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Slip Sliding Away

Date: Aug. 2, 2015

Author: Bob Henkins

2 Kings 16:1-20

Key Verse: 2 Kings 16:7

“Ahaz sent messengers to say to Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria, “I am your servant and vassal. Come up and save me out of the hand of the king of Aram and of the king of Israel, who are attacking me.”

We see it happening all the time. For better or worse, things change over time. Usually not quickly, but gradually step by step until the end result is no longer like the original. One example is the game of telephone. Another example is when America was founded, there were only 13 states, only white men could vote, and blacks were slaves. Now America has 50 states, all citizens over 18 can vote, and african-americans are no longer slaves. Even how we identify african-americans has changed. This is true in the spiritual realm as well. In the passage we’ll look at today, we see how one man and his nation go through some changes.

Unlike last week, our passage today focuses on just one king named Ahaz. He is the fourteenth king of Judah and the twelfth generation from king David. Lets take a look at verses 1-2, “In the seventeenth year of Pekah son of Remaliah, Ahaz son of Jotham king of Judah began to reign.Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. Unlike David his father, he did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord his God. ” Ahaz becomes king at a young age, 20 and also dies young at 36. Interestingly he stands in contrast to his ancestor David, whom every king is compared to. Although there have been many good kings and some bad kings in Judah, I believe Ahaz is the only one recorded as “unlike his father David he did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord his God.” Ahaz had no concern or interest in servicing or worshiping God for which David was celebrated. He had no love for the temple, and had no regard for God and his law. It was an honor for Ahaz to be part of the lineage of David, which was due to God’s covenant with David and the only reason that he now sat upon the throne. Ahaz is more like Ahab that David because instead of following the Lord, “He followed the ways of the kings of Israel and even sacrificed his son in the fire, engaging in the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites. He offered sacrifices and burned incense at the high places, on the hilltops and under every spreading tree.” (2Ki 16) In 2 Chronicles 28, it says that he made idols for worshipping the Baals, all the different gods and his climax of detestable practices is sacrificing his children. (which means more than just one of his sons, because it records children, which means at least a son and a daughter.)

Although God promised David that his descendants would sit on the throne, God didn’t say that he wouldn’t discipline them. And that is exactly what begins to happen early on in Ahaz’s reign. Take a look at verses 5-6. “Then Rezin king of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel marched up to fight against Jerusalem and besieged Ahaz, but they could not overpower him. At that time, Rezin king of Aram recovered Elath for Aram by driving out the people of Judah. Edomites then moved into Elath and have lived there to this day.” I don’t know if you remember from Mike’s message last week, but we got a hint that God was going to send these 2 kings, Rezin (from Aram) & Pekah (from Israel) to confront Judah because of its sins. And that’s exactly what happened. 2 Chronicles 28:5-8 tell us, “Therefore the Lord his God delivered him into the hands of the king of Aram. The Arameans defeated him and took many of his people as prisoners and brought them to Damascus. He was also given into the hands of the king of Israel, who inflicted heavy casualties on him. In one day Pekah son of Remaliah killed a hundred and twenty thousand soldiers in Judah—because Judah had forsaken the Lord, the God of their ancestors. Zikri, an Ephraimite warrior, killed Maaseiah the king’s son, Azrikam the officer in charge of the palace, and Elkanah, second to the king. The men of Israel took captive from their fellow Israelites who were from Judah two hundred thousand wives, sons and daughters. They also took a great deal of plunder, which they carried back to Samaria.

However the Lord intervenes and he sends a prophet named Oded to rebuke the Israelite army when they returned to their home. “He said to them, “Because the Lord, the God of your ancestors, was angry with Judah, he gave them into your hand. But you have slaughtered them in a rage that reaches to heaven. 10 And now you intend to make the men and women of Judah and Jerusalem your slaves. But aren’t you also guilty of sins against the Lord your God? 11 Now listen to me! Send back your fellow Israelites you have taken as prisoners, for the Lord’s fierce anger rests on you.”” (2 ch 28) Amazingly they listened and obeyed. They provided the captured people with clothes, sandals, food and drink, and healing balm. All those who were weak they put on donkeys and sent them back.

Meanwhile back in Judah, Jerusalem was being attacked, however this time the walls hold up and Aram and Israel cannot capture the city or Ahaz. This was God’s hand of protection for Ahaz. I believe that God was trying to catch Ahaz’s attention in the hopes that he would repent and turn to God. God even sent his prophet Isaiah to Ahaz. Listen to what Isaiah 7:3-9 says, “Then the Lord said to Isaiah, “Go out, you and your son Shear-Jashub, to meet Ahaz at the end of the aqueduct of the Upper Pool, on the road to the Launderer’s Field. Say to him, ‘Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these two smoldering stubs of firewood—because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and of the son of Remaliah. Aram, Ephraim and Remaliah’s son have plotted your ruin, saying, “Let us invade Judah; let us tear it apart and divide it among ourselves, and make the son of Tabeel king over it.” Yet this is what the Sovereign Lord says: “‘It will not take place, it will not happen, for the head of Aram is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is only Rezin. Within sixty-five years Ephraim will be too shattered to be a people. The head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is only Remaliah’s son. If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.’” This was God’s plea to Ahaz, “don’t be afraid, trust in me, stand firm in your faith.” God promised to deliver him if only he wound humble himself and seek God.

Now we see that Ahaz has come to a cross road in his life of faith. What’s he going to do? Isaiah tries to help and tells Ahaz, “Ask the Lord your God for a sign.” (Isa 7:11) It was as if Isaiah could see Ahaz sitting on a teeter totter trying to decide what to do, to trust God or not. I believe that this was a critical moment in Ahaz’s life. Up to this point, he did what he wanted but now this would determine the outcome of his future. And I think every person faces some kind of cross road in their lives in which the decision will have a major impact upon their future. Ahaz was lucky that he had a spiritual mentor in his life that could help him during these important times. However even though he gets all this wise advice, he still has to accept it and follow it. To my bewilderment, Ahaz says, “I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.” I’m not sure if this was his fake piety or his self-righteousness but it was sure the wrong decision and Isaiah lets him know it. “Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you[c]a sign: The virgin[d]will conceive and give birth to a son, and[e] will call him Immanuel.[f] 15 He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, 16 for before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste. 17 The Lord will bring on you and on your people and on the house of your father a time unlike any since Ephraim broke away from Judah—he will bring the king of Assyria.””(Isa 7) Basically Isaiah says, “If you’re not going to ask for a sign, God’s going to give you one anyway. And in addition to that, the Lord will bring the king of Assyria in a time of dread for Judah” And in another amazingly act of stupidity, Ahaz hears Isaiah mentions Assyria and he thinks now that’s a good idea and he takes all the silver and gold found in the temple and the palace and sends them to Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria for help. I can not believe that he just did that???? Instead of seeking God and trusting in him, Ahaz trusts in his own wisdom and opts to seek the king of Assyria for help. And what happens is that under pressure, Ahaz becomes more unfaithful to the Lord. (2ch 28:22)

And the next thing we see is that once Ahaz made his decision, sitting on the teeter totter, he goes all in and tips to one side and over time abandons God. Look at what Ahaz does in verse 7, “Ahaz sent messengers to say to Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria, “I am your servant and vassal. Come up and save me out of the hand of the king of Aram and of the king of Israel, who are attacking me.” Ahaz offers himself to the king of Assyria to be his servant and vassal, this means his subordinate or representative. Gideon remarked on Friday this sounds like a prayer to a god and it almost is. The king of Assyria complies and wipes out Aram and attacks Israel deporting people from both nations to Kir. This was foretold by the prophet Amos (Am 1:5) Isaiah had also predicts God will use Assyria as his instrument to cause a time of dread for the people of Judah. And to add insult to injury the Assyrians would humiliate their prisoners by shaving their heads, beards and private parts. (Isa 7:18-25)

Finally Ahaz completes his fall from God when he goes to visit the king of Assyria. While Ahaz is in Damascus he sees a pagan altar. Either he personally really likes it or he is trying to appeal to the king but copies the design and sends it back to the priest Uriah in Judah. (v 10) This is disgusting because who knows, maybe children had been sacrificed upon that altar. The next thing Ahaz does is he offers sacrifices to the gods of Aram, thinking they will help him. How silly does this sound because they didn’t help the Arameans against Assyria. When Ahaz returns home from Damascus, he sees the new alter that Uriah has built and he loves it and can’t wait to sacrifice on it. He declares that from now on all sacrifices should be carried out on the new altar. He doesn’t get rid of it completely, but has the old alter pushed out of the way to a less prominent position in the temple. Ahaz is moving farther and farther away from the Lord. Later Ahaz starts to cut up the old altar, he removes the basin and now the priests can’t purify themselves any longer which was essential in their service to the Lord. Ahaz continues to destroy other furnishings within the temple. (2 ch 28:24) Ahaz’s influence causes others to sin. The office of the king and priest were separate. The priest should influence the king, not the other way around but we see how Uriah gets the plans for the new altar and has it built it before Ahaz returns. Not only that Uriah does everything Ahaz orders. (v16) He doesn’t stand up against the king and tell him what he’s doing wrong. Eventually Ahaz closes the doors to the temple for good and sets up altars on every street corner in Jerusalem. (2 ch 28:24-25) and in every town in Judah Ahaz builds high places to burn sacrifices and angers the Lord. It appears that Ahaz has completely fallen away from the Lord.

It’s interesting to note that even though Ahaz turned away from the Lord, he got everything he wanted. He was saved from Aram and Israel and he lived in relative peace. However he paid a high price. Right from the beginning Assyria began to exert its pressure on him. The Assyrian king made him move his throne from his pedestal to the floor putting him humbling him. He had to remove the royal entryway to the temple, cutting off the connection from the Lord and the ruler of Judah. This makes it easier for Assyria to rule the people. Ahaz fell for Satan’s lie, which made it seem like he got what he wanted when in fact it was a cheap replica.

Jesus said, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” (Lk 9:25) Ahaz seemed like he gained everything he wanted, but at what cost? Did he forfeit his very soul, you be the judge. This doesn’t happen right away, but step by step. Why? Because we follow what we put our trust in. This is a natural progression. When we are under stress, we revert to our basics, everything is stripped away and our true self is revealed.

Listen to the audio for conclusion

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