In Asa the King (Part One) we noted how he sought to serve God faithfully and obediently. His wholehearted commitment led to national revival and the expulsion of pagan influences from the land…
- At the same time, Asa was so zealous for the Lord that he began to impose belief on his subjects rather than set a godly example for them to follow (see 2 Chronicles 15 verse 13)
In Part 2, we see how Asa made unsuitable alliances with the enemies of God and reacted badly to rebukes from God’s messenger. Unfortunately, things went from bad to worse, as we shall see…
2 Chronicles 16
1 In the thirty-sixth year of Asa’s reign Baasha king of Israel went up against Judah and fortified Ramah to prevent anyone from leaving or entering the territory of Asa king of Judah.
Big trouble! Baasha by name, basher by nature! In I Kings 15:34 we read Baasha did evil in the eyes of the LORD, walking in the ways of Jeroboam and in his sin, which he had caused Israel to commit.
2 Asa then took the silver and gold out of the treasuries of the LORD’s temple and of his own palace and sent it to Ben-Hadad king of Aram, who was ruling in Damascus. 3 “Let there be a treaty between me and you,” he said, “as there was between my father and your father. See, I am sending you silver and gold. Now break your treaty with Baasha king of Israel so he will withdraw from me.”
- How strange for Asa to seek protection and help from a former enemy and godless ruler, when previously he had turned to God for assistance!
What’s going on? What was Asa thinking of? What have we to learn from this strange change of heart, this U-turn? The following verses help us to understand…
7 At that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said to him: “Because you relied on the king of Aram and not on the LORD your God, the army of the king of Aram has escaped from your hand.”
Hanani now came to speak God’s word…just as Azariah had done all those years before…and he tells Asa that he had made a wrong decision and a bad mistake
- Relying on God is a deliberate choice…and every choice has consequences. It’s not just a case of ‘a right to choose’ and then life carries on as before…
Asa had chosen…but made a poor choice…
- What choices confront you and I today? Will we turn to God (who has never let us down) or to others?
- And notice that the news comes suddenly…it unsettles Asa and he probably acts out of character initially…
- And we need to be extra careful when we are ‘thrown’ by news… perhaps a shock, unexpected, a tragedy perhaps…
- The ‘count to ten’ before you act is a useful guide for Christians, too!
8 Were not the Cushites & Libyans a mighty army with great numbers of chariots & horsemen? Yet when you relied on the LORD, he delivered them into your hand
- How can it be that God intervenes in our lives in a wonderful way…and within a short time we behave as if He didn’t exist?
- Even day to day we can be prone to be like ‘Mary, Mary, quite contrary…’
9 For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war.”
What a memorable phrase: ‘The eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth’.
- Our God is not some distant deity, dispensing his favour and justice randomly.
- No, he is intimately involved in our lives and the lives of all those who are ‘fully committed to Him’.
But what does “fully committed” mean? (More in a moment)
10 Asa was angry with the seer because of this; he was so enraged that he put him in prison. At the same time Asa brutally oppressed some of the people.
What a turn-around! From a benevolent, wise ruler to a petulant child!
Three things can happen when we have a guilty conscience:
(1) We get angry, especially when someone tells us the truth!
(2) We behave irrationally and do things that we would never do ordinarily
(3) We make the innocent suffer (often someone close to us…You always hurt the one you love…)
And Asa, sadly, was guilty of all three actions
12 In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was afflicted with a disease in his feet. Though his disease was severe, even in his illness he did not seek help from the LORD, but only from the physicians.
- The man who had fully trusted in God now seems to reject His supernatural nature.
- From Chapter 15 v 17 we know that Asa was fully committed to God BUT he somehow managed to ‘disempower God’…
- How often we hear people say that they believe in God (and they do) but they don’t behave in a way that suggests a real understanding of the ‘Almighty’ side of ‘God Almighty’
13 Then in the forty-first year of his reign Asa died and rested with his fathers.
- Here’s a reminder that we all die!
Asa will be remembered as a life of “two halves”… How about you and me?
LET’S RETURN for a moment to the issue of how someone can be fully committed to God yet behave as if God were a statue on the mantelpiece…
- First, remember that most people in the world believe in God…but what sort of God do they believe in? Is it a remote God or a fierce God or a God who will only be satisfied if we perform certain ceremonial tasks?
- It is perfectly possible to be out and out for God, yet be confused about what it means to serve Him wholeheartedly We can misdirect our efforts, as many religious zealots have done and continue to do today, often with brutal consequences.
- We can believe and trust in the God of the Bible but have no real understanding of what He can and will do if we come to Him by faith. So God becomes a lucky charm, a talisman, a St Christopher’s medal to bring us success and fortune…our escape hatch to heaven…and no more!
I wonder if you feel indignant…”There is no way I would treat God like that!” … and yet!
- Where is the blessedness I knew when first I saw the LORD? Have you lost your zeal for the Lord?
- It is possible that we can have a form of godliness but deny its power?
WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME that we took God fully at His word, stepped out in faith; trusted Him and Him alone?
- When was the last time we showed through our actions (not just our words) that we trust God fully?
And not just during the major events of life…but as a daily practice…
- To share with the LORD our cares, hopes, aspirations, desires, fears, ideas, uncertainties, joys…
- A moment by moment awareness of the presence of God
- Praying continually… so it becomes our ‘vital breath’
It is even possible for a formal prayer meeting to become a poor substitute for ongoing, faith-building prayer and ACTION
- Unless we leave the prayer meeting more determined to serve and trust God than when we came in, we must question its value
- Easy to pray and convince ourselves that God is pleased and will answer…but harder to trust God to work through us for a miracle
- And unless we can say “though he slay me, I will hope in Him” at every turn, God becomes little more than an insurance policy…we ‘claim’ His promises when things go wrong but spend most of our lives largely untouched by the Spirit’s promptings and directing!
Asa didn’t stop believing in God, he lost sight of the Person of God
- He forgot that God is the Alpha and Omega
- That God is all-knowing & all-powerful…that God spoke & created the world
- That God will speak and the end of the world will happen
- That God’s eye roams across the earth
So how do you and I view the Person of God today?
- A figurehead for our Christian movement…
- Someone to whom we can sing hymns on a Sunday…
- The author of the Bible…
But He is also…
- The One who has granted us all authority on earth
- The One who will crush Satan under our feet
- The One who gives us His Spirit and promises never to leave us or forsake us
Asa was COMMITTED TO GOD but had lost sight of who God is and what He can and will do…
- Many people inside and outside the church will claim (genuinely) to be committed to Him in a loose sense
- But through Jesus Christ we are invited—not to be loosely connected—but to be rooted and grounded in Him…sons (inheritors) and co-workers with Christ
IT IS SURPRISINGLY EASY TO BECOME A SPECTATOR
- Still committed to the cause but ‘removed’ from the action
- Still keen to see the Kingdom extended… but not willing to step out in faith to ensure that it is!
- Still faithful but no longer expectant…sleepwalking to eternity while the world crumbles around us
Even an “all-action” person can work out of duty not delight
- Closely involved and busy in Christian work without seeing or expecting to see lives changed and transformed
IT IS A RATHER UNPALATABLE TRUTH that commitment and faithfulness are not enough
- We have to rediscover…again and again…that intimacy with God that supersedes traditions, habits, even sacrificial service
- To behave as if we truly believe that God intervenes in the affairs of mankind
- To claim the full range of promises that God presents to us in the Bible
- To stand back and allow God to work through us in such a way that people are ‘blown away’ by what they see…and seek the living God for themselves
ASA’S LIFE CONTAINS A CHALLENGE AND A WARNING
- The challenge is to trust God as Asa trusted Him in the earlier part of his reign…and see God for who He really is
- The warning is to be aware of how easy it is to become like the Pharisees of old… whitewashed tombs, full of dead men’s bones
NONE OF US IS IMMUNE FROM THESE THINGS…
- However old, young, clever, experienced, disadvantaged or wealthy… no matter what our status in the church, Asa’s life has much to teach us all about our own lives, our relationship with God and His intentions for our lives.