This current story begins Jotham as a young king. He did not quite do everything that would have made the community great, He still encouraged doing things well. He sounds like many leaders today, he might not be great in any popular sense, but at the end of the day, the country was still intact and the worship of God was still standing. There was relative peace. It’s a great start of a story, but the story does not end there. After Jotham dies, His son takes over the country, but he does not live like his father.
Ahaz, Jotham’s son, was the next king and was described as evil. He allowed many pagan things to be prominent in the country. As the story moves forward, it becomes apparent that Ahaz does not fully trust God to rescue. In the moment of disaster, he began an alliance with Assyria which would shape Israelite culture. Assyria comes to its rescue, but not without a price. The Assyrian King meets with Ahaz and in the process Ahaz gets guidance on how to run the religion. By the end of the chapter, Ahaz has made the religion of Israel to look like the religion of Assyria. It seems strange enough that this King decided to allow these changes to the religion. Most people have a hard time with these kind of changes and would prefer for the status quo to be upheld in matters that do not matter, like the color of the carpet or a minor detail in the structure of a temple. What Ahaz did was not that menial. Ahaz began making Israel’s religion into the image of the Assyrian religion, which was dangerous, since Assyria was not taking the same path God had laid out for the world.
A look at ancient history shows us that Assyrian culture was violent, oppressive, and based on utilizing force for influence. Their religion helped support that justification of violence utilized for control. Ahaz’s transformation of the religion was not simply being progressive change of the practices of faith, but changing it into something that God was trying to avoid. If you compare the Law of God in the first five books of the Bible and the religious/political law of Assyria, you begin to see that violence was much more prevalent in this culture. God was always trying to make a better world for everyone. Assyria was trying to make a world that fit them. It’s not bad to make changes in a religion, but when your religion is based on faith, hope and love, and you start to tear that away from the canvas, you begin to endanger the very essence of what God created.
The question that raises for us is are we willing to give up what we stand for in order to survive. Now before we begin any conversation about fighting for the survival of Christianity, let me begin by saying that we are to reflect a savior whose defense against His oppressors was dying by their hands. There may be times to struggle in a physical sense against something or someone, but we cannot let it eradicate our call to love our enemies and bring hope to everyone. The core of our faith is King YHWH loving us and allowing us to be apart of His grand scheme. Are we doing that with those around us? Are we being inclusive hope? Are we helping people realize their potential in Jesus? Are we willing to carry that kind of work when it endangers us and the ones we love? That is what faith means in Christianity. It means being passionate well into the painful storms of life and knowing that one day all of this traveling on the path God laid out for us will lead to place of glory, honor, and peace.