Three chapters in the book of Second Chronicles are devoted to discussing the reign of King Asa of Judah (chapters 14-16). The parallel section in 1 Kings describes his rule with sixteen short verses (1 Kings 15:9-24). Out of his reign (911-870 B.C.), the writer of Second Chronicles selects four major events of his rule: 1) The king’s first reform (14:1-8); 2) His victory over Zerah and his one million man army (14:9-15); 3) The second reform (Chapter 15); 4) The hostile move against him by Baasha of Israel and Asa’s departure from God (Chapter 16).
A Period of Restoration
Observe that doing good in the eyes of the Lord includes getting rid of what is offensive to God. The foreign altars and high places were in direct conflict with God’s command in Deuteronomy 12:2-3 “You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations whom you shall dispossess serve their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. You shall tear down their altars and smash their sacred pillars and burn their Asherim with fire…”. Yet despite this purge, there were people who insisted on building and worshipping at these pagan shrines (2 Chronicles 15:17). Yet the result of such faithfulness was a period of peace (14:5). Such reminds me of, “And my people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). Asa clearly understood the connection between faithfully serving God and being able to remain in God’s land, “The land is still ours because we have sought the Lord our God” (2 Chronicles 14:7).
Observe some essential keys of righteous rule: True religion is encouraged, immorality and false doctrine are opposed. Notice the highlights of an immoral reign: Trust in human alliances with other countries, and the encouragement of tolerating all forms of false religion and immorality.
Depending upon your translation Zerah (ZEE ruh) is called a Cushite or an Ethiopian. The Cushites were also known as Nubians and served as Egyptian mercenaries, and, by the close of the next century, had come to rule over all Egypt. The mention of “camels” in 14:15 may suggest that this million man army included many Bedouin tribes as well. Militarily outnumbered by more than two to one, Asa knew of but one source for victory, i.e., he cried out to God for deliverance (2 Chronicles 14:11).
“Lord, there is no one besides You to help in the battle between the powerful and those who have no strength; so help us, O Lord our God, for we trust in You, and in Your name we have come against this multitude, O Lord, You are our God; let not man prevail against You” (2 Chronicles 14:11). There are a number of points that I find compelling in this prayer:
- The realization that only God can help them.
- The realization that the battle is really between the enemy and God. Asa is not concerned about his glory or reputation, but that this million man army would not be victorious against the people of God, “Then let no man prevail against You”. I think that Asa is aware that the real story that needs to come out of this crisis is not how powerful or great he is, but how powerful God is. Next time we are tempted, let us remember what is at stake. We do not want to send the message that man or Satan is more powerful than God.
The Prophet Azariah
The prophet Azariah met the victorious Asa and stated, “The Lord is with you while you are with Him” (15:1). As a result Asa removed the remaining abominations of the land with a holy zeal, restored the great altar that stood before the temple, then offered 7,700 animals in sacrifice (2 Chronicles 15:1-15). What impresses me here is that after one has done some spiritual house cleaning there is often more than needs to be done. Paul exhorted Christians to “Cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1). James says, “Therefore putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21). Therefore, spiritual growth and repentance will be ongoing efforts in our lives.
The Faithful Remnant
After the above great victory, Israelites from the northern kingdom began streaming to the southern kingdom, because they saw that God was with Asa. Godly people will naturally want to be around other godly people. I only have one life time and I want to make sure that I spend my time and energy with a group of people who really want to follow God (Acts 6:7). Eventually Baasha, the next Israelite king, decided to build his own “Berlin Wall” to keep these people from going to Judah. Hence, he fortified Ramah, which was only five miles north of Jerusalem (2 Chron. 16:1; 1 Kings 15:17).
The Lord is With You
“Listen to me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin: ‘the Lord is with you when you are with Him. And if you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you. For many days Israel was without the true God and without a teaching priest and without law. But in their distress they turned to the Lord God of Israel, and they sought Him, and He let them find Him. In those times there was no peace to him who went out or to him who came in, for many disturbances afflicted all the inhabitants of the lands… but you, be strong and do not lose courage, for there is reward for your work” (2 Chronicles 15:1-7).
The period of time when Israel was without God, a teaching priest and law was probably during the turbulent times of the Judges. I am impressed that twice Asa is told that God allows Himself to be found by those seriously seeking Him. God knows who is looking and we always find that honest hearts, like the Eunuch, Cornelius, Lydia or others who are looking, end up hearing the truth. God is not trying to hide from people, rather people’s wrong motivation keeps them from seeing the clear evidence of God’s existence (Acts 17:27; Romans 1:20; 2 Corinthians 3:3-4).
That Horrid Image
Asa and the people entered into a covenant to seek the Lord with all their heart and soul (2 Chronicles 15:12), and this applied to everyone, regardless of their abilities, wealth or social status (15:13 “small or great”). Yet immediately Asa is tested as to whether he will follow through in his own life. His own mother has made a horrid image (15:16). As result, he removes her and destroyed the detestable idol she had created. Like others, he rose to the occasion, and put God ahead of family. Which is not just a New Testament teaching (Luke 14:26), but an Old Testament teaching as well (Deuteronomy 13:6-9).
The Failure to End Well
“At that point, only approximately one year after his great victory over the Egyptians, and in the midst of his reform moves, Asa had a strange lapse of faith. Instead of depending on God to see him through the new emergency, he stripped the treasuries of the temple and palace and set a large donation to Benhadad, king of Aram in Damascus, requesting a renewal of a treaty that their fathers had had and breaking of the non-aggression pact Aram now had with Israel (16:3)” (Vos, p. 104). “If Asa’s conscience disturbed him, he must have suppressed it with the rationalization that the end justifies the means. After all, did not the plan succeed?” (Whitcomb, p. 35). Because he didn’t trust in God, but had sought protection in a human alliance, God sent Hanani the prophet to rebuke him. Basically, Asa was told: 1) You could have conquered Syria as well as Israel if you had trusted Me. 2) You have already seen how God answered your prayers and destroyed the Ethiopians and their million man army. As a result, Asa was so mad at the prophet that he imprisoned the man of God, and oppressed those who supported the words of the prophet (2 Chron. 16:10). Even when he was seriously ill near the end of his life, Asa didn’t pray to God, but relied on the physicians of that day and age (16:12). From Asa’s life let us remember: 1) It is so tempting to rely on human wisdom, resources and strength, rather than trusting in God and His ways; 2) It is so easy to be impressed with “immediate results”, rather than thinking about the long-range consequences and whether or not something is biblical; 3) Let us always be willing to listen to a rebuke from the word of God, let us never be offended by the truth; 4) A good and faithful start must be followed by a faithful finish.
Mark Dunagan | firstname.lastname@example.org
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017