Put that altar right back where you found it
2Kings 16: The old bronze Altar that signaled the presence of God he displaced from its central place.
The march of the kings of Israel and Judah continues as I read through this book of Kings. A few get passing marks, although no one earns an “A.” Most, though, are viewed as failures. Ahaz of Judah is singled out as an example of major failure. We’re told that he put his own son to death in a pagan “passing through the fire” ritual. When the country is under attack he never considers calling out to God. Instead, he pays the king of Assyria a “king’s ransom” to rescue him from his enemies. Much of the payment comes from stripping the Temple of its gold and silver. Once the war is over, Ahaz visits his new master in Damascus. The altar of pagan worship there really impresses him, so he has a copy of it made. He moves off to the side the old Altar that has served for many generations as the place for sacrificing to the Lord God and replaces it with his “new and improved version.” Of course, this isn’t told in praise of Ahaz. Instead, it’s told as an example of his spiritual failure. Today, I am not thinking so much about replacing the old church pews with new chairs or even replacing the old altars (mourner’s benches) with something more modern. Rather, I’m thinking that there are some basic elements to our relationship with the Lord that can’t be “upgraded.” Consider, for instance, the spiritual basic of prayer. It’s irreplaceable. We talk a lot about the importance of prayer and for good reason; it’s as central to spiritual life as is breathing to physical life. It’s not that big of a deal to change the type of songs we sing to something more modern, or to add some new technology to assist in worship. However, it’s a big deal to downgrade the importance of a spiritual discipline like prayer or the reading of the Word. We mustn’t push these fundamentals off to the side to make room for some new worship “innovation.”
Take Away: Be sure to keep central things central.