THE REIGN OF ASA
(1 Kings 15:9-24)
By Wayne S. Walker
Many of the most interesting Bible lessons are learned from character studies. Some people think that reading about the kings of the Old Testament is very boring, but the fact is that there are some very interesting and important stories in this portion of the scripture. Most Bible students know that following the united kingdom of Israel, during which Saul, David, and Solomon reigned, the kingdom divided with the northern ten tribes becoming the nation of Israel under Jeroboam and the southern two tribes becoming the kingdom of Judah under Solomon’s son Rehoboam. Some of the kings of these two Hebrew kingdoms were very good, such as Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and Josiah. Others were very bad, such as Ahab, Ahaz, and Manasseh. Most of them were a mixture of good and bad, but all are recorded with a purpose in that which was "written before…for our learning" (Romans 15:4). In Judah, Rehoboam was succeeded by his son Abijam, who was in turn followed by his son Asa. The aim of this article is to examine the reign of Asa.
His Good Beginning
Notice Asa’s good beginning in 1 Kings 15.9-15. "Asa did what was right in the eyes of the LORD" (verse 11). This means that he followed the way of the Lord, not his own way or that set by his two predecessors who were said to have done evil in the sight of the Lord. The way of man, which often seems right to many, will not lead us to please God but will result in death and destruction (Proverbs 14:12, Jeremiah 10:23). There are not many ways to please God but only the way that is described as "strait" and "narrow" (Matthew 7:13-14).
As a result of this attitude, he destroyed idolatry and its various manifestations. "And he banished the perverted persons from the land, and removed all the idols that his fathers had made" (verse 12). For "perverted persons" the King James Version has "sodomites," referring to homosexuals. Ritual acts of homosexuality were often associated with pagan idolatry and this is one reason why they were condemned in the Old Testament, along with idolatry in general (Exodus 20:1-5, Deuteronomy 23:17-18). Do we have idols today? Covetousness is a form of idolatry (Colossians 3:5). And the homosexual rights movement has certainly made an idol out of promoting diversity and tolerance for their ungodly lifestyle (Romans 1:26-27). So we must keep ourselves from any idol that would stand between us and God (1 John 5:21). But beyond this, we see that to do that which is right in the sight of the Lord means opposing all evil and sinful practices (Ephesians 5:11, 2 John 9-11).
In addition, Asa did not let family ties keep him from doing right. "Also he removed Maachah his grandmother from being queen mother, because she had made an obscene image of Asherah" (verse 13). His was not just a religion of convenience inherited from forefathers but of conviction in which he did not allow physical relationships to become more important than serving God. Today, people often refuse to obey the gospel because of devotion to a departed parent who never was baptized. Or they continue to attend a church involved in false doctrine or error because it was where their dear grandparents went. Jesus said, "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of Me" (Matthew 10:37).
And Asa restored right worship. "He also brought into the house of the LORD the things which his father had dedicated" (verse 15). Under the Mosaic covenant, the house of God was the temple in Jerusalem. Today, we know that God does not dwell in temples made with hands (Acts17:24). Under the new covenant of Christ, God’s house is the church, a spiritual people rather than a physical building (1 Corinthians 3:16, 1 Timothy 3:15). As a part of God’s church, we need to make sure that we are worshipping right, according to the teachings of Christ (John 4:24). Because of these fine attributes, Asa started his reign well.
However, we find that Asa made some very serious mistakes in 1 Kings 15:16-22. What happened? There was war between Asa and Baasha, who was fortifying Ramah to embargo Judah. So in an attempt to protect his kingdom he "took all the silver and gold that was left in the treasuries of the house of the LORD and…sent them to Ben-Hadad the son of Tabrimmon, the son of Hezion, king of Syria, who dwelt in Damascus, saying, ‘Let there be a treaty between you and me…" (verses 18-19). Asa trusted in political alliances for defense rather than in God. We must never rely upon political methods in our fight for the faith because "the weapons of our warfare are not carnal" (2 Corinthians 10:3-4). Claiming to defend the truth, some resort to character assassination, smear campaigns, name-calling, and other dirty tactics which are of the world rather than of Christ. Instead, we should use the only offensive weapon that God gave us, and that is the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:17).
From a physical standpoint, the political alliance worked. "Now it happened, when Baasha heard it, that he stopped building Ramah, and remained in Tirzah" (verse 22). However, this would indicate that Asa must have decided that the end justifies the means. A lot of folks today seem to think the same thing. However, Paul plainly condemned the idea of "let us do evil that good may come" (Romans 3:8). While we are to wage a good warfare which includes standing against all evil and error, we never have a license to violate God’s expressed will in the process, as this will cause our good to be spoken of as evil (Romans 14:16).
Asa also made another mistake. According to the parallel account in 2 Chronicles 16:7-10, when God sent a seer named Hanani to rebuke Asa for his political alliance, the king was angry and put the prophet in prison. He did not like the message so he decided to get rid of the messenger. When the Jewish leaders did not like the truth that Stephen spoke, they determined to get rid of the messenger by stoning him to death (Acts 7:51-60). Paul experienced the same attitude when some became his enemy because he told them the truth (Galatians 5:16). There are people like that today. When the preacher preaches the truth, such as on the subject of divorce and remarriage, and it hits home because there are some in the congregation who are involved in unscriptural marriages, often the result is that the preacher gets fired. This is the same mistake that Asa made and it results from a wrong attitude towards God and His word.
Asa experienced a horrible fate. "…But in the time of his old age he was diseased in his feet. So Asa rested with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the City of David his father…" (verses 23-24). Why did he have such a terrible end? Again we go to 2 Chronicles 16:12 where we are told, "…Yet in his disease he did not seek the LORD but the physicians." This does not mean that it is wrong to go to physicians but that in this case the physicians could not help one who had turned away from the Lord. The Lord wants all of us to seek Him throughout our lives because His ways are better than our ways (Isaiah 55:6-9).
Yet, this example shows the possibility of one who at one time was a faithful child of God not continuing to seek the Lord and thus losing a right relationship with God. In spite of what some in the religious world teach, it is possible for a Christian to fall. Paul warns us against it (1 Corinthians 10:12). He also cites examples of some in his day who did just that (Galatians 5:1-4). Because of this possibility, it is so important that we listen to the admonition of Hebrews 3:12-13, "Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin."
God may not strike sinners with physical illnesses as punishment today as He apparently did Asa and others in Bible days (like Herod in Acts 12:20-24). But He has a far worse punishment prepared for those who will not seek Him. They will be "punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power" (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). Asa’s end, as will be true of everyone who is disobedient to God, was undesirable because of his sin. Why study about Asa, or any other Old Testament character for that matter? Is this not all just ancient history that does not concern us? The answer is, no, it is part of the "all scripture" which is "given by inspiration of God" (2 Timothy 3:16-17). There are several important lessons that are illustrated by Asa. We must always do what is right in the sight of God (Matthew 7:21). We must trust in God and His will rather than the ways of men (1 Corinthians 1:21). And we must seek the Lord all of our lives to avoid an undesirable end (Revelation 2:10). Thus, such a study can be profitable to everyone. (—Taken from Expository Files; March 2001; Vol. 8, No. 3)