If you’ve already read today’s reading, you’ll know how fast the parade of kings is moving. Both Judah and Israel had kings that were less than completely faithful, but Israel had really gone off the rails and were about to pay the price. But first a little background on Assyrians.
The Assyrians were the Nazis of their day. The throne room of the king of Assyrian was found to have relief engravings on his walls that would make any Goth envious — skeletons, skulls, pictures of prisoners being impaled, cities being besieged and set afire, prisoners led away by meat hooks in their cheeks, beheadings, etc. All of it was designed to sent a shiver up the spine of any ambassador or visiting dignitary. Any cruelty either performed against a defeated enemy was gladly advertised or depicted on the king’s throne room walls, because it only added to the legend of Assyrian cruelty to the resistant. With a reputation like this, you could make any city you decided to fight think twice about resisting.
And these were the people that God sent against His own people, Israel. “The Lord GOD has sworn by His holiness, “Behold, the days are coming upon you When they will take you away with meat hooks, And the last of you with fish hooks.” Amos 4:2, NAS95.
Punishment comes to Israel — Since the time of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, the kings of Israel were said to not depart from the sins of Jeroboam — the changes made to the worship of God including idolatry, changes in the priesthood, changes in holy days, and changes in the place of worship. These changes had also eased Israel into the paganism of Baal, Ashteroth, and the Asherah. Jezebel had introduced official worship of Baal, witchcraft, and gross sexual immorality. Things had gone from bad to worse religiously. God had warned them from the time of Moses that unfaithfulness would bring them to ruin, it would provoke Him to eject them from the land He had given them. And the cruel Assyrians were to be God’s rod of punishment. Did God really do that? He did.
Would God do it again to unfaithful men? It would be a mistake to think He would not. He is God. He doesn’t change.
Deliberately using a losing strategy — Ahaz had a strange approach to victory, adopt the gods of the country he had defeated. Upon defeating Damascus he instructed Urijah the priest to make an altar after the fashion of the pagan altar he saw there.
As odd as this behavior seems, we still do many of the same things. People still adopt the practices of failed religious systems: reincarnation, universal salvation, images, moralities, worship practices, and more. I went to a Christian retreat not long ago in which the speakers were promoting some of the meditation practices of Hinduism and Buddhism — I enjoyed the fellowship. Why is it that God’s word, the Bible, is just not enough? I suppose for the same reason that the altar of Jerusalem wasn’t enough for Ahaz.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.