Posted: 12 Dec 2010 11:00 PM PST
THE REIGN OF KING ASA of Judah is instructive on several fronts, and will occupy our attention both today (2 Chron. 14–15) and tomorrow.
Asa's long reign began with ten years of peace (2 Chron. 14:1), "for the LORD gave him rest" (2 Chron. 14:6). During this time Asa "commanded Judah to seek the LORD, the God of their fathers, and to obey his laws and commands" (2 Chron. 14:4). The people sought the Lord, "and built and prospered" (2 Chron. 14:7). At the end of ten years, Asa faced the devastating power of the Cushite forces (from the upper Nile). Asa could not possibly have forgotten how his grandfather Rehoboam was subjugated by Shishak of Egypt (2 Chron. 12). Asa's own conduct is exemplary, a foretaste of how his descendant Hezekiah would handle himself centuries later when he faced the Babylonians: he called on the Lord, frankly acknowledging his utter powerlessness against such forces. "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" (2 Chron. 14:11). By whatever means (the text does not specify), the Lord answers, and Asa's relatively tiny army crushes the Cushite host.
Enter Azariah son of Oded, a prophet with a message of encouragement for Asa and for all Judah and Benjamin (2 Chron. 15:1–2). Reflecting on the terrible years of anarchy under the closing years of the judges and the opening years of the monarchy, when travel and trade were dangerous and when the Levites were not sufficiently disciplined and organized to teach the people, Azariah encourages king and people alike to seek the Lord, for "he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you" (2 Chron. 15:2). Such a message strengthens Asa's resolve. He proceeds against the remaining idolatry in the land and pours resources into the maintenance of the temple. This is the covenant community, and under Asa it begins to act like one. "They sought God eagerly, and he was found by them. So the LORD gave them rest on every side" (2 Chron. 15:15) for a further quarter century, to the thirty-fifth year of Asa's reign (2 Chron. 15:19). The "high places" were not removed (2 Chron. 15:17)—a residue of competition with the temple—but for the most part Asa was a straight arrow.
We should not be embarrassed by the blessing of God on integrity and righteousness. Righteousness exalts a nation: it lifts it up and strengthens its hand. This is not merely a sociological inference: it is the way God has structured things, the way he providentially rules. Inversely, corruption attracts the wrath of God, and sooner or later will bring a nation down.
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