One of the great joys of scripture is that, in study, we are invited to discover not only the issues and events of the story or dialogue, but also the personality and operational characteristics of our amazing God, who, happily for us, tells us He never changes.
6 “For I am the Lord, I do not change;
Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.
It is notable that Malachi, the last book of the Christian Old Testament, would have that revelation handed down to us – sort of like a pre-emptive strike against the saints, down the road, falling into the misconception that God has changed/softened up/been successfully medicated away from His anger issues, since the work on the cross – as if He was no longer requiring righteousness, no longer judging people and nations for their sin, etc. First of all, we would do well to understand that God’s abundant mercy and patience is evident throughout both testaments. It is not part of the “new” of “New Testament”. And secondly, God’s holiness, and His command for man to strive for holiness, remains very much alive and well.
Sadly, many of the doctrines floating around today would want to defy this biblical truth, and imply that it all changed with Jesus. Happily MUCH changed – in the way of abundant grace and a new availability of intimacy with God, but the writer of Hebrews would actually (correctly) want us to realize that the bar of accountability was elevated along with the availability of greater intimacy:
25 See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven
26 whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, “ Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.”
27 Now this, “ Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain.
28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. 29 For our God is a consuming fire.
ALL THAT SAID – thanks to the account of King Asa there is so much to learn re:
A. God’s great and proactive work in seeking out and supporting those who are His;
B. The accountability of remaining in the will of God and never defaulting to the ways of this world;
C. The plans of God extending way beyond our own somewhat myopic perspective as to what is happening and what needs to be done; AND
D. Finishing well by determining to remain faithful at all times, even down the road in our successful walks.
1 Kings 15 presents a briefer picture of the story of Asa, but for our purposes let’s look at
1 So Abijah rested with his fathers, and they buried him in the City of David. Then Asa his son reigned in his place. In his days the land was quiet for ten years.
So far so good. Ten years of quiet after he ascends the throne.
2 Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God,
(and here’s the good that he did – he purged the place of false religion and idolatry)
3 for he removed the altars of the foreign gods and the high places, and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the wooden images.
4 He commanded Judah to seek the Lord God of their fathers, and to observe the law and the commandment.
5 He also removed the high places and the incense altars from all the cities of Judah, and the kingdom was quiet under him.
(and we can see a correlation between obedience, holiness, and peace in this season)
6 And he built fortified cities in Judah, for the land had rest; he had no war in those years, because the Lord had given him rest.
(meanwhile, Asa was not basking in peace – he was soberly understanding the ways of this world, and wisely using the time to fortify the country)
7 Therefore he said to Judah, “Let us build these cities and make walls around them, and towers, gates, and bars, while the land is yet before us, because we have sought the Lord our God; we have sought Him, and He has given us rest on every side.” So they built and prospered.
(please note here that it does not look like Asa eliminated the draft into the military. He was smarter than that)
8 And Asa had an army of three hundred thousand from Judah who carried shields and spears, and from Benjamin two hundred and eighty thousand men who carried shields and drew bows; all these were mighty men of valor.
(and sure enough, the army was going to be activated, because the lands around Judah were evil)
9 Then Zerah the Ethiopian came out against them with an army of a million men and three hundred chariots, and he came to Mareshah.
10 So Asa went out against him, and they set the troops in battle array in the Valley of Zephathah at Mareshah.
(Asa was wise enough to understand that an army was a good thing, but it was all about God and His providence and protection. Being outnumbered surely helped Asa to cry out to the Lord).
11 And Asa cried out to the Lord his God, and said, “ Lord, it is nothing for You to help, whether with many or with those who have no power; help us, O Lord our God, for we rest on You, and in Your name we go against this multitude. O Lord, You are our God; do not let man prevail against You!”
(“SO THE LORD” – as a result of the cry of His people. Note to self: Cry out to God when you need to.)
12 So the Lord struck the Ethiopians before Asa and Judah, and the Ethiopians fled.
13 And Asa and the people who were with him pursued them to Gerar. So the Ethiopians were overthrown, and they could not recover, for they were broken before the Lord and His army. And they carried away very much spoil.
14 Then they defeated all the cities around Gerar, for the fear of the Lord came upon them; and they plundered all the cities, for there was exceedingly much spoil in them.
15 They also attacked the livestock enclosures, and carried off sheep and camels in abundance, and returned to Jerusalem.
(Great stuff here. The attack of the enemy resulted in God’s intervention, and Judah came away with a victory, God was glorified and the fear of the Lord came upon the enemy nations, and there was spoils of war to carry away. Yea, God!)
(Asa is on a roll, and the prophet of God, Azariah speaks to Asa to encourage him, and also to admonish and instruct the king as to how God works)
1 Now the Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded.
2 And he went out to meet Asa, and said to him:“ Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin. The Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you.
(Wow that’s a tough word. BUT IF YOU FORSAKE HIM, HE WILL FORSAKE YOU. Didn’t Azariah read Hebrews 13:5 – ….”I will never leave you nor forsake you”? Of course not! – the New Testament was not yet written. Duh. But wait – we’d do quite well in honoring the scriptures to see what the writer of Hebrews was quoting: Deut 31:6-17. Please read that – it will surely bless you and it will reveal the context of the promise by unchanging God – He will never INITIATE forsaking His people, but we would do well to understand Deut 31:17 in particular – God has never been a chump. Jude confirms that).
BACK TO ASA – Azariah is still speaking – relaying some history so Asa can learn and move forward successfully:
3 For a long time Israel has been without the true God, without a teaching priest, and without law; 4 but when in their trouble they turned to the Lord God of Israel, and sought Him, He was found by them.
5 And in those times there was no peace to the one who went out, nor to the one who came in, but great turmoil was on all the inhabitants of the lands.
6 So nation was destroyed by nation, and city by city, for God troubled them with every adversity.
(Now Azariah personalizes the message to the king, encouraging him)
7 But you, be strong and do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded!”
8 And when Asa heard these words and the prophecy of Oded the prophet, he took courage, and removed the abominable idols from all the land of Judah and Benjamin and from the cities which he had taken in the mountains of Ephraim; and he restored the altar of the Lord that was before the vestibule of the Lord.
(Wow – revival and growth! The leader’s obedience and zeal had things on the right path)
9 Then he gathered all Judah and Benjamin, and those who dwelt with them from Ephraim, Manasseh, and Simeon, for they came over to him in great numbers from Israel when they saw that the Lord his God was with him.
10 So they gathered together at Jerusalem in the third month, in the fifteenth year of the reign of Asa.
11 And they offered to the Lord at that time seven hundred bulls and seven thousand sheep from the spoil they had brought.
12 Then they entered into a covenant to seek the Lord God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul;
(They were pretty intense in their determination that folks did need to be all about serving God. We are blessed to be on this side of Calvary in that light).
13 and whoever would not seek the Lord God of Israel was to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman.
14 Then they took an oath before the Lord with a loud voice, with shouting and trumpets and rams ‘horns.
15 And all Judah rejoiced at the oath, for they had sworn with all their heart and sought Him with all their soul; and He was found by them, and the Lord gave them rest all around.
(Asa went further, even doing some house-cleaning in his own home. Righteousness costs something)
16 Also he removed Maachah, the mother of Asa the king, from being queen mother, because she had made an obscene image of Asherah; and Asa cut down her obscene image, then crushed and burned it by the Brook Kidron.
(Asa wasn’t perfectly perfect)
17 But the high places were not removed from Israel. Nevertheless the heart of Asa was loyal all his days.
18 He also brought into the house of God the things that his father had dedicated and that he himself had dedicated: silver and gold and utensils.
19 And there was no war until the thirty- fifth year of the reign of Asa.
(If we were to give Asa a report card, it would likely be an A or A- at this time. This guy was pretty OK. But his reign was not over, and until anyone’s last breath, we will be tested and refined, by our great God who has great plans, always bigger than us)
(Note that there appears to be no mention of anything Asa did wrong to inspire or cause the attack by the northern kingdom of Israel. It simply happened, while Asa was doing good).
1 In the thirty-sixth year of the reign of Asa, Baasha king of Israel came up against Judah and built Ramah, that he might let none go out or come in to Asa king of Judah.
(Here’s where things “go south” as Asa actually looks to the northeast for help – he looks to Syria)
2 Then Asa brought silver and gold from the treasuries of the house of the Lord and of the king’ s house, and sent to Ben-Hadad king of Syria, who dwelt in Damascus, saying,
3 “ Let there be a treaty between you and me, as there was between my father and your father. See, I have sent you silver and gold; come, break your treaty with Baasha king of Israel, so that he will withdraw from me.”
(Asa was bribing Ben-Hadad, who ended up playing the war-whore here, so that Ben-Hadad would break his allegiance with Israel and join forces with Judah)
4 So Ben-Hadad heeded King Asa, and sent the captains of his armies against the cities of Israel. They attacked Ijon, Dan, Abel Maim, and all the storage cities of Naphtali.
(At first blush, it looked like Asa had made a good move. Israel was defeated and even the seigeworks materials ended up as spoils of war. There was a season where Asa likely rejoiced in his international diplomacy)
5 Now it happened, when Baasha heard it, that he stopped building Ramah and ceased his work.
6 Then King Asa took all Judah, and they carried away the stones and timber of Ramah, which Baasha had used for building; and with them he built Geba and Mizpah.
(God, meanwhile, was not pleased with Asa and instead of sending the prophet Azariah, sends Hanani)
7 And at that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah, and said to him: “Because you have relied on the king of Syria, and have not relied on the Lord your God, therefore the army of the king of Syria has escaped from your hand.
(WHAT???? What does “escaped from your hand mean”? We will never know. What we do know is that even today there are issues between the people of God and Syria. And what we surely do see through these verses is that God had a different/greater plan than the one initiated by Asa’s international diplomacy. Can we learn from the mess of Asa not to make our own?)
(The call to remembrance by Hanani to Asa)
8 Were the Ethiopians and the Lubim not a huge army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet, because you relied on the Lord, He delivered them into your hand.
(DRUM-ROLL PLEASE – 2 Chron 16:9. The great promise-verse that we all love so much and want to quote all the time. And it is wonderfully true – but the whole verse is true, not simply 9A, but 9B as well – just like the whole book. Peter mentions folks twisting the scriptures to their own destruction. We can do that if we start slicing and dicing the word of God. So let’s read of God’s proactive movement on behalf of His loyal ones – 9A, and also let’s read of the problems brought upon Judah because of Asa’s plans to do things his way – 9B)
9 For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. In this you have done foolishly; therefore from now on you shall have wars.”
(Asa, instead of repenting, models the “shoot the messenger” adage. He gets angry with Hanani, persecutes him, and then continues in his despotic activity, oppressing others. This should have been a time for repentance for Asa, but instead it was a marker-event for his life and future. This formerly great king had the bit between his teeth, and was going to do things his own way)
10 Then Asa was angry with the seer, and put him in prison, for he was enraged at him because of this. And Asa oppressed some of the people at that time.
(Meanwhile God, in His righteous mercy, continues to move upon Asa, this time afflicting him in his body. He has always worked to get the attention, and the return, of His people – ref: Leviticus 26, Amos 4)
11 Note that the acts of Asa, first and last, are indeed written in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel.
12 And in the thirty- ninth year of his reign, Asa became diseased in his feet, and his malady was severe; yet in his disease he did not seek the Lord, but the physicians.
13 So Asa rested with his fathers; he died in the forty- first year of his reign.
14 They buried him in his own tomb, which he had made for himself in the City of David; and they laid him in the bed which was filled with spices and various ingredients prepared in a mixture of ointments. They made a very great burning for him.
That’s sort of a sad end for a pretty great man. Like Sinatra, Asa could say “I did it my way”.
There is much to learn here. And I believe as the clock continues to tick toward the end of this age, more and more we will be invited into complete and absolute submission to the will of God, at all times and in all things. The creation groans awaiting for a revelation of the spirit-led sons of God (Romans 8). That leading is demonstrated to the world by our responsive obedience.
1 Corinthians 10:11-12
11 Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.
All scriptures NKJV.