5-18 The Public History
Now, knowing and understanding what type of person Ahaz is in private we turn to the public history of his wicked rule. We’re told the two kings of the area, Rezin and Pekah, conspire together to make war against Judah and Ahaz. As I pointed out earlier, they destroy and take captive much of the southern kingdom.
Now, our passage drops right into Ahaz’s boneheaded decision to make a confederacy with Tiglath-Pileser, king of the Assyrians. What convinced Ahaz this was the best plan of direction? There is another conversation that is not written in 2 kings or 2 Chronicles. It’s actually found in Isaiah.
1. The Plan of God
Let’s read about this conversation, which turns out to be another plan—God’s plan.
NIV Isaiah 7:2-7 — 2 Now the house of David was told, “Aram has allied itself with Ephraim”; so the hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind. 3 Then the LORD said to Isaiah, “Go out, you and your son Shear-Jashub, to meet Ahaz at the end of the aqueduct of the Upper Pool, on the road to the Washerman’s Field. 4 Say to him, ‘Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these two smoldering stubs of firewood—because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and of the son of Remaliah. 5 Aram, Ephraim and Remaliah’s son have plotted your ruin, saying, 6 “Let us invade Judah; let us tear it apart and divide it among ourselves, and make the son of Tabeel king over it.” 7 Yet this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “‘It will not take place, it will not happen…’”
While the heart of Ahaz and his people were shaking like trees in the wind, God says, “be careful, calm and don’t be afraid…it will not happen!” He’s giving Ahaz the inside track on the future. God is giving Ahaz an opportunity for redemption. The voice of God is coming to this evil king both to inspire and help him. God is graciously offering His assistance and help! He continues…
NIV Isaiah 7:9-11 — 9 “‘The head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is only Remaliah’s son. If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.’” 10 Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, 11 “Ask the LORD your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.”
God is saying to Ahaz in our modern day lingo, “Cowboy-up!” If you don’t “stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.” That to me is a picture of mercy and grace.
Of coarse, what goes through my mind is, “what faith are you talking about? I haven’t witnessed one iota of faith in this evil wicked king—char him in the fire!” I’m personally thinking God’s Word to Ahaz should be repent, you bumbling idiot. Instead God says to Ahaz something like, “ask a sign from me for encouragement!” What patience God has! What mercy God has. What loving kindness God has! God sees more in this man than I do. I want to judge Ahaz and condemn him for his wickedness. However, apparently God’s thoughts are much deeper and much greater than mine. To offer a promise and a sign of assurance is beyond my understanding and reasoning. And how does Ahaz answer?
NIV Isaiah 7:12 — But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the LORD to the test.”
You’ve got to be kidding me? God is saying, “test me” and the response is a holier-than-thou attitude with the Almighty? My friends; as my dad would say, “Here’s a man who ain’t got a lick of sense!” That’s even too much for Isaiah to handle as his reply more like what I wanted in the first place.
NIV Isaiah 7:13 — Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God also?
Now that’s more like it! I can relate with that answer. And though Ahaz refuses a sign, God is going to give a sign of deliverance anyways. This promise will be a hallmark promise of all Israeli history.
14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”
The promise of the Redeemer-King after the line of David! What a dichotomy; the man who was a murderer of infants is promised that a virgin shall have a child who is named “God with us!” I think it is insightful that the promise is addressed to the house of David and not Ahaz personally. The promise is before Immanuel can choose right or wrong, the king of Assyria will break the enemies of Judah.
One would think if you were Ahaz that would be enough! But Ahaz does the unthinkable; he conspires with Tiglath-Pileser—enemy of God and Israel. Ahaz, now aware of the Plan of God, subjugates himself with his people to the king of Assyria. Big mistake! Ahaz looks at this whole incident as if it’s a horserace. He knows what horse will win and he’s going to bet all his cash on this winner.
2. The Plan of Man
This is the plan of Ahaz; this is always the plan of man. Fully aware of the promises of God, Ahaz circumvents what would happen if left to play out and interjects himself by making a league with the king of Assyria.
NIV 2 Kings 16:7 Ahaz sent messengers to say to Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria, “I am your servant and vassal. Come up and save me out of the hand of the king of Aram and of the king of Israel, who are attacking me.” 8 And Ahaz took the silver and gold found in the temple of the LORD and in the treasuries of the royal palace and sent it as a gift to the king of Assyria. 9 The king of Assyria complied by attacking Damascus and capturing it. He deported its inhabitants to Kir and put Rezin to death.
Problem solved, right? So ends the troubles of Ahaz—so Ahaz thinks. When you make a deal with the devil there is always a price to pay in the end. The enemy owns you and he owns Ahaz! Ahaz goes to Damascus to meet with this king of the Assyrians—his new deliverer. So now, Ahaz is a sycophant of Tiglath-Pileser! While in Damascus he comes into contact with the altar Tiglath-Pileser worships his god at. He draws out the plans and then has Urijah, high priest of Jehovah replicate the thing. What was his motive? I think verse 18 from the Message Bible gives us a good hint.
18 Finally, he (Ahaz) removed any distinctive features from within The Temple that were offensive to the king of Assyria.
He changes everything around to please the powerful Assyrian king. That’s what happens when you meddle with the plan of God. He thought he would benefit from it. Instead the king of Assyria now owned him now. Ahaz plundered the Temple of God of things dedicated to the service of Jehovah and gave them to Tiglath-Pileser. He altered the worship and directed the sacred offerings to be sacrificed on the false god’s altar that he had built and named the Great Altar. He moved the Lord’s bronze altar of sacrifice to a new location. He even changed the order of approach to God. He changed most everything that had been in place since Solomon.
However, there is only one thing he didn’t change—his good luck charm. I’m going to truncate these verses a little for the sake of size.
Message Bible 14 But the old bronze Altar that signaled the presence of God he displaced from its central place and pushed it off to the side of his new altar. 15 Then King Ahaz ordered Uriah the priest…“The old bronze Altar will be for my personal use.”
He thought he still had the ability to inquire with God! We read these things and wonder, “could a man really become that foolish and deceived?” Sadly, they can. God will talk to Ahaz one last time. The Lord says through the prophet Isaiah…
NIV Isaiah 8:2 “…I will call in Uriah the priest and Zechariah son of Jeberekiah as reliable witnesses for me.”
6 “Because this people has rejected the gently flowing waters of Shiloah and rejoices over Rezin and the son of Remaliah, 7 therefore the Lord is about to bring against them the mighty floodwaters of the River— the king of Assyria with all his pomp. It will overflow all its channels, run over all its banks 8 and sweep on into Judah, swirling over it, passing through it and reaching up to the neck. Its outspread wings will cover the breadth of your land, O Immanuel!”
This is directed at the Northern Kingdom. However, because of Ahaz and his disobedience it ends up sweeping down to the Southern kingdom as well. It’s not fatal to Judah but it’s harmful; it swirls to the neck and stops. All because this man was has a wicked past and refuses to obey God. That brings us to one last historical note about Ahaz—his postlude history. What is the end of his life and how is he remembered? We move to Part 4 for that answer.
J. Robert Hanson