How Christians Can Learn About Choices From The King Ahaz Situation
Posted by Job on September 19, 2008
McDonald’s or Burger King. Coke or Pepsi. To study medicine or law. Bluegrass or country. Ford or Chevrolet (or Toyota). Fish or cut bait. McCain or Obama (or none of the above). Life is full of choices. Some of them are of little consequence, like those above. But others are weighty matters that will affect us and many other people for a long time. When it is a big thing, or even if it is a small issue, what we as Christians must do is always let the Word of God and the commandments therein be our guide. Also if time permits commit the matter to prayer or even consult our local pastors and trusted spiritually mature people that we are in fellowship with.
The reason is that whether it is the result of external forces or some of our own previous choices – including the choice to follow Jesus Christ and not the world – we are often confronted with situations where there seems to be no good choice, no right thing. We seem to be stuck in a situation where we have to evaluate several evils and pick the lesser one. That may be man’s way of dealing with issues – especially in our culture where we are not only often impulsive, impatient, but socialized into believing that we can be the master of our destinies and deal with whatever consequences come our way – but it is not God’s way as revealed to us in scripture. God’s way is to always do what we know to be right according to the Bible, and yes sometimes that does include doing nothing! Now if you cannot figure out for yourself what the right thing to do is, again that is where consultations with your pastor or discussions with spiritually mature brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ are needed. And if those avenues fail to come up with a definite resolution that is scriptural and wise, then doing nothing – at least until you come up with a better resolution or direction – is advised. But please know that there are enemies of God at work, both personal and spiritual. One of their tactics is to cause you to believe that all you have before you are bad choices, and you must pick one of them.
That was the situation with King Ahaz in Isaiah 7-9. The dominant power in the region at the time was Assyria, which was conquering every nation in the area. To say that they were formidable is an understatement: they were vicious, cruel, ruthlessly efficient, and evil. They actually dedicated time and energy to coming up with new ways to brutalize, torture, and massacre large groups of people! The ultimate goal of Assyria was to conquer Egypt, and that meant conquering the smaller nations that were between Assyria and Egypt for tactical purposes. Some of the nations immediately surrendered to Assyria, but of course such an evil regime imposed crushing and humiliating religious, political, and financial terms for the privilege of being allowed a meager existence. Other nations resisted, but were quickly and totally defeated.
However, it appears that a group of small nations did form a coalition that met the Assyrians in battle, and while they did not defeat them, they slowed their advance. Also, internal problems in the empire forced the Assyrians to take time away from their conquering and tend to matters at home. For the few remaining nations, this was the only small sliver of a ray of hope that they had available to them – for they knew not the true God – so they took it. The northern kingdom of Israel (Ephraim) and what was left of Syria went to King Ahaz of Judah and proposed a coalition that would oppose Assyria’s next advance. Ahaz knew that the plan had no hope of succeeding, and further had his own internal issues to deal with, so he forbeared to join the alliance. Out of desperation, Syria and Ephraim made an alliance to depose Ahaz and install a puppet ruler on the throne of Judah that would allow Judah’s military resources to be used in a joint stand against Assyria.
So, Ahaz was faced with three bad choices, at least from his perspective. One: oppose Syria and Ephraim and certainly die shortly at their hands. Two: join forces with Syria and Ephraim and certainly die later at the hands of the Assyrians. Three: ask a power greater than Syria and Ephraim for help. The two options for choice three: Assyria and Egypt. Ahaz knew that Egypt was Assyria’s ultimate goal and that Assyria would just as surely defeat Egypt as they had everyone else, so choice three was go to Assyria for help. So, choice three was the only option that preserved Ahaz’s own life as far as he knew. Not surprisingly, Ahaz took it. And the consequences of this bad choice were, well, bad. Not only was it against God’s law to seek alliances with pagan nations, but instead of being an alliance with Assyria the actual arrangement was Israel’s coming totally under subjection to that evil empire.
But what other choice could Ahaz have made that would have spared himself, his family, and his nation? The one that the prophet Isaiah ben Amoz offered to him that he rejected: trust not in the rulers, ways, alliances, wealth, powers, or things of this world. Instead have faith. Trust God. He will deliver you. Ahaz did not, and wound up inflicting a heavy cost on his nation and people. As a matter of fact, Israel later rebelled because of the harsh conditions imposed by the Assyrians, and wound up being attacked and nearly destroyed by that empire anyway! Jerusalem alone was spared, and even that was only because King Hezekiah succeeded where Ahaz failed and made the right choice. So despite breaking God’s law and submitting to Assyria’s huge burden of domination, all Ahaz did in choosing wrong was buy Israel some time, time which came at a heavy price. That is what you get when you try to pick the lesser of evils or the best of bad choices. You will still get evil, you will still make a bad choice. That is why simply trusting and obeying God is always the right thing to do.
After all, Ahaz’s choice was shown to be a foolish one anyway. Syria and Ephraim fell so quickly that it was obvious that they were never any military threat to Judah to begin with. The decision that Ahaz made to save his life in the short term was completely unnecessary! That is what happens when we put our trust in our own devices rather than relying totally on the hand of the living God. And when I say “totally” I mean just that. We cannot trust in our governments, in our jobs or bank accounts, in our friends or family … it must totally be in God. Now this is not to say that we should despise or disrespect these things. All good things come from God, so if you have a great family, outstanding local church, good job, etc. and especially a born again spouse, then meet your obligations to all and maintain Biblical relationships with all. It is just that in the course of doing so, know that God is the source of all of those blessings in your life, it is to God that you must be truly thankful, and as a result know that even your trusting and beneficial relationships in these areas are in truth extensions of your trust and relationship with God. That is why you must have Godly dealings in all of these areas, because if you deal falsely with anything that God has blessed you with, then you are in fact dealing falsely with God! So in the case of Ahaz, God gave him the throne of Israel, and Ahaz betrayed Israel by giving them over to Assyrian domination. This means that Ahaz dealt falsely with God as well.
You might say: “that was under the old covenant Israel, and it was God’s will that Judah be spared at that time. How do I know that if I just trust God, everything will be ok? That my sickness will be healed, that my finances will be fixed, that I will keep my job and home, that my marriage will be saved, that my kids will turn out all right, etc.” This is where knowing what covenant you are operating under comes into play. We are living under a new covenant with better promises. The promises of this covenant pertain to the next life and the world to come, not to this life. Its symbol is its guarantor, Jesus Christ, who gave up everything in this life to die on a cross on the promise that He would be resurrected from the dead and glorified on the right hand of the Father. Jesus Christ was offered the bad choice at the time of His temptation in the desert by Satan, which was the rule of the earth in this life. But Jesus Christ rejected that bad choice in favor of rule over the earth in the life to come. But it came at a price. Jesus Christ had to suffer many things before He was raised from the dead and glorified. As Christ did, we who are in Christ have to suffer many things before we are raised from the dead and receive our eternal reward with and reign with Jesus Christ also.
So we are not to trust God and be faithful because we are seeking a particular outcome in a particular situation in this life. We are to trust God and be faithful because we are seeking a SPECIFIC outcome, eternity in God’s presence in New Jerusalem, in the NEXT life. If we forbear in this, then we are not only like Ahaz, but like Esau, who sold his birthright for a bowl of soup. Esau lacked faith that as the son of the child of the promise (Isaac), the God who made the promise to his father and grandfather would bless and sustain him if he only chose right. As a result of the lack of faith – and the general lack of an obedient submissive nature that comes from not having a relationship with God and not knowing God’s ways – Esau chose wrong. Ahaz did the same. Despite being offered a chance at having a relationship with God and learning of His ways by being asked by the prophet Isaiah for a sign, Ahaz refused. Ahaz didn’t want a relationship with God. He just wanted a way out!
So does that description fit you? Are you under such pressure and conflict that you just want a way out, even if it means making a bad choice, something that you know is wrong? Take an example. Are you so frustrated in your bad marriage that you are going to run off with somebody else rather than have faith that God will give you the strength to cope? Or are you staying in a “marriage” where your “spouse” is inflicting great harm on you and/or your child because you lack faith that God will take care of you and the situation if you separate?
As I mentioned earlier, there are indeed tough issues with no easy answers. In the second situation, for instance, a woman might use what the Bible says against divorce as an excuse not to seek protection for herself and her child from a physically or sexually abusive husband. But that was similar to Ahaz’s reply to Isaac when he asked for a sign that under the law it was wrong to tempt God by asking for a sign! Ahaz responded in that fashion not because he wanted to obey the law, but because he had already decided to break the law by going to Assyria for help! We are not to conform scripture to our desires and situations. Instead, we are to conform ourselves to scripture. A sexually abusive husband is sexually immoral, freeing the woman to divorce. A physically abusive husband breaks the command of Paul for a man to honor a woman’s body as if it were his own, meaning that a woman is free to seek physical separation at least at minimum. But what prevents so many from taking advantage of the freedom (and responsibility) given by scripture is so often not their desire to obey what the Bible says about divorce, but their desire to avoid a lengthy uncertain stay in a homeless or battered woman’s shelter. In that respect, it becomes an Esau or Ahaz choice when consulting scripture, a pastor, or spiritually mature fellowservants can often result in a Hezekiah choice.
It may be difficult, it may not be what you want to do, but the ultimate truth is that despite what Satan and his workers or your own flesh would have you to believe, there is ALWAYS a right choice. We know that this is true by way of a promise of the Bible, which states that God will never allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear, but instead will always give you a way out. We also know from the Bible that God is not the author of sin, so God will never trap you in a situation where you are forced to sin. This should comfort and reassure us with with the knowledge that there is always a correct, proper, Godly, biblical thing to do. We just have to be willing to put in the effort to find out what it is, and then be willing to actually DO it. The correct thing may not be right in the eyes of the world. Quite the contrary, it may cost you your marriage and family, your job, your church home, and even land you in prison! And it may not bring the results that you desire in this life. Again, the will of God must be done, and it is God’s Will that we suffer many things, including pain, betrayal, and loss. The Bible says that the things that we suffer is part of our being reproved, and as such going through these things means that we are God’s children whom He loves and wants the best for. Instead, the struggle and labor to discern and act on the Biblical choice in every situation is something that we do in this life with our mind on the next life as an act of worship, praise, and submission to the God that is eternal.