2nd Chronicles 14-16: KING ASA; The Decline of a Reformer –

After the death of Solomon, Asa was the first King who made a true spiritual contribution to the life of Judah.  Reigning for 41 years he outlasted both David and Solomon and more importantly provided much needed stability after the disastrous governance of both Rehoboam and Abijah.  Asa was one of the greatest reforming Kings of Judah.  By reform we mean that he restored true worship according to the biblical pattern and that he removed the idols from the land.  Sadly, however, the reign of this King ended with the sadness of backsliding.

THESE TEXTS TRACE THE MAIN EVENTS OF ASA’S REIGN

“And Asa did that which was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God:” (14:2)

“And Asa cried unto the LORD his God , and said, LORD, it is nothing with thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power: help us, O LORD our God; for we rest on thee, and in thy name we go against this multitude. O LORD, thou art our God; let not man prevail against thee.” (14:11)

 “Be ye strong therefore, and let not your hands be weak: for your work shall be rewarded.  And when Asa heard these words, and the prophecy of Oded the prophet, he took courage, and put away the abominable idols out of all the land of Judah and Benjamin, and out of the cities which he had taken from mount Ephraim, and renewed the altar of the LORD, that was before the porch of the LORD.” (15:7-8)

“And at that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah, and said unto him, Because thou hast relied on the king of Syria, and not relied on the LORD thy God, therefore is the host of the king of Syria escaped out of thine hand.”  (16:7)

“And Asa in the thirty and ninth year of his reign was diseased in his feet, until his disease was exceeding great: yet in his disease he sought not to the LORD, but to the physicians.” (16:12)

1:  An Encouraging Summary

Whatever his flaws, which materialised in later life, we must pause with gratitude and honour a man who is described as doing “that which was good and right in the sight of the LORD”.  This is in contrast to his grandfather and father who were both depicted as men whose hearts were not prepared to seek God.  Without the advantages of a godly parentage God’s grace reached this man’s life because it was God’s time to favour his people with a breath from heaven.

2: Laying the Foundation

In the providence of God, Abijah’s brief reign had succeeded in humiliating the northern kingdom, therefore putting an end to the decades of war between the neighbouring nations.  As a consequence Asa’s first decade was one of peace, enabling him to focus on laying a firm foundation.

During this time he removed pagan gods and commanded all Israel to seek Jehovah. He also rebuilt the nation’s defences and developed the strength of his army.  He used the time well, as a man of foresight to prepare the nation for future emergencies.

3: Facing the Enemy

Those early years were indeed a season of preparation for the most significant threat faced up to this moment by Judah and the wider Jewish people.  Not even David had faced a enemy like that to which Asa encountered.

Travelling north out of Africa, Zerah the Ethiopian led an army of 1,000,000 soldiers; the largest military force recorded in the  Bible.  God gave Asa a most memorable victory in response to the prayer of His servant:

“And Asa cried unto the LORD his God , and said, LORD, it is nothing with thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power: help us, O LORD our God; for we rest on thee, and in thy name we go against this multitude. O LORD, thou art our God; let not man prevail against thee.” (14:11)

This is an encouraging reminder that God is not on the side of populism but of truth.  In these times when truth is attacked by the political and media classes we are comforted by the God who will not permit His glory to be undermined by the people of this world.

4: Leading a Reformation

Returning from His greatest triumph Asa was met by the prophet Azariah, upon whom the Spirit of God had descended.  

His message was a challenge to the King to lead a spiritual reformation.  Despite the good efforts of those first ten years Azariah said that the people were still without a teaching priest and the law of God.  Spiritual decline is always marked by a departure from the Word of God.   

Azariah pointed out that God had been merciful in the past, visiting His people in a hour of extremity when they called upon him.  Therefore be issued two great challenges with the promise of God’s favour:

“The LORD is with you, while ye be with him; and if ye seek him, he will be found of you; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you.” (15:2)

“Be ye strong therefore, and let not your hands be weak: for your work shall be rewarded.” (15:7)

Asa responded by intensifying his work of removing idols.  This indicates how entrenched idolatry had become since the reign of Solomon.  He renewed the altar indicating that the sacrifices had long been neglected.  When God’s Word is neglected the preaching of Christ and His atoning death will also be diminished.

Although Asa had been spending his first ten years as a reforming king, the work had only partially been accomplished.  He accepted his shortcomings, however, as we too must do, recognising that whatever we have achieved, there remaineth more ground to be possessed.

1st Kings 15:12 records that during this reform the Sodomites were removed from the land.  It has been so in every age, with apostasy comes moral decline.  Departure from the Word of God and from the Gospel of Christ has contributed in no small way to the catastrophic moral shift that we are currently witnessing.  

Gathering the nation together Asa led the people into a covenant where they made a vow and consecrated themselves to God.  The King’s commitment was evident in the removal of his own mother from the office of Queen because of her addiction to idolatry.  At this stage in his life Asa was no mood for compromise as he cut down her idol and burning it in the process.

Asa led a most thorough reformation that reads like a revival, the first such move of God since the dedication of the Temple.

5: Capitulating with the Enemy

In the latter years if his reign Asa faced a new challenge from Baasha, King of Israel.  He built a fortress at Raamah to cut off the flow of trade and movement between the two nations.  

In response Asa purchased the help of the Syrians with gold that he had stripped from the Temple.  In this Asa was  successful, Baasha was frustrated  but there was a price to be paid.

6:  Refusing the Prophet

Hanani the prophet approached Asa with a stern message.  

He was condemned for depending on the King of Syria rather than upon the Lord as he previously did when faced with the mighty Ethiopians.  Therefore the prophet sternly said:

“Herein thou hast done foolishly; therefore from henceforth thou shall have wars.” (16:9)

Past success in God’s work does not prevent chastening when we make bad decisions.  No-one can ever be complacent and it is so easy to go down a road that previously we would have rejected.  Compromise is always a devious enemy, tempting and tantalising offering the easy route.  But Asa was discovering sin will exact a heavy price.

The real tragedy is seen in the response of the King to the man of God.  There was no humility, only pride and arrogance.  The prophet was jailed for his faithfulness.  It is truly when we refuse the admonition of the Lord as we backslide and turn from Him.  Better to be accepting of His chastening, endeavouring to learn the lessons.

7:  Prayerless at the End

In his last five years he was plagued with disease which related to his feet.  He did not pray, he never once committed the matter to the great physician.

And the first great royal reformer died as a backslidden sovereign, warning each of us to take heed to ourselves.

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