Who’s Leading Whom? A Tale of the Worst Priest Ever

Ahaz was one of the most wicked leaders in the history of Judah. So wicked was this king that he sacrificed his own son in the fires of Moloch. In the name of Baal, another false idol, Ahaz desecrated and dedicated a portion of the Lord’s land. This garbage dump was originally called the Valley of Hennon but later became known as Gehenna. Then instead of trusting the Lord of Israel, Ahaz placed his trust in the hands of Tiglath Pileser, the Lord of Assyria. He robbed the people and the Temple of much gold and silver, and then paid homage to this foreign monarch. Ahaz was so wicked! However, these particular actions were not the extent of his sin:

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 … its pattern, exact in all its details … 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. And the bronze altar that was before the Lord he removed from the front of the house, from the place between his altar and the house of the Lord, and put it on the north side of his altar. And King Ahaz commanded … saying, “On the great altar burn the morning burnt offering and the evening grain offering and the king’s burnt offering and his grain offering, with the burnt offering of all the people of the land, and their grain offering and their drink offering. And throw on it all the blood of the burnt offering and all the blood of the sacrifice, but the bronze altar shall be for me to inquire by ….”.     (2 Kings 16:10-16)

King Ahaz, after forming the coalition with Tiglath-Pileser and enjoying the victory of his forbidden partnership, went to Damascus to honor the foreign king and his gods. While Ahaz was there, he became captivated by a certain altar. So taken was he by this artifact of worship that he sent drawings back to Jerusalem with the command to have an identical copy constructed. Ahaz was determined to use this unauthorized altar as a tool in his own worship.

When King Ahaz returned home, he was well pleased with the new altar standing before him. So delighted was he that he commanded the bronze altar of God be removed from its divinely appointed place and the new-and-improved altar be installed. Ahaz followed up this transgression with several others. On the false altar, he offered the required sacrifices of God. Then he used the bronze altar of God, which he had moved to the side, as an object of occultist divination. Sadly, Ahaz’s greatest transgression was his renovations of worship. He was so, so wicked.

However, Ahaz’s wickedness is not the main point of this devotional. Allow me now to reprint the scripture passage above with the omitted portions returned and highlighted:

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. And the bronze altar that was before the Lord he removed from the front of the house, from the place between his altar and the house of the Lord, and put it on the north side of his altar. And King Ahaz commanded Uriah the priest, saying, “On the great altar burn the morning burnt offering and the evening grain offering and the king’s burnt offering and his grain offering, with the burnt offering of all the people of the land, and their grain offering and their drink offering. And throw on it all the blood of the burnt offering and all the blood of the sacrifice, but the bronze altar shall be for me to inquire by.” Uriah the priest did all this, as King Ahaz commanded.     (2 Kings 16:10-16)

The wickedness of Ahaz was one thing; the wickedness of Uriah was another. The wickedness of the king was one thing; the wickedness of the priest was another. The wickedness of God’s governmental leader was bad; the wickedness of God’s ecclesiastical leader was worse.

Friends, when it comes to the worship of God, who’s leading whom? Will we allow the state to govern the church? Will we allow the rich to govern the worship of God? In our worship, will we submit to the new, cool, and novel? Will we be governed by fear? Will popularity and majority opinion trump all? Who leads whom in orchestrating the worship of God?

Let us not be like Ahaz, and let us not be like Uriah. In the true worship, we do have great liberty; the worship of all men does not have to look uniform. However, in the true worship of God, we do have beautiful and divine regulations. Let us not be led by government, culture, made-men, creative desires, majority opinion, or personal hedonistic preferences. Instead, let us worship the Lord according to his precepts and desires. Let us follow God’s Priest and Spirit, though kings press us hard to go in a different direction. This is true for all men. This is especially true for those called by Christ to lead his people in acceptable worship.


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