Consider also the life of King Asa of Judah. He began well but in his later years he did not maintain the faithfulness with which he began.

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From “Growing in the character of a disciple”: Chapter 8 – Further advice on how we can become more faithful

One reads of very many bad kings of Judah, and even more so in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. But it is perhaps even sadder to read of kings who began well but who did not keep it up. They failed or let themselves down in the end. One such is King Asa. He began well and was full of zeal for God and did what was right. In particular he took action to stamp out idolatrous worship of false gods and to encourage the people of Judah to serve the one true God:

1So Abi’jah 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 had rest for ten years. 2And Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God. 3 He took away the foreign altars and the high places, and broke down the pillars and hewed down the Ashe’rim, 4and commanded Judah to seek the LORD, the God of their fathers, and to keep the law and the commandment. 5 He also took out of all the cities of Judah the high places and the incense altars. And the kingdom had rest under him. 6He built fortified cities in Judah, for the land had rest. He had no war in those years, for the LORD gave him peace. 7And he said to Judah, “Let us build these cities, and surround them with walls and towers, gates and bars; the land is still ours, because we have sought the LORD our God; we have sought him, and he has given us peace on every side.” So they built and prospered.

2 Chronicles 14:1-7 (RSV)

King Asa also put his trust in God when it came to military matters. Therefore, with God’s help he was able to defeat armies far larger than his own:

8And Asa had an army of three hundred thousand from Judah, armed with bucklers and spears, and two hundred and eighty thousand men from Benjamin, that carried shields and drew bows; all these were mighty men of valor. 9Zerah the Ethiopian came out against them with an army of a million men and three hundred chariots, and came as far as Mare’shah. 10And Asa went out to meet him, and they drew up their lines of battle in the valley of Zeph’athah at Mare’shah. 11And Asa cried to the LORD his God, “O LORD, there is none like thee to help, between the mighty and the weak. Help us, O LORD our God, for we rely on thee, and in thy name we have come against this multitude. O LORD, thou art our God; let not man prevail against thee.” 12So the LORD defeated the Ethiopians before Asa and before Judah, and the Ethiopians fled.

2 Chronicles 14:8-12 (RSV)

Asa had been inspired by a prophet called Azariah and had embarked on a programme of stamping out idolatry. This was so successful that many of the faithful Jews who were living in the Northern Kingdom of Israel came south to live in Judah:

” 8When Asa heard these words, the prophecy of Azari’ah the son of Oded, he took courage, and put away the abominable idols from all the land of Judah and Benjamin and from the cities which he had taken in the hill country of E’phraim, and he repaired the altar of the LORD that was in front of the vestibule of the house of the LORD. 9And he gathered all Judah and Benjamin, and those from E’phraim, Manas’seh, and Simeon who were sojourning with them, for great numbers had deserted to him from Israel when they saw that the LORD his God was with him.

2 Chronicles 15:8-9 (RSV)

Asa was so full of faith and zeal that he even confronted his own mother, Maacah, and removed her from her position as Queen Mother, because she got herself involved in idolatry:

Even Ma’acah, his mother, King Asa removed from being queen mother because she had made an abominable image for Ashe’rah. Asa cut down her image, crushed it, and burned it at the brook Kidron.

2 Chronicles 15:16 (RSV)

Nevertheless, despite the great victory he had had over the Ethiopians, who had had an army more than twice the size of his, King Asa let himself down later in his reign. He formed an alliance with the King of Syria and relied on him to help him deal with the threat being made to the Kingdom of Judah from the King of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. What Asa should have done was to rely on God, as he had done early in his reign in the war against Ethiopia. Instead he put his trust in men and formed an ungodly and unnecessary alliance, which God did not want him to make:

1In the thirty-sixth year of the reign of Asa, Ba’asha king of Israel went up against Judah, and built Ramah, that he might permit no one to go out or come in to Asa king of Judah. 2 Then Asa took silver and gold from the treasures of the house of the LORD and the king’s house, and sent them to Ben-ha’dad king of Syria, who dwelt in Damascus, saying, 3“Let there be a league between me and you, as between my father and your father; behold, I am sending to you silver and gold; go, break your league with Ba’asha king of Israel, that he may withdraw from me.” 4And Ben-ha’dad hearkened to King Asa, and sent the commanders of his armies against the cities of Israel, and they conquered I’jon, Dan, A’bel-ma’im, and all the of Naph’tali. 5And when Ba’asha heard of it, he stopped building Ramah, and let his work cease. 6Then King Asa took all Judah, and they carried away the stones of Ramah and its timber, with which Ba’asha had been building, and with them he built Geba and Mizpah.

2 Chronicles 16:1-6 (RSV)

As a result of this disobedience and lack of trust, God sent another prophet, Hanani, to rebuke King Asa. However, Asa’s heart had grown proud over the years as a result of all the peace and success he had enjoyed. Therefore, by this stage, he was much less receptive to hear God’s voice than he had been when he was younger. Even when he became ill he did not seek God’s help, but put his trust solely in doctors to heal him. Evidently, he was no longer as close to God as he had once been:

7At that time Hana’ni the seer came to Asa king of Judah, and said to him, “Because you relied on the king of Syria, and did not rely on the LORD your God, the army of the king of Syria has escaped you. 8Were not the Ethiopians and the Libyans a huge army with exceedingly many chariots and horsemen? Yet because you relied on the LORD, he gave them into your hand. 9For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show his might in behalf of those whose heart is blameless toward him. You have done foolishly in this; for from now on you will have wars.” 10Then Asa was angry with the seer, and put him in the stocks, in prison, for he was in a rage with him because of this. And Asa inflicted cruelties upon some of the people at the same time. 

11The acts of Asa, from first to last, are written in the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel. 12In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was diseased in his feet, and his disease became severe; yet even in his disease he did not seek the LORD, but sought help from physicians. 13And Asa slept with his fathers, dying in the forty-first year of his reign. 14They buried him in the tomb which he had hewn out for himself in the city of David. They laid him on a bier which had been filled with various kinds of spices prepared by the perfumer’s art; and they made a very great fire in his honor.

2 Chronicles 16:7-14 (RSV)
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