King Ahaz and the Altar of the Assyrians

2 Kings 16:10, “And king Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglathpileser king of Assyria, and saw an altar that was at Damascus: and king Ahaz sent to Urijah the priest the fashion of the altar, and the pattern of it, according to all the workmanship thereof.”

In 2 Kings 16 the southern division of Israel had come to a dark time. It had been over 200 years since the death of Solomon. The people, even though being blessed with a few godly kings, had suffered through multiple ungodly kings. Ahaz, the 12th king since Solomon’s death, according to 2 Kings 16:2, “did not that which was right in the sight of the LORD his God…” One of the more ungodly actions of this man happened when he visited Tiglathpileser the King of Assyria in Damascus. At that time, Israel (northern division) and Syria and joined together to war against Ahaz and Judah (southern division; 2 Kings 16:5). In an effort to find help, Ahaz did not turn to the Lord, but to the Assyrians. While seeking the help, he saw an altar of the Assyrians in Damascus. Upon seeing this structure, he sent message to Urijah the priest to build an altar after its pattern before he (Ahaz) returned home. When returning home, Ahaz began to offer sacrifices on the altar and soon moved the Brasen Altar in the Temple of God aside to set the Assyrian patterned altar in its place. The actions of Ahaz manifested the general spiritual condition of this people. They had turned from the commandments and service to the Lord, as He commanded, and had begun to favor the nations of the world more than a nation of God. They had become a nation who were borrowing from the nations of the world instead of one who would lend (Deut 28:12). A nation who had joined house to house with the ungodly of the world until a passing stranger would struggle to see the difference.

In Romans 15:4 we read, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” The events in 2 Kings 16 teach us much about the temptations of the world and the consequences therein. Please consider the following:

(1) The temptations of the world, no matter how alluring they may appear to the eye, are just simply of the world! When Ahaz looked on the Altar of the Assyrians, it must have appeared to his eye as a piece of beauty. Yet, in all the material beauty it possessed, it was an altar that belonged to the ungodly nation of Assyria. It was not constructed after the commandments of God, nor was the use of it pleasing to God. The sacrifices offered on this altar were not to the True and Living God, but to the false gods of this world.

(2) The temptations of this world often have an urgent call to comply! When Ahaz sent the pattern home to Urijah, the effort was to get it built before Ahaz arrived home (2 Kings 16:11, “…made it against king Ahaz came from Damascus.” This hurried effort reminds me so much of the “have it now” and “right now” attitude that’s found in the world today. The temptations of the world often offer an instant gratification. Acronyms such as YOLO (you only live once) and slogans like Just Do It, teach us of the spontaneity and freedom the world is all about. If Ahaz had only slowed down, prayed and thought about the consequences, both short and long term, the nation would suffer because of his actions, he may have turned in a different direction.

(3) The temptations of the world will demand a sacrifice (2 Kings 16:13, “And he burnt his offering and his meat offering, and sprinkled the blood of his peace offerings, upon the altar.”)! After the altar patterned after the Assyrian’s altar was finished, Ahaz began to make offerings upon it. Offerings which should have been unto the Lord were now offered upon the one fashioned after the altar Ahaz saw in Damascus. How often do we learn and see that the things of the world will take and take from the one given thereunto? The altars of the world will take that which should be given unto our service to the Lord and consume it.

(4) The one given to the temptations of the world will soon set aside his/her service to God and replace it with the worldly things (2 Kings 16:14, “And he brought also the brasen altar, which was before the LORD, from the forefront of the house, from between the altar and the house of the LORD, and put it on the north side of the altar.” By the end, Ahaz had moved the Altar of the Lord to the side. He moved it out of its place and placed the altar Urijah had made in its place. This is a familiar scenario. As we have witnessed this very thing many times in our experience. The child of God who once loved his/her service to God, tempted by the things of the world, soon will set aside their faithful service to God and replace it by something of the world that has caught their eye. It’s really a sad thing to see. One who was loved by the Lord before the world began; one who Jesus Died for on the Cross of Calvary; one who at one time professed a love for Jesus Christ, will turn from the blessed privilege of being His disciple to cling to a carnal temptation in this world.

Dear reader, we should examine ourselves daily to see what we treasure most. Is our most longed-for desire to serve Jesus Christ and show the world that we love Him for all that He has done and will do for us? Or is our heart turned from Him to cling to the things of this world? The Apostle John said it well when he said in 1 John 2:15, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is of the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” And to that I say, Amen!

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