Of Kings and Chronicles – Asa, king of Judah

This is the second post on Of Kings and Chronicles where the first was about king Abijah of Judah. This is about his son Asa who took over as king of Judah when he died. You can see from the left of the chart (which is the beginning of the era of the divided kingdom), he was the first king positioned in the `Good’ area.

In contrast with his father, Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the LORD (2 Chronicles 14:2 ESV). Abijah had foreign idols and altars but Asa set out to have them removed and destroyed. He even had his mother removed from her position as Queen due to her idolatry.

When Asa was faced with the threat of the Ethiopian army of over a million soldiers going to attack Judah, he called upon God to save them. God heard Asa and routed the Ethiopians and Asa and his men pursued the fleeing Ethiopians slaying every one of them.

Asa also began to reform Judah by making the people follow the laws and commandments of God and his heart was wholly true to God all his days (2 Chronicles 15:17 ESV). God gave Asa rest, peace and prosperity during his reign. Everything sounded hunky-dory for Asa until the thirty-sixth year of his reign. What happened?

There was a threat from Israel, so Asa sought the help of the king of Syria. A messenger of God then asked Asa why he had sought the Syrian king’s help since God had delivered him from a million Ethiopian forces before. Instead of repenting, Asa was enraged and imprisoned the messenger. Three years later, “Asa was diseased in his feet, and his disease became severe. Yet even in his disease he did not seek the LORD, but sought help from physicians.” (2 Chronicles 16:12 ESV). He died two years later.

I have 3 main questions:

  1. Asa’s heart was wholly true to God but as time passed, he decided to rely on others for help instead of God. God had delivered him from major battles before but why did he seek a foreign king’s help this time?
  2. When he was reprimanded by the messenger of God about his reliance on a foreign king, Asa was enraged and threw the messenger in prison and took out his anger on some people. Given a revelation of where he was going wrong, why did Asa choose to be angry instead of making good of it?
  3. When he was stricken with a severe disease on his feet, why did he turn to his physicians instead of calling upon God for help?

This was the man who called upon God for the battle against a million Ethiopians and witnessed how God gave every one of them into his hand.

This was also the man who brought reforms to the idolatrous nation of Judah by removing all idols and altars of other gods and turned them back to follow God’s law.

What happened to Asa?

I wonder whether it was the period of rest, peace and prosperity, when all the wars and threats were over and reforms have been completed, that Asa began to forget God.

I believe that when we forget God, we become reliant on ourselves, other people or things. In other words, we become independent and self-sufficient. In the context of society today, being independent or self-sufficient is a good thing isn’t it? Especially when it’s all about progress and productivity, we should be self-reliant and self-made. However, in the matter of the soul and creation, who can lift a finger at the birth and death of life or the turning of the earth around the sun?

Reflection

This is where the heart before God has to be in the right place constantly. The moment we shift or look to the left or right, we have misplaced God in our lives. Perhaps that was why these words were repeated many times as part of the laws:

“You shall be careful therefore to do as the LORD your God has commanded you. You shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. You shall walk in all the way that the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you shall possess.”- Deuteronomy 5:32-33 ESV.

There is a book `Half Time’ by Bob Buford meant to help people in their mid-life and a few years later, he wrote the book `Finishing Well’. If I have to choose between the two books, I will give Asa the latter as it was really, really so important for him.

We need to endure in order to grow and finish well in our lives and God, through our Lord Jesus has given us much more than we need to do that (way, way more than in the Old Testament times).

“Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” – Hebrews 2:1-3a ESV.

My prayer

Is that we will “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”- Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV.

Thank you Lord that we can take courage and have full confidence in you because you began a good work in us and “will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” – Philippians 1:6 ESV.

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Of Kings and Chronicles – Abijah, king of Judah

Two Boats

The books of Kings and Chronicles described chronologically the various rulers of Israel (the chosen people of God) but they covered different perspectives about them. In their accounts, the kingdom of Israel was later divided and became Israel and Judah, and covered a period of about 400 years. The book of Kings started with the end of King David’s reign and the book of Chronicles spent the first nine chapters on the genealogies of the chosen people’s key characters, and then began relating the story from King David onwards.

Initially, I expected just a historical account of what happened to the chosen people that God had made a covenant with Abraham about. However, I was disturbed by the sheer number of kings who had turned away from God and followed other gods, made idols and kept the `high places’. These kings were either pure evil, power hungry, lustful, drawn by possessions, proud or influenced by such people both within and outside the kingdom.

The good kings were also not all good and only a rare few could be said so. Let’s take a closer look at one of the better kings like Abijah. I must stress  I am using the terms good and better loosely here.

After King Solomon’s death, the kingdom of Israel was divided under the reign of his son Rehoboam. So the kingdom became Israel under Jeroboam, and Judah under Rehoboam. They were at war with each other and when Rehoboam died, his son, Abijah became king of Judah.

What kind of king was Abijah? He walked in all the sins that his father did before him, and his heart was not wholly true to the LORD his God (1 Kings 15:3 ESV). Nevertheless, when he called upon God to help in the battle against Jeroboam, God gave them victory in the battle where 500,000 were slained by Abijah’s army (2 Chronicles 13:17 ESV). It was because “for David’s sake the LORD his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, setting up his son after him, and establishing Jerusalem” (1 Kings 15:4 ESV). It was also clear that it was not because of Abijah that the battle was won, since his heart was not wholly true to God.

Reflection

I took quite a while pondering on king Abijah and his son Asa (whom I will share in the next post). It was easier to see the failings of Abijah compared to his son. For one, Abijah was not wholly true to God. It’s like he was standing on two boats going in different directions and he mainly took his leg out from the boat that followed God.

On the one hand, Abijah made an impassioned speech when he faced the battle against Jeroboam’s people. He condemned their idolatrous calf worship and reminded them of the covenant of God with King David, their father (2 Chronicles 13:4-11). On the other hand, he walked in all the sins that his father, Rehoboam did who “built for themselves high places and pillars and Asherim… and there were also male cult prostitutes in the land. They did according to all the abominations of the nations that the Lord drove out before the people of Israel.” (1 Kings 14:23-24 ESV).

I saw that this was similar to times where I find it convenient to call upon God when troubles, trials or challenges come. Then when the situation becomes rosy or smooth, I would go on to focus on the pleasures of life or selfish pursuits putting God back on the shelf or worse, a locked store room. God has become like a product on the shelf of a convenience store. When used, you can just throw or chuck it somewhere to be forgotten but looked for again when needed.

My prayer is from Psalm 139:23-24 (ESV) “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” That I may learn to fear and love God truly.