,”
Shishak took away the treasures and riches that Solomon had collected. He stole Judah’s prosperity, the Temple’s opulence, and the protection of the king. Rehoboam made his own protection. He had shields made of bronze and gave them to the guards in place of the gold shields that had carried before. We can’t replace the perfection and holiness of God with brazen objects and efforts of our own making. Bronze will never be as good, pure, or valued as gold. But without the Lord, Rehoboam had no wealth. He could not prosper like Solomon because he was okay with substitutions, like bronze shields instead of gold ones and gods instead of God. Rehoboam gave those bronze shields to the guards and they were used to parade him back and forth to The Temple whenever he went there. He kept up appearances, he made a show of going to The Temple, but he didn’t worship the Lord in truth. He just made it look good. The pageantry of going to the Temple meant nothing to God. God doesn’t want ceremony and ritual, He wants us to know Him and love Him. (Hosea 6:6). He wants genuine worship with an understanding of who it is we worship. He wants us to worship Him in truth and in spirit, meaning we adore The One True Living God, not an icon we have imagined. We worship Him in the way He has prescribed. John 4:22-26 reads,
“You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”
True worship of God requires a union with Him. That peace and reconciliation can only happen through Jesus Christ. That authentic knowledge of Him can only happen through The Holy Spirit. Jesus is the way and the truth, and the life. He is the only way to The Father. (John 14:6). The Holy Spirit completes our worship and perfects us. (Acts 19:1-7, Ephesians 1:13-14).
If you have not made Jesus your Lord (Master) and Savior (The Christ who died and resurrected and forgave your sins), then you are not worshipping the One True God in spirit because Jesus is God and it is through Him you receive the Spirit. If you have not been indwelled with the Holy Spirit, you are not worshipping in truth because you cannot know God without His Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 2:9-16 says it this way,
“But, as it is written,
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”--
10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.
14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.”
To worship the Lord in spirit and in truth, requires the mind of Christ, The Holy Spirit who helps us to understand the Word, discern the truth, and receive instruction from God. Do you worship The LORD? Or do you worship a substitution? Have you replaced the parts of God you don’t understand with bronze surrogates? Have you accepted less than the fullness of blessings of Christ?
As I read the Bible every day, I take what God teaches me, what He says, and write it out. I then share that with you. It gives me a deeper understanding of the Word and I hope that it will encourage you as it does me, to put your love and faith into action.