Week of July 5

Reflections on Our Nation's Dependence

Read: 2 Kings 15-16; Hosea 1; Hebrews 1

“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.”
2 Kings 16:7, ESV


“The strength of a man’s virtue should not be measured by his special exertions, but by his habitual acts” (Blaise Pascal). I believe that these words hold true for an individual and a nation. Governing is extraordinarily difficult in times of calm, but it must be overwhelming in times of great stress. It should not surprise us today to be reminded that the ruin of a great people and nation rarely happens suddenly or because of one leader. Let’s reflect upon the true essence of our greatness as a nation today and resolve to strengthen our ties to the God who has blessed us.

A Biblical Lens

“These are the times that try men’s souls.”
(Thomas Paine in The American Crisis, December 1776)
King Ahaz entered the palace at age 20 and immediately faced geo-political stresses from various nations (ca. 735 B.C.; NAC). His was a trying time to say the least! As King Jotham’s reign drew to its close, the situation in the region began to unravel. Rezin, the Aramean king, and Pekah, Israel’s king began to invade Judah (15:37). Notice that the author of 2 Kings sees the Lord as permitting these things to happen (“the Lord began to send”; EBC; NAC). This was a test to see what type of spiritual fiber that Ahaz would exhibit. He did not fare well on the exam! Our current age has proven to be a great testing time, has it not? Reflect upon our need for leaders who will be able to withstand the trials they must face. Then, pray for them each day.
“I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure that it will cost us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the gloom I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory. I can see that the end is worth more than the means.”
(John Adams in Letter to Abigail Adams, July 3, 1776)
Ahaz failed to count the cost of leading the theocracy and proved to be one of the most wicked kings in Judah’s history. We may easily conclude that he refused to count the cost of genuine commitment to God’s covenant. He and the people suffered greatly as a result. A catalogue of egregious sins that were odious to the Lord will be found in 2 Kings 16. He committed idolatry (16:4); participated in child sacrifice (16:3; “He even burned his son”); forged a godless alliance with a foreign power rather than God (16:7); commissioned a pagan altar to replace the bronze altar of the Lord in the temple (16:10); and willfully became a vassal of state of Assyria.

This ruler caused deep moral harm to the nation. God values human life, but King Ahaz showed time and time again that he did not care about God's people. He demonstrated no regard for his people physically and spiritually and played war games with their security. Reflect upon the importance of human life and the need for leaders who will respect it. Then pray for leaders who will care about the people they govern.
There never was a strong character that was not made strong by discipline of the will; there never was a strong people that did not rank subordination and discipline among the signal virtues. Subjection to moods is the mark of a deteriorating morality. There is no baser servitude than that of the man whose caprices are his masters, and a nation composed of such men could not long preserve its liberties.
(Ralph Waldo Emerson)
It may surprise us, but Ahaz harvested the full fruit of rebellion that had been sown by his father and grandfather before him (cf. EBC). Goodness, he grew an orchard of idolatry out of the seeds that the previous generations had sown into the fertile soil of that nation’s heart. His reign was drastically different than their previous reigns, but we must realize that systemic spiritual compromise had been nurtured for many years before he ascended the throne (cf. 15:5-7, 35). His predecessors had permitted what seemed to be measured concessions with foreign religious practices, but Ahaz would transgress God’s covenant in heinous ways (cf. 16:3 with Leviticus 18:21; 20:1-5; Deuteronomy 12:31; 2 Kings 21:6).

Political forces put pressure upon him which he sought to resolve by becoming a “dedicated polytheist” with the hope that some god might be able to deliver him. Reflect upon the moral implications of the first sentence in our Declaration of Independence. We are reminded in that founding document that governors and governments fall beneath the authority of the God of nature and his laws (i.e. Creation). Ahaz ruled within a theocracy, and we, of course, have established a democracy. Nevertheless, both forms of government fall beneath the One who ultimately governs (Romans 13:1). Reflect upon the critical need not to compromise our loyalty to the God who reigns supreme over every form of government. Let’s make a moral application of “lordship” to our lives today.

A Moral Pathway

All who know me would never testify that I have a green thumb, nor would they claim that I would succeed at managing a greenhouse. Horticulture is a foreign culture to me. Enter Fred Neal! That man can do just about anything from wood working to gardening. We built a home in Midland where I served as pastor, and we needed some landscaping. Fred offered us a live oak tree which could handle the West Texas weather extremes of heat and cold. “Offered,” I soon learned, meant that he would transport the whole tree, dig the 4’ x 4’ hole in which to plant it, then continue to check on its progress over a period of time! He wanted to make sure that it lived! That tree grew strong and became a beautiful part of our home. In Ashlock speak, Fred knew that proper rooting and ongoing grooming were necessary for later blooming!

Here is the moral message for our reflection today on this Independence Day. There is no fruit of liberty without the root of responsibility. George W. Truett once said, “The Christianity of our Baptist people from Alpha to Omega, lives and moves and has its whole being in the realm of the doctrine of the Lordship of Christ. He must be given the absolute pre-eminence in all things” (George W. Truett, A Texas Baptist History Sourcebook). Leaders rise and fall, come and go, but their success depends upon where they stand in relationship to the Lord. His purposes will be fulfilled. Our nation should also set aside time today (and every day) to celebrate its “dependence” on the Lord.

For Your Journaling

1. Take some time to reflect upon your family’s history. Look intentionally for “anchoring in the Lord” decisions that secured your people. Thank God for governing your home.

2. Reflect upon our nation’s history. Write down “anchoring in the Lord” moments that helped to secure us through these 244 years. Ask for God to sustain us in this turbulent time in history.

May all your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock