King Asa was one of the Kings of Judah who pleased God because he obeyed Him.
In 2 Chronicles 14:2-6, we read:
Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God. He removed the foreign altars and the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He commanded Judah to seek the LORD, the God of their fathers, 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. 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.
However, even though he was obedient and pleasing to the Lord, a mighty army came against him and the people of Judah.
Zerah the Cushite marched out against them with a vast army and three hundred chariots, and came as far as Mareshah. Asa went out to meet him, and they took up battle positions in the Valley of Zephathah near Mareshah (14:9,10).
Our obedience to God does not produce a guarantee that we will not face impossible challenges and dangers. Often the Lord will allow these situations to provoke us to grow more and to trust Him more completely. That is the effect this threat had on Asa.
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, O LORD our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this vast army. O LORD, you are our God; do not let man prevail against you” (14:11).
Asa was still a young king who had no experience of war. This must have been a terrifying development for him and for all the people he led. But his response was a faith-filled and desperate reliance upon God.
The LORD struck down the Cushites before Asa and Judah. The Cushites fled, and Asa and his army pursued them as far as Gerar. Such a great number of Cushites fell that they could not recover; they were crushed before the LORD and his forces. The men of Judah carried off a large amount of plunder (14:12,13).
The result was a mighty victory and more; when they had defeated their enemy, they gained a huge amount of plunder. So what appeared to be a disaster turned out to be a source of great prosperity. That is so often the case; we face apparent disaster, but when we turn to the Lord and face the challenge with faith, He turns it to our good.
This experience of God at work hugely encouraged Asa and all the people and they deepened their zealous obedience to God.
In Chapter 15:10-12, we read:
They assembled at Jerusalem in the third month of the fifteenth year of Asa’s reign. At that time they sacrificed to the LORD seven hundred head of cattle and seven thousand sheep and goats from the plunder they had brought back. They entered into a covenant to seek the LORD, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul.
Judah and Asa then experienced more than 20 years of peace and prosperity.
But war threatened them again in the 35th year of Asa’s reign. By now he was a rich, successful and well-known king of a nation that had become powerful. It was the northern kingdom of Israel that came against them in Asa’s later years. This story reminds us that, sometimes, those who pose the greatest problem for us are actually Christians. At such times it is more important than ever that we seek God with diligence and obey Him carefully.
A couple of generations earlier, the northern kingdom had threatened Judah and the Lord warned them about going to war against their brothers. But, by this time, Asa was experienced and had some power and wealth. There is no evidence that he sought God. Rather, he worked within his own ability and power:
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. “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” (16:2,3).
This plan seemed to work, in that Ben Hadad went to war against the northern kingdom and they were no longer a threat to Asa and Judah.
This aspect of the story stands as a warning to us that we can have what appears to be successful ministry with prosperity and good results, but they may not be a result of God’s work. The Lord wants obedience from us, not “success.”
When we are disobedient, God is faithful to send us His word. In this case, it came through a prophet:
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. Were not the Cushites and Libyans a mighty army with great numbers of chariots and horsemen? Yet when you relied on the LORD, he delivered them into your hand. 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” (16:7-9).
Every leader makes mistakes, every person sins. Asa’s sin was very serious, but think about David’s sin of murder and adultery; there is no doubt that the Lord was ready to forgive Asa and probably to lighten the sentence of continual war that Hanani announced.
God is looking for humble hearts and few circumstances test our humility more than public correction.
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 (16:10).
Asa’s disobedience also caused his leadership to deteriorate. What a sad story! An outstanding king becomes a great oppressor of the people because of his disobedience and pride. This story has been repeated again and again in history.
Sadly, Asa did not respond well and thereby set himself on a course of judgment and an early death.
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. Then in the forty-first year of his reign Asa died and rested with his fathers (16:12,13).
So a story that began so wonderfully ends in tragedy and regret. A young leader who relied fully on the Lord became experienced and self-sufficient. In his later years, he must have felt that his success was his own doing, rather than a gift of God’s mercy and grace. He thought he could win his battles through his own power and diplomacy. This proud self confidence became his downfall.
Do we trust God fully? Have we begun to rely upon our experience and our own strategies? Have we begun to think that the acquisition of knowledge can replace seeking God and obedience? Are we relying upon planning and good management more than stepping out in faith, even when it looks impossible? Are we shying away from the challenges that look too big for us?
Let’s renew our commitment to be more like the young, inexperienced Asa than the older, experienced king who destroyed his own life story.