Ahaz goes to Damascus to greet his benefactor and protector, the king of Assyria. It seems that the place of meeting is the altar in Damascus. Ahaz is impressed by that altar. It is a great altar (verse 1515Then King Ahaz commanded Urijah the priest, saying, “Upon the great altar burn the morning burnt offering and the evening meal offering and the king’s burnt offering and his meal offering, with the burnt offering of all the people of the land and their meal offering and their drink offerings; and sprinkle on it all the blood of the burnt offering and all the blood of the sacrifice. But the bronze altar shall be for me to inquire [by].”). Possibly it is an originally Assyrian altar. He sees that the gods of Assyria have helped them. Now he also wants to secure the favor of these gods and sacrifice to them. Therefore he wants to have an altar like theirs.
While he is still in Damascus, he sends a pattern of it to the priest Uria. Uria is a faithful man (Isa 8:2a2And I will take to Myself faithful witnesses for testimony, Uriah the priest and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah.”), but also a man without a backbone. He has no strength to say no. He does what he has been told, and even so quickly, that the altar is ready before Ahaz is back. When Ahaz is in Jerusalem again and sees the altar, he approaches the altar and sacrifices on it. Verse 1212When the king came from Damascus, the king saw the altar; then the king approached the altar and went up to it, speaks emphatically about Ahaz as “king” (three times in this verse). There is a strong similarity with the first king Jeroboam and his altar (1Kgs 12:32-3332Jeroboam instituted a feast in the eighth month on the fifteenth day of the month, like the feast which is in Judah, and he went up to the altar; thus he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves which he had made. And he stationed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made.33Then he went up to the altar which he had made in Bethel on the fifteenth day in the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised in his own heart; and he instituted a feast for the sons of Israel and went up to the altar to burn incense.). We have to conclude that Jeroboam and his altar service have now entered Judah.
The sacrifices Ahaz brings (verse 1313and burned his burnt offering and his meal offering, and poured his drink offering and sprinkled the blood of his peace offerings on the altar.), we know from Leviticus 1-7. Remarkable is that the sin offering is missing. It emphasizes that his service is only an external service. There is no sense of sin. He arranges everything as he sees fit. It is totally a self-willed religion. We also see this when he removes the bronze altar of burnt offering from the place where it belongs and instead places his own imitation altar (verse 1414The bronze altar, which [was] before the LORD, he brought from the front of the house, from between [his] altar and the house of the LORD, and he put it on the north side of [his] altar.). The altar of Ahaz must be central.
The altar of the LORD is not completely removed. It is placed at a distance, so that it reminds of the LORD’s service in the distance, as it were, at the place where it stands.
Ahaz determines that from now on the great altar, his altar, must be used to bring the prescribed sacrifices (verse 1515Then King Ahaz commanded Urijah the priest, saying, “Upon the great altar burn the morning burnt offering and the evening meal offering and the king’s burnt offering and his meal offering, with the burnt offering of all the people of the land and their meal offering and their drink offerings; and sprinkle on it all the blood of the burnt offering and all the blood of the sacrifice. But the bronze altar shall be for me to inquire [by].”). He ordered the priest Uria to see to it that it happens as he had ordered. The bronze altar of the LORD is dismissed for him as for the sacrificial service to the true God. Instead, he makes it a place where he can approach demons to seek their advice.
Ahaz’s drive for innovation knows no bounds. The next part of the old worship that is removed is the bronze sea that stands on twelve oxen. He cuts off the borders of the stands, and removes the laver from them (verse 1717Then King Ahaz cut off the borders of the stands, and removed the laver from them; he also took down the sea from the bronze oxen which were under it and put it on a pavement of stone.). He also takes down the sea from the bronze oxen. He settles (in this picture) with the thought that cleanliness is necessary to be able to do service in the house of the LORD.
The oxen are not a decoration for the bronze sea, but form the basis for cleansing. It is a picture that speaks of the fact that cleansing must be done on the ground of the sacrifice of Christ. Oxen speak of His service which He continually performs for us. That foundation is replaced by a stone floor, a foundation made by people.
The covered way for the sabbath is also sacrificed for its innovativeness (verse 1818The covered way for the sabbath which they had built in the house, and the outer entry of the king, he removed from the house of the LORD because of the king of Assyria.). What exactly the covered way for the sabbath has been is not clear. It is thought that there is a covered place in the temple where the king sat on the sabbath during his visit to the temple. This may well be possible, because the removal of the covered way for sabbath is linked to the removal of “the outer entry of the king” (cf. 1Kgs 10:55the food of his table, the seating of his servants, the attendance of his waiters and their attire, his cupbearers, and his stairway by which he went up to the house of the LORD, there was no more spirit in her.; Eze 46:1-21‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “The gate of the inner court facing east shall be shut the six working days; but it shall be opened on the sabbath day and opened on the day of the new moon.2The prince shall enter by way of the porch of the gate from outside and stand by the post of the gate. Then the priests shall provide his burnt offering and his peace offerings, and he shall worship at the threshold of the gate and then go out; but the gate shall not be shut until the evening.). It shows his contempt for the sabbath – which speaks of the rest of God and His people – and the absolute unwillingness as king to be connected to the dwelling place of God, with which he refuses to acknowledge that he can only be king if he acknowledges that God is his Lord.
He lets remove everything that reminds of the service of the true God. All his actions mean the abolition of true service to God. He establishes a religion that is completely to his taste. That is the tried and tested method of dealing with what God has to say about it. It is important to ask God how He wants us to worship. For us, that means that we consult His Word in an attitude of submission to what He says.
It does not mean that our worship must always follow certain fixed patterns through standard formulations. The Holy Spirit will show us different aspects each time for which we can and want to worship God. There is no liturgy to be devised.
Someone rightly said: We should not play with our worship and cheer it up with interviews and entertaining performances. Remarkably enough, he added: “In the church I serve, our worship is carefully planned so that we never have the same thing on two consecutive Sundays.
When I read this, I couldn’t help but feel that the writer himself acted after Ahaz’s model, which he first (rightly) accused. Isn’t the Holy Spirit the only One Who can lead the worship of the church in such a way that every time worship is different, new and fresh, and that it still meets the ancient truths of God’s Word (cf. Jn 4:23-2423But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.24God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”)?