Friday, April 17, 2009

Another Prophet Confronts Asa

As I said in yesterday's post, King Asa, when faced with war with Israel, sought an alliance with the ungodly Aram rather than muster his own army. The result was that Ben-Hadad, king of Aram, attacked Israel from the north and the Israeli king backed off from his border with Judah and turned 180 to fight the country he had had a peace treaty with. Asa then took the occasion to build up his own defenses: "[He] issued an order to all Judah--no one was exempt--and they carried away from Ramah the stones and timber Baasha had been using there. With them King Asa built up Geba in Benjamin, and also Mizpah." [1st Kings 15:22-24] Never mind that the Law of Moses allowed certain exemptions from service such as this. Asa said no one was exempt.

Then came Hanani the seer to see Asa. This is the second occasion recorded where a prophet came to give God's word to Asa. Azariah did so after the Cushite war, encouraging Asa. Might Hanani be about ready to do the same thing? Nay:

Because you relied on the king of Aram and not on the LORD your God, the army of the king of Aram has escaped from your hand. Were not the Cushites and Libyans a mighty army with great numbers of chariots and horsemen? Yet when you relied on the LORD, he delivered them into your hand. For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war. 2nd Chronicles 16:7b-9

Wow! This prophet doesn't mince words. Asa's use of reversal of entangling alliances as a means to avoid war was a bad thing, not a good thing. That phrase "the king of Aram has escaped from your hand" is a curious addition. At the time when Israel threatened Judah, Judah was not at war with Aram. But Aram was aligned with Israel, and Israel was about, so it seemed, to war against Judah. Might this have dragged in Aram to assist their ally? If so, Judah would have found itself fighting both Israel and Aram.

But it seems that was God's plan. The prophet said Aram had escaped from Judah. God was probably intending to deliver Judah from those two nations, expecting that Asa would cry out to Him. Unfortunately, Asa did not cry out to the LORD his God. He proceeded with his own best judgment, which turned out not very good.

But a man can make a mistake and recover from it, right? Doesn't that happen again and again throughout the Bible. Yes, so let's see what Asa's response was.

Asa was angry with the seer because of this; he was so enraged that he put him in prison. At the same time Asa brutally oppressed some of the people.
........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. 2nd Chronicles 16:10, 12

So it seems Asa did not repent. In fact he got worse. He imprisoned God's messenger to him, then seems to have gone off the deep end, brutally oppressing people, and forgetting that I AM could help him in his illness.

A sad, sad story. Even though Asa did great things, won great military victories, instituted great religious reforms, had great personal piety, and was honored by the people at his death, Asa's last days do not reflect what they could have and should have been.

What caused this? How does a man go from the pinnacle of success to the depths of bad behavior? I'm going to explore this in the next post.

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