Saturday, October 14, 2006

Spineless Urijah

Ahaz was a wicked king of Judah. He offered his son in the fire. "And he sacrificed and made offerings on the high places and on the hills and under every green tree" (2 Kings 16:1-4). Rezin and Pekah challenged him in war, besieging Jerusalem. Rather than call on God, as Isaiah encouraged him, he summoned help from to Tiglath-Pileser of Assyria. Ahaz gave temple treasures to Tiglath and promised servitude. Tiglath came to the rescue, and God was forgotten.

Ahaz went up to Damascus to see Tiglath. While he was there Ahaz saw the altar that was at Damascus. And King Ahaz sent to Uriah the priest a model of the altar, and its pattern, exact in all its details. And Uriah the priest built the altar; in accordance with all that King Ahaz had sent from Damascus, so Uriah the priest made it, before King Ahaz arrived from Damascus. And when the king came from Damascus, the king viewed the altar. Then the king drew near to the altar and went up on it and burned his burnt offering and his grain offering and poured his drink offering and threw the blood of his peace offerings on the altar. And the bronze altar that was before the Lord he removed from the front of the house, from the place between his altar and the house of the Lord, and put it on the north side of his altar. And King Ahaz commanded Uriah the priest, saying, “On the great altar burn the morning burnt offering and the evening grain offering and the king’s burnt offering and his grain offering, with the burnt offering of all the people of the land, and their grain offering and their drink offering. And throw on it all the blood of the burnt offering and all the blood of the sacrifice, but the bronze altar shall be for me to inquire by.” Uriah the priest did all this, as King Ahaz commanded. (2 Kings 16:10-16 ESV. Note that the NASB uses Urijah, while ESV uses Uriah.) Here is an addition, plain and simple, unauthorized, presumptuous, and exceedingly sinful.

Ahaz was wicked; Urijah knew his wickedness. When the king ordered a new altar and set aside God's bronze altar, spineless priest Urijah went right along with him. The king was wicked, but the priest should have known better and should have maintained the integrity of the temple. He could have said no the Ahaz; he never even lifted his voice in protest to the shameless altar of Ahaz.

There is another priest, whom we can respect and should imitate his faith.

When Uzziah became strong and his heart proud, he acted corruptly and was unfaithful to the Lord his God, " for he entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense. Then Azariah the priest entered after him and with him eighty priests of the LORD, valiant men. They opposed Uzziah the king and said to him, “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron who are consecrated to burn incense. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have been unfaithful and will have no honor from the LORD God.” But Uzziah, with a censer in his hand for burning incense, was enraged; and while he was enraged with the priests, the leprosy broke out on his forehead before the priests in the house of the LORD, beside the altar of incense. Azariah the chief priest and all the priests looked at him, and behold, he was leprous on his forehead; and they hurried him out of there, and he himself also hastened to get out because the LORD had smitten him. King Uzziah was a leper to the day of his death; and he lived in a separate house, being a leper, for he was cut off from the house of the LORD" (2 Chron. 26:16-21).

Azariah was God's man and a faithful priest; Urijah the priest cowardly gave in Ahaz's self-made religion. He was perhaps more unfaithful to God than Ahaz, because he never lifted his voice against the sin. Whether you sacrifice on your own initiative or you add your own altar or add an instrument, you become unfaithful. When you are unwilling to speak against sin and presumption, you become just as guilty. Are you an Azariah or a Urijah?

Oh, by the way, Hezekiah cleansed the temple of Ahaz's unclean things (2 Chron. 29:5-13) and restored the utensils that Ahaz threw out. I wonder if indeed there are some things today that ought to be thrown out of God's holy place. Hezekiah and Azariah showed faithfulness by saying no to self-made religion.

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1 comment:

Phil Sanders said...

I received this email from JBlogger:

Phil said, "We have no reason to believe that Jesus bound himself in the traditions of the Rabbis."

- Did he ever attend a synagogue?
- Did he attend the celebration of Hannukah?
- Did he not tell his listeners to live as the Jewish teachers taught (but not as they lived) because they sat in Moses' seat?

So, I will answer in order:

1. Synagogue:
I can see little reason to think that Jews needed authorization to pray, to study the Bible, and to sing psalms on the Sabbath. But since the synagogue is not mentioned in the OT and is found in the New, it seems that this deserves an answer.

F. F. Bruce noted that “express authorization, if such were necessary, might he found in a passage like Psa. 50:5. Others pointed to such passages as Psa. 74:8 and Ezra 8:17 as possible references to gatherings. The ancient Jews in their targums on Ex. 18:20 taught that Moses himself instituted the synagogue. Whether these passages explicitly teach a synagogue system is beside the point. The point is that God’s people met to worship, to pray and to study His Word. That is certainly authorized; who can find any fault in that?

It is incorrect, however, to assume that Jesus approved of every action of every synagogue. Jesus opposed many abuses of the synagogue. He opposed the exalting of men to seats of authority (Matt. 23:1-2). He opposed the man-made laws of those who were in authority roles, such as those who made laws for the Sabbath (Matt. 12:9-14). He opposed those who would throw someone out of the fellowship of the synagogue for professing belief in Himself (John 9; 12:42,43). Jesus approved the right and condemned the wrong with regard to the synagogue. We would expect this from the Son of God.

Since there is authorization for the practices of studying, prayer and worship, then certainly Jesus was right to do these things in the synagogue. Jesus approved what was authorized. But Jesus stood against presumptuous traditions and presumptuous men who went beyond the will of God. Jesus practiced silence that was prohibitive; He participated only in that which was authorized.

2. Hanukkah:
2 Maccabees 10:5–7 describes the “festival of purification” which attended the sanctification of the Temple by the men of Judas Maccabees in 164 B.C. This festival was modeled on the Feast of Tabernacles and later became known as Hanukkah.
Green, J. B., McKnight, S., & Marshall, I. H. (1997, c1992). Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (electronic ed.) (239). Downers Grove: InterVarsity.

Judas Maccabeus was at the beginning of Hanukkah. After initial victories, he was able to have the defiled temple of Jerusalem purified and rededicated (1 Macc 4:36–59; 2 Macc 10:1–8; Megillat Ta’anit). This event was and is remembered in the Jewish feast of Hanukkah (“dedication”; cf. Jn 10:22).
Porter, S. E., & Evans, C. A. (2000). Dictionary of New Testament background : A compendium of contemporary biblical scholarship (electronic ed.). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

While Jn 10:22 mentions the Feast of the Dedication, we do not have any Scriptural evidence that Jesus kept this Feast. Hanukkah, the Feast of Dedication, was not a required pilgrimage festival, but the eight-day celebration of lights in the temple was beautiful, and many pious Jews from nearby Galilee would come to Jerusalem.
Keener, C. S., & InterVarsity Press. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary : New Testament (Jn 10:22). Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.

As far as purifying the temple, what we should note about Jesus is that he cleansed the temple of money-changers and thieves.

We have no evidence Jesus celebrated the Feast of Dedication. We only have evidence, he was in Jerusalem at the time. in context Jesus had come to Jerusalem at the time of the festival of booths, a few weeks before. It could be this is merely a means of dating the events of John 10.

3. Matthew 23:1-3 says:
Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples,2 saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses;3 therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them.

The statement Jesus is making here is a general one. To suggest that Jesus is giving permission in 23:1-3 to do what he forbids in Matt. 15:1-14 is simply incredulous.

Again, I assert, that Jesus never felt compelled to obey Jewish traditions that taught practices outside the word of God. In fact, he argued against them.

I hope this answers your questions.