Today: [2 Kings Chapter Sixteen] The One-Man Leadership of Ahaz. In this chapter we meet king Ahaz of the southern kingdom. Ahaz was perhaps the most notorious and evil of the line of David. He corrupted the priesthood and polluted the altar. He made his sons to pass through the fire to Molech. He bribed and misled Urijah the High Priest, originally a just and godly leader. Ahaz sold the city of Jerusalem into the hand of the Assyrians who as a nation are a type of the antichrist. We have much to learn from Ahaz by comparing his one-man leadership style to the leadership of current church culture.
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[2Ki 16:1-20 KJV] 1 In the seventeenth year of Pekah the son of Remaliah Ahaz the son of Jotham king of Judah began to reign. 2 Twenty years old [was] Ahaz when he began to reign, and reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem, and did not [that which was] right in the sight of the LORD his God, like David his father. 3 But he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, yea, and made his son to pass through the fire, according to the abominations of the heathen, whom the LORD cast out from before the children of Israel. 4 And he sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places, and on the hills, and under every green tree. 5 Then Rezin king of Syria and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel came up to Jerusalem to war: and they besieged Ahaz, but could not overcome [him]. 6 At that time Rezin king of Syria recovered Elath to Syria, and drave the Jews from Elath: and the Syrians came to Elath, and dwelt there unto this day. 7 So Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglathpileser king of Assyria, saying, I [am] thy servant and thy son: come up, and save me out of the hand of the king of Syria, and out of the hand of the king of Israel, which rise up against me. 8 And Ahaz took the silver and gold that was found in the house of the LORD, and in the treasures of the king’s house, and sent [it for] a present to the king of Assyria. 9 And the king of Assyria hearkened unto him: for the king of Assyria went up against Damascus, and took it, and carried [the people of] it captive to Kir, and slew Rezin.
In this chapter we meet Ahaz the son of Jotham, king of Jerusalem. Jotham was a good king except he did not disallow the people from sacrificing and burning incense in the high places. When Ahaz his son succeeded him he gave himself totally over to the syncretism of multiple gods and was deeply involved in idolatry including ritual abuse of his children. As far as kings went Ahab and his wife Jezebel were the most notorious and evil rulers in the northern kingdom. In the south over the tribe of Judah Ahaz is reputably the most vile and evil king in the line of David. Previous kings in David’s line may have fallen short and shown lack of character but Ahaz followed fully in the idolatrous ways of the northern kings even to the point of dismantling and destroying the sacred artifacts of the temple and setting up idols in the outer court in order to sacrifice to devils, with the collusion of the High Priest Urijah.
Early in Ahaz’ reign Peka the northern king and Rezin king of Syria besieged Jerusalem but could not overcome it. Ahaz in order to strengthen his rule called on the king of Assyria to come and defeat Syria. In order to recompense Assyria Ahaz looted the temple of all the silver and gold found there and sent it to the king of Assyria and the Assyrians came and conquered Damascus and killed its king.
Both Isaiah (alive at the time of Ahaz’ reign) and Micah the prophet identify the Assyrian with the antichrist. In hiring the Assyrians against Syria Ahaz has roused their interest in ultimately coming and taking Jerusalem and the southern kingdom into captivity altogether. In taking the gold and silver from the temple we see that the kings of Judah for generations used the temple not as a place of worship but as a national treasury to take advantage of during times of war or economic downturn. Rather than appeal to God for deliverance Ahaz declares to Tiglath-Pileser of Assyria that he is his son and sells himself to the spirit of antichrist for the false security of a king whose successor will ultimately take the entire southern kingdom into captivity.
10 And king Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglathpileser king of Assyria, and saw an altar that [was] at Damascus: and king Ahaz sent to Urijah the priest the fashion of the altar, and the pattern of it, according to all the workmanship thereof. 11 And Urijah the priest built an altar according to all that king Ahaz had sent from Damascus: so Urijah the priest made [it] against king Ahaz came from Damascus. 12 And when the king was come from Damascus, the king saw the altar: and the king approached to the altar, and offered thereon. 13 And he burnt his burnt offering and his meat offering, and poured his drink offering, and sprinkled the blood of his peace offerings, upon the altar. 14 And he brought also the brasen altar, which [was] before the LORD, from the forefront of the house, from between the altar and the house of the LORD, and put it on the north side of the altar. 15 And king Ahaz commanded Urijah the priest, saying, Upon the great altar burn the morning burnt offering, and the evening meat offering, and the king’s burnt sacrifice, and his meat offering, with the burnt offering of all the people of the land, and their meat offering, and their drink offerings; and sprinkle upon it all the blood of the burnt offering, and all the blood of the sacrifice: and the brasen altar shall be for me to enquire [by]. 16 Thus did Urijah the priest, according to all that king Ahaz commanded.
After Tiglathpileser defeats the Syrians Ahaz goes to meet him there. He sees a pagan altar there is and sends word to Urijah the high priest at that time to replace the altar of God in the temple with a replica of this pagan altar and offer the king’s offerings and the offerings of the people upon it. The brazen altar that Solomon made for the Lord was considered polluted and moved to an inconspicuous location but not destroyed altogether. All of these instructions Urijah carries out without question. Curiously Isaiah 8:1-2 calls Urijah and good and faithful man who apparent turned away from God later on – capitulating to all of Ahaz’ abominations in the house of the Lord.
Remember that Ahaz’ grandfather was Uzziah who intruded into the priest’s office and was stricken with leprosy. The new pagan altar that Ahaz replaced the brazen altar with was designed for the king himself to offer upon. Ahaz no doubt knew that his grandfather was stricken for this sin yet he determines that he will not only act as a priest but will actually serve the gods of the Syrians in the outer court and demote the true altar to God to a lesser role in preference to his own idolatrous choices. So we see Ahaz conducting his own worship in the outer court included making his son to pass through the fire and be ritually molested and tortured in the the house of God itself.
17 And king Ahaz cut off the borders of the bases, and removed the laver from off them; and took down the sea from off the brasen oxen that [were] under it, and put it upon a pavement of stones. 18 And the covert for the sabbath that they had built in the house, and the king’s entry without, turned he from the house of the LORD for the king of Assyria. 19 Now the rest of the acts of Ahaz which he did, [are] they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? 20 And Ahaz slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the city of David: and Hezekiah his son reigned in his stead.
In addition to the corruption of the outer court with a pagan altar – Ahaz also dismantled the laver that that the priests were to wash in before entering the Holy Place. This laver was originally fashioned from the hand mirrors of the women of Israel in the wilderness. It represents the word of God. He also dismantled the brazen sea that was a large water tank used to wash the sacrifices in before offering them to Jehovah. This is the water that the scripture refers to when it speaks of the “water of the word” in Ephesians 5:26.
In considering king Ahaz and his sins we see the intrusion of one office (of the king) into the office of the priesthood. Ahaz was not willing to share power or to share the spotlight with Urijah the priest. Urijah started out as a just man but succumbed to the deceit and idolatry of king Ahaz. If Urijah had not cooperated Ahaz could not have desecrated the altar. Ahaz was presumptive in his leadership – assuming that he had every right to tell the other ministries what to do. Ahaz’ grandfather attempted this but because the high priest in his day was a godly man he was unable to usurp the priesthood. Ahaz however was able to corrupt the priesthood and in his lifetime was never punished for his sins.
In the Old Testament the ministries of God were Prophet, Priest in King. In our day we have apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers – according to Eph. 4:11,12. Throughout the scriptures we see no example of one-man rule of the church of God as it is today. Neither do we see the leadership of the church functioning as mere employees of a congregationally ruled church. Both autocracy and democracy in the house of God are a corruption of the God ordained leadership Jesus established when he ascended up on high and gave gifts to men. The pastor is not the primary leader of the church. In fact in the New Testament pastors are only mentioned ONE time. Apostles are mentioned 21 times and prophets are mentioned 73 times. What can we imply from this? Leadership in the house of God is not limited to pastoral leadership. To have a religious culture dominated by an office gift only mentioned one time in the scriptures is a modern day Ahaz scenario. Paul made a very clear statement in 1 Corinthians:
[1Co 12:28 KJV] 28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.
This is something that we need to pray into and adjust our thinking regarding our understanding of leadership and our relationship to leadership. Ahaz went unchecked because Urijah would not be a strong leader. Ahaz encroached on the office of the priesthood and completely dismantled and corrupted the worship of Jehovah. Pastors who fail to recognize apostles, prophets, evangelists and teachers with equal deference are operating in an Ahaz spirit and colluding with the spirit of antichrist to destroy the work of God.
Ahaz name means “one who takes possession. One who takes hold of, one who seizes and grasps and will not let go”. What a fitting and ironic etymology for a leader who will not yield ground to other giftings and leadership. Was there any legitimacy to Ahaz’ rule? Yes – because he is mentioned in the lineage of Jesus in the gospel of Matthew. Other rulers in the line of Christ had their names blotted out but Ahaz’ name was allowed to remain. Yet Ahaz was a slave to the spotlight, an insecure and self centered leader who refused to allow any other leadership than his own. He is a type and shadow of the insecure leadership that is common in the culture of the church today. While Ahaz was not punished in his lifetime he nonetheless dies at an early age of 36. He is succeeded thankfully by Hezekiah who unlike his father and his great-grandfather Uzziah acknowledges the priesthood and the prophetic and as a result wins a great victory over the Assyrian army that his father Ahaz so foolishly identified himself with and fashioned his leadership after.
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