Last time, when we looked at 2Chronicles 27, we saw that King Jotham had reigned over Judah for 16 years, and then died. His son Ahaz became king, and, as we will see tonight, it didn't turn out to be a positive experience for anybody! As a matter of fact, the moral and spiritual level of the nation will be at its lowest so far.
Ahaz did not do right in the sight of the Lord. His rejection of God and pursuit of false religions caused him to practice idolatry and even child sacrifice - killing his own sons.
He did this in the Valley of Bane Hin-NOME, which is just below Jerusalem, on the southern edge of the city. During times of apostasy, this was an infamous place, where children were killed as offerings to the false god Molech (Lev. 18:21) at a place called TO-feth (2Kings 23:10), which means "place where things are captured and burned."
About a hundred years from this time, King Josiah will shut this place down.
2Kings 23:10 He also defiled Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or his daughter pass through the fire for Molech.
The place was turned into a garbage dump, and trash was burned continually there. The Hebrew words for "Valley of Hin-NOME" are Gay Hin-NOME," which became the Greek "GHEH-en-nah." This valley where people had been captured and burned alive, where the fires raged non-stop, became a picture of man's punishment in eternal fire. Thus, the name for Hell became GHEH-en-nah.
Now, as hard as it is to imagine, thousands of babies were killed in this valley. The statues of Molech which have been unearthed are a man/bull seated on a throne with his arms outstretched before him, with the palms up. A place to kindle a fire was at the base of the throne, which would heat the arms red-hot. The newborn babies were placed on the arms of the altar to be burned to death.
How could this happen? Molech was the Ammonite god (1Kings 11:7) who was largely pleasurable to worship. You see, people were attracted to worship Molech because the services featured sexual immorality among all participants. But Molech worship had another side to it. You see, he could only be appeased through the death of the children that were conceived during those times of worship. They must be sacrificed upon his idol altar.
It is interesting to me that today, we don't call it Molech worship anymore. But the practice is still the same. Americans pursue pleasure, which produces the "inconvenience" of pregnancy, which prevents the pursuit of more pleasure. "Babies cost too much money. A baby will disrupt my education or career."
And so, the solution is to sacrifice the babies conceived in lust for the sake of convenience, career, and cash.
According to The Alan Guttmacher Institute, in the world today there are approximately 46 million babies killed each year by abortion - that's 126,000 every day. In America, 47% of abortions are performed on women who have already had one or more abortions. The only differences between this and Molech worship is that 1) the number of children dying is astronomically higher than it was back then, and 2) they weren't afraid to call it what it was: killing babies.
I was reading in the news this morning that a certain popular Vice Presidential candidate opposes a ban on late-term abortions, yet as a lawyer, he has sued doctors for millions of dollars for making errors in delivering premature babies of the same age. In other words, we only call it a human being when it'll make us money. When it's going to cost us money, it's just fetal tissue.
But the Bible says that God created life, and God says to us...
Jer. 1:5 "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you..."
I can say this to the Lord:
Psa. 139:13 For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb.
In the womb is a child. A child aborted is a human being killed for selfishness. Mother Theresa said, "It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish."
God said in His Word,
Lev. 18:21 'You shall not give any of your offspring to offer them to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your God; I am the LORD.
Lev. 20:5 then I Myself will set My face against that man and against his family, and I will cut off from among their people both him and all those who play the harlot after him, by playing the harlot after Molech.
King Ahaz was committing such grievous acts, that God gave the Arameans victory over the nation of Judah. They attacked from the north, and many of the Jews were captured and taken away to the Arameans' capital city of Damascus, which is almost 150 miles away.
Not only was King Ahaz delivered into the hands of the Arameans, but also the Israelites attacked and inflicted heavy casualties. Tens of thousands of men in Judah were killed because they had forsaken the Lord.
Two hundred thousand women and children of Judah were taken as slaves, to bring them up to Samaria in the land of Israel. Fortunately, a prophet up there said to the returning army, "God has used you to judge Judah. Do you want to give reason for God to judge you now? If you don't return these captives, you're going to experience His wrath."
The army didn't listen to Oded the prophet. Fortunately, some of the leaders from the tribe of Ephraim spoke up, bringing forth the same message again.
Az-ar-YAW the son of Yeh-ho-khaw-NAWN, Beh-rek-YAW the son of Mesh-il-lay-MOHTH, Yekh-iz-kee-YAW the son of Shal-LOOM, and Am-aw-SAW the son of Khad-LAH-ee approached the army heading north towards Samaria and forbade them bringing the captives in. They gave the same reason that the prophet had: It would bring God's anger down upon them.
This is a good reminder to me that often when people don't receive a rebuke the first time, they may the second time. When they don't give heed to correction, when they won't listen to appeals for righteousness, they may listen the next time. Don't be afraid to be the second voice, or the next messenger. Just because they wouldn't receive it last time doesn't mean that there won't be a different response this time.
Now, after hearing this message the second time, the Israeli army relented, and left the captives. But notice this: Oded had said,
2Chr. 28:11 "...listen to me and return the captives..."
The Ephraimite leaders had said,
2Chr. 28:13 ..."You must not bring the captives in here..."
While they did not insist on keeping their new slaves, the army did just leave them there. Figuratively dropped them like sacks and kept right on walking. They only obeyed the righteous command to the point of difficulty. They were willing to not take them in, but they were not willing to take them back.
That presented a problem: now we've got 200,000 women and children - injured, naked, shoeless, and unable to get home. They need medical care, clothing, food, and transportation. It is what we would call today a "humanitarian crisis." It was unexpected, and overwhelming. "What have we gotten ourselves into," they must have asked themselves!
A couple years ago, I was talking to a mormon teenager about her need to be born again and receive Christ. Once we'd gotten through all of her biblical questions, only one thing prevented her from praying to be born again: She knew that if she renounced the Mormon faith, that her parents would disown her and kick her out of the house. She would be homeless. I told her that by becoming her spiritual father in the faith, I knew it was my responsibility to make sure she wasn't homeless. I promised her that if it came down to it, Judy and I would even adopt her. (Amazingly, her parents hardly batted an eyelash!)
So many times, we see Christians saying, "That isn't right! This shouldn't be happening! You should stop that!" But are we willing to bear the consequences of responsibility? Are we willing to be the instruments not only of rebuke, but of restoration? Are we going to only preach with passion, but not come through with practical compassion?
These Ephraimite leaders came through with practical compassion. They provided clothing and shoes, food and drink, and transportation. The captives were returned.
In addition to the attacks from Israel and the Arameans, the Edomites and the Philistines also were invading and attacking. King Ahaz was desperate, and appealed to the Assyrians for help.
Now, let's think this through: Ahaz has forsaken God, so the Lord sends judgment. Instead of crying out to God, Ahaz cries out to the world to help. How do you think this is going to go? Poorly? Of course. That's what we've come to expect as we read through the Scriptures: rebellion against God and failure to repent will always result in disaster. It's as predictable as you can imagine. So then, why is it that we ourselves fail to predict the outcome when we go this direction?
Rom. 15:4 For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
Tig-LATH Pil-EH-ser took King Ahaz' money, but didn't help Judah. As a matter of fact, instead of allying with him, he afflicted him.
Saints, it needs to be said again: allying yourself with the ungodly is a sure way to be defeated. It will not - it cannot - help you.
King Ahaz tried to do things on his own, and it didn't work. Then, he tried to do things with the help of ungodly allies, and that didn't work. So finally, he turned to the gods of the Syrians... and that didn't work either.
After permeating his society with false gods, Ahaz finally died. And all we can say is, "It's about time!" Fortunately, his son Hezekiah will be far more positive to study, when we gather together next week!