Have you done a Bible-in-a-year challenge? I’ve been doing it for two to three years now and it’s been amazing. I had a plan on YouVersion, which has audio, so I would play the audio and listen as I did chores.
It was a chronological challenge, so I was reading through 1st & 2nd Kings + 1st & 2nd Chronicles + a bunch of prophets at the same time, hearing the history of Israel. One day as I listened, these words caught my attention:
“And [Jotham] did that which was right in the sight of the Lord: he did according to all that his father Uzziah had done. Howbeit the high places were not removed: the people sacrificed and burned incense still in the high places.”2 Kings 15:34-35, KJV
I was surprised. Hadn’t I just read that? Was the audio repeating itself? I pulled out my phone and checked. Going through the chapter I was reading, I found this at the top:
“And [Azariah] did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father Amaziah had done; save that the high places were not removed: the people sacrificed and burnt incense still on the high places.”2 Kings 15:3-4, KJV
Comparing 2 Kings 15 with 2 Chronicles 26-27, you see that Azariah/Uzziah is the same person, Jotham’s father. Uzziah was 16 when he began to reign and reigned 52 years. The Bible tells us he was a good man who did as his father had done before him. Towards the end of his life, however, he was struck with leprosy as a punishment for sin (2 Chronicles 26:16-21). His son Jotham was 25 when he started to reign, and he also was a good man who did as his father did… except he didn’t repeat his father’s sin.
Both men copied their fathers. If you look at it, technically both did better than their fathers. Uzziah sinned in his pride, yet the Bible says Uzziah’s father Amaziah “did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, but not with a perfect heart” (2 Chr. 25:1-2) and at the end of his life he did “turn away from following the Lord” (2 Chr. 25:27). 2 Kings adds this:
“And [Amaziah] did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, yet not like David his father: he did according to all things as Joash his father did. Howbeit the high places were not taken away: as yet the people did sacrifice and burnt incense on the high places.”2 Kings 14:3-4, KJV
Are you seeing a pattern here? If we look into Joash/Jehoash’s life…
“And Jehoash did that which was right in the sight of the Lord all his days wherein Jehoiada the priest instructed him. But the high places were not taken away: the people still sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places.”2 Kings 12:2-3, KJV
2 Chronicles 24 tells how when his mentor died, Joash and his people “left the house of the Lord God of their fathers, and served groves and idols.”
Looking at this genealogy, we see Joash did badly; Amaziah did better; Uzziah did still better; and Jotham even better. Right?
But did you see how each of those quoted verses ended?
The problem of the “high places” is a recurring one in the history of Israel. The people would serve God there, where they felt like it, instead of in the Temple as He asked them to. They also used those places to serve idols and false gods. As good kings came and went, God chronicled how they did good things, but the high places were not removed… I haven’t time now but a simple perusal of Kings & Chronicles will suffice.
In the process of time, our friend Jotham had a son, Ahaz.
“[Ahaz] did not that which was right in the sight of the Lord his God, like David his father. But he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, yea, and made his son to pass through the fire, according to the abominations of the heathen, whom the Lord cast out from before the children of Israel. And he sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places, and on the hills, and under every green tree.”2 Kings 16:2-4, KJV
We are left to wonder how the son of a good man was evil enough to be known as “that King Ahaz” (2 Chronicles 28). Did Joham share his faith with his son? Who knows. But at any rate, Ahaz made use of those high places his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather failed to deal with.
And eventually Ahaz had a son as well.
“And [Hezekiah] did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that David his father did.”2 Kings 18:3, KJV
What a refreshing young man, no? And look what else he did:
“He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it.”
After generations of failure, one young man of twenty-five finally did it. He removed the high places.
“He trusted in the Lord God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him.For he clave to the Lord, and departed not from following him, but kept his commandments, which the Lord commanded Moses.”
Hezekiah loved the Lord enough to go against the current. When all his people wanted to use the high places, he was determined, as the leader, to end this sin. While his fathers tolerated this sin, which ended with one of their own falling into it, Hezekiah denounced and destroyed it.
Although good men, Jotham, Uzziah, and Amaziah were not fully faithful. Are you?
What high places are there around you? Have you denounced them, or do you tolerate them?
What high places are there in your life? Are you tolerating them, or breaking them in pieces?
Are the high places removed from your heart?