They did not remove the high places… a frequent commentary about the kings of Israel and Judah. It was a big deal. Failure to remove these Canaanite places of worship became the standard on which the kings were evaluated.
Out of the forty kings who succeeded David (twenty in Israel and twenty in Judah) only two receive full commendations: Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:3-4) and Josiah (2 Kings 23:4-15). Both destroyed the high places. Both consequently orchestrated major revivals in the nation. Two other kings, Asa and Jehoshaphat, are referred to as good kings with qualification. They were able to get rid of the high places at one point in their reign only to have them resurface in later years (resulting in the nation’s detriment). So even the good these kings accomplished was tainted by the high places’ stubborn refusal to stay down.
Why was getting rid of high places so significant?
God hated them. Not taking them seriously set the people on a trajectory that led to idolatry and rebellion against him. High places became the proverbial inch that takes a mile.
I can’t help but think that we have our own high places in today’s society. We may be more susceptible to them than we realize. One writer suggests the high places of American culture can be found in the media, academia and the courts. Not negative forces in and of themselves, they become high places when their influence beckons us to trust in them more than we trust in God.
So does that make them evil forces that need to be destroyed? Of course not. No more than the hills in Israel where pagan worship occurred were to be leveled. What may need to be torn down, however, is the influence we let them exert over us. Do we consider the wisdom of academia higher than God’s wisdom? Do we believe the standards of right and wrong heralded by media more sophisticated than those presented in the Bible? Does government have more say in our decision making, than the Holy Spirit’s leading?
Beware of the influence of high places. Don’t let them trap you into a place where they sabotage your trust in God. There’s room for only one at the top.