As the book of Kings takes us back and forth between the two kingdoms of the Jews, we see that chapter 16 begins with a new king for the southern kingdom of Judah.
While PEH-kakh, the son of Rem-al-YAW is king up north, Judah's king Yo-THAWM dies, and his son Ahaz becomes king. But although Yo-THAWM had done what was right in the sight of God, Ahaz is another story.
Ahaz was a worshiper of false gods. He was so steeped in idolatry that he even offered his son as a human sacrifice. When the Bible speaks of children "passing through the fire," it is talking about sacrificing them to Molech, the god of pleasure. The statues of Molech were big, hollow, bronze statues of a man with an ox's head. Inside, a fire would be kindled and fed until the outstretched arms of it were red-hot. Worshippers of Molech would put their babies on the heated arms, killing them as a sacrifice.
God had specifically forbidden this, saying
Lev. 20:2 ..."Any man from the sons of Israel or from the aliens sojourning in Israel, who gives any of his offspring to Molech, shall surely be put to death; the people of the land shall stone him with stones. "
The punishment for putting children to death was to put the parent responsible to death.
Thank goodness we live in a day that children are no longer sacrificed to the God of pleasure. Or do we? Sixty-one percent of the countries in the world allow parents to kill their children before they leave the womb. That has led to abortions totalling between 36 and 53 million children per year. The vast majority of those pregnancies were brought about by people pursuing pleasure, but who were unwilling to accept the consequences of their actions.
King Ahaz killed his son as well. He was indeed a wicked man, walking in violation of the Law of God, and against human decency. It seems that nothing has really changed in the human condition since then.
An alliance was formed against Ahaz by the two kingdoms north of him. Israel's king PEH-kakh allied himself with Rets-EEN, the king of Aram. The two of them attacked Judah's army, but could not beat them. They did, however, conquer Ay-LATH, a city which was a port on the Red Sea, which Uzziah had restored in chapter 14.
The Jews living there were driven out, and the city was occupied by the Arameans.
Ahaz had not been beaten yet, but was afraid he would be. Thus, he sent a message to Tig-LATH Pil-EH-ser, the king of Assyria (the one also known as Pul). The message pleaded with the Assyrian king to help fight off the Israeli/Syrian alliance.
As motivation, Ahaz took all the silver and gold from the temple and his own house and sent it to Tig-LATH Pil-EH-ser. The king accepted the proposal, and attacked Damascus, the Aramean capital. He was victorious, carrying the Arameans of Damascus to exile in Keer, and killing King Rets-EEN.
Ahaz thought that turning to the world and throwing money at the problem was the only solution. To make matters worse, much of that money he used was from the house of the Lord.
It is unfortunate, but even among Christians I see that strategy being used. When difficulties arise, the solution is money rather than prayer. It is about finances rather than faith. And to make matters worse, the first money that is used to purchase the way out of problems is very often the Lord's money.
God has commanded that the firstfruits belong to Him.
Exod. 23:19 "You shall bring the choice first fruits of your soil into the house of the LORD your God...
Ezek. 44:30 "And the first of all the first fruits of every kind and every contribution of every kind, from all your contributions, shall be for the priests; you shall also give to the priest the first of your dough to cause a blessing to rest on your house.
Too many have taken their "dough" and contributions from the house of the Lord and thought, "I'm not going to make it this month if I tithe. I won't be able to afford the new car payment unless I cut down on my giving." May we never be guilty of taking the Lord's money instead of trusting in the Lord when trouble comes.
Ahaz was so thankful, that he went up to Damascus to see Tig-LATH Pil-EH-ser in person. There, he saw an altar that the Arameans had built. He liked it so much, that he had plans drawn up and sent to Oo-ree-YAW, the high priest.
The priest had it built while Ahaz was away. When the king returned, he offered his sacrifice on it, instead of the bronze altar of the temple. That altar was put off to the side for occasional use of divination.
Ahaz also began to arrange the various objects of the temple to make the temple more like that which he saw in Damascus. He was turning the house of God into an imitation of something he'd seen in the world.
People in church leadership have unfortunately done the same thing at times. They have seen people in the world flock to psychiatrists, watched organizations raise millions of dollars, and seen the success of valuable marketing techniques. And, thinking that the world's methods were superior to God's, the church has introduced the psychology of the world's counselors, the fundraising of the world's non-profits, the marketing of the world's corporations.
Now, in addition to the obvious sin he had committed, a major problem with what Ahaz had done was that he had corrupted the picture God had painted. You see, everything about the temple was a portrayal of heaven. God had given Moses a vision of heaven, and the tabernacle was the earthly model of it. The writer of Hebrews said that the priests...
Hebr. 8:5 ...serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, "SEE," He says, "THAT YOU MAKE all things ACCORDING TO THE PATTERN WHICH WAS SHOWN YOU ON THE MOUNTAIN."
So the tabernacle, and later the temple, was supposed to be the best representation of heaven that you could have on earth. But Ahaz is moving things around, distorting the picture God had given. The image was being lost.
So too today, we see that the church has distorted the image. By introducing unbiblical practices and doctrines, many have distorted people's view of God and heaven. The church's constant mission should be to represent God rightly, in the pattern that He has set, with the model that He has given.
After Ahaz died, his son Hezekiah became king. And, believe it or not, this is good news! Hezekiah will bring about much reform in the name of the Lord.