2 Kings 14-16…Leadership and worship.
Our passage today gives us a glimpse of the coming storm for southern Judah. Leading up to this section, two kings ruled Judah in relative stability for sixty-eight years. Now, with the rise of Ahaz, things take a turn for the worse, and the impending danger for Judah can be seen on the horizon.
First, there was a problem of leadership. Scripture tells us that the kings of Aram and Israel marched against Judah. Aram had already captured the important town of Elath, and now Jerusalem was under siege. What did Ahaz do? Instead of turning to God for help, Ahaz looked to the Assyrian king. Notice the language Ahaz used, typically employed to describe Judah’s relationship with God: “I am your servant and vassal (this word could also be “son”). Come up and save me.” Ahaz then emptied the temple’s treasuries in order to secure this “salvation” from “Father” Assyria. The ploy worked, but Ahaz’s actions clearly indicated a rejection of the true God who saves.
Second, there was the more serious problem of worship. We are told earlier that Ahaz was not a godly king; he followed the ways of Israel, practiced idolatry, and “even sacrificed his son in the fire.” Later, while in Damascus paying homage to Tiglath-Pileser, Ahaz encountered a new altar and immediately ordered one to be built back home. Upon his return, Ahaz employed even further temple remodeling “in deference to the king of Assyria.” While little explicit commentary on these activities in the text, don’t forget the earlier warning: Ahaz was “following the detestable ways of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites.” The storm was coming; would Judah heed the warning signs?
Most of us would not fall into the extreme categories of sin like Ahaz. But what of the subtler disobedience in today’s reading? Do we look to something other than God for comfort—a large bank account, “safe” neighborhoods and schools, or an insurance policy? Certainly, God can use a variety of means to protect us, but when those earthly means become our only consolation, are we truly trusting God?