2 Kings 16:14 The bronze altar that stood before the LORD, Ahaz had brought from the front of the temple--from between the new altar and the temple of the LORD--and put it on the north side of the new altar.
King Ahaz was a wicked ruler of ancient Judah. The Bible states that he didn't do what was right in the eyes of God. He set up pagan shrines and sacrificed his first born son into the fires of the idol Molech. He sought political help from the Assyrians instead of God, and he changed the furnishings inside Solomon’s Temple by replacing them with Assyrian décor. He was a man of his time who was greatly influenced by his peers. He didn't keep to the traditional ways and ended up becoming a vassal king in the Assyrian Empire. He changed the religious and political culture of his nation through policies of appeasement and syncretism. By the end of his reign, Judah was greatly diminished and the people of God were deeply confused, as well as divided.
What King Ahaz thought would bring about success, power, and esteem to his sovereignty only weakened him further. He thought that he would be lauded by the powerful Assyrians for adopting their ways; instead he was reduced to being a servant of their empire and paid taxes and tribute for protection. What seemed like a good idea at the beginning of his reign ended up ruining him. By paying more attention to what the nations around him possessed, instead of focusing on the blessings God could give him, Ahaz lost everything that a king desires – pride, prestige, and power. In Biblical terms, he was a foolish ruler who gave everything away and ended up with nothing.
I see mainstream Christianity heading down the same path. People want the Church to be more like the world and emphasize the need to be relevant religiously, culturally, and politically. Even though we have followed this cultural shift towards relevance for almost 25 years, church numbers in the Western hemisphere are declining. The elephant in the room about the church’s yearning for relevance in order to grow, instead of pursuing reverence of God, is that it gets us nowhere. The Ahaz-ism of our churches has turned out to be a detrimental road to indifference, ineffectiveness, and irrelevance. If we don’t make some sort of a U-turn in order to get back to God, then the decline will reach unfixable depths which will require an influx of a new generation of missionaries from South America, Africa, and even Asia to re-ignite the Faith in the West.
Questions for personal reflection
Why are church people less connected to God now, than they were 25-40 years ago? How can those connections be remade?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, the simple truth is that we have wandered from the pathway that leads us to God. We've allowed ourselves to be deceived by the world and distracted by our own pursuits. Help us all to turn our lives around so that we may re-connect our spirits to You, in both a strong and devoted way. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.
John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to make a comment or ask questions about today’s message, please send him an email to Traqair@aol.com.
Today’s image is one of John’s wildlife drawings called ‘African Sunset’. If you would like to view a larger version, please click on the following link: Elephant.