As I read my Bible calendar’s portion for the day, I was soon struck by how accurately it accompanied some thoughts I have been ruminating upon this week. The passage was 2 Chronicles 28 and 29, detailing the history of two kings of Judah—Ahaz and his successor Hezekiah.
2 Chronicles 28:1 “Ahaz was twenty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem: but he did not that which was right in the sight of the Lord, like David his father: For he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, and made also molten images for Baalim.”
This whole chapter is saddening—Ahaz gave up all semblance of serving the God of his fathers and erased all the lines that previous kings had drawn. He made idols; he burnt his children in the fire as an offering to false gods; he sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places; he destroyed the vessels of the house of God; he shut up the doors of the temple; and he made himself altars in every corner instead. He did all the things that angered God, and because of him God sent horrible judgments upon the whole land of Judah.
2 Chronicles 29:1-3 “Hezekiah began to reign when he was five and twenty years old, and he reigned nine and twenty years in Jerusalem…And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done. He in the first year of his reign, in the first month, opened the doors of the house of the Lord, and repaired them.”
Hezekiah, however, was exactly the opposite of his predecessor. He followed the Lord with all his heart from the first month of his reign, showing this by opening up the doors Ahaz had closed and repairing the temple Ahaz had despised. He made it his mission to take back all the standards the last generation had given up. He made God and God’s house important again, made holiness honorable, called for sanctified priests. Hezekiah brought revival.
Judah went through a huge change under Ahaz’s leadership, and an even greater change in the other direction under Hezekiah. Both men held heavy influence over their country, and used it in very different ways. One brought the land to its knees by his wickedness, the other raised it up by righteousness.
Every generation has a choice which direction it will go. It only takes one generation to lose freedoms that have taken centuries to win. Christians through the ages have resisted conformity to the world and its lies, but we are always one step away from the apathy that leads to apostasy. Each person, each family, each church, each generation must decide to stand for truth and not give up.
Ahaz denied the righteousness that had made his country great and tore down all the standards that kept it so. Hezekiah had to bring them back. His son Manasseh was the most wicked king Judah ever had and made the land stink in the sight of God. But his grandson Josiah returned Judah to the Lord and cleansed the vileness away. History is scored with revivals, backslidings, and again revivals, because history is a giant clock whose pendulum must swing between two extremes. But just because history recycles itself does not mean we have to recycle with it. We can choose to stand firm on the Bible when others do not. We can refuse to float with the current of Godlessness and instead swim against it. Christians do not have to backslide with culture.
How do Jewish kings from thousands of years ago have anything to do with us in the 21st century? This. We live in a country that was founded, as was Judah, on God and His Word, but is now shutting God out of every decision it makes. Church is no longer important. Christ is no longer popular. Holiness is no longer encouraged.
2 Chronicles 29:6-8 “For our fathers have trespassed, and done that which was evil in the eyes of the Lord our God, and have forsaken him, and have turned away their faces from the habitation of the Lord, and turned their backs. Also they have shut up the doors of the porch, and put out the lamps, and have not burned incense nor offered burnt offerings in the holy place unto the God of Israel. Wherefore the wrath of the Lord was upon Judah and Jerusalem, and he hath delivered them to trouble, to astonishment, and to hissing, as ye see with your eyes.”
And it’s not the heathen that are doing this. It is God’s people. Christians are ignoring church, losing standards, leaving prayer, and scorning repentance. Many have turned their faces away from God toward the world like Lot’s wife did, and when the face turns, the rest of the body tends to go with it. We get tired of resisting our flesh. We start to wonder if what our parents believed is actually worth fighting for to protect and pass on. The truth begins to blur and the lines of separation fade once we believe we are wrong for standing in resistance as the tide of the world creeps higher and higher around us.
I know how confusing it can be when standards you thought were solid are condemned by people who are considered spiritual giants. I have been grappling with this ever since my family returned to the States for our furlough last year. Things I thought made perfect sense apparently don’t make sense to other Christians—such as, my belief that those who follow Jesus have no business listening to the music of those who follow the devil. Ways I had been taught were Godly are being labeled as Pharasaical—such as, wearing skirts for every activity and quoting the Bible in random situations and not using euphemisms. Instead of principle, political correctness seems the right thing. Instead of a higher standard of personal convictions, a lower standard is taught to be most like Christ.
I wonder if that is how some Judeans felt when Ahaz started tearing down pillars of morality and replacing them with his own whims. Certainly there was a remnant who did not agree with their king. Perhaps it was by that remnant that Hezekiah was raised—how else could he be so unlike his father? Whatever the case, Hezekiah chose to reverse the evil and take back the good. And in every generation there are Hezekiahs. I want to be one. I don’t need a high position like his to make a difference—and I don’t need to turn an entire country back to God. I just want to take back the standards of righteousness that make us Christians so distinct. To “do that which was right in the sight of the Lord,” and maybe influence a few others to do the same.
Are you right now an Ahaz or a Hezekiah? Are you trying to tear down spiritual landmarks or keep them strong? Are you allowing yourself to be corrupted by the world or are you allowing yourself to be sanctified by the Holy Spirit and God’s Word?