It’s often said that the books of first and second kings are not so much about the kings as they are about the prophets. The story of Ahaziah bears that out. Ahaziah, Rehoboam’s son, reigns in Judah for only two years. He had sought healing from the god of the Philistines rather than looking to the one true God. He sent for the prophet Elijah, whose name means “Yahweh is my God,” with a company of fifty soldiers. Ahaziah took his role as king way too seriously and thought everyone should bow to his wishes. This is not the way to approach God. Elijah called the “fire of God” to come down and devour the soldiers. After this happens a second time, the third commander humbly bows down before Elijah and pleads with him to spare the lives of his soldiers. This is the way to approach the man of God. He humbly asks Elijah to meet with the king. 2 Kings 1:16-18 continues the story, “Then the angel of the Lord said to Elijah, ‘Go down with him; do not be afraid of him.’ So he arose and went down with him to the king and said to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, Because you have sent messengers to inquire of Beelzebub, the god of Ekron—is it because there is no God in Israel to inquire of his word?—therefore you shall not come down from the bed to which you have gone up, but you shall surely die.’ So he died according to the word of the Lord that Elijah had spoken. Jehoram became king in his place in the second year of Jehoram, the son of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, because Ahaziah had no son. Now the rest of the acts of Ahaziah that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel?”

 Over 125 years ago, Barlow wrote, “It was a public and practical declaration that he esteemed the fly-god of the Philistines above the living God of Israel, and it was a formal degradation and contempt of, and an insult to, Jehovah. Such a crime had not previously been committed by a king, and, if ever, then certainly now, the time came for the zealous defender of the name of the God of Israel to emerge from his concealment and announce to the bold scoffer the Divine retribution. All idolatry is an insult to the majesty of heaven and will not be allowed to pass unchallenged or unpunished. Idolatry is purely a human creation and is, therefore, imperfect and limited. While all goes well, the infatuated worshipper may be amused and satisfied with the delusion; but when trouble comes, then does he discover the vanity and helplessness of the imagination in which he had misplaced his confidence. The man who has forsaken God is without refuge in his distress.”[1]

We still have idols that we look to for help, meaning, and purpose in our lives. Identity has become an idol in the 21st century. We have largely abandoned who we are in Christ and place our identity in other things. Whether it be our social media following, our position at work, our abilities/skills, or the achievements we are after, many have their identity wrapped up in the wrong thing. We worship money and material things.  Western culture has bowed to money and possessions for generations. The pursuit of money and the acquisition of things is a guiding force for many. It’s an idol. Jobs used to just be a means to an end. For most people, it was just want you did to provide for your family. Now, what you do has become who you are. You don’t have to look very far to see an advertisement that promises to “fix” our physical appearance. To make us look better, younger, or like your favorite celebrity. We are obsessed with being entertained. From Netflix to vacations and podcasts to TikTok. We LOVE entertainment in many forms. Love might not be strong enough; we are obsessed. Sex might be the only thing we think about more than money. It’s everywhere in our culture. We have taken a gift from God and made it into the god of our lives. And for many, their lives are controlled by sex. There is an endless list of products promising to simplify and add comfort to your life. We have made our lives much easier and much more comfortable than at any other time in history. Tasks that used to take all day can be done in minutes. Many menial tasks are now automated. While that’s a good thing, our pursuit in life should not be comfort alone. Smartphone addiction is increasingly becoming a worrying trend. This is especially true for Gen Z and Millennial generations, but it’s certainly not confined to them. For many, they simply cannot live without their phones (or online presence). Finally, with the advent of social media, almost anyone has the opportunity to become famous and gain influence. All it takes is one viral video or one hot take, and suddenly, you can have thousands and thousands of followers. Is it because there is no God in America?

[1] Barlow, George. 1892. I & II Kings. The Preacher’s Complete Homiletic Commentary. New York; London; Toronto: Funk & Wagnalls Company.