Wednesday, March 2, 2016
Prophets And Kings, Day 31. Asa King Of Judah, Part 1
Prophets And Kings
Asa King Of Judah
INTRODUCTION BY BELINDA
Today we meets the son of King Abijah and hims name is Asa. Asa is a good king for Judah who does what is right in Gods eyes. This section is quite long so we will look at half today and half tomorrow.
1 KINGS 15:9-24
"In the twentieth year of Jeroboam king of Israel, Asa became king of Judah, and he reigned in Jerusalem forty-one years. His grandmother's name was Maakah daughter of Abishalom." (1 Kings 15:9-10) This good king reigns a long time in Judah.
"Asa did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, as his father David had done. He expelled the shrine prostitutes from the land and got rid of all the idols his ancestors had made. He even deposed his grandmother Maakah from her position as queen mother, because she had made a repulsive image for the worship of Asherah. Asa cut it down and burned it in the Kidron Valley." (1 Kings 15:11-13) Asa didn't exempt his own family from the his rules about idolatry. He dealt with the sin of his family the same way he dealt with the sin of the nation. I am reminded of what the Apostle Peter said, "For it is time for judgment to begin with God's household." (1 Peter 4:17a) Asa wasn't afraid to hold his own household to the high standards of the Lord. Because Judah and Israel knew the truth and were blessed abundantly by the Lord, they couldn't plead ignorance of His laws. Asa's grandmother knew it was a sin to worship a false god and she knew the laws Asa himself had passed preventing idol worship, yet she did it anyway. He penalized her for disobedience to God and king the same way he disciplined everyone else.
"Although he did not remove the high places, Asa's heart was fully committed to the Lord all his life. He brought into the temple of the Lord the silver and gold and the articles that he and his father had dedicated." (1 Kings 15:14-15) It appears that the high places not torn down are the ones where the people used to perform sacrifice to the Lord before there was a temple, because 2 Chronicles 14:4-5 puts it like this, "He commanded Judah to seek the Lord, the God of their ancestors, and to obey His laws and commands. He removed the high places and incense altars in every town in Judah, and the kingdom was at peace under him." Several mainstream Bible commentators have reconciled these two accounts with the opinion that the high places and incense altars Asa tore down were the pagan ones, not the old high places once used for the worship of God. I think this is a good explanation because a godly man like Asa would be hesitant to remove altars to God because they have been consecrated to Him. In time this will prove to be a bad decision because these old altars will also be used for the purpose of worshiping other gods.
I love the part about Asa commanding the people to seek the Lord, the God of their ancestors. Who are these foreign gods? Did any of them rescue Israel from Egypt? Did any of them provide for Israel forty years in the desert? Did any of them call Israel out as a chosen people of God? Did any of them protect and preserve Israel and make her into a great nation? No, it was the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who did all these things, and Asa tells the people they need to turn back to Him. Many years later when the majority of the nation is up to their necks in idolatry and Israel is facing defeat and captivity at the hands of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, the Lord tries to reason with His people through the prophet Jeremiah, "This is what the Lord says: 'Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.'" (Jeremiah 6:16) King Asa is saying something very similar, telling the people to return to the God in whom their ancestors trusted, to get back on the ancient paths. Lately there's nothing much on the news except the presidential race and in studying for today's blog post I couldn't help wishing our nation could somehow have a president who will urge us all to seek the Lord. If the United States experienced major revival and a great turning back to the Lord, I believe we would be blessed beyond anything we can imagine. As a young preacher said at my church's youth service Sunday night, if we want to make America great again we need to get down on our knees before God.
Because the Lord granted a long period of peace to Asa's kingdom, he was able to make Judah stronger and easier to defend against enemies. "He built up the fortified cities of Judah, since the land was at peace. No one was at war with him during those years, for the Lord gave him rest. 'Let us build up these towns,' he said to Judah, 'and put walls around them, with towers, gates and bars. The land is still ours, because we have sought the Lord our God; we sought Him and He has given us rest on every side.' So they built and prospered." (2 Chronicles 14:6-7) The Lord gave them peace because they honored Him. America is a great nation, even though in some ways it seems to be in decline, but because God has many here who belong to him we can say, "The land is still ours because we have sought the Lord our God."
The author of 2nd Chronicles gives an account of a battle which the author of 1st Kings does not include in his narrative. Zerah the Cushite and his army marched out to war against Asa and his army and when the soldiers had taken up their battle positions, "Then Asa called to the Lord his God and said, 'Lord, there is no one like You to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, Lord our God, for we rely on You, and in Your name we have come against this vast army. Lord, You are our God; do not let mere mortals prevail against You.'" (2 Chronicles 14:11) Zerah the Cushite had an army of so many soldiers the author doesn't even attempt to give a ballpark figure of how many there were, he simply calls them thousands upon thousands, and this is why Asa calls himself and his army powerless and Zerah and his army mighty. He knows it will take the power of the Lord to win the victory. He doesn't have enough troops to defeat such an army. Because of the faith of Asa and the people of Judah, the Lord stepped in and began striking down the Cushites, causing them to flee with Judah chasing them.
King Jeroboam's son Nadab only reigned two years over Israel and he was a sinner just like his father. A mutiny arose when a man named Baasha of the tribe of Issachar struck him down and took the throne. Then he struck down every member of Jeroboam's family, just as the Lord predicted through the prophet Ahijah. This new king wasn't interested in making peace with Judah and we are told, "There was war between Asa and Baasha king of Israel throughout their reigns. 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." (1 Kings 15:16-17) Baasha plans to bottle the people up in Judah, presumably so he can come in with his army and crush them, plus if he can trap them in their own territory he will be able to effectively cut off their trade routes and cause hardship for the people.
Asa makes a worldly decision next out of his fear of Baasha. This king who stood so bravely before Zerah on the battlefield is terrified that Baasha has trapped the people within their own territory. "Asa then took all the silver and gold that was left in the treasuries of the Lord's temple and of his own palace. He entrusted it to his officials and sent them to Ben-Hadad son of Tibrimmon, the son of Hezion, the king of Aram, who was ruling in Damascus. '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 a gift of silver and gold. Now break your treaty with Baasha king of Israel so he will withdraw from me.'" (1 Kings 15:18-19) Asa takes items from the Lord's treasury and sends them as gifts to the king of Aram and we will learn in tomorrow's study that the Lord is displeased with this. He will send a prophet to speak words of chastisement of Asa because he trusted in the king of Aram more than in the Lord. Because of his hasty actions he will be at war for the remainder of his reign. Baasha has not yet been 100% successful in blocking up every way in and out of Judah and Asa feels he has to act quickly in sending these gifts before it becomes impossible. In panic he fails to call on the Lord and instead calls on the king of Aram.
The gifts are successful in putting together an alliance with Ben-Hadad. "Ben-Hadad agreed with King Asa and sent the commanders of his forces against the towns of Israel. He conquered Ijon, Dan, Abel Beth Maakah and all Kinnereth in addition to Naphtali. When Baasha heard this, he stopped building Ramah and withdrew to Tirzah. Then King Asa issued an order to all Judah---no one was exempt---and they carried away from Ramah the stones and timber Baasha had been using there. With them King Asa built up Geba in Benjamin, and also Mizpah." (1 Kings 15:20-22)
In tomorrow's passage we will see the Lord send a prophet to Asa to rebuke him for his failure of faith but Asa will not listen. He will treat the prophet badly and will not receive his words in the proper spirit of repentance. This leads to more bad decisions. Overall, Asa is still considered to be one of the better kings of Judah, but he did make some big mistakes. We recall from our study of 1st and 2nd Samuel that some of David's mistakes were made in fear as well, when his faith faltered. The worst time to make big decisions is when we are thrown into a panic by some circumstance of life, and I should know, because I've made some bad decisions in fear. The Lord knows our tendency to do this which is probably one of the reasons why He says so many times in the Scriptures, "Fear not."
Our Father is with us and His eyes are always on us. In our weak mortal flesh it's easier for us to look around at our troubles and be overwhelmed by them than to to feel confident in a God we cannot see. He knows it and that's why He gave us awesome promises like this one in Isaiah 41:10, "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand."