The Brazen Altar
Biblical King Ahaz was born into a home of great wealth and Godly heritage. Attending worship services was customary in his family and Ahaz knew the rituals of the Temple as well as any priest. But that knowledge did not convince his heart. When he became king, his weak spiritual commitment was quickly trampled under the boots of indulgence and idolatry. Big mistake!
As will happen with wicked kings, an enemy greater than Ahaz attacked (2 Kings 16). To save himself, Ahaz stole silver and gold from the Temple of God and bought protection from the king of Assyria. Later, while visiting that Assyrian king, Ahaz coveted the great altar in his heathen temple. Ahaz copied the design, and sent the drawings back to Urijah, the Temple priest, with the command to duplicate it’s intricate design and to place it in the Hebrew Temple.
When Ahaz returned, he went to the Temple and began offering sacrifices upon his newly constructed “Great Altar.” He then moved King Solomon’s original Bronze Altar to a place of obscurity. This blasphemous act led Ahaz to commit more crimes of desecration, and ended with “provoking the anger of the Lord, the God of his fathers.” (2 Chronicles 28:25)
There are several ghastly sins in this story to note: First, Solomon’s’ Bronze Altar was designed and positioned by God Himself. Ahaz had no permission to remove it (Exodus 27).
Second, Ahaz committed an act of irreverence when he assumed the priestly duties of offering sacrifices (1 Samuel 13).
Third, a government official had no authority to command the priest to build anything. The priest Urijah should have refused to build a sacrilegious altar. But Urijah willingly abdicated his God ordained responsibilities, and let the “government” take over (Numbers 3).
Even worse, Ahaz brought an innovation into the worship service of which God disapproved. Ahaz mixed the sensual and self-indulgent practices of pagan rituals with the holy worship God had ordained. Then, Ahaz removed the established Altar of God, and despised it’s veneration by previous generations. His unholy compromises led to failure in the kingdom, and the loss of God’s blessing.
What pleases man rarely pleases God (Galatians 1:10).
Ahaz probably enjoyed his contemporary Assyrian worship. But it did not please God. When Jesus taught about acceptable worship, He said, “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." (John 4:23-24 ESV).
God is seeking “Believers” to worship Him in the manner Jesus described. The principles of pagan worship are in direct conflict with righteous worship, so King Ahaz was dead wrong. Consider these somber words of Isaiah 29:13 NET, "These people say they are loyal to me; they say wonderful things about me, but they are not really loyal to me. Their worship consists of nothing but man-made ritual.”
Step back for a moment and prayerfully consider your worship of God. Is it sincere and authentic homage from the heart? Is God alone the object of your worship? Think it over.