The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 15:4 NASB ’95, “for whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction so that through the perseverance and the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.” When we read the Old Testament, we should have these words in our minds. Where is the encouragement in this passage? Where is the hope? What is the lesson God is teaching me in this section of the Bible?
The life of King Asa is a rich study, and as we approach the study, we want to ask ourselves, where is the encouragement? Where is the hope? What is the lesson God has preserved in this record? We want to consider the three events recorded in 2 Chronicles 14-16 and what lessons Christians today can learn from Asa.
Asa Did Well
We read in 2 Chronicles 14:2 that “Asa did good and right in the sight of the LORD his God.” We first want to note in this verse that Yahweh is identified as Asa’s God. Asa had a personal relationship with the Lord, unlike some of Israel’s former kings. For example, King Saul in 1 Samuel 15:30 refers to God as Samuel’s God, not necessarily his God. Secondly, good was determined not by what Asa thought was right but by God’s standard.
What did Asa do that was considered good and right in the sight of God? He removed the items and places of idolatry in Judah (2 Chronicles 14:3,5). He encouraged all of Judah to seek the Lord (2 Chronicles 14:4). And he relied upon God for his salvation when the nation was completely outnumbered by the Ethiopians (2 Chronicles 14:9-15).
We should be encouraged by Asa’s example here of being serious about the things of God, encouraging others to follow the same path as the faithful and his total reliance upon God for his salvation. The words of Jesus in Matthew 7:24-25 come to my mind when I read of the beginning of Asa’s reign. There Jesus says, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rains fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been found on the rock.”
Asa is off to a great start in life because he is building on the solid rock of God.
Asa Listened Well
After Asa’s deliverance from the Ethiopians, God sends Azariah, the son of Obed, to deliver a message to the king. We read in 2 Chronicles 15:2, “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.”
We read of Asa’s response in 2 Chronicles 15:8, “Now when Asa heard these words and the prophecy which Azariah the son of Obed spoke, he took courage and removed the abominable idols from all the land of Judah and Benjamin and from the cities which he had captured in the hill country of Ephraim. He then restored the altar of the LORD which was in front of the porch of the LORD.” Asa is encouraged because this word from God confirms that he is on the right path and encourages him to keep on that path. Asa is encouraged to greater zeal by extending the purging of the idols from Jerusalem to all the territory under his control.
Continuing in the next verse, we read that many from the Northern Kingdom had defected to Judah “when they saw that the Lord his God was with him” (2 Chronicles 15:9 ). They joined with Judah and Benjamin. They gathered to enter covenant with their God to seek Him with their whole heart (2 Chronicles 15:12-15). It did not go unnoticed that Asa and the Southern Kingdom were seeking the Lord and the Lord was with them.
This episode in King Asa’s life should also encourage saints today. The word of God was not confusing nor so difficult that Asa could not understand it. He clearly understood what to be with the Lord required. Total devotion to God alone and the removal of all things the Lord finds evil. Asa believed in God and obeyed His command. John 3:36 comes to mind, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on Him.” We today have the complete revelation and have been given a word that is not hard to understand (Ephesians 3:4).
Asa Failed to End Well
Near the end of Asa’s life, another crisis emerged, this time from the Northern Kingdom of Israel in the thirty-sixth year of his rule. We read that “Baasha king of Israel came up against Judah and fortified Ramah in order to prevent anyone from going out or coming into Asa king of Judah” (2 Chronicles 16:1). This did not just prevent any more defectors; it also would have cut off a major route of trade for Judah thus adding economic pressure. Baasha’s blockade is a crisis, and if this was the first time we read this account, we might ask, “what will Asa do? Maybe he’ll do what he did when the Ethiopians attacked.”
Regrettably, Asa does not act as he did so many years prior. He loots the Temple of God to bribe the king of Aram to break his treaty with Israel and attack them (2 Chronicles 16:2-6). It worked; by human reasoning, it was a wise piece of diplomacy. But we are not dealing with mere secular history; we are reading inspired history, which always has a lesson to be learned.
In the text, we quickly read that the Prophet Hanani comes to Asa to issue a rebuke from God. “Because you have relied on the king of Aram and have not on the LORD your God, therefore the army of the king of Aram has escaped out of your hand” (2 Chronicles 16:7). Asa responds less than favorably by metaphorically shooting the messenger by putting Hanani in prison and oppressing the people (2 Chronicles 16:10).
The writer of 1 and 2 Chronicles makes a rare editorial comment in 2 Chronicles 16:12. We always need to pay close attention when the writer of a Bible book says something beyond simply stating the facts and events. The writer tells us, “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.” Asa failed to end his life well.
For today’s Saint, this episode in Asa’s life should remind us that serving God involves blessings and chastening. The Hebrew writer tells us that “all discipline, for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:11). To which Jesus adds “those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent” (Revelation 3:19).
Asa did not have to respond the way he did. Asa did not have to harden his heart against the Lord. Like many good kings before him, Asa could have repented and continued on the good path he started on. However, Asa did not handle the Lord’s discipline well. Remember that serving God involves great blessings and but also discipline so we may be trained by it for our betterment.
Here is a final lesson and warning from the life of Asa; starting well needs to be followed by finishing well. Asa’s life is preserved so that we might be encouraged by the good things he did (Romans 15:4) but also that we would avoid his ending (1 Corinthians 10:11-12).