In this series, we’re looking at the first four kings of Judah after the division of the nation. We’ve seen that Rehoboam lacked conviction and that his son, Abijah, though a man of conviction, lacked courage. The third king is Asa.
Asa was different from his father and grandfather. From the start of his forty-one-year reign, he was determined to do ‘what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God’, 2 Chr. 14. 2. You may remember the ‘triangle of convictions’ from previous articles:
The result of his efforts was peace, the Lord’s peace, and Asa was quick to acknowledge that it was from God.
Everything seemed perfect. He had an army of 580, 000. He was powerful and at peace. What could possibly go wrong? The Ethiopians came with an army of one million. Asa didn’t hesitate in calling on the Lord, ‘We rely on You’, v. 11 ESV. The result was that, without warning, the Ethiopians fled and were pursued and thoroughly defeated by Judah, whose army returned to Jerusalem with very much spoil.
Asa was met by the Lord’s servant, Azariah, who congratulated Asa on a job well done. He promised that the Lord would be with Asa as long as he sought Him, to take courage and the Lord would reward him. As soon as Asa heard these words, he took courage and continued the work, removing idol worship from the newly acquired cities and repairing the altar of the Lord. He gathered his expanding nation together (many Israelites had joined Judah when they saw the Lord was with them) and declared a time of sacrifice. They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord with all their heart and soul, 15. 12. In fact, anyone who didn’t, would be executed. He removed Maacah, his grandmother, from the throne for her idolatry. Imagine how much courage that took.
But why did he do it? Was he showing off? Was he looking to make his name great? The answer is in 2 Chronicles chapter 15 verse 17, ‘The heart of Asa was loyal all his days’, NKJV. He brought sacred gifts of silver, gold, and vessels into the temple, and there was no war. Everything was perfect; Asa had re-established Judah as a prosperous, peaceful, Godfearing nation. His convictions were right; his courage was unquestionable.
Then a new test came from Israel, the old enemy. Baasha, the King of Israel, laid siege to Judah and, as a result, Asa was worried. He gathered silver and gold from the temple and made a covenant with the King of Syria to protect him - no prayer, no confessions of reliance on God, a completely different reaction to his previous much more powerful assailant. Hanani the seer visited Asa with a very different message from the one previously delivered by the prophet Azariah, 6. 1-7. The opportunity to defeat the King of Syria had slipped through Asa’s fingers. He had not relied on the Lord as he had against the Ethiopians, although the Lord would have protected him, and wanted to protect him. The accusation came, ‘you have done foolishly’. The time of Judah’s peace was over.
We all make mistakes. The question is how do we respond when our mistakes are pointed out? If Rehoboam was marked by a lack of conviction, and Abijah by a lack of courage, Asa will be remembered for how he reacted to criticism.
Asa was furious, he went straight into a rage. The ‘triangle of convictions’ collapsed:
The last three years of Asa’s reign were spent in pain with diseased feet. The man who had travelled the country doing the will of God, spurred on by the praise of Azariah to even greater exploits, finished a bitter, angry, immobilized man who refused to seek the Lord in his need. He’d done so well but couldn’t handle criticism. His heart was right - he wanted the right thing; he just couldn’t handle being wrong.
Compliments and positive words are always good to hear. On the other hand, may God give us the grace to accept when we’re wrong, to make the necessary corrections, and to carry on with a true heart to serve the Lord.