Thursday, November 12, 2009

0 Deeper and Deeper

I think sometimes we often sanitize (I'll speak for myself here - *I* often sanitize) the history of the kings of Judah by counting them off: "good king, bad king, bad king, good king, bad king"... and think of "good" vs. "bad" as those who "did what was right in the Lord's eyes" and even "tore down the high places", vs. those who "did NOT do what was right in the eyes of the Lord" and "did NOT tear down the high places". Then there are the middling kings like Azariah (2 Kings 14) and his son Amaziah (2 Kings 15) who "did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that his father Amaziah had done. Nevertheless, the high places were not taken away." (2 Kings 15:3-4) In any case, I tend to read these histories in sanitized terms wherein what was bad about these kings was that they didn't stop the people from worshipping other gods.

This picture falls apart in 2 Kings 16, when we come to Ahaz - and gets even worse by the time of Manasseh in 2 Kings 18.

Ahaz, by contrast to some of his ancestors in the kingly line, is said positively to have adopted the practices of the people whom the Lord had driven out before the people of Israel, even to the point of having sacrificed his son. (2 Kings 16:3) As if this weren't wickedness enough, the story is related of his pleas to Tiglath-pileser, the Assyrian king to rescue him from the Syrians, and the subsequent visit with the Assyrian in Damascus upon the defeat of the Syrians. (2 Kings 16:5-11) Upon this visit, Ahaz, apparently wowed by the splendor of the pagan altar at Damascus, instructs Uriah the priest to build a copy at Jerusalem. Ahaz then returns, and shoves the holy altar of God aside, and replaces it with the pagan altar, which Ahaz then proceeded to use for his own sacrificing. The rest of the chapter is then full of descriptions of Ahaz's own desecration of the holy things of God that Israel had been instructed in the Torah to build for the Lord's service.

This despicable man reigned in Judah for about two decades - was succeeded by Hezekiah, and then the even more beastly Manasseh who held pagan worship in the Temple of God, as we read in chapter 21 of 2 Kings.

I had forgotten about how wicked Ahaz's practices were, wherein the holy temple was effectively desecrated by the replacement of those things that God had commanded by instruments of pagan worship. I had forgotten because I think I had sanitized the Judahic kings' practices with the words "bad kings" and "walking in the way of the kings of Israel" rather than thinking of their practices as truly wicked and despicable.

I then take pause to take a look at my own heart... wherein have I replaced the things of God, and thoughts of him with useless things of this world? Let us not look at Judah's sins as though they alone are guilty of setting God aside.



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