Asa and the people of Judah have been faithful to the Lord for many years. But when trouble comes his way in his last years he does NOT turn to God. And he becomes bitter.
God gave Judah rest from war for fifteen years! This is the time between when they committed themselves to the Lord and when Baasha, king of Israel “went up against Judah and built Ramah” (verse 1b). I don’t know if this “going up against” Judah included battles or just fortifying a forward position in order to attack from. We are told Baasha’s primary reason for this act was to prevent people from moving back and forth between the two kingdoms. He didn’t want to lose any more people to the kingdom of Judah or the Lord. It reminds me of the Berlin Wall that cut Germany in half.
Asa is VERY concerned by what is going on. He thinks that the next step Baasha takes is to try and conquer Judah. He may have already been waging skirmishes along the border, but we are not told either way. But Asa somehow found out that Ben-hadad, king of Syria, was partnering with Baasha. There were probably Syrian troops in place with Baasha’s men. This had Asa beside himself with worry.
Enter Asa’s big mistake. Not his biggest but close to it. It was a two part mistake. First, Asa bought his way out of his current danger. He sent Ben-hadad all he had as a bribe and called on past relationships between the two kingdoms. And second, his crowning point in this mistake was that He didn’t even consult with God for His input or assistance.
Ben-hadad reminds me of the cheating spouse who divorces the first partner to take up with the second. If he/she cheated with you, he/she will eventually cheat on you too. If he can be bought once he can be bought again. I find no comfort in a relationship that requires you to break one promise in order to fulfill another.
Worse that trusting a fickle king is ignoring the God who has walked with you for so many years. The same God who hasd given him 15 years of peace. The same God who defeated the Ethiopians when they came against Judah in overwhelming numbers. The SAME God who he swore allegiance to and said that any who didn’t serve Him would be put to death. The same God who gave him a promise that as long as Asa sought Him He would be found, but if Asa were to forsake Him, He would forsake Asa and Judah too.
Asa was able to buy his way out of trouble with Baasha. Ben-hadad took the bribe and Israel had to fall back. Judah was able to gather all the supplies abandoned by Israel and reinforce two of their towns. But God didn’t ‘sign off’ on Asa’s actions. He was quite upset with how Asa went about dealing with his problems. And He said so!
Do you remember the story of David, Bathsheba, and Uriah? When David had Uriah killed and took Bathsheba as his own, Nathan the prophet came to him with a rebuke from the Lord. Once confronted with his sin, David fell broken before the Lord. He humbled himself and asked for forgiveness. He still paid a price but it could have been much worse.
Asa encounters the same crossroads and makes his BIGGEST mistake of ALL. God confronted Asa with his sin just as He had done with David and his sin. Hanani was Asa’s Nathan. Hanani brought the words of the Lord to Asa for reproof and correction. Instead of recognizing his actions as sin Asa became enraged! He blamed Hanani for the message and had him arrested, put in prison IN stocks. Asa’s rage didn’t stop there. “And Asa inflicted cruelties upon some of the people at the same time” (verse 10b).
We don’t know if Asa ever released Hanani but we do know that Asa never again turned to the Lord. God gave him opportunities to do so at every turn. He faced war from then on in his reign. He also got a foot disease that finally ended his life. For FIVE years Asa held a grudge against the Lord for reprimanding him. Bitterness was all that was left of Asa’s relationship with God.
Why? What was it about Asa and his sin that caused him to turn away from God so completely? Was it because he believed that what he did was right? Did he truly believe that this was his only option? Is it possible that he had already broken his relationship with God and this just finished that break? Did he even consider for ONE MOMENT that he should ask God before committing to his course of action? Did he believe God had already forsaken him because there was trouble again? When God spoke to him the last time He told him that He stirred up trouble for the nations that were not following Him. Did he equate this with the attack by Baasha as meaning God had forsaken Judah? If so, he forgot God’s final words to him; “But you, take courage! Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded” (2 Chronicles 15:7). Asa’s works were ‘rewarded.’ First with peace and then with war. He saw both sides of that promise.
I am SO glad my every blessing isn’t tied to my every decision! I would find myself in the hole too often, especially when I was younger. I’m not saying I don’t still make mistakes and choose the wrong path, but I believe I have learned from some of my past choices and now steer clear of some dangers. God was gracious to me in those times and brought me through and back into relationship with Him. I wonder what would have been Asa’s final judgment if he had accepted responsibility for his sin and repented. I FULLY believe that his relationship with God was restorable if he chose to humble himself. How much more good could he have done if only…
Father God, I don’t want ANY if only… scenarios like Asa had. I want to hear Your correction AND heed it! I NEVER want to be separated from You. This was truly Asa’s choice. You were ready at ANY TIME to meet him. As You are with me now. THANK YOU for NEVER leaving me, even when I turn away. Even if I were to run to the ends of the earth to escape, YOU would still be there. And this is true for EVERY man, woman and child that ever was, is, or will be. You wait with open arms, ready to receive ALL who reach out with a humble heart. A heart that KNOWS that YOU have the answers and we don’t. A heart that trusts You to bring about the change that is needed. A heart that is open and willing to listen. And a heart that trusts You completely. Keep THIS the state of my heart Lord Jesus!