[King Ahaz of Judah] took away the Sabbath canopy that had been built at the temple and removed the royal entryway outside the temple of the Lord, in deference to the king of Assyria.
2 Kings 16:18 (NIV)
I hate conflict. I don’t like difficult situations. I’m sure I’m not alone.
One of the realities of this life journey in this imperfect world is that conflict is unavoidable (not that I haven’t tried to avoid it) as are difficult situations and crucial conversations.
This morning as I sat in the quiet and wrote my Morning Pages, what poured out of me was a string of events, situations, and relationships over many, many. years in which I chose passivity rather than purposed initiative, silence rather than strife, and escape rather than engagement. As the confession rolled off my ballpoint onto the pages I had to acknowledge the collateral damage I caused because of my unwillingness to simply step up to the plate and into the box.
Then, I opened the Great Story and it was as if God had synchronized my confession and the content of today’s chapter.
Ahaz takes the throne of Judah. The political situation in Judah is tenuous. Judah has been squeezed and diminished by enemies on all sides who have whittled away at their territory. Ahaz appears to be the quintessential “pleaser” who caters to everyone. There’s not a god he won’t worship, not a sacrifice he won’t make (even his own child), nor an offering he won’t give to ensure his power and security.
The Arameans and the Northern Kingdom of Israel come to lay siege to Jerusalem, and Ahaz appeals to the ascendant Assyrian Empire for help. Ahaz steals gold and silver from God’s Temple and sends it to the king of Assyria as a gift. When Assyria comes to the rescue, Ahaz visits the Assyrian king. He then sends word to the high priest Uriah back in Jerusalem to build an altar like the Emporer uses for worship and to put it in God’s temple. He orders that God’s temple be altered to be like the one where the Emporer worships. He orders that the worship of God be changed to be like what the King of Assyria does. He does all of this “in deference” to the king of Assyria. Ahaz’s faith was in appeasement. His trust was in the most powerful human protector he could afford.
Along my life journey, I’ve observed that deference can be a noble quality in the right context. However, the twenty-twenty hindsight in my Morning Pages this morning also reveals that I have often used “deference” as a cover and an excuse for my fear. I used it as an excuse for not appropriately confronting people and circumstances when I should have. I leveraged it to rationalize my passive avoidance of crucial conversations. Like Ahaz, my deference has been ultimately destructive.
In the quiet this morning, I am grateful for God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness. No matter how far I get in my spiritual journey, I still have more to learn, more to confess, and more to grow. I can’t do anything to change the mistakes of my past, but I can make different choices and decisions today than those I made before.
If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.