Wednesday, February 15, 2023

2023.02.15 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Kings 16

Read 2 Kings 16

Questions from the Scripture text: In what years of whose reign, did who begin to reign over whom (2 Kings 16:1)? How old was he (2 Kings 16:2)? How long did he reign? Where? What did he not do? In whose sight? Unlike whom? In what way did he walk (2 Kings 16:3)? What did he do to his sons? Like whom? What else did he do (2 Kings 16:4)? Who attacked him in 2 Kings 16:5? With what success? What did Rezin take in 2 Kings 16:6 (cf. 2 Kings 14:22), and who ended up dwelling there? To whom does Ahaz look for help (2 Kings 16:7)? What did he call himself? What does he ask him to do? Whose silver and gold does he give to whom (2 Kings 16:8)? How did the king of Assyria respond (2 Kings 16:9)? Where did Ahaz go to see whom (2 Kings 16:10)? What did he see there? To whom did he send the design of it? What did Urijah the priest do in 2 Kings 16:11? And what did Ahaz do with this altar (2 Kings 16:12-13)? What did he move to behind it (2 Kings 16:14)? What would now be done with the Assyrian copy-altar (2 Kings 16:15-16)? And how would he use the bronze altar instead? What else did he do, on whose account (2 Kings 16:17-18)? What is written where (2 Kings 16:19)? What happened to Ahaz (2 Kings 16:20)? Who reigned in his place?

Why can’t churches rest on a history of orthodoxy? 2 Kings 16 looks forward to the first serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these twenty verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that even formerly sound churches are in constant danger of  plummeting into religion, faith, and worship that God hates. 

In chapter 15, the northern kingdom plummeted into sin and chastening that would soon lead to its exile. Surely, the southern kingdom and the line of David would be better, right? Wrong! Ahaz is the only king of Judah of whom the formula in 2 Kings 16:2 is used. He’s from the line of David. And his father (Jotham), grandfather (Uzziah), and great-grandfather (Amaziah), and great-great grandfather (Joash) had done what was “right” in the eyes of Yahweh (though not like David, cf. 2 Kings 12:2–3, 2 Kings 14:3–4, 2 Kings 15:3–4, 2 Kings 15:34–35). 

“Conservative” churches must be careful not to think that they are immune to ending up like the most blatantly wicked churches. Generations of tolerating partial obedience and compromise finally produce the precipitous plunge into wickedness that we have in 2 Kings 16, with Ahaz’s wicked religion, wicked faith, and wicked worship.

Wicked religion2 Kings 16:1-42 Kings 16:3-4 give us a trifecta of the wickedness of Ahaz’s religion. First, he copied the practices of the apostate church in the north (2 Kings 16:3a). This is like if evangelical churches were to start keeping man-made holy days, celebrating mass, and observing Lent. Second, he copied the vile practices of the pagan religions of the land, including murdering his own children (verse 3b). This is like if evangelical churches were to start ordaining women, and tolerating or promoting sexual perversion and the murder of babies. Third, he himself (the verbs are singular) committed the very sin that previous kings had only failed to restrain others from committing (2 Kings 16:4).This is like if church leaders went from failing to discipline for certain sins in one generation, to the leaders themselves committing those sins in the next. 

Why give these examples of what this is like? Because this is exactly what has happened to mainline evangelicalism, and is in the process of happening even in former NAPARC churches and one current NAPARC church. Let none who are currently “Presbyterian and Reformed” think that they are somehow immune!

Wicked faith2 Kings 16:5-9. To his wicked religion, Ahaz added wicked faith. He begins by trusting and submitting to the king of Assyria (2 Kings 16:7a), even praying to him for salvation (verse 7b) and giving him offerings (2 Kings 16:8). He so admires him that he learns his way of worship from him (see next section). In many countries, rather than suffer persecution from the government, there are churches that are willing to trust in government protection and adjust to whatever worship the government directs them to have. It has happened throughout church history, and at the time of writing, it is now happening in China and Canada and beginning to happen in the U.S. Faith in the government or military power is a wicked faith.

Wicked worship2 Kings 16:0-19. Finally, Ahaz goes all-out in his observance of imitation-Assyrian religion. He has found something in the world that looked impressive, and since it felt and seemed so worshipful, he brought it into the church. He hedges his bets, keeping the bronze altar around, just in case he needs help or information from Yahweh too (end of 2 Kings 16:15). And so have many done who have abandoned true worship. They have added what seemed most impressive from man while keeping whatever they thought was most useful from the Lord. 

We breathe a great sigh of relief when we get to 2 Kings 16:19-20. Thankfully, Ahaz goes to his grave where he can stop doing harm. And, if we know what is coming with Hezekiah his son, we are grateful for the coming mercy of God. But for now, in chapter 16, we have this important lesson in how quickly and far even a conservative man or church can fall. May the Lord keep His churches and grant unto them reformation and repentance! Thankfully, the Church—capital C—now has Christ as its Head; though local lampstands may be removed, she will never again fall as a whole.

From where does repentance come? How is it maintained? From where can churches and Christians learn what traditions are acceptable to God, and which ones are prolonged offenses and latent disasters? 

Sample prayer: Lord, we thank You and praise You for sparing us and our fathers in the faith. For many generations, You have maintained unto us the preaching of Your gospel. And You have often given us new reformation of doctrine and worship. Forgive us for when we act as if because of these mercies, all of our traditions are acceptable to you. And forgive us for when we act as if we are not in continual danger of falling into even more dreadful sin than others who have thus far been worse than we have. In Your mercy and power, grant unto us reformation and revival, we ask through Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP72A “God, Give Your Judgments to the King” or TPH72A “O God, Your Judgments Give the King”

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