For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.
2 Chronicles 16:9
Bible Reading: 1 Chronicles 14:1 – 16:14
If my plan unfolds as I think and hope it will, we will be looking at four Old Testament kings the next few weeks but our focus won’t be so much on the men as on the God they either served or rebelled against and how he responded to their leadership of the nation of Judah.
Why would we look at dusty Old Testament kings who lived thousands of years ago? Philosopher George Santayana is famous for his quote — “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” As we consider these four ancient kings of Judah we want to learn from their lives, embrace the good, and learn to avoid that which kept them from experiencing true fellowship with the Lord.
The book of Second Chronicles is devoted solely to the kings of a broken monarchy. There was civil war in Israel and 10 of the 12 tribes defected and set up their own kingdom. Only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin remain.
King Asa was the third king of the southern kingdom of Judah. His reign begins with so much promise: “Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God” (2 Chronicles 14:2 NIV). All of us want that opening line to be part of our personal story. When Asa became king, he cleaned house. “He removed the foreign altars and the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles” (2 Chronicles 14:3 NIV).
Asa’s reign began with peace but the time came when the kingdom of Cush threatened to attack. Read Asa’s response: “Then Asa called to the Lord his God and said, “Lord, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. 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 Chronicles 14:11 NIV).
It is bold, raw faith, for a leader to pray that prayer. And take note of that last little phrase — “O Lord, you are our God; do not let man prevail against you.” It’s for your sake we pray Lord; it’s for your reputation. God will honor that kind of prayer, sometimes with spectacular success.
When Asa is returning from defeating the Cushites, he meets a prophet named Azariah, who gives Asa a word from God: “Listen to me, Asa and all Judah and Benjamin. The Lord is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you” (2 Chronicles 15:1-2 NIV).
“If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.” Two short lines to remind Asa, and us, that God is for those who are for him. “When Asa heard these words and the prophecy of Azariah son of Oded the prophet, he took courage. He removed the detestable idols from the whole land of Judah and Benjamin and from the towns he had captured in the hills of Ephraim” (2 Chronicles 15:8 NIV).
And look at the people’s response: “At that time they sacrificed to the Lord seven hundred head of cattle and seven thousand sheep and goats from the plunder they had brought back. They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul” (2 Chronicles 15:11-12 NIV).
It’s the mark of a leader; the people are following. Asa is well on his way to becoming one of the few godly kings. But then a little thing happens, one poor decision that will shape the rest of Asa’s life. “Although he did not remove the high places from Israel, Asa’s heart was fully committed [to the Lord] all his life” ( 2 Chronicles 15:17 NIV).
As Asa conquered some of Israel’s territory, he compromised with some of the people who lived there and let them keep just a few of their high places where they worshipped idols. These were just minor little idols. It seemed to be only a footnote. Asa remained fully committed to the Lord but he left a few small idols standing. No big deal. Or was it?
Do you cling to high places in your life? A high place is something that demands and gets devotion from you that is reserved for the Lord. Maybe you don’t see it as a big deal. You follow the Lord in all the important ways that really count. It may be something small…no big deal. Asa did pretty well. He did some really good things for God. He only failed in a few small things. What was the result? Let’s take a look at Asa’s final chapter. Just as it was true for Asa, it’s true for us. It’s the final chapter that really counts.
In Asa’s thirty-sixth year, king Baasha, king of Israel, came to attack Judah. The Asa we’ve observed so far would have sought the Lord for victory but Asa has compromised on some small things and has slowly lost his way. The small little concessions have slowly turned his head away from God. Instead of going to the Lord for help, Asa makes a treaty with the king of Syria, his enemy, to attack Israel.
It was the beginning of the end for Asa. Look at his end: “In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was afflicted with a disease in his feet. Though his disease was severe, even in his illness he did not seek help from the Lord, but only from the physicians” (2 Chronicles 16:12 NIV).
How can this be the same Asa who early in his reign was so allied with the Lord, this Asa who commanded all the Jews to seek the Lord and now doesn’t even think to seek the Lord for his own healing? How can this be the same man? I’ll tell you how. It seems that nothing derails a Christian faster than a half committed heart. This is what happens as you follow the Lord but leave a few little high places. The little high places can bring down even the children of the living God. The little high places are the termites that left un-checked can bring down a whole building. That bargain with evil may be small, but it can do you in spiritually. Let it go. Give all your devotion to the Lord. He wants you fully committed to him so that he can strengthen you. Those un-surrendered high places all matter. Asa didn’t just die of diseased feet, but of a diseased heart.
Prayer: Holy Spirit, right now as we ponder these things, I pray that you would begin to bring into each of our minds the high places in our lives that we have not torn down, those things that have taken a place in our hearts reserved for you. Reveal them to us now Lord we pray….and give us courage to give everything to you. Our desire is for you to take the throne of our lives as we become fully devoted to you. Amen.
[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”B0097WVXUS” locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/518QFzxScCL._SL160_.jpg” width=”99″] Amazon #1 bestselling author Bob Saffrin lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his wife Barb and their beagle Rocky. He and Barb have two children and four grandchildren. Bob loves the outdoors and has been on many backpacking trips in the rugged Boundary Waters area of Minnesota including winter camping.
Check out Bob’s book, [easyazon-link asin=”B0097WVXUS” locale=”us”]Psalms, The Sunrise of Hope[/easyazon-link]