The Wise Choice of Asa
2 Chronicles 14:1-5, 8-13
1So Abijah slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the city of David: and Asa his son reigned in his stead. In his days the land was quiet ten years. 2And Asa did that which was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God: 3For he took away the altars of the strange gods, and the high places, and brake down the images, and cut down the groves: 4And commanded Judah to seek the LORD God of their fathers, and to do the law and the commandment. 5Also he took away out of all the cities of Judah the high places and the images: and the kingdom was quiet before him.
8And Asa had an army of men that bare targets and spears, out of Judah three hundred thousand; and out of Benjamin, that bare shields and drew bows, two hundred and fourscore thousand: all these were mighty men of valor. 9And there came out against them Zerah the Ethiopian with an host of a thousand thousand, and three hundred chariots; and came unto Mareshah. 10Then Asa went out against him, and they set the battle in array in the valley of Zephathah at Mareshah. 11And Asa cried unto the LORD his God, and said, LORD, it is nothing with Thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power: help us, O LORD our God; for we rest on Thee, and in Thy name we go against this multitude. O LORD, Thou art our God; let not man prevail against Thee. 12So the LORD smote the Ethiopians before Asa, and before Judah; and the Ethiopians fled. 13And Asa and the people that were with him pursued them unto Gerar: and the Ethiopians were overthrown, that they could not recover themselves; for they were destroyed before the LORD, and before His host: and they carried away very much spoil.
2 Chronicles 15:1-15
1And the Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Obed: 2And he went out to meet Asa, and said unto him, Hear ye me. Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin; The LORD is with you while ye be with Him; and if ye seek Him, He will be found of you; but if ye forsake Him, He will forsake you. 3Now for a long season Israel hath been without the true God, and without a teaching priest, and without law. 4But when they in their trouble did turn unto the LORD God of Israel, and sought Him, He was found of them. 5And in those times there was no peace to him that went out, nor to him that came in, but great vexations were upon all the inhabitants of the countries. 6And nation was destroyed of nation, and city of city: for God did vex them with all adversity. 7Be ye strong therefore, and let not your hands be weak: for your work shall be rewarded.
8And when Asa heard these words, and the prophecy of Obed the prophet, he took courage, and put away the abominable idols out of all the land of Judah and Benjamin, and out of the cities which he had taken from mount Ephraim, and renewed the altar of the LORD, that was before the porch of the LORD.
9And he gathered all Judah and Benjamin, and the strangers with them out of Simeon: for they fell to him out of Israel in abundance, when they saw the LORD his God was with him.
10So they gathered themselves together at Jerusalem in the third month, in the fifteenth year of the reign of Asa. 11And they offered unto the LORD the same time, of the spoil which they had brought, seven hundred oxen and seven thousand sheep. 12And they entered into a covenant to seek the LORD God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul; 13That whosoever would not seek the LORD God of Israel should be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman. 14And they sware unto the LORD with a loud voice, and with shouting, and with trumpets, and with cornets. 15And all Judah rejoiced at the oath: for they had sworn with all their heart, and sought Him with their whole desire: and He was found of them: and the LORD gave them rest round about.
The ability to make right choices is a great gift of God to mankind. One of the interesting things about the Bible is that it presents records of how other men made choices.
- Moses chose to suffer with his own people, rather than enjoy the riches of Egypt.
- Joseph’s choice to stay true to God and to maintain his integrity put him in the prison of Potiphar’s house.
- Daniel chose to eat the king’s vegetables rather than his meats.
- Paul chose to serve Christ and to cast his lots with the early Christians which eventually meant martyrdom, for Paul, but his ultimate reward was glorious: “a crown of life.”
- Christ made a marvelous choice when He set His face toward Jerusalem, and at the Garden of Gethsemane and when in the Judgment Hall.
- Adam’s choice cost him Eden.
- Esau’s choice, his birthright.
- Achan’s, his life.
- Lot’s choice cost him his wife and home and country and his herds.
- Saul’s, his kingdom.
- The rich young ruler, the companionship of Christ.
- Pilate Agrippa and Felix chose wrong and missed immortality.
- Jonah’s first choice nearly shipwrecked himself and the crew.
Our lesson today deals with the wise choice of Asa. He chose not to walk in the ways of his sinful father; he was a good man in spite of his idolatrous ancestors. He was the son of a wicked father, Abijah. He was the grandson of evil Rehoboam. His grandmother, Maachah, was an idolatress and helped lead Judah into idolatrous worship.
This was the problem Asa had to deal with when he came to the throne of Judah. Asa inherited the throne of a nation that had been engaged in continuous wars for many years. Israel and Judah, the two Jewish Kingdoms, were constantly at war with each other after their separation. Israel was the Northern Kingdom and Judah the Southern Kingdom.
Israel’s constant backsliding allowed idolatry to be entrenched in their worship. That was difficult to eradicate completely. Several good kings undertook the task and had a measure of success, but under evil leaders the idols quickly reappeared.
Asa faced such a challenge when he took the throne. It is clear that he was a Godly man and Israel would be greatly blessed by his leadership.
One of his first accomplishments was that he undertook the destruction of idols and the shrines where the people worshiped false gods. As a result of this zeal for God’s honor, Asa led successful military campaigns and saw the blessings of the LORD on his people.
Israel was indeed blessed to enjoy the leadership of such a king! Asa had the good of the nation at heart, and above all he was devoted to the LORD and determined to hold up a standard of righteousness.
God demands exclusive devotion to Himself. The Ten Commandments forbade worship of any other gods, whether persons or objects, but only the one true God. No graven image was to be made lest it become an object of worship. God warned His people of the serious consequences of engaging in such sacrilege. Review Exodus 20:3-5.
Exodus 20:3-6 (GOD speaking)
3Thou shalt have no other gods before Me. 4Thou
shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing
that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in
the water under earth: 5Thou shalt not bow down thyself to
them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting
the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth
generation of them that hate Me; 6And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love Me, and keep My commandments.
One of the great evils of our time is materialism. There can be no question that people literally worship “things”. They give their devotion to what will make them happier, wealthier and more self-confident. They are willing to sacrifice a relationship with God in order to achieve these goals. They have no interest in eternity, only in the here and now.
Before King Asa dealt with any other matter, he made the elimination of idolatry his priority. Here was a king whose career was summed up in these words:
2 Chronicles 14:2
And Asa did that which was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God.
He was not seeking the favor of man. If he had, he would not have been so bold in his campaign against idolatry.
It was a daring move on the part of Asa to destroy these places. It was believed that anyone who would harm or destroy them would experience the wrath of these gods, but Asa knew he was serving the one true God, one who could see and hear and answer prayer. Tearing down these idols and reinstituting the worship of Jehovah God was a wise decision. In fact, the existence of Judah, the Southern Kingdom, depended on it. Asa knew it was not enough to take away the religion of the people; it was necessary to turn them toward God and to give them a better hope, a faith in a God who cared for them.
God gave them a ten-year period of peace. Asa, being a wise leader, knew that peace is often followed shortly by another period of war.
He was wise enough to know that although the enemy lay in defeat and was unable at the time to launch an offensive, enemies frequently regain their strength, regroup their forces and renew the war, so Asa prepared for the next attack. He built walls of protection, completely surrounding the cities. High towers were erected on the walls to serve as lookout-posts. In this way the enemy could be defeated at great distances.
The walls could then be manned with soldiers to fight off the enemy’s attempt to batter through them. The gates were barred; therefore, the greatest weakness in their defense was strengthened. Asa had made thorough preparations for defending his people.
Asa also built a strong army. His military strength consisted of 300,000 troops from Judah and 280,000 from the tribe of Benjamin. He armed them with bucklers and spears, shields and bows.
Application: All believers should look ahead in all areas of life: laying up, storing up…health, money and knowledge against the time when these will be needed, but above all, we should fortify our character to meet the storms of temptation which are sure to come.
We can never know how strong our faith is until it is tested. The same goes for our commitment to the LORD. It is easier when things are going well, but it is in the heart of the battle that we learn the quality of our consecration.
Asa’s feeling of security was to be shaken when he realized that Zerah, the Ethiopian, with an army twice the size of his own, and equipped with chariots (which might be considered the ancient equivalent of our modern tanks) was moving against him. Defeat seemed inevitable because of the size of Zerah’s army and the type of military equipment it had. If Asa was to have a chance of victory, a miracle was needed. Asa’s army was no match for these invaders.
Such circumstances, however, provide opportunity for us to learn what God can do when the human side of things looks hopeless. As Asa took up battle positions in the valley, he brought out his most powerful weapon: prayer. 2 Chronicles 14:11, above, is his prayer.
The Ethiopian must have been anxious to start the battle so they could proceed to annihilate the Israelites. Little did they know who was fighting on the side of this seemingly inferior force. They would soon discover how much power their weapons had against God.
We are inclined in such a situation to count figures, weighing our strength against the enemy. Asa did not. He did not hesitate to admit his seemingly hopeless position. Be reminded as previously stated above in 2 Chronicles 4:11: Asa said, “LORD, it is nothing with Thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power: help us! O Lord our God for we rest on Thee and in Thy Name we go against this multitude. Thou art our God; let not man prevail against Thee.”
Asa would not attempt the battle without prayer. Asa trusted in God even though they were outnumbered and the instruments of destruction were many and terrible, but God gave them victory. The Ethiopians fled and Asa’s warriors took the spoils. The Israelites plundered the cities, capturing large numbers of their livestock, one of their chief sources of livelihood. It became evident to the Ethiopians that the Israelites had received help from a source with which they had not reckoned.
2 Chronicles 14:14 reads
And they smote all the cities round about Gerar; for the fear of the LORD came upon them: and they spoiled all the cities; for there was exceeding much spoil in them.
He was not seeking the favor of man. If he had, he would not have been so bold in his campaign against idolatry.
Prophet Azariah made only one appearance in Scripture, but what a message he delivered to Asa, a message of warning. He was moved by the Holy Spirit to give a message from the LORD. It’s recorded in 2 Chronicles 15: 1-7, above. There was a warning in the prophet’s message: 2 Chronicles 15:2, above.
“If ye seek Him, He will be found of you, but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you.” Why such a warning on such a joyous occasion? It was then most needed! Few things are as difficult to handle as success.
For a long season Israel had been without the presence of the true God. There had been many times since the conquest of Canaan when the people had forgotten the true God and had strayed away into indifference, infidelity or idolatry, but especially so after the division of the kingdom. Judah became the Southern Kingdom and Israel became the Northern Kingdom.
The Israelites strayed. It required the pressure of some great disaster, a war, or an inroad of foreign warriors destroying their crops and carrying off their crops to remind them of God and His unfailing help in the past.
Be reminded of 2 Chronicles 15:7, as mentioned above: Be ye strong therefore, and let not your hands be weak: for your work shall be rewarded. The battle is the Lord’s, as well as the victory!
God has never lost a battle and He never will lose a battle. We as Christians are on the winning side!