Whenever believers stop the whole-hearted following of God and start following the ways of the world, there will always be a very high price to pay. Compromise always comes at a price, and Scripture is full of very clear examples of this.
One such example is found in the life of King Ahaz as recorded in 2 Chronicles 28 (and 2 Kings 16). This King of Judah was a rascal through and through. He did just about every wrong thing an Israelite king could do, and the accounts given in the Bible about his life make for some depressing reading. The first five verses of 2 Chronicles read this way:
“Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. Unlike David his father, he did not do what was right in the eyes of the LORD. He followed the ways of the kings of Israel and also made idols for worshiping the Baals. He burned sacrifices in the Valley of Ben Hinnom and sacrificed his children in the fire, engaging in the detestable practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites. He offered sacrifices and burned incense at the high places, on the hilltops and under every spreading tree. Therefore the LORD his God delivered him into the hands of the king of Aram. The Arameans defeated him and took many of his people as prisoners and brought them to Damascus. He was also given into the hands of the king of Israel, who inflicted heavy casualties on him.”
God of course cannot promise to be with his people when they live in such sin, compromise and rebellion. They can only get in trouble, and they certainly should not expect God to come along and bail them out. Indeed, they met major defeat because they “had forsaken the LORD” (v. 6), and because they “had been most unfaithful to the LORD” (v. 19).
Thus God forsook Ahaz. As the prophet Azariah had earlier said to King Asa, “The LORD is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you” (2 Chr 15:1-4). But as bad as all this was, we read about how Ahaz became even more unfaithful and evil:
“In his time of trouble King Ahaz became even more unfaithful to the LORD. He offered sacrifices to the gods of Damascus, who had defeated him; for he thought, ‘Since the gods of the kings of Aram have helped them, I will sacrifice to them so they will help me.’ But they were his downfall and the downfall of all Israel. Ahaz gathered together the furnishings from the temple of God and cut them in pieces. He shut the doors of the LORD’s temple and set up altars at every street corner in Jerusalem. In every town in Judah he built high places to burn sacrifices to other gods and aroused the anger of the LORD, the God of his ancestors” (vv. 22-25).
This guy was really bad news. But I want to especially highlight what is recorded in v. 3: “He burned sacrifices in the Valley of Ben Hinnom and sacrificed his children in the fire, engaging in the detestable practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites.”
The King was doing what the pagans had been doing, and what Israel was meant to have destroyed as it entered Canaan. These “detestable practices” were horrendous – in this case we are speaking about actual child sacrifice to false gods.
A major reason why the Canaanites had forfeited their right to exist in Canaan was these very practices. God used the Israelites as an instrument of judgment to wipe out these horrific activities. And Yahweh warned them sternly to make sure all this was well and truly eradicated.
He had even warned them that if they did not, these terrible practices would become a thorn in their own side, and they would become contaminated with these evil ways. Thus they had to thoroughly wipe out the Canaanites and make sure these abominable practices were entirely eliminated.
As Moses has said centuries earlier, “You must destroy all the peoples the LORD your God gives over to you. Do not look on them with pity and do not serve their gods, for that will be a snare to you.” (Deut 7:16). Or as is stated in Leviticus 18:24-28:
“Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native-born and the aliens living among you must not do any of these detestable things, for all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled. And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you.”
Yahweh knew how weak and susceptible to temptation the Israelites were. If they did not make a clean sweep of the land, they too would become defiled and polluted by all this great evil. And that is exactly what had happened. King Ahaz simply adopted and promoted these horrible pagan practices.
There is a double warning here for believers today. We too must remain uncontaminated from all the moral and spiritual pollution which surrounds us. We must daily take measures not to adopt and embrace the surrounding worldly values and practices, but remain unspotted from the world as James commands us (1:7).
But even more important is the particular practice mentioned here. Back then they sacrificed their own infants and children to false gods. But are we any different? Do we not do exactly the same thing today? We certainly do, only today we refer to it as “a woman’s right to choose”.
We too sacrifice millions of innocent children on the altars of our false gods. Abortion reigns supreme, and we don’t even blink an eyelid over it. The OT warnings about child sacrifice perfectly fit with our modern abortion practices. I have written all this up in much more detail here: billmuehlenberg.com/2006/09/01/a-different-perspective-on-abortion/
God said he would not put up with a nation which regularly practices such despicable injustices as child sacrifice. Thus he had to wipe out the Canaanites. Unfortunately Israel did not do a very good job of clearing the land, and they too eventually embraced such evil.
We are no different today, and judgment is certainly overdue for us as well. The most appalling thing in all this is to consider how many believers have had abortions, yet think it is no big deal. How many believers have slavishly imitated the surrounding culture and also participated in this unspeakable villainy?
God judged Ahaz big time for this reprehensible surrender to pagan values and practices. God has not changed. If we will continue in our worldliness, compromise and surrender, then God must also act with us as well. Well do we to recall the words of Peter: ‘judgment must begin with the household of God’ (1 Peter 4:17).