A Sad Decline

20150710_1657532 Chronicles 16:1-6

So far in this series of articles, we have seen Asa’s faith in and zeal for the Lord. In the first two thirds of his reign, he was able to accomplish much for the cause of God and truth. But in the final part of his life, the wheels seemed to fall off, spiritually seeking. Yes, he would be honored and esteemed by his people at the end. But the Holy Spirit presents his spiritual problems to us. The Bible never hides the sins and flaws of the people of God. It always shows humankind for what we are: people in desperate need of God’s grace and mercy. We ought to remember the perspective of the NTS on what is written in the OTS (1 Corinthians 10:11-13; Romans 15:4). These words are for our benefit. They are to teach us as we live in our part of the story of God’s glory in Jesus Christ. May we listen with responsive hearts!

First, we should see that expedient policy guided Asa in his decline (16:1-6). I use “expedient” in the sense of contributing to advantage or interest, as opposed to right. Asa decided to pursue a course of action that made political and military sense, instead of doing what was right before God. The point is not how terrible Asa was to act this way. The point is for you and me to look at our decisions in the light of God’s word and to evaluate whether we pursue what is right or what is merely expedient.

A crisis developed for Judah (16:1). The king of Israel had a plan to oppress Judah. Such events are common for nations in this fallen world. Greed is more than an individual sin. It controls whole people groups, who long for what others possess. You can trace political evil and war back to greed (James 4:1-2). Eliminate human greed and you end war. (In other words you won’t end war by peace conferences, resolutions, and a lot of handshakes among world leaders.) The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10).

Ancient writers dated events in various ways. Though it might seem strange to our western minds, evidently the writer of Chronicles was dating this event from the time of the division of Israel and not from the start of Asa’s reign. Since they lacked an agreed on system of dating, the ancients would do this type of thing at times.

The action of Baasha, king of the northern kingdom of Israel, was a clear threat to the well-being of its sister kingdom, Judah. Here is a sad situation. One group of God’s people was trying to harm the other. But Asa missed the way at this point. It was an opportunity for diplomacy, not for political intrigue. Asa started to act according to worldly ways rather than according to God’s Word. Overall, he was still loyal to the Lord (cf. 15:17). But his mind began to seek so-called wisdom that was contrary to what he claimed to believe. He also decided to act contrary to his own experience of God’s ability to deliver his people (cf. 14:12-13). Always remember the ways that the Lord has helped you in the past.

Asa’s thinking shifted from being God-centered, and so he made his own plans (16:2-3). Consider the course he turns to (cf. Henry):

  • He sought an alliance with an ungodly king and nation. This tore down the wall of separation that God had erected in the law covenant to keep Israel devoted to him (cf. Ephesians 2:11-14).
  • He weakened the other nation (Israel), which was at least publicly was part of God’s people. This would lessen God’s honor among the nations. It was a great change from the height of Solomon’s reign.
  • He paid for alliance out of the money stored up for the worship of the Lord. This weakened his country spiritually. He misused resources for political purposes that were set aside for God’s honor.
  • He set in motion an attitude of independence from the Lord. Instead of relying on what God could do for his people, he set an example of solving problems from fleshly wisdom. This is hard to eradicate from the way people think.

Asa achieved apparent success by his worldly policy. Israel was weakened in the north and had to shift its attention to combat the Arameans that had conquered several of its towns. This gave Asa the opportunity to strengthen his defenses. Instead of Ramah being a thorn in Judah’s side, the strong points he built would prove troublesome to Israel. Though worldly wisdom might apparently “work”, it brings in other destructive tendencies that weaken the worship of God and the faith of God’s people. Let us learn from Asa’s mistakes.

Grace and peace, David