In this small summary of Ahaz’s rule we learn that he did not trust the living God, but rather, when Syria and Israel joined forces to attack Judah and Jerusalem, Ahaz trusted instead to the power of a foreign kingdom, submitting his rule and his kingdom as vassals to Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, giving the silver and gold from the Lord’s temple as a gift to the foreign king.
Ahaz was very religious, commanding many offerings…
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
But in his religiousness, he did not please God. In fact, it seems he did not really know God. Ahaz was a wicked king.
He did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord his God… He even burned his son as an offering.
Burning his son was probably in worship of Molech. He also imported the latest fashion in altars from Damascus in Assyria, and had the priest Uriah build the altar and offer sacrifices on it. Of course Ahaz didn’t just bring a pagan altar into the Lord’s temple, he had to move aside, alter and remove the things of the Lord.
Contrast this with Paul’s opening of his letter to the Philippians.
Paul’s constant prayers and thanks to God are not signs of religion, but relationship. He talks of joy, and partnership in the gospel and sharing in grace. Paul yearns for the Philippians with the affection of Christ Jesus, and prays that their love may abound more and more. These all speak to relationship. A deep relationship with God and fellowship with fellow believers.
As the world looks at the church today (and at our church today), will they see religion or relationship? I can think of no more fitting response this morning than to echo Paul’s prayer for our own church.
… it is my prayer that [our] love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that [we] may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.