Cameos of the Kings (1): King Asa

Asa was the first king of Judah whose life pleased God. He is the only king whose son Jehoshaphat also is said to have pleased God. The reign of king Asa is an encouragement to saints in all times to seek God. Asa excelled in seeking God for most of his reign. As a result he prospered in the first two chapters which recount his reign (2Chron 14 and 15).

Asa may have been in his early twenties when he began to reign. He had likely seen the great victory that God gave to his father, “because they relied on the Lord God of their fathers” (13:18). That may have encouraged him to seek the Lord in his youth. Chapter 14:4 has the first of nine mentions of Asa seeking God (14:4, 7, twice; 15:2, 4, 12, 13, 15; 16:12).

In this brief cameo we can only refer to the most important events of his reign. Chapter 14:9-15 records his victory over Zerah through his reliance on God. The coming of Zerah, the Ethiopian, with an army of one million men (almost twice the size of Asa’s army) was intimidating. God intended that invasion, not as chastening of Asa, but as an opportunity for Asa to demonstrate his reliance on the Lord.

Asa’s prayer as he went out against Zerah in verse 10 is remarkable: “And Asa cried to the Lord his God, and said, Lord it is nothing with Thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power” (v11). His cry recalls the words of Jonathan to his armor bearer as they went against the Philistine garrison: “For there is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few” (1Sam 14:6). Those two won a great victory that day.

Later in his prayer Asa’s words, “In Thy Name we go against this great multitude,” bring to mind David’s words to Goliath in 1 Samuel 17:45: “I come to thee in the Name of the Lord of Hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, Whom thou hast defied.” What a marvelous victory David achieved that day! Asa similarly expresses great confidence in God and great humility of mind. Instead of the word “rest,” the RVJND, and ESV have “rely.” “We rely on Thee.” The Chronicler is interested in the facts, but he is much more interested (vv9-15) in giving encouragement to rely on God in every choice. God can give a similar victory in His will to helpless persons who rely on Him against any mighty enemy. No human or demonic power can withstand God.

How delightful in 2 Chronicles 15:9 to read: “They fell to him out of Israel in abundance, when they saw that the Lord his God was with him.” It brings to mind the words of Acts 7:9, “And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold him into Egypt: but God was with him.” What a great difference God’s presence made in Joseph’s life! In Genesis 39 we read two times that the Lord was with Joseph in Potiphar’s house and also twice after he was put in prison. In 1 Samuel 18, we read of David that “the Lord his God was with him” and His presence enabled David to act wisely.

Chapter 15:16-19 tells of Asa’s grandmother, Maachah, the queen mother being removed from her position. Since Maachah was Abijah’s mother she was really Asa’s grandmother (the same Hebrew word for “mother” is also used for “grandmother”). Asa’s loyalty to God was greater than his loyalty to his grandmother. William Rodgers writes, “It must have required more than ordinary firmness on the part of her grandson, Asa, to cast her from her long-held position as head of the royal household, and to smash her favorite idol.” Asa made no allowance for natural ties when God’s honor was at stake. He had already displayed this honorable trait in destroying his father’s idol (1Kings 15:12), in keeping with the teaching of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 10:37.

It is important that assembly decisions be made without preferential treatment of relatives, as Paul’s charge in 1 Timothy 5:21 indicates. This verse makes it clear that not only does God know, but that the Lord Jesus Christ knows, and even elect angels know if anything is done with partiality. James tells us that the wisdom that is from above is also “without partiality.”

The most encouraging part of Hanani’s message to Asa (16:9) explains why Asa was victorious before and why he could have triumphed again by trusting God. “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him.” This is one of the best-loved verses in 2 Chronicles. It has encouraged many a saint to trust God.

We read that Asa (in the 39th year of his reign), “was diseased in his feet, until his disease was exceeding great: yet in his disease he sought not to the Lord, but to the physicians” (16:12). Most likely this disease was in the last two or three years of his reign and was a discipline from God to encourage him to return to seeking God. Conventional medicine and skill can bring recovery, but ultimately all healing has God as its source (Psa 103:3). The apostle Paul referred to Luke as “the beloved physician” (Col 4:14), making it obvious that he availed himself of Luke’s God-given medical abilities. Asa is not condemned for going to the physicians. He is condemned for going to the physicians without seeking God about the matter.

The last eight words of the chapter show that, even though he finished badly, he was still one of Judah’s best kings and the people honored him at his burial: “They made a very great burning for him” (2Chron 16:14).