Since King Solomon died, we saw his son Rehoboam start a civil war, and the three year reign of Rehoboam's son Abijah. Tonight, we'll be looking at the three chapters which document the reign of the next king, Abijah's son Asa.
"The City of David" is a title of two cities, actually. In the New Testament, the city of David refers to his birthplace, the city of Bethlehem (Luke 2:4,11). But in the Old Testament, the term referred to the place where David had conquered the stronghold of Zion (2Sam. 5:7), eventually moving in the ark of the covenant (2Sam 6:12), and ultimately was buried (1Kings 2:10). This is the city of Jerusalem.
As the Judean kings before him, Abijah was buried in Jerusalem.
Asa did good and right in the sight of God. When he became king, the land was full of idolatry. Foreign altars, sacred pillars, Asherim, high places, and incense altars were prevalent.
The Canaanites believed Asherah was the wife of BAH-al, and the goddess of fertility. The Asherim were wooden poles carved into her form. The pillars were similar, but were images of other gods. King Asa had these things torn down and removed.
He also commanded the people to seek God and observe the Word. Now, these things are the keys to understand that what he did was "good and right."
Asa was able to do these things because he was the king. If God has put you in a position of authority, either as a leader, a mom, or an employer, you have been placed there for a godly purpose, to do "good and right."
In order to do good and right, you must do what is within the spectrum of your authority. Of course, it would be good if all your employees went to church, but it wouldn't be right for you to force them to go, because that wouldn't be within your lawful authority.
So, good and right is doing what is within the spectrum of your authority. If you're the boss, you may only be able to forbid the playing of offensive music, or displaying of indecent pictures. You have the right to do that, and it would be good. I would encourage you to have a godly influence in the areas of your life that you have authority.
Since Asa was the king, he had the authority to command all the people in the nation to seek the Lord and obey the Word. For him, that was good and right.
The kingdom was undisturbed for a period of ten years. It would have been very tempting to rest easy. To focus on entertainment and relaxation. But instead, King Asa used that time to build fortified cities surrounded by walls and gates.
Asa was building his defenses in times of rest. Is he being paranoid? Not at all!
- Farmers work hard in the springtime to insure that we'll have food in the winter.
- Investors build up their savings for times to insure they'll have reserves when the market dips.
- Even ants at harvest time aren't fooled by the massive amounts of grain surrounding them (Prov. 6:6-8). They store much of it away in anticipation of the freeze to come.
How foolish, then, that we don't build our spiritual defenses in times of peace! The famous passage of spiritual warfare in Ephesians six warns us to do this, (though most people miss it by jumping ahead to the description of the armor):
Eph. 6:13 ...take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.
When are we to take up the armor? Now. When are we going to need to use it? In the evil day. "Well, can't I wait to take it up then?" No.
Why do so many Christians bail out on church when life is easy, and only return when things get bad? Why do so many believers stop reading their Bibles, and only open them again when life throws them a curve? Why is it that we stop praying until we fall into a pit? Saints, we need to build up our defenses in times of rest in anticipation of the difficulties ahead.
Sure enough, war was coming. In this case, it came from ZEH-rakh the Ethiopian, with an army more than three times the size of King Asa's.
The battle lines were drawn in the valley of Tsef-AW-thaw at Mar-ay-SHAW. For you geography buffs, this is a valley about 20 miles southwest of Jerusalem.
King Asa was hopelessly outnumbered. A million-man army had come up from the African Continent, and was just miles from his capital city. What would he do?
Asa knew that his only hope in this situation was the Lord. He cried out to God and put his trust in Him. It is examples like this that remind us to do the same when we are facing insurmountable odds. David told himself,
Psa. 62:5-6 My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be shaken.
And this is the promise we have from God when we are walking in His ways:
Lev. 26:3 "If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments so as to carry them out...
Lev. 26:8 five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand, and your enemies will fall before you by the sword."
The unfaithful may be dropping like flies all around you, but if you stick close to the Lord, then you will be the one described in Psalm 91...
Psa. 91:1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty
Psa. 91:7 A thousand may fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand, but it shall not approach you.
As the Lord does for the faithful that cry out to Him, He delivered Judah from the Ethiopians, and gave them the complete victory. They actually chased them down to Gher-AWR, more than 25 miles away - in Philistine territory.
The prophet Az-ar-YAW was compelled by the Lord to approach King Asa with a reminder and an encouragement. Remember that Paul told us,
1Cor. 14:3 ...one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation.
In this case, Az-ar-YAW was exhorting Asa with the reminder of Israel's departure from God and that to succeed, he must continue to be with the Lord. He was also edifying Asa with the encouragement to be strong and courageous, with the promise of reward.
Asa responded to the exhortation with action. He made a renewed effort to continue removing the idolatry from the land. He also had the altar of sacrifice in the temple refurbished, since it had been being used daily for the last 60 years.
You may remember that a few chapters ago, we read of a defection from the north, right after the nation split into two:
2Chr. 11:14 For the Levites left their pasture lands and their property and came to Judah and Jerusalem, for Jeroboam and his sons had excluded them from serving as priests to the LORD.
2Chr. 11:16 Those from all the tribes of Israel who set their hearts on seeking the LORD God of Israel followed them to Jerusalem, to sacrifice to the LORD God of their fathers.
Now, because of King Asa's faithfulness, even more are coming down from Israel.
The Jews have made this covenant before (Exo. 24:7), and will make it again (2Kings 23:1-3). But the Lord doesn't say, "Yeah, right! Heard it all before!" Instead, "He let them find Him" and "gave them rest on every side."
Our God is so gracious and patient with us, isn't He?
King Asa removed Mah-ak-AW - his grandmother, who had been Rehoboam's wife (2Chron. 11:20) - from her position of prominence.
This must have been more than a little difficult for Asa. After all, it's his grandma! But there are times when a right walk with God means cutting off your relationship. Jesus said,
Matt. 10:34-36 "Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, AND A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW; and A MAN'S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD."
Many people are torn, because we have a biblical mandate to honor mother and father (Eph. 6:1-2). But understand that honoring your mother and father doesn't mean tolerating sin in your midst.
Although Asa was trying, he was not successful at completely removing all of the high places. Fortunately, God was looking at the completeness of his heart rather than the completion of the job.
For 35 years, Asa had walked with God. Unfortunately, his last four years were not marked by the same faithfulness. Twenty-six years before, Asa faced the Ethiopeans attacking from the south. Now, he is being assaulted by Israel to the north.
Asa's plan 26 years before was to pray,
2Chr. 14:11 ..."LORD, there is no one besides You to help in the battle between the powerful and those who have no strength..."
But now he has found someone else to help. He paid Ben-had-AD, king of Aram to be his ally. Asa's plan worked. But at what cost?
This time, the prophet sent to King Asa was Khan-aw-NEE. God's rebuke of the king was delivered.
Unbelievably, King Asa became so angry that he had Khan-aw-NEE locked up in prison. We could expect this sort of behavior from Herod or King Ahab. But Asa? Even the godliest of people are able to walk away from God if they don't maintain their heart.
Asa stopped trusting in God, became offended at the Word, and started dealing with people brutally. Obvious signs of a hardened heart.
Three years later, King Asa came to his end. He never turned back to the Lord, but continued to trust in man. This is evident when we read,
2Chr. 16:12 ...Asa became diseased in his feet. His disease was severe, yet even in his disease he did not seek the LORD, but the physicians.
Understand, this is not a slam against doctors. The Apostle Paul called Luke,
Col. 4:14 ...the beloved physician...
And Jesus acknowledged people's need for doctors when He said,
Mark 2:17 ..."It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick..."
However, when a believer trusts in the doctors instead of the Lord, they are in danger. "No thanks, God. My doc's got this one covered." And it seems the more severe the disease, the less people trust prayer. But here, we see the opposite being presented as the truth: "His disease was severe, but he STILL didn't seek God."
Saints, who are we trusting in? The other day, someone was telling me about the latest miracle product, the hottest, newest cure-all. They said, "I've gotten so bold, I'm telling everyone about this stuff!" It's amazing to me how most Christians can't be bold enough to say to a sick friend,
James 5:14-15 Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick...
And yet, those same Christians have no problem evangelizing the latest herb or technique!
This has a very spiritual application for us as well. When you're diseased in the feet, it means that you can't walk well. Our Christian walk is vital for our lives. If your walk is going poorly, who are you going to put your trust in? The latest book? The latest wind of doctrine? Or are you going to seek the Lord? The more severe the disease, the more clearly you need to seek Him.