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King Asa: The King who Began Well

Dr. Alex Tang

 Summary

It’s not how you begin but how you ends that counts

Introduction

Each of us has a story to tell. A story of how God has looked after us, how we come to know the love of God and how we continue to walk in trust with the Lord. None of us at this moment can tell how the story ends. I know of many Christians who began well but ends badly. I am sure you know a few yourselves. It is important to realize that we must not just begin well but also we must end well.

q       1 & 2 Chronicles are mainly about the southern kingdom of Judah while 1 & 2 Kings is about the northern kingdom if Israel.

Asa’s good start : Chapter 14

2 Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God.  3 He removed the foreign altars and the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles.  4 He commanded Judah to seek the LORD, the God of their fathers, and to obey his laws and commands.  5 He removed the high places and incense altars in every town in Judah, and the kingdom was at peace under him.  6 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.

7 “Let us build up these towns,” he said to Judah, “and put walls around them, with towers, gates and bars. The land is still ours, because we have sought the LORD our God; we sought him and he has given us rest on every side.” So they built and prospered.

8 Asa had an army of three hundred thousand men from Judah, equipped with large shields and with spears, and two hundred and eighty thousand from Benjamin, armed with small shields and with bows. All these were brave fighting men.

9 Zerah the Cushite marched out against them with a vast army and three hundred chariots, and came as far as Mareshah.  10 Asa went out to meet him, and they took up battle positions in the Valley of Zephathah near Mareshah.

11 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.”

12 The LORD struck down the Cushites before Asa and Judah. The Cushites fled,  13 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 They destroyed all the villages around Gerar, for the terror of the LORD had fallen upon them. They plundered all these villages, since there was much booty there.  15 They also attacked the camps of the herdsmen and carried off droves of sheep and goats and camels. Then they returned to Jerusalem.

 

q       Asa is the great grandson of Solomon. His father is Abijah and grandfather is Rehoboam, son of Solomon. That makes him the 3rd king of Judah because Rehoboam is the one who split the nation into Judah in the south and Israel in the north.

q       Asa was king of Judah, the southern kingdom for 41 years.

q       The chronicler had good words to say about Asa. He has a good beginning. “Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God.

q       He removed foreign altars, smashed sacred stones and cut down Asherah poles. These are the worship of Baal and his consort Asherah.

q       Asa’s reign started with 10 years of peace. During that time, he fortified the cities of Judah. Because he was seeking the Lord, the Lord gave him peace. Compare this to the northern kingdom of Israel which is always at war because they rejected the Lord.

q       Asa built up an army of 580,000 men. They were armed with shields and bows.

q       Zerah the Cushite marched against him with a vast army and 300 chariots. (from Cush, modern-day southern Egypt, Sudan, and northern Ethiopia), apparently the mercenary general under Osorkon I of Egypt (914-874 b.c.)

q       In the warfare of that time, chariots are like tanks. Zerah would have an equivalent of 3 panzer divisions. In a normal fight, there is no way Asa can win.

q       Asa called to the Lord and v12. The Lord struck down the Cushites and there was a great victory.

Asa’s Reform: Chapter 15

15     The Spirit of God came upon Azariah son of Oded.  2 He went out to meet Asa and said to him, “Listen to me, Asa and all Judah and Benjamin. The LORD is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.  3 For a long time Israel was without the true God, without a priest to teach and without the law.  4 But in their distress they turned to the LORD, the God of Israel, and sought him, and he was found by them.  5 In those days it was not safe to travel about, for all the inhabitants of the lands were in great turmoil.  6 One nation was being crushed by another and one city by another, because God was troubling them with every kind of distress.  7 But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.”

8 When Asa heard these words and the prophecy of Azariah son of Oded the prophet, he took courage. He removed the detestable idols from the whole land of Judah and Benjamin and from the towns he had captured in the hills of Ephraim. He repaired the altar of the LORD that was in front of the portico of the LORD’s temple.

9 Then he assembled all Judah and Benjamin and the people from Ephraim, Manasseh and Simeon who had settled among them, for large numbers had come over to him from Israel when they saw that the LORD his God was with him.

10 They assembled at Jerusalem in the third month of the fifteenth year of Asa’s reign.  11 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.  12 They entered into a covenant to seek the LORD, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul.  13 All who would not seek the LORD, the God of Israel, were to be put to death, whether small or great, man or woman.  14 They took an oath to the LORD with loud acclamation, with shouting and with trumpets and horns.  15 All Judah rejoiced about the oath because they had sworn it wholeheartedly. They sought God eagerly, and he was found by them. So the LORD gave them rest on every side.

16 King Asa also deposed his grandmother Maacah from her position as queen mother, because she had made a repulsive Asherah pole. Asa cut the pole down, broke it up and burned it in the Kidron Valley.  17 Although he did not remove the high places from Israel, Asa’s heart was fully committed to the LORD all his life.  18 He brought into the temple of God the silver and gold and the articles that he and his father had dedicated.

19 There was no more war until the thirty-fifth year of Asa’s reign.

q       There is a prophet Azariah who encouraged Asa in his obedience.

q       Asa continued his destruction of idols.

q       Repaired the altar of the Lord in front of the portico of the Lord’s temple.

q       15th year of Asa’s reign, he gathered all the people. (1) sacrifice (2) covenant

q       Deposed his grandmother Maacah from her position as queen mother.

q       Brought into the temple of God the silver and gold articles that was dedicated.

Asa’s Ending : Chapter 16

16     In the thirty-sixth year of Asa’s reign Baasha king of Israel went up against Judah and fortified Ramah to prevent anyone from leaving or entering the territory of Asa king of Judah.

2 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.  3 “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.”

4 Ben-Hadad agreed with King Asa and sent the commanders of his forces against the towns of Israel. They conquered Ijon, Dan, Abel Maim and all the store cities of Naphtali.  5 When Baasha heard this, he stopped building Ramah and abandoned his work.  6 Then King Asa brought all the men of Judah, and they carried away from Ramah the stones and timber Baasha had been using. With them he built up Geba and Mizpah.

7 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.  8 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.  9 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.”

10 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.

11 The events of Asa’s reign, from beginning to end, are written in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel.  12 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.  13 Then in the forty-first year of his reign Asa died and rested with his fathers.  14 They buried him in the tomb that he had cut out for himself in the City of David. They laid him on a bier covered with spices and various blended perfumes, and they made a huge fire in his honor. [1]

q       36th year of Asa’s reign. 11 years after he made sacrifice and makes his people swore a new covenant with the Lord.

q       He made a deal with Ben-Hadad  of Aram to break his peace treaty with Baasha, king of Israel and to attack Israel. He bought Ben-Hadad off with silver and gold from the temple.

q       Another prophet Hanani, this time, the prophet was treated badly.

 

What makes Asa , who has such a promising beginning, end this way? Good beginning, bad ending.

1.                  He began well. He was God-centered, removing all the high places, cutting down the Asherah rods and destroying Baal altars, recalling the people to their covenant responsibilities to the Lord. The Lord blessed him.

2.                  He became complacent. He did not remove all the high places..In the beginning, Asa removed all the high places (2 Chr 14:3). Then towards the end of his reign, he did not remove the high places (2 Chr 15:17) 1 Kings 15:14

3.                  He began to trust in his own ingenuity. After 36 years of peace with one major war which he won dramatically, he had became complacent. He began to trust in himself rather than in the Lord. He thinks he is a smart king and tried to do things his own way. It was a brilliant strategic movement. When threathened by Israel from the north, he opened a second front on the north of Israel’s borders by enlisting the help of the King of  Aram, Ben-Hadad.

4.                  He did not trust in the Lord. Even when he was sick in the 39th year of his reign, he refused to turn to the Lord. 2 Chronicles 16:12

 

Lessons for us

How can we ensure we end well? Good beginning, good ending.

1.                  Do not become complacent. Remove sins from our lives

Asa failed because he did not remove all the high places. He allowed sin to remain in Judah and parts of Israel he has conquered.

a.                   Remove all sins as soon as we discover them. The Koreans have a curious New Year’s custom. Desiring to forget unpleasant things and make a fresh start, each person determines what bad habits he would like to eliminate and what past deeds he wants forgiven. Then he writes the names of these evils on a kite and flies it high into the air. When it is almost out of sight, he cuts the string. As the “paper bird” takes a nosedive and disappears from the sight, he thinks that all his faults and previous transgressions are forever removed. [2]

b.                  Do not allow any sins to accumulate. In the early days of his struggle toward the truth, Augustine made a prayer, “Lord, save me from my sins, but not quite yet.” Then sometime after that he prayed, “Lord, save me from all my sins, except one.” And then came the final prayer, “Lord, save me from all my sins, and save me now!” It was when he made that final decision against evil that the victory was his. There is no joy and strength and, for that matter, no peace, like that which visits the soul which has taken an unconquerable resolve against that which is evil. [3]

 

2.                  Trust in the Lord, not in our own strength.

a.                   Trust in the Lord because He is Lord.

b.                  Trust in the Lord because of what He has done in the past. That is what Hanani was trying to tell Asa. What the Lord done in the past, He can do again.

c.                   Trust in small things and gradually work up to bigger things. Example of George Mueller of Bristol. He set up orphanages in Bristol. He decided that he will never ask anyone for money but only pray to the Lord to supply all his needs. “In his lifetime, nearly one and one-half million pounds passed through is hands. As well as supporting the orphanage, one hundred fifteen pounds was spent on running Sunday schools and regular schools around the world. Ninety thousand pounds was used for printing Bibles, and over two hundred sixty thousand pounds went to support missionaries. One of the many missionary organizations that George gave to was the China Inland Mission, founded by Hudson Taylor, who had became a good friend. During a particularly difficult period in China, George sent enough money to Hudson Taylor to support all the missionaries of the China Inland Mission!”[4] George did not come by this trust in the Lord instantly. It was by a slow process of trusting, beginning with small things and graduating to bigger things. George Muller died at ninety  two years of age, full of trust in the Lord. That is ending well.

 

                         It’s not how you begin but how you ends that counts

 

 

                                                                                                                                                       Soli Gloria Deo


 

[1]The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984.

[2]Tan, Paul Lee, Encyclopedia of 7,700 Illustrations, (Garland, Texas: Bible Communications, Inc.) 1996.

[3]Tan, Paul Lee, Encyclopedia of 7,700 Illustrations, (Garland, Texas: Bible Communications, Inc.) 1996.

[4] Janet & Geoff Benge, George Mueller, The Guardian of Bristol (OMF literature, 1999)

 

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