At the beginning of 2018, my husband and I started a Bible reading plan to read the entire Bible in one year. I’ve never actually read the entire thing start to finish, and I have absolutely loved it! This particular plan has us read two chapter in the Old Testament, one chapter from the Poetry books, and one chapter in the New Testament. It gives a nice mix instead of four straight chapters in a row. That would have been a bit of a challenge in Numbers.
Over the past few days, we’ve been in 2 Kings. It’s quite a fast-moving, eventful book: lots of kings coming to the throne and then dying, and someone else moving in and conquering nations before they get taken or killed. And it’s not just one king over all of Israel; earlier in the Bible, the nation of Judah sort of went off on their own, so they have a different king than the rest of Israel. It has been very interesting reading, though a bit challenging sometimes if I’m not fully awake.
As we have been reading the past few chapters, we’ve noticed a theme with the kings of Judah. Compared to the sequence of kings in Israel, the kings of Judah are pretty decent. All the verses about the kings of Israel say something like, “and he did evil in the sight of the LORD,” while the verses about the kings of Judah say, “and he did right in the sight of the LORD.” Pretty good eh? They did right in the eyes of God, so there was nothing to worry about. Everyone who visited their kingdom and looked around was impressed, I’m sure. Maybe they even said things like, “Wow, you are so godly, King! God will surely bless you and your kingdom.”
But here’s the problem: the verse after we find out they did right in the sight of God starts with “but.” Wait. This king was good. He was, supposedly, obedient to the Lord. And he definitely wasn’t as awful as that king over in Israel.
“But the high places were not taken away.” Four kings in a row didn’t completely obey the Lord: Jehoash (Joash) in 2 Kings 12:3, Amaziah in 2 Kings 14:4, Azariah in 2 Kings 15:4, and Ahaz in 2 Kings 16:3-4. Oh yes, the Bible says they did right . . . but it wasn’t complete obedience. Ahaz even went so far as to sacrifice his son to the heathen gods, participating in the idol-worship himself.
The high places were where the children of Judah burned incense and sacrificed to idols. So maybe the kings of Judah made sure everyone they could see was worshiping God, but they didn’t bother taking care of the whole problem. They monitored their kingdom and the villages below; but they did not remove the high places. They let the idol-worshiping and sacrifices continue. They turned a blind eye, and the idolatry, the most mentioned sin in the Bible, continued in the nation of Judah EVEN THOUGH the kings made other God-honoring decisions.
After several generations, the cycle was finally broken by the king who followed. Hezekiah not only did that which was right in the sight of the Lord; he also “removed the high places, and brake the images . . . for he clave to the LORD, and departed not from following him, but kept his commandments.” And God was with him (2 Kings 18:3-7). But this victory was only after decades of kings making the same mistake: not removing the high places, the root problem of idolatry.
As I read and realized this pattern throughout the kings of Judah, I had to ask myself: are there any high places in my own life? Do I confess all of my sin? Or just the ones I feel like people notice? Do I truly give Christ my whole heart, all my habits, everything I say and desire every day? Or just parts of it? Do I make Godly decisions that people can see, but in my own home or my own mind there is still sin that I choose to leave unconfessed, unmentioned, ignored?
I want to be whole-heartedly devoted to my Lord. I don’t want there to be aspects of my life I try to keep “hidden” from Him (even though we all know He knows everything). I don’t want my children to one day say, “Yeah, my mom did most things right, but there were a few things she just wouldn’t give over to God. There were just a few little things that still seemed more important than the Lord.”
What idols are you hiding away in your “high places?” Ask God to reveal them to you. Delve into the dark corners of your heart, where even you don’t like to go, and drag them into the light. Pull them down from the lofty places where you think no one can reach, and let the only One Who deserves our worship crush them beneath His glory.
I want to be like Hezekiah: bold, doing what the former kings didn’t, trusting God, and removing the high places–the very site of the idolatry! Let us not put on an outward show of Christianity. Don’t leave those high places and let idol-worship continue in your heart. Give God your whole heart every single day, every moment!
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled. Do ye look on things after the outward appearance? 2 Corinthians 10:3-7a