So Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, saying, “I am your servant and your son. Come up and rescue me from the hand of the king of Syria and from the hand of the king of Israel, who are attacking me.” Ahaz also took the silver and gold that was found in the house of the LORD and in the treasures of the king’s house and sent a present to the king of Assyria. 2 Kings 16:7-8
Reading these two verses shows that Ahaz (king of Judah) is being attacked by Syria and Israel. Ahaz is very eager to recruit help, but he really does much more than that and it really is a puzzle why. In verse 5 of II Kings 16 the text tells us that these two kings were waging war against Judah, but that they could not conquer them. While Ahaz may have needed some help, why go to king of Assyria? The first sentence of his message astounds me. “I am your servant and your son.” What does that communicate? To me it sounds like a prayer he should be praying to God. Yet he seems to be offering up prayers to this Assyrian king! Ahaz asks for help and removes silver and gold from God’s house as well as his own treasure to offer as a gift to this pagan king. Shouldn’t he be offering prayers and gifts to the God of Judah? According to John MacArthur, “Ahaz willingly became a vassal of the Assyrian king in exchange for his military intervention. This was a pledge that Judah would serve Assyria from this point on.”
Let’s step back a bit. Isaiah was a prophet during this time and warned Ahaz about this very situation. God did not leave Ahaz; God spoke to him, yet Ahaz refused to listen. He honored the king of Assyrian and prayed to him instead of the true King. Listen to what it says in Isaiah chapter 7:
In the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, son of Uzziah, king of Judah, Rezin the king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah the king of Israel came up to Jerusalem to wage war against it, but could not yet mount an attack against it. When the house of David was told, “Syria is in league with Ephraim,” the heart of Ahaz and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind.
And the LORD said to Isaiah, “Go out to meet Ahaz, you and Shear-jashub your son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the Washer’s Field. And say to him, ‘Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two smoldering stumps of firebrands, at the fierce anger of Rezin and Syria and the son of Remaliah. . . thus says the Lord GOD: “It shall not stand, and it shall not come to pass.” Isaiah 7:1-4,7
You will notice God says to Ahaz: be careful, be quiet, and do not fear – some very wise advice in the midst of a crisis. But Ahaz does not listen, he is not careful or quiet, and he is definitely responding in fear. In verse 9 there is a warning from Isaiah, “If you will not believe, you surely shall not last.” (NASB)
Continuing in verse 10-11 we find an amazing encounter between God and Ahaz; it shows how this foolish king feels about God. “Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, ‘Ask a sign of the LORD yourGod; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.’ But Ahaz said, ‘I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test.’” Is he crazy? God comes to him and tells him to ask for a sign and clarifies that it can be anything (as deep as Sheol or high as heaven). Yet what does Ahaz say? He responds with contempt and disobedience. The first phrase says it all, “I will not ask.” God wants to show Ahaz a sign – that he will deliver Judah, yet this is the response.
Whether we are a king like Ahaz or just a common subject, like you and me, we can all fall into the trap of running to the wrong king. Ahaz jumped at the chance to sell himself and his nation into the hands of a pagan king, while all the time God planned to save him. If we find ourselves in a situation with no way out, we should listen to the counsel of God.
1) Be careful – to follow God in faithfulness and prayer, least we find ourselves praying to the wrong king!
2) Be quiet – so we can still ourselves and listen to God. I shudder to think of any of us saying to God, “I will not ask,” when his protection and provision have been provided.
3) Do not fear – this is the biggest problem of all. How many foolish mistakes do we make out of fear. When two kings come against us, we run to God. He is always our answer.
Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. Isaiah 8:12-13