I communicated this sermon to the brethren at GGCF-East Capitol on Jan. 18, 2009, the day of the Sinulog in Cebu City, Philippines—an annual socio-political, commercial, and religious celebration of the child-image called Sto. Nino.
Ahaz was the son of Jotham, King of Judah. (Israel was divided into two kingdoms—the northern kingdom called Israel and the southern kingdom called Judah. Judah is composed of two tribes—the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, with Jerusalem as its capital.) Ahaz was only 20 years old when he became King of Judah. But he was one of the most idolatrous kings of Judah and Israel. “Many kings owned idols but Ahaz’ idols owned him.” (Jeff Miller, “Ahaz: King of Idolatry” in http://www.bible.org; Accessed Jan. 17, 2009) Nothing good is written about him. He has the distinction of provoking the wrath of God against him (2 Chronicles 28:25). He served not one god, but many gods, combining gods that will benefit him.
The main theme for us today is this: Worshiping God on Sunday is not worship if we worship something else on Monday. Idolatry is not merely venerating other gods instead of the one true God, but elevating those gods besides God.
Verse 1 is the main verse of chapter 28.“And he did not do what was right in the eyes of the LORD, as his father David had done” (2 Chronicles 28:1, ESV). It sets the stage for all the wrong things Ahaz had done in the eyes of Jehovah. The verb form for “do” here speaks of completed action from the standpoint of the present. Thus, the sacred writer here is saying that Ahaz has not done what was right in the eyes of the Lord.What has Ahaz done wrong in the sight of the Lord? We note five idolatrous acts of Ahaz.
1. “He walked in the ways of the kings of Israel” (v. 2, ESV). “Walked” (Heb. yalak) here is figurative speech for the “manner of life.” His behavior followed the behavior of the kings of Israel. The kings of Israel introduced the worship of Baal. So did Ahaz. He combined the idolatrous worship of Baal with the worship of Jehovah in Jerusalem. “Walked” in the Hebrew indicates progressive, continuing action of walking. Thus, Ahaz did not just do it once, but several times, over a long period of time.
What are the idolatrous ways of your friends, family, and co-workers that offend God? Don’t walk in their sinful ways. Peter wrote, “For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles–when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries” (1 Peter 4:3, NKJV). The apostle said that we used to live like unbelievers doing all these idolatrous lifestyles, but now no more.
2. He “made metal images of the Baals” (v. 3, ESV). “Metal images” here is from maccekah, “a pouring over, i.e., “molten metal, cast image” (BDB). One day, Ahaz traveled to Damascus in Syria to meet King Tiglath-Pileser III. He saw a large altar which he really liked. Ahaz sent a sketch of this altar to Uriah the High Priest in Jerusalem. He ordered him to build an altar just like it and put it in the Temple (2 Kings 16:10-12). (John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1997, 542)
There’s just one very big problem with this project. It was an Assyrian altar dedicated to Baal. Now this is a big sin against the Lord. The Lord designed the Temple Himself. Nobody should add or take away any furnishing in the Temple of the Lord, or even renovate it. But Ahaz built an idol inside the Temple, just to please the pagan Assyrian king.
This gives us a lesson on compromise. We should not compromise the worship of God with our personal tastes or a desire to please people. Just because you like a certain worship style does not mean that God is pleased with it. True biblical worship of the one true God must conform to biblical principles and practices.
Uriah, the High Priest at the time, also served Ahaz, not God. Their collaboration is a good example of a sinful prostitution of political power with religious power. Here we see a political servant of other gods working with a religious servant. That’s exactly what’s happening today, when city hall cooperates with a dominant church to promote an idol. We need leaders who serve God and God alone, and not the powerful people in church. We need leaders who can say no to sin, no to the world, and no to the Devil. We need God-pleasing leaders, not men-pleasing compromisers.
3. He made offerings and sacrifices to other gods.“And he made offerings in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom (v. 3, ESV). The phrase, “made offerings” (ESV) is better translated, “burned incense” (NKJV), from the Hebrew, qatar, “To cause incense to smoke” (BDB); “to smoke, i.e. turn into fragrance by fire” (Strong) in the hiphil stem.Ahaz did not just worship Baal. He also worshipped Molech, the god of the Moabites and Ammonites. As part of the ritual worship of Molech, people would offer their children by fire (2 Kings 3:27). They would burn their children as an offering to Molech and Chemosh (MacArthur, 520). What a horrible thing to do! But people will do many unthinkable things in the name of a false god or a false religion.
Jehovah prohibited and condemned these practices in Israel.“And you shall not let any of your descendants pass through the fire to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your God: I am the LORD.‘You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination” (Leviticus 18:21, NKJV; cf. Deuteronomy 18:9-12). Yet Ahaz “burned his sons as an offering, according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel” (v. 3, ESV). Note that he burned incense persistently, according to the hiphil perfect form of the verb, “made” in v. 3. He also burned his sons over a period of time, as seen in the hiphil imperfect form of the verb, “burned” in v. 3. Can you imagine offering your sons several times to a false god?Ahaz’ cruelty is incomparable among the kings of Israel and Judah.
Ahaz also “sacrificed and made offerings on the high places” (v. 4, ESV). The “high places” were “hilltops under large trees (cf. Hos. 4:13).” (MacArthur, 543) The other Israelite kings just tolerated it. Yet this king actively participated in the sacrifices. And he did it passionately, intensely, and willingly (as seen in the piel imperfect form of the verb, zabach). This was the practice of the idolatrous Canaanites, which Ahaz has incorporated in his mind and heart. Ahaz’ religion was a syncretist religion, combining elements of the worship of Jehovah, with that of Molech and Chemosh.
It is similar to “Christianity” in the Philippines. The only “Christian” nation in Asia actually incorporates certain aspects of Christianity as well as elements of idolatry and animism, instead of the pure form of New Testament Christianity. Thus, you have the Sto. Nino, who is believed to be the child, Jesus. Never mind that Jesus never left any image of a child to take his place while he is in heaven. Never mind that Jesus is against idolatry. Never mind that nobody ever knew how Jesus looked like. Never mind that God hates any image of God that is made of human hands. The child image of Sto. Nino made of wood is Jesus. Jesus is the Sto. Nino. That’s a good example of idolatrous, syncretist “Christianity” in one of the oldest Catholic cities in the Philippines.
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