6/14/16: Another Altar?
While the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness, they had the portable tabernacle that anchored the center of their camp. They could look to it and see the visible presence of God. Years later, once established in the Promised Land, Solomon built the beautifully-adorned temple, again to stand as a picture of the presence of God among the people of God. However, after Solomon’s reign, the kingdom divided into Israel and Judah, and the people ended up with two places to worship. By the time we get to King Ahaz, king of Judah, we find him at odds with his own brothers in Israel. Ahaz strikes a deal with the king of Assyria for protection, and while in Damascus to meet this heathen king, he sees a beautiful altar. (See II Kings 16:10-18.)
Ahaz comes up with a bright idea. He has Urijah the priest to build a new altar just like the one he saw in Damascus. When He returns home, he commands Urijah, “On the great new altar burn the morning burnt offering, the evening grain offering, the king’s burnt sacrifice, and his grain offering, with the burnt offering of all the people of the land, their grain offering, and their drink offerings; and sprinkle on it all the blood of the burnt offering and all the blood of the sacrifice. And the bronze altar shall be for me to inquire by” II Kings 16:15 (NKJ). Then Ahaz goes even farther. “And King Ahaz cut off the panels of the carts, and removed the lavers from them; and he took down the Sea from the bronze oxen that were under it, and put it on a pavement of stones. Also he removed the Sabbath pavilion which they had built in the temple, and he removed the king’s outer entrance from the house of the LORD, on account of the king of Assyria” 2 Kings 16:17-18 (NKJ).
Fear of being overtaken caused Ahaz to sell out to the king of Assyria. Once he set foot on Assyrian soil, he began to absorb Assyrian ways. He was intrigued by the Assyrian altar, decided to become like the Assyrians by copying it, and exalted it above the altar of God in front of the people of Judah when he got back home. He devalued other parts of the temple too – other representations of worship to God – on account of the king of Assyria.
What about this world have we become so accustomed to or so dazzled by that we are willing to replace God’s altar for it? Has fear chased us into the arms of an ungodly means of escape? Have we set foot on heathen soil, only to find ourselves intrigued by the way things are done contrary to God’s word? Do we put our worship to the side in favor of a sparkly, new trend? The very first Commandment warns us of God’s feelings about just this sort of thing, “You shall have no other gods before Me” Exodus 20:3 (NKJ).
Let’s do an altar check today. Are we worshiping at God’s altar, bowing only at His feet, looking only to Him for our sustenance and our guidance; or have we replaced His altar in our hearts with something we’ve deemed much flashier and more up-to-date? Are we depending on prayer and the counsel of the Word of God, or are we leaning toward the world’s advice? God cannot be replaced by dazzle; but if we let Him, He’s still able to dazzle us His way.
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