It seems he was an innovator. A collaborator. An imitator. Ahaz, king of Judah, took the things of God and thought he could improve on them. He visited other nations and partnered with them to bring the best of their religious practices back to Israel. He saw what his neighbors had, liked it, and told his priest to replicate it. Oh, did I fail to mention that this king of Judah was also a desecrater?
When King Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, he saw the altar that was at Damascus. And King Ahaz sent to Uriah the priest a model of the altar, and its pattern, exact in all its details. And Uriah the priest built the altar; in accordance with all that King Ahaz had sent from Damascus, so Uriah the priest made it, before King Ahaz arrived from Damascus. And when the king came from Damascus, the king viewed the altar. Then the king drew near to the altar and went up on it and burned his burnt offering and his grain offering and poured his drink offering and threw the blood of his peace offerings on the altar.
(2Kings 16:10-13 ESV)
Wrong on so many levels. A new and improved altar based on the latest design from the pagan nation next door. A priest who seems to be quick to do the king’s bidding without much concern for the LORD’s building. And, if I’m reading it right, it looks like the king himself is the first to try it out, supplanting his priest in order to be the first to christen his new, avant-garde sacrificial platform. Interesting that while he tests it with a burnt offering and a grain offering and a drink offering and a peace offering, there’s no mention of a guilt offering or a sin offering.
Not being judgmental, but I don’t think I ever really noticed Ahaz’s improvisation with the things of God. New altar, new location, new procedure. And the old altar, the bronze altar? Well, says Ahaz to Uriah, “The bronze altar shall be for me to inquire by” (16:15). In essence, he re-purposed it as his very own Ouija Board!
In adding the things of the world to the ways of God he diluted, distorted, and desecrated the things of God. I’m thinking that’s why it’s recorded “he did not do what was right in the eyes of the LORD his God . . . but he walked in the way of the kings of Israel” (16:2-3). The kings of Israel had innovated as well, centering their place of sacrifice around the two golden calves created by Israel’s first king, Jeroboam (1Ki. 11:25-33).
Speaking of Israel, the next thing I read is that, while Ahaz may have been captivated by Assyria’s altar, Israel was taken captive, literally, by Assyria’s army (2Ki. 17). And here’s a summary of why: they feared other gods (17:7b); they walked in the customs of the nations (17:8a); they built high places just like those around them (17:10); and, they went after false idols and became false themselves, following the nations that were around them (17:15b). Thus, they provoked the LORD to anger (17:11b).
I’m thinking there’s a caution here. Ahaz didn’t abandon the things of God he just tweaked them a bit. Took the best of heaven and added in some of the best of earth. But it was indicative of a heart becoming entangled with idolatry, a heart drawn toward false gods. And, when you go after false gods, you become like those false gods.
Nothing wrong in being an innovator. No inherent evil in being a collaborator. But how we need to be careful of becoming an imitator of the wrong stuff.
Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. (3John 1:11a ESV)
By His grace. For His glory.