Summary: When things aren’t going our way, we often look for help anyplace but God.
Grasping at Straws
A Sermon From 2 Chronicles 28
Three elderly ladies were discussing the trials of getting older.
One said, “Sometimes I catch myself with a jar of mayonnaise in my hand, standing in front of the refrigerator, and I can’t remember if I need to put it away or start making a sandwich.”
The second lady chimed in, “Yes, sometimes I find myself on the landing of the stairs and can’t remember whether I was going up or down.”
“Well,” the third one said, “I’m glad I don’t have that problem – knock on wood.”
As she rapped her knuckles on the table she added, “That must be the door. I’ll get it!”
Whether it is our memory, our health, our finances, our relationships, our school or work situation, or whatever, we all face various struggles in life. Sometimes when things go badly, those trials can test our faith.
Have you ever faced a time when you were tempted to turn your back on God? Or maybe a time when you did turn your back on God? There is no doubt that trials come to us in this life. But how are we going to respond to them? And what does God have to do with it anyway?
I hope we can find some answers today as we look at the life of king Ahaz. As we conclude our tour of the kings of Judah today, I invite you to turn to the 28th chapter of 2nd Chronicles.
What’s in a Name?
Ahaz’s reign is book-ended on either side by a godly king. His father, Jotham, followed the Lord, and it is said that he “became mighty because he ordered his ways before the Lord his God” (27:6). Ahaz’s son was the great reformer, Hezekiah. But Ahaz was a wicked king.
Often the names of people in the Bible are very revealing of their character.
• Abram’s name was changed to Abraham, which means ‘father of many nations,’ when God told him that he would be exactly that.
• Jacob was a man who lied and tricked his way through life – and his name means ‘the deceiver.’
• Ahaz – the man we will look at today – means ‘he grasped.’
As any king does, Ahaz wanted to strengthen his kingdom and defend his borders. But he grasped at straws to achieve his goal. He would make any sacrifice, any compromise, any alliance, if it would give him the power he grasped for. Anything, that is, except serve the God of Israel with an uncompromising heart.
We often think of grasping at straws as being willing to try anything in our desperation (www.allwords.com [see clutch]). But I really liked the definition I found at thefreedictionary.com. There, grasping at straws is defined as grasping at “something with too little substance to provide support in a crisis.” It isn’t just trying anything and maybe getting something that works. It’s reaching for something that won’t solve your problem.
When we are convinced in our mind that we are right, and we want to succeed very badly, we will often grasp at straws that have too little substance to accomplish our goal, rather than grasping the One who can truly help us. This is what Ahaz did. And the straws he grasped at couldn’t save him.
What straws did Ahaz grasp at? He began by grasping at false gods, as many of the kings did – that seems to be a common theme. His heart was hostile to God and he sought a substitute for the real thing.
He worshipped the Baals, which had become in many ways the gods of the northern kingdom of Israel. The northern kingdom was not prospering under their care, and there was too little substance to these gods to provide any assistance, but Ahaz grasped anyway. And he went all out in this endeavor. Beginning in verse 2, we are told that:
…he … made molten images for the Baals. 3 … he burned incense in the valley of Ben-hinnom and burned his sons in fire, according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD had driven out before the sons of Israel. 4 He sacrificed and burned incense on the high places, on the hills and under every green tree. (2 Chronicles 28:2-4, NAU)
No mere sideline idol-worship for this king. He decided to worship the baals and refused to stop halfway. Too bad he didn’t have that kind of commitment to the God of Israel.
Sometimes when we grasp at straws, it is because we don’t stop to realize that the things we are trying don’t work. And so we keep trying them, thinking that we need to just be more diligent.
Many people in our world today experiment with alternative spirituality. They look to the east and wonder if there is a more suitable religion that can serve them. They might even mix it in with some brand of Christian faith – and use it all to try to fill the emptiness and restlessness within them.