Tag Archives: 2 Kings 16

Life Between the Prevailing Wind and Hard Heart

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.
2 Kings 16:10 (NIV)

Last week Wendy and I found ourselves in a discussion about the hazing rituals we experienced growing up. For Wendy it was the process of pledging in a college sorority. For me it was being part of a high school swimming team. In both our cases, the hazing was the relatively minor and harmless. It was the ages old exercise of new members demonstrating allegiance and loyalty to the group and its elder members. There are nightmare stories of those who have been forced to do things against their will in order to be accepted. There are also stories of those who choose to behave against their beliefs, morals, or personal values simply to accommodate the prevailing cultural forces. And, it is ages old. These things have always been part of our human experience east of Eden.

Today’s chapter is dedicated to the reign of King Ahaz of Judah. According to the description provided us by the scribes, Ahaz appears to have had a pattern of choosing to accommodate the prevailing winds of his society’s popular culture. Ahab was a follower. Rather than being faithful to the Law of Moses and adhering exclusively to the faiths of his fathers, Ahaz seemed willing and open to worship anything anywhere. He even went so far as to sacrifice his own child which was a common practice among some of the more gruesome Canaanite cults (and explicitly forbidden by the law of Moses). Ahaz also worshiped the idolatrous gods of their northern counterpart, Israel.

When threatened by military conquest by his neighbors, Ahaz was unwilling to stand up and lead his army in defense of his nation and people. Ahaz was a follower. So, he appealed to the biggest bully in the neighborhood for protection: Tiglath-Pileser of Assyria (note: featured photo of this post is a relief showing Tiglath-Pileser standing over an enemy). The Assyrian warlord was happy to take Ahaz’ gold and defend Judah, but protection came with a higher price than just gold.

After the successful defense of Judah, Ahaz had to complete an ancient form of hazing by traveling to Assyria to pay his respects to Tiglath-Pileser and to prove his subservience. While in Assyria, he copied the plans to an altar there and sent it to be replicated and placed in Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem. Scholars believe that this altar was likely the royal altar of Tiglath-Pileser, and its presence at the center of the Temple in Jerusalem would have been a sign that Tiglath-Pileser was to be worshipped as their protector. Ahaz, ever willing to worship anything, anywhere was only too happy to make this accommodation.

This morning I’m thinking about character, subservience, and accommodation. There is a fine line between harmless societal rituals and cruel hazing. There are some who will go along with the crowd to the point of losing themselves, and there are also some who err on the side of being so self-righteous about their beliefs that they cannot extend even an ounce of grace and mercy to those who disagree with every jot and tittle of their dogma. Once again I’m thinking about finding the truth in the tension between the extremes. I don’t want to be an Ahaz who simply “goes with the flow” and follows the prevailing winds of culture to the point that my faith is meaningless. I also don’t want to be so rigid and hard-hearted in my personal standards that love, grace, mercy and forgiveness get squeezed out of my life and relationships.

Chapter-a-Day 2 Kings 16

But the old bronze Altar that signaled the presence of God he displaced from its central place and pushed it off to the side of his new altar.2 Kings 16:14 (MSG)

We live in the culture of the "new and improved." We don't build things to last. We build things to be disposed and replaced with the "new and improved." My grandparents had the same television for twenty years. The "new and improved" HD television I bought seven years ago was out of date in less than five. Before we even have a chance to get used to our iPod or cell phone, there is a new "generation" to displace it. Even the government gives people [borrowed] cash for clunkers so that we will dispose of the old car and buy the new.

Certainly, there is nothing inherently wrong with new things. Even Jesus said he came to make all things new. I simply wonder how much of our dispose and displace culture creeps into the living out of my faith. The things of God are ancient. The things of God are eternal. They don't rust and wear out. And yet, I'm conditioned by my culture to distrust, displace and dispose of the old. I'm conditioned to yearn for something new and improved and trust that it is better, stronger, faster, quicker, more efficient, and more enviromentally friendly.

How easy is it for me to feel that faith of my fathers is old and outdated when I haven't even scratched the surface of its depth and truth?

I don't want to displace God from the central place in my life. I don't want to push Him off to the side. Instead of falling into the unconscious trap of dismissing the ancient things of God simply because they seem old, I prefer to spend my early morning hours digging in and plumbing their depths. Interestingly enough, I find that they are faithfully "new every morning."