This past week, I spent time meditating on Asa’s Kingship recorded in 2 Chronicles 14-16. I was struck by his story. For much of Asa’s reign, he did what was pleasing in God’s sight. Asa rid the land of idolatry, and led Judah to repentance and renewed faith in the Lord. He was so devoted to spiritual renewal that he opposed his mother and removed her from being his advisor because she was encouraging idol worship. As a result of Asa’s faithfulness, the Lord had given his kingdom rest (15:15, 19).
However, the narrative takes a sudden turn in chapter 16. Scripture records that in the thirty-sixth year of Asa’s reign, King Baasha makes war against Asa, and instead of relying on God to deliver him as he did earlier during his reign, Asa chose to depend on man. Asa made a treaty with Ben-Hadad, King of Aram in order to quell Baasha’s threat. This displeased the Lord, and God sent Hanani the Seer to deliver this message to Asa:
“Because you have relied on the king of Aram and have not relied on the Lord your God, therefore the army of the king of Aram has escaped out of your hand. Were not the Ethiopians and the Lubim an immense army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet because you relied on the Lord, He delivered them into your hand. For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His. You have acted foolishly in this. Indeed, from now on you will surely have wars.” (7-9)
When Asa heard the seer’s message, he was angry with him and threw him into prison; Moreover, Asa became tyrannical and oppressed some of his own people. Sadly, we are told that in the thirty-ninth year of his reign, Asa is diseased in his feet, and scripture says, “His disease was severe, yet even in his disease he did not seek the Lord, but the physicians’ (12). Asa dies during his forty-first year as king. The text gives no indication that there was any repentance on Asa’s part. Seemingly, he dies with a hardened heart towards the Lord.
How did a man who started so well end so badly? Scripture doesn’t say explicitly what caused this change in his life, but I suspect that over time he got too comfortable as king during peace time; and his pride swelled to the point where he could not seek God during times of trouble, but relied only on created things. What can we learn from his story, so that we can finish better than Asa finished?
Learn to Rely on the Lord
The Lord reminded Asa that great trouble confronted him when he went to war with the Ethiopians and the Libyans. They were an “immense army with very many chariots and horsemen.” Yet, God delivered them into Asa’s hand because he relied on God. Many of us are facing challenges that are immense. We may have even given up hope that deliverance is possible. It is in these moments that we must fight to remember that God is a God who delights to deliver. He will rescue us if we rely on him (Psalm 18: 16-19). However, our pride will tempt us to rely on ourselves. It may be the case that God has frustrated our attempts to overcome life’s challenges because we are not relying on him, but choosing, as Asa did, to seek deliverance through creation.
Do Not Reject the Word of the Lord
What was particularly troubling in Asa’s case was how he reacted when God sent Hanani to tell him of his sin. He got angry, and put him in jail. It is a scary place to be when God’s word doesn’t produce repentance but causes us to become defiant. We may not have the authority to throw anyone in jail, but we must analyze our hearts to determine the ways we may be guilty of rejecting the word of God as it comes to us. It is a great mercy for God to call us back to fidelity to Him through His word.
When Good Things Become Ultimate Things
Even when Asa was suffering from disease, he did not seek the Lord. We may be quick to pity Asa’s heart condition at this point because we know that even non-believers have good sense to call on God when they face sickness. However, before we throw stones, there is a good chance that there are troubling circumstances in each of our lives that we are not completely trusting the Lord with. We may say an occasional prayer here or there, but have we devoted ourselves to seeking God’s face?
Asa chose to seek the help of physicians. Getting help from doctors isn’t a bad thing, but such was Asa’s dependence on man, that he put his trust in the hands of doctors rather than in the hand of the Lord. The human heart is so sinful that it can take good things, and make them ultimate things. Ever so subtlety, we rely on the strength of men rather than on God for deliverance. In what ways may we be doing this? It may even be as innocent as talking to your Christian brother or sister about your issues more than you talk to God about them.
Rather than take comfort in man, let us take comfort in Christ. Let us rely on him. If God came to earth as a man, cloaked his divinity and relied upon the Spirit’s work to empower him, how much more should we? Yet, we are so quick to forget our need for him. If you’ve been living your life like Asa—welcome to the club! I know I’ve been guilty of this. But the beauty of the gospel is that there is grace for us to repent, and renew our commitment to reliance on Christ alone to face our challenges.