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Faithlife

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NOT ALL WHO

BEGINWELL

by Tom Lewis

END WELL

As  they  responded,   God blessed them with prosperity. For at least 10 years, they were free from war. Asa, meanwhile, achieved a reputation as a builder, developing a well-equipped army and fortifying cities (1 Kings 15:23; 2 Chron. 14:8).Then, an army of Cushites (probably' Ethiopians), Libyans and perhaps Arabians invaded Judah's southern territory as far as Mareshah (2 Chron. 14:9-15). Zerah, the leader," was possibly acting in the service of Osorkon I, king of Egypt, attempting to subjugate Judah again (2 Chron. 12:8).Asa met this second challenge by calling to the Lord his God: "Lord, there is no one besides Thee to help in the battle between the powerful and those who have no strength; so help us, O Lord our God, for we trust in Thee, and in Thy name have come against this multitude."0 Lord, Thou art our God; let not man prevail against Thee" (2 Chron. 14:11).His prayer reveals the secrets of his success. First, in acknowledging Judah's powerlessness against the enemy, Asa admitted his need. Second, he acknowl­edged God as the only source of help. His army could not defeat Zerah by extraordinary human skill. God would
I

 used to envy committed Christians of long standing. Gray-haired saints, I figured, were safe from backslid­ing, able to rest on their laurels and coast to glory. Free from temptation, they could bask in sweet communion with the Lord.

But since reading of King Asa (2 Chron. 14-16), I have changed my plans for spiritual retirement. He who began so very well certainly did not end well. His life provides principles to keep us from spiritual derailment.

Asa tackled a tough challenge. Repudiating the idolatry of his father and grandfather, he removed many of Judah's "high places." These places of worship were often located on a hill with a tent or a room for sacrificial meals.

He also tore down the accompanying religious fix­tures—foreign altars, sacred pillars, small pagan incense altars and the wooden images representing Asherah, the Canaanite goddess who supposedly created the other gods.

He expelled many of the male shrine prostitutes (1
Kings 15:12; 22:46) and ordered reform. And as Judah's
third Davidic king, he commanded his nation to seek the
Lord and observe His Word. In a passionate speech, he
called on his people to rebuild the nation because "we
have sought the Lord our God" (2 Chron. 14:7).__

Tom Lewis is a free-lance author living in Dallas, Texas.


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MOODY / MARCH 1983


| Let's revise our ideas about coasting to glory. |


have to help,

providentially employing human means.

Asa also declared his trust in the Lord and, thus, that God is faithful and worthy of that trust. The Hebrew words for "trust in" literally mean "to lean or support oneself upon."

Finally, Asa could pray that the Cushites would not prevail against the Lord, Judah's God. Asa's cause, Judah's cause would be God's cause.

In God's strength, therefore, Judah pursued the enemy to Gerar, probably an Egyptian frontier outpost. After a 20-mile chase, they crushed the Cushite ranks beyond recovery. Judah was then able to destroy and sack the surrounding enemy villages, and Egypt would not meddle in Palestine for the next 170 years.

After this stunning victory, Azariah the prophet pointed


to Asa's third great chal­lenge—national revival (2 Chron. 15:1-7). Azariah re­affirmed the blessing God be­stows when people obey Him: "And if you seek Him, He will let you find Him."

Strengthened by the message of God's spokesman, Asa removed still more of the detestable idols, this time extending the reform into the tribe of Ephraim to the north (2 Chron. 15:8-15). And he repaired the 60-year-old altar of burnt offering originally built for sacri­fices unto the Lord. In the early part of his 15th year as king, Asa called a sacrificial festival in Jerusalem. Those attending in­cluded not only Judah and Benjamin, but also defectors from Ephraim, Simeon and even as far north as Manas-seh. They saw evidence of God's working in Asa's affairs. The people renewed the covenant Israel had originally made with the Lord at Mount Sinai. In their zeal, they also reissued the death penalty for apostasy. Sacrificing animals from their Cushite spoil, they swore to seek the Lord with all their heart and soul. And they kept their oath. The concept of "seeking God" may mean inquiring of Him or asking Him for help. But often, as here, seeking


 


MOODY / MARCH 1983


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God refers to desiring a relationship and fellowship with Him. It involves trust, obedience and worship (1 Chron. 28:9; Psalm 69:6; Zeph. 1:6; Ezra 4:2).

When they sought God, He let them find Him, and they were blessed with peace. God is "a rewarder of those who seek Him" (Heb. 11:6).

Asa believed God's message from Azariah: "The Lord is with you when you are with Him" (2 Chron. 15:2). Seeking God brought courageous decisions on his part.

Grandmother Maacah (mother of Asa's father, Abijah; 2 Chron. 11:20-22; 14:1) may have had considerable power in Asa's early reign since he probably came to the throne at a young age. Yet he knew the Lord must be honored above all family relationships. As Azariah had said, God honors those who honor Him.

Reminiscent of Moses' destruction of the golden calf, Asa crushed and burned his grandmother's idol. More­over, he deposed Maacah from her position as queen mother.

Finally, he brought both his father's and his own sacred offerings into the temple, probably booty from Abijah's victory over Jeroboam (2 Chron. 13:16, 17) and Asa's victory over Zerah.

After 16 years of successful rule, Asa met his fourth challenge when Baasha invaded Judah's northern border (2 Chron. 16:1-6). (The "thirty-sixth year" of Asa's reign is the 36th year after the northern tribes of Israel seceded from Judah and Benjamin—Asa's 16th year, since Baasha died in Asa's 26th reignal year; 1 Kings 15:33; 16:6,8.)

Baasha, of the rebel tribes of Israel, no doubt recap­tured the towns Asa's father had earlier taken (2 Chron. 13:19). He had also captured Ramah, five miles north of Jerusalem on the main road between the two rival states. He hoped to curtail movement between them, especially defection of his best people.

In this challenge, Asa failed. Rather than call on the Lord, he bribed Ben-hadad, king of Aram (Syria), with all the riches he and his father had dedicated to the Lord, and he induced Aram to renege on her treaty with Israel.

God is eager to show

himself strong with people

throughout the earth, but

only with people devoted

_________________ to Him.                 

Ben-hadad obliged by capturing Baasha's northern cities and plundering their produce. With Baasha distracted, Asa conscripted labor to transport materials Baasha left behind in order to strengthen his northern frontier, fortifying Geba and Mizpah.

Although Asa appeared to win the skirmish, Hanani the seer informed him that he had lost more than he gained (2 Chron. 16:7-10). Because Asa had foolishly leaned on Ben-hadad instead of God, he missed his chance to conquer the Arameans who would later attack in league with Baasha. No longer a dominant Middle East force, weakened Judah could expect hostilities.

Asa had failed to acknowledge that "the eyes of the


Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His" (2 Chron. 16:9).

"Move to and fro" can be expressed as "go eagerly or quickly." In other words, God is eager to "show himself strong" (KJV) with people "throughout the earth" (1 Kings 8:43). But only with people devoted to Him.

Since further challenges would not produce growth in a man who was not trusting Him, God turned to corrective discipline. He sent Hanani to rebuke Asa, but again Asa failed.

Far from contrite, he raged at God's spokesman. In fact, he became the first king of Judah to persecute a prophet.

So God brought a second stage of chastening. Some of Asa's subjects protested his recent actions. Still refusing to admit wrong, Asa oppressed them brutally.

Although we do know he became severely diseased in his feet (2 Chron. 16:11-14), Scripture is silent about Asa's next 23 years.

He failed once again to trust God when he relied on physicians who may have been foreign magicians.

After two years of suffering from illness, Asa died. Inference would indicate that God took him to heaven as a last resort correction.

How great is God's grace—despite Asa's checkered career. The Bible records that "the heart of Asa was wholly devoted to the Lord all his days" (1 Kings 15:14). Even though unrepentant, Asa still worshiped God as Savior all his life.

And yet, contrast Asa with David, who, upon rebuke, humbled himself, admitted his transgression (2 Sam. 12:13; 1 Chron. 21:8) and was restored to fellowship with God.

Anytime we deny our guilt, we have entered on a self-destructive course: "He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion" (Prov. 28:13).

Why do we, like Asa, refuse to admit wrong? One obvious reason is pride. We don't want others to rebuke us. Yet this is the duty of Christian friends.

Sometimes we erroneously suppose that by admitting wrong we will lose esteem. But, in truth, a person who is transparent about his shortcomings often gains respect.

Sometimes we fail to admit wrong because we exagger­ate the consequences. Fear of those consequences may lead us to deny our sin. But the God who causes all things to work together for good, in His grace, has the power to achieve His will in spite of our sin.

Another reason we refuse to call sin "sin" is because some of us cannot accept ourselves when we fail. We Christians often get the notion that after we are saved, we are unacceptable if we sin, especially a sin that's considered "bad."

However, just as there is nothing we can do to merit God's love, neither can we lose His love through our sin.

We forget that God knows His people still have the sin nature and that they will sin (1 John 1:8-10). But in Christ He has already made provision. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful... to forgive" (1 John 1:9). We have no need to hide our sin.

Asa could have ended well. By God's grace, we can. □


 


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