TODAY’S READING: 2 KINGS 14-16
When we seek to be like God, to grasp equality with him, we exalt our mind and intellect and lose sight of the light, love, and life of God. This happened to Adam and Eve in the garden. It happened to King Ahaz. And, it happens to us too.
In 2 Kings 16, King Ahaz went to Damascus to meet with the king of Assyria, Tiglath-pileser. Ahaz saw the altar there and had Uriah the priest build a replica of the altar. Then, Ahaz put this altar in the temple, replacing the bronze altar, moving it to the north of the replica of the altar in Damascus. In 2 Kings 16:15, Ahaz said, “The bronze altar shall be for me to inquire by.”
The name Ahaz means he has grasped.
Isaiah 19:23-25 says, “In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and Assyria will come into Egypt, and Egypt into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians. In that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, ‘Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance.'”
Egypt, Assyria, and Israel represent three components of man and people that live in one of those three states. Egypt symbolizes the body or the flesh. Assyria symbolizes the mind, the intellect, and reason. And, ?israel symbolizes the spirit. Notice that all these belong to God and will be redeemed by him.
But, Ahaz replicated the altar of Damascus, the exaltation of the mind, the intellect, and reason. He put the altar of Assyria, Tiglath-pileser, in the temple of God, grasping to be like God through his mind, intellect, and reason.
In order to do this, Ahaz pushed the altar of bronze in the temple out of the way. He moved the altar of bronze to the north side of the temple. Only Ahaz was allowed to inquire of the altar of the bronze. The Hebrew word for inquire that Ahaz used is baqar. It has a much richer meaning that simply asking about a thing. Baqar means to carry out an examination of the offering, to attend to, to reflect.
This is interesting because the lampstand was on the south side of the temple. The lampstand shined forth the light of God, which represented the Holy Spirit and the revelation of God we receive from him.
So, Ahaz put the altar of the intellect, reason, and the mind between the lampstand on the south side of the temple and the altar of bronze on the north side. The altar of bronze was now in darkness. The lampstand, the revelation of the Holy Spirit, could no longer shine on the altar of bronze because Ahaz’ intellect, mind, and reason was in the way. By grasping to be like God, Ahaz blocked the light of God from shining on the altar on bronze. In Ahaz, we see ourselves trying to reflect on the sacrifice of Christ, to examine his offering, through our own intellect, reason, and mind. But, this is impossible as that puts the sacrifice of Christ in darkness.
The altar of bronze symbolized the judgment of Jesus Christ on the cross. The crucifixion of Christ is how we know love. The son of God loved us so much that he was willing to die for us. But, Ahaz’s grasping to be like God through his intellect, reason, and mind blinded him to the love of God.
Because, Ahaz was blinded to the love of God he could receive the life of God. God’s life is one of eternal submission or surrender. God’s life is marked by forgiveness as see in Jesus’ last words from the cross. Again, Ahaz’ intellect, reason, and mind blinded him to this as it cut off the revelation of the Spirit.
Isaiah 7:10-13 says, “Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz: ‘Ask a sign of the Lord your God; 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.’ And he said, ‘Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also?'”
Isn’t it interesting that God told Ahaz, the king who had moved the altar of bronze into darkness, to ask him for sign? The word ask here is just your standard word for asking or inquiring about something. God wanted to reveal himself to Ahaz. But, because Ahaz was grasping to be like God through his own intellect, reason, and mind, Ahaz put himself above simply asking God a question, even when God explicitly asked him to do so. Ahaz preferred to stay in the darkness of his own reasoning.
But, God gave him a sign anyway. Isaiah 7:14 says, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Again, isn’t interesting the sign – a virgin giving birth to a son – that God gives to the one who blocks the revelation of the Spirit in favor of his own intellect and reason? God gives a sign that seems impossible by natural understanding.
Like Ahaz, when we grasp with our own intellect, reason, and mind, then we will put the very nature of God, his light, love, and life, in darkness. We will never be able to understand who God is.
Therefore, we cannot have the mind of Ahaz. We must have the mind of Christ. What is the mind of Christ?
Philippians 2:5-8 says, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Jesus Christ, even those he was God, did not grasp to be equal with God. Instead, he submitted to God as a servant. This is what led Jesus to the cross, the altar of bronze. It was the lack of grasping by Jesus that made the cross possible. Therefore, this is why we cannot understand the cross, the very nature of God, when we grasp at God with our own minds.