After Jotham came King Ahaz, who was a very religious man but hated God. He imported idols and religious practices from all over the world and set the example by sacrificing his own children to these idols. He gathered up all the holy vessels of the Temple and cut them in pieces so that they couldn’t be used, then shut the doors of the Temple. He did everything he could to show his contempt for God.
As a result, God allowed enemies on every side to create havoc in Judah. Entire cities had to flee their homes and their enemies came and lived in them. Many were killed or captured and taken into slavery. When Ahaz died, the people refused to let him be buried in the tombs of the kings.
After Ahaz followed his son, King Hezekiah.
"In the first year of his reign, in the first month, [Hezekiah] opened the doors of the house of the Lord and repaired them. He brought in the priests and the Levites and assembled them in the square on the east and said to them, 'Hear me, Levites! Now consecrate yourselves, and consecrate the house of the Lord, the God of your fathers, and carry out the filth from the Holy Place. For our fathers have been unfaithful and have done what was evil in the sight of the Lord our God. They have forsaken him and have turned away their faces from the habitation of the Lord and turned their backs. They also shut the doors of the vestibule and put out the lamps and have not burned incense or offered burnt offerings in the Holy Place to the God of Israel. Therefore the wrath of the Lord came on Judah and Jerusalem, and he has made them an object of horror, of astonishment, and of hissing, as you see with your own eyes.'"
2 Chronicles 29:3-8
Under Hezekiah’s leadership, the nation was brought back from the brink of utter destruction. It was a long struggle because so many of the people had embraced the false religions of Ahaz and didn’t want to give them up. They liked the sinful lifestyle that those false religions promoted. They thought the religion of the Bible was old fashioned and boring compared to the excitement of sexual promiscuity and human sacrifice, which were a part of these other religions.
God took the nation through some very hard times in this process. Some of the consequences of their faithlessness were allowed to stand so that He could purify the faith of His children, at the same time that He did great miracles on their behalf to protect those who turned back to Him.
God never abandons His beloved people, although we seem to be abandoning Him constantly. He always keeps His promises. He binds Himself to His Word. II Timothy 2:13 says, "If we are faithless, He remains faithful - for He cannot deny Himself."
His promise of mercy and forgiveness is always there for you and me, and for any person, family, or nation whose heart turns back to Him.
Thank You, Lord, for always standing by Your Word. Thank You that the promises You have made to me in Scripture, in my Baptism, and each time I receive Communion are still good, in spite of my wandering heart and my many sinful choices. Lord, keep my heart. Give me the gift of true repentance and true faith. Let Your blessing be on my life, my family, and my country as we fix our hearts on You, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Pastor Dan Giles