King Ahaz then gave these orders to Uriah the priest: “On the large new altar, offer the morning burnt offering and the evening grain offering, the king’s burnt offering and his grain offering, and the burnt offering of all the people of the land, and their grain offering and their drink offering. Splash against this altar the blood of all the burnt offerings and sacrifices. But I will use the bronze altar for seeking guidance” (emphasis added).
2 Kings 16:15 (NIV)
After King Ahaz visited the king of Assyria in Damascus, he built a replica of it. The altar Ahaz copied wasn’t an altar to the Lord, but Ahaz had it copied nevertheless and put into the Lord’s Temple. In 2 Kings 16:15, we see Ahaz directing Uriah, the priest, to offer sacrifices on the new altar, but the old one (the one to the Lord), Ahaz would keep around so he could use it to inquire of the Lord.
Consider the irony in 2 Kings 16:15. Instead of serving God wholeheartedly, Ahaz divides his worship between God and foreign gods. Gods, which are no gods at all. Furthermore, Ahaz doesn’t really give anything in worship to God on his altar. Instead, Ahaz worships how he pleases by offering sacrifices to false gods but keeps God around when he needs help.
Although we shake our heads at Ahaz and this behavior, how often do we seek the guidance of other things before we turn to the Lord? While we aren’t likely building physical altars for sacrifices, we must be careful not to make altars within our hearts to anything other than God.
In Jeremiah 17, the Lord gives us this insight.
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?
Jeremiah 17:9 (NIV)
As I’ve said, no one here is building physical altars to false gods, but we must be careful to not create them in our hearts. Because the heart is deceitful above all things, the only way we can be careful not to let sin creep into our hearts and start building altars is to go before the Lord, asking him to reveal our hearts to us. Psalm 139:24 is excellent when asking the Lord to show your heart.
See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Psalm 139:24 (NIV)
Even though you might think you’re okay, we should consider what Paul said to the Corinthians.
So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!
1 Corinthians 10:12 (NIV)