Kings and Prophets

King Ahaz – The Darkness before the Dawn

 

By I Gordon

 

Introduction

 

There is rarely a father and son of so great a contrast as Ahaz and Hezekiah. Both were Kings of Judah, but there, I’m afraid, the similarities end. It makes an interesting study to examine the godliness of Hezekiah against the backdrop of his wicked father King Ahaz. This study will examine the character of King Ahaz. In him we see the attitude and actions of a man far from the Lord. He is the darkness before the dawn you might say. While most of the study will be from 2nd Chronicles chapter 28, we will also look briefly at 2 Kings 16 for some additional information concerning Ahaz.

 

Ahaz – Does it come any more rotten than this?

 

2 Chron 28:1-4 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. He walked in the ways of the kings of Israel and also made cast idols for worshiping the Baals. He burned sacrifices in the Valley of Ben Hinnom and sacrificed his sons in the fire, following the detestable ways 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.

 

The Bible doesn’t muck around does it? Within one verse of introducing us to this new king we are taken straight into the depths of his unfaithfulness. I have added these verses above so that we can quickly see what the word of God records concerning Ahaz, King of Judah. In short, he’s a shocker. He worshipped and gave offerings to the Baals and even sacrificed his own son in the fire to appease these so called ‘gods’. Like I said, he’s a nasty piece of work.

 

2 Chron 28:5,17-19 Therefore the LORD his God handed him over to the king of Aram... The Edomites had again come and attacked Judah and carried away prisoners, while the Philistines had raided towns in the foothills and in the Negev of Judah  The LORD had humbled Judah because of Ahaz king of Israel, for he had promoted wickedness in Judah and had been most unfaithful to the LORD.

 

So what was the result for our not so godly King Ahaz? Well, in the language of the New Testament, he ‘reaped what he sowed.’ The Lord allowed many nations to attack and humble Judah because of Ahaz’ wickedness. The NASB says that he ‘brought about a lack of restraint in Judah’. In other words, he moved away from the truth of Gods word to whatever felt good! I guess I’m being repetitious, but I think I should mention again that like Ahaz, the Christian church in the west is moving away from the truth given in God’s word. How can this not also lead to a ‘lack of restraint and faithfulness’?

 

Ahaz – following the ways of the world

 

2 Kings 16:7-11 Ahaz sent messengers to say to Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria, “I am your servant and your son. Come up and save me out of the hand of the king of Aram and of the king of Israel, who are attacking me.” And Ahaz took the silver and gold found in the temple of the LORD and in the treasuries of the royal palace and sent it as a gift to the king of Assyria… Then King Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria. He saw an altar in Damascus and sent to Uriah the priest a sketch of the altar, with detailed plans for its construction. So Uriah the priest built an altar in accordance with all the plans that King Ahaz had sent from Damascus and finished it before King Ahaz returned.  

 

Part of the story we now pick up from 2 Kings chapter 16. With enemies all around him, Ahaz cries out to the King of Assyria saying ‘I am your servant… come and save me! And did I mention that I’ll give you a big bag of gold as well?’ Oh, Ahaz! To cry for help is fine, but why didn’t you direct your question to the Lord? The Lord Jesus deserves, and has purchased, the right to be number one in our lives. It is to Him that we are to look.[1]

 

Notice also that King Ahaz eventually went to Damascus to meet the King of Assyria and in doing so, started to copy their altars! He made Uriah his priest copy the plans and reconstruct the altar back in the Lord’s temple in Jerusalem! Talk about using the ways of the world in the worship of God! God had already given the children of Israel complete and explicit instructions on how these things should be made and how worship of the true God should be undertaken… and correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t think it included copying the worldly worship of false gods![2] But as we shall now see, Ahaz being of noble character (not!) had little problem with taking on the ways of the world.

 

Ahaz – the ultimate pragmatist!

 

2 Chron 28:20-23 Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria came to him, but he gave him trouble instead of help…  In his time of trouble King Ahaz became even more unfaithful to the LORD.  He offered sacrifices to the gods of Damascus, who had defeated him; for he thought, “Since the gods of the kings of Aram have helped them, I will sacrifice to them so they will help me.” But they were his downfall and the downfall of all Israel.

 

It wasn’t long before even the King of Assyria was against King Ahaz. It was a pivotal point in Ahaz’ life for we read that ‘In his time of trouble…’ Wouldn’t it be good if we could finish the sentence? What would you expect, and like to read about this man who has blatantly walked away from the Lord and is found reaping the consequences of his foolish sowing? Well, it would be nice to read that in the time of his trouble Ahaz called on the Lord and repented. It would be nice… but, unfortunately, this isn’t a soppy novel. Trouble often has the effect of pushing a person further from, or further toward, the Lord[3]. In this case Ahaz became even more unfaithful to the Lord!

 

There is another point here as the true character of Ahaz is again seen in his act of worshipping the gods of Damascus. In other words, Ahaz was the ultimate pragmatist![4] Ahaz didn’t care about truth. He didn’t seem to care whether the God of Israel was the one true God. He only seemed to care about ‘what worked’. If the gods of Damascus helped the king of Assyria then the gods of Damascus were now his gods! We see this same pragmatic approach alive today in many different forms.[5]

 

So what was the result of all this? Did Ahaz’ worldliness and pragmatic approach help him? We read the solemn closing words in the passage above that ‘they were his downfall and the downfall of all Israel.’ Sad words indeed. Not just for Ahaz and Israel but also for the church that follows his ways.

 

The shutting of the temple

 

2 Chron 28:25 Ahaz gathered together the utensils of the house of God and cut the utensils in pieces; He shut the doors of the LORD’s temple and set up altars at every street corner in Jerusalem. In every town in Judah he built high places to burn sacrifices to other gods and provoked the LORD, the God of his fathers, to anger.

 

Finally we see the actions of Ahaz in cutting up the temple utensils and locking the doors so that no one can worship the true God. He also set up his own altars at every street corner throughout Jerusalem.  In all of this, the bible says, he provoked the Lord to anger. Now, does any of this have relevance for us? In what ways are the doors of the church locked? Unfortunately, while the physical doors of our churches may be open, there are still some which are closed spiritually. Laodicea, the last church pictured in the book of Revelation is an example of this. Here we see a church that has closed its doors and had left Jesus outside! (See Rev 3:20). The ‘doors of the temple’ are still shut on any church which does not preach salvation by grace through faith[6]. If this true gospel, which exalts the Lord Jesus Christ and His work on our behalf, is not being heard, then you still have Ahaz at work! He is still shutting the temple, preventing true worship of God and substituting it with his own altars.

 

Conclusion

 

2 Chron 28:27 Ahaz rested with his fathers and was buried in the city of Jerusalem, but he was not placed in the tombs of the kings of Israel. And Hezekiah his son succeeded him as king.

 

The Bible concludes this chapter with a word about Ahaz’ death, mentioning that they buried him in the city and not in the tombs of the Kings of Israel. Fair enough too! He deserves no better. As dark as this period has been however, it is, as I’m sure you will recall, the darkness before the dawn. For to be fair, Ahaz did give one good thing to the world and that (somehow!) is his godly son Hezekiah. Hezekiah is the shining light of revival that we shall examine in the next study.

 



[1] There is a small example at the mount of transfiguration, when Moses and Elijah were seen with Jesus. Peter was obviously over-awed at the thought of being in the presence of two of the greatest men in Jewish history and indirectly placed Jesus on the same level as Moses and Elijah. God’s answer was to speak from Heaven declaring ‘This is my beloved Son, listen to Him!’ And take notice of the next verse – ‘All at once they looked around and saw no one with them anymore, EXCEPT JESUS ALONE.’ That is the way it has to be! We so quickly look to other men or other things but Jesus is second to none.

 

[2] John Macarthur writes in his book ‘Ashamed of the gospel’ (pages 69-70) of the depths to which some large churches in USA have plummeted to ‘entertain’ their congregations using worldly methods. One of the five largest churches in the USA decided to stage a wrestling match between church employees to ‘perk up attendance at Sunday evening services.’ Another church installed a half million dollar special effects system that can produce smoke, fire, sparks and laser lights after studying it’s effects at Bally’s Casino in Las Vegas. The Pastor ended one sermon by ascending to “heaven” via invisible wires while the orchestra added the musical accompaniment to the smoke, fire, and light show. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought we are called to feed the sheep, not entertain them!

 

Over one hundred years ago, C.H Spurgeon saw what was coming as preachers moved away from the truth of scripture and resorted to methods of entertaining the crowd. He labelled it the ‘down grade’. His comments are even more relevant today. He wrote ‘On the “Down-Grade” the train travels very fast: another station has been passed. What next? And what next?’  

 

[3] When trouble strikes some blame the Lord and are pushed further away. I know people like this. It is usually those that have been led to believe that God should be making everything easy for them. How much better is the example of Manasseh, King Ahaz’ grandchild. Now here was another wicked man. Read about him in 2 Chron 33. Another bad egg I’m afraid. But, when the Lord allowed him to be taken captive to Babylon, we read in verse 12 that ‘in his distress he entreated the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers.’ God then restored Manasseh back to Jerusalem and he lived the rest of his life trying to follow the Lord and undo all the wicked things that he had done in his youth. What’s more, this once wicked king is even listed in Jesus’ genealogy presented to us in the book of Mathew. What an awesome example of the grace of God! Ahaz could have chosen the right path… in his trouble he could have called on the Lord. But he chose to use it to become more bitter and unfaithful toward the Lord. Oh make sure that when trouble comes you are found to be a Manasseh (or even better a Hezekiah) and not an Ahaz! 

 

[4] Pragmatism is the notion that if it works it must be good. If it doesn’t work then it must be wrong. In the modern day rush to be a ‘contemporary church’ pragmatism seems to rule as truth gives way to flash marketing and a watered down gospel to draw a bigger crowd. As mentioned earlier, an interesting book on the subject is ‘Ashamed of the gospel’ by John Macarthur.  

 

[5] We see it within society in a generation that has largely abandoned truth and compiled together a hodgepodge of ‘spiritual’ beliefs incorporating forms of Christianity with Hindu meditation and New Age spirit guides. To them it doesn’t matter if something is right or wrong. Whether it works is all that matters. We see it within the church by incorporating all manner of worldly tricks to get a crowd. Years ago (in 1955 actually) A.W Tozer wrote ‘For centuries the church stood solidly against every form of worldly entertainment, recognising it for what it was…but of late she appears to have decided that if she cannot conquer the great god Entertainment she may as well join forces with him and make what use she can of his powers.’ Imagine if A.W Tozer, whose reputation and writings are still highly regarded today, could see what it is like now?   

 

[6] Ok, this will be a rather large footnote but don’t let that put you off. Before going to be with the Lord, Barry Smith, an evangelist and author of several books, wrote his final book called ‘Unlocking the ultimate secret: The mystery of the gospel.’ In it, Barry Smith looks at what gospel is being preached by different churches. Now, one part of the book really grabbed me.

 

Barry writes ‘The issue (about what gospel is being preached) is so important that I felt to contact the leadership of each of these churches to find out if they knew their own church’s official teaching on salvation. Here is my question:

 

“You have 5 minutes in a condemned man’s cell to prepare him spiritually for eternity which immediately follows his execution. What would you say to him?”

 

(The following is merely a general statement)

 

Anglican: Infant Baptism with believing parents – Later, confirmation into the church.

Presbyterian: Infant Baptism with believing parents.

Methodist: Infant Baptism with believing parents.

Congregational: Infant Baptism with believing parents.

Roman Catholic: Infant Baptism with believing parents. Also adhere to and practise the sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church. In this denomination, the priest and church member alike, must believe every church doctrine as it stands. This is called ‘dogma’. Any who do not agree should leave the church.

Orthodox: Infant Baptism with believing parents.

Open Brethren: Gospel of the grace of God

Baptist: Gospel of the grace of God.

Assembly of God: Gospel of the grace of God

Independent Pentecostal: Generally speaking, the gospel of the grace of God.

Seventh Day Adventists: Receive Christ and keep the law.

Church of Christ: Some preach repent and be baptised for the remission of sins. Some preach the gospel of the grace of God.

 

What do I take from all of that? Well, that Ahaz is still closing the temple doors! These churches that preach infant baptism for salvation or a keeping of the law for salvation are shutting the door of salvation and preventing the true worship of God to be performed. Given that the question put to these churches concerned a condemned man with only five minutes to live, answers of infant baptism and the like are criminal! It is craziness! Even if you forget the question altogether, the Bible still doesn’t even speak of infant baptism… let alone for salvation!