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Posts Tagged ‘Trusting God’

In I Kings 15:8-22, the Scripture provides us a biographical sketch of King Asa including one notable interaction he had.

The wider context for his life and reign was during the Divided Kingdom which followed after the reigns of Saul, David, and Solomon for 120 years. Ten tribes split to the north under the evil rule of Jeroboam. In fact, there were no good kings in the 200 years of Israel’s existence before the Assyrians exiled them.

Rehoboam, son of Solomon, and then his son, Abijam, were no better in the south. So, the great-grandson of Solomon, Asa, comes to the throne in a culture full of idol worship. The time is about 910 B.C. Asa ruled for 41 years, which certainly brought stability to Judah. His grandmother, Maacah, daughter of Abishalom (or Abisalom, son of David) was queen mother. Some translations say mother, but the Hebrew word can also be translated grandmother, and since Asa’s father had the same mother and father by name, she must have been Asa’s grandmother. This fact of who she was brought further stability and increased claim to the throne on Asa’s part since both his father and mother were in direct line from King David.

“Asa did what was right in the sight of the Lord.” (v.11) Of the 20 kings who ruled in Judah during the 325 years after Solomon until the Babylonian captivity, only 8 received this commendation. But Asa is in a narrower group of four who received an additional good word similar to his: “…like David his father.” (v.11) How did he do right in God’s sight? He removed all idol worship, delineated in three ways: 1) He did away with male prostitution, which was a religious rite probably of Asherah, the female fertility goddess, 2) he removed the idols of his father, and 3) he removed his grandmother, Maacah, because she had made an Asherah pole which would have been in the form of a female, “horrid” (v.13 NASB), “abominable” (v.13 ESV), and “repulsive” (v.13 NIV). Asherah could be groves of trees or carved, wooden poles. The latter is in view here since it is so terrible looking. Asa cut it down and burned it. The burning was for the particular reason of desecrating it so that it would no longer be worshipped, and the Kidron valley was where unclean things were deposited. I believe there is a connection between Maacah and the male prostitution. Even more important to telling who Asa was is the boldness with which he would go after even his own family to do what was right and pleasing in God’s sight.

Verse 15 adds another commendation: “ He brought into the house of the Lord the dedicated things of his father and his own dedicated things: silver and gold and utensils.” Dedicated things were usually spoils of war, at which he had been successful with God’s help.

In this description of Asa there is one negative, “But the high places were not taken away.” (v.14) This detail seemed to be a blind spot for many of the good kings. Solomon seems to have set a precedent, for it is said of him in I Kings 3:3-4, “Now Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of his father David, except he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places. The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great high place; Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar.” God had directed otherwise long before when Joshua said, “Far be it from us that we should rebel against the Lord and turn away from following the Lord this day, by building an altar for burnt offering, for grain offering or for sacrifice, besides the altar of the Lord our God which is before His tabernacle.” (Joshua 22:29) So, Solomon cannot be excused for sacrificing other places because the temple was yet built, because the tabernacle was present. Asa did not stop this unprescribed worship, and though perhaps ignorant of its sinfulness, it was no excuse. God through the writer extends grace because He knew Asa’s heart when it says, ” nevertheless the heart of Asa was wholly devoted to the Lord all his days” (v.14)

Then begins the account of an adversarial interaction with Israel to the north. Asa is being threatened by Baasha, king of Israel, by a fortification of Ramah a mere 5 miles from Jerusalem, Asa’s residence and capitol. And being on the main north-south trade route, the fortification could shut down trade for Judah. There is no indication that Asa prayed or took counsel with prophets. Instead, he reverses his dedication of gold and silver to the temple treasury and sends it to his enemy to bribe him to attack Israel. It is a “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” kind of move. So, Ben-hadad, king of Aram at Damascus, breaks his treaty with Israel and attacks their Northeastern flanks, killing and destroying. Baasha had his hands full at home, so he stopped fortifying to hem in Asa. Asa conscripts all of Judah to haul off the incomplete fortifications at Ramah and fortify elsewhere. It appears from this account that Asa got away with his scheme unscathed. There is one other mention of disease in his feet in his latter days, but otherwise, he dies in old age, reckoned a good king.

And so he was, but the II Chronicles 16:7-12 tells a fuller story of what was going on, and what God thought about it.

“At that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said to him, “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.” Then Asa was angry with the seer and put him in prison, for he was enraged at him for this. And Asa oppressed some of the people at the same time. Now, the acts of Asa from first to last, behold, they are written in the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel. In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa became diseased in his feet. His disease was severe, yet even in his disease he did not seek the Lord, but the physicians.”

For thirty-six years Asa lived and ruled in pursuit of God and His ways. We don’t know what changed or when, how suddenly or slowly, but Asa became proud and self-reliant. God had even graciously warned him to not go this way when Azariah the prophet said, ““Listen to me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin: The Lord is with you when you are with Him. And if you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you.” (II Chronicles 16:2)

I want to end well, not flame out in anger or doubt or rebellion against God. I must cling to God all of my days, for I am no better than good king Asa who started and proceeded well but ended poorly. May God spare me and each of His servants from presumptuous sins, from rebellious acts, from arrogant decisions to instead serve Him in humility, giving attention to His Word and His Spirit’s leading, for His glory and the good of those who watch me and us.

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