God Uses Ordinary People: Asa

2 Chronicles 14-16

July 6, 2008 | Brian Bill

When I was in junior high, I remember one of my teachers being frustrated with our class because we had a hard time following directions.  Can you imagine that?  One day when we stumbled sleepily into our classroom, she announced that we were going to have a pop quiz.  She passed out the test and told us to not turn it over until she told us to begin.  She explained that it was a timed test and that we had only three minutes to complete it.  Whoever finished first would get a prized Green Bay Packer pennant.  Well, that was like gold to me so I eagerly waited for the signal to begin.

I can’t remember exactly what the test was but it went something like this.

  1. Read everything before you do anything.
    2.  Print your name in the upper right corner of your paper, using all capital letters.
    3.  Draw two squares in the lower left corner, one-half inch apart.
    4.  Place an “x” in one square, an “o” in the other and then lightly shade the first.
    5.  Write your grade level in the lower right corner, using Roman numerals.
    6.  Sign your name in the lower right corner, using your non-dominant hand.
    7.  Draw a perfect circle around your signature.
    8.  Write your birthday under your signature.
  2. On the back of this paper multiply 1234 x 4567 and then divide by 89.
    10.  Now that you have finished reading all the directions, do only as directed in the second sentence and turn your test in.

As I was laboring over this long list, a goody-two-shoes student got out of her chair after about 20 seconds and turned her paper in.  I couldn’t believe it.  How did she get done so fast?  As she was waving the Packer gold and green in triumph, the rest of us thought that she must have cheated to finish that quickly.  After letting us complain for awhile the teacher went back over the test and showed us how “little miss teacher’s pet” had simply followed what appeared at the end: “Now that you have finished reading all the directions, do only as directed in the second sentence and turn your test in.”  She received an “A” and the rest of the class got an “F” – I wish I could say that was my only failing grade in my academic career! 

I don’t know of too many people who like taking tests but I’ve discovered that even when we’re out of school, the tests keep coming.  I had lunch with a young man who attends a different church this week.  He’s going through a rough time and needed to talk to someone.  As he was explaining what has been happening in his life, he said, “I think this is a test.”  I agreed with him and then told him that there will be additional exams on the way.  I then created a few hypothetical tests and asked him how he would respond to each one.  

Most of the tests we face in life come out of the blue, like pop quizzes.  Sometimes we can see our examinations coming and we have plenty of time to prepare but other times we’re in a situation and we need to decide right then and there what we’re going to do, and it’s critical that we follow God’s directions.  In our continuing study of the ordinary people that God uses, today we’re going to look at six exams that a man named Asa took.  He scored pretty high on the first ones but his grades took a dive on the final ones.  We’re going to learn that God strengthens those who are sold out to Him.

I can tell from the looks on your faces that you’re saying, “Asa?  Who’s Asa?”  I’m glad you asked.  I’m excited for us we take a journey into the Old Testament book of 2 Chronicles and look at some lessons from the life of a king.  No, really I am.  In order to understand Asa we’re going to have to set the historical context.  I’ll do my best to teach if you’ll do your best to learn.  Together we’ll see that every section of Scripture as 2 Timothy 3:16 says is useful for “teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”  Romans 15:4 declares: “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Let’s let God’s Word do its work of restoring hope in our lives.

This brief lesson can unlock some of the mysteries of the Old Testament and help all of us not only understand it better but apply it to our lives.

  • As you think back in your mind to the time of Jacob (also known as Israel), you’ll recall that he had 12 sons.  These sons make up the twelve tribes of Israel.
  • When the Israelites arrived in the Promised Land, each tribe had a specific assigned area.
  • The first kings (Saul, David and Solomon) ruled over this “United Kingdom.”
  • After Solomon’s death the kingdom was divided into two parts – the north and the south.  There were ten northern tribes, also known as Israel and two southern tribes, also known as Judah (Judah and Benjamin).  
  • 1-2 Kings and 1-2 Chronicles are very similar and cover much of the same material.  In general, Kings reads like history in all its harshness, whereas Chronicles contains more positive details and personal information.  Kings gives the facts; Chronicles adds the feelings.  Please turn in your Bible to 2 Chronicles 14-16.
  • The northern kingdom had 19 kings, all of whom were “bad.”  The southern kingdom had 20 kings, some of whom were “good.”  The first king in the south was Rehoboam.  When he died, his evil son Abijah ruled for only three years and then his son Asa became king and he ruled for 41 years.  Asa is the first good and godly king.

6 Tests

1. The Consecration Test (2 Chronicles 14:1-7). 

Verse 2 provides a summary statement of the first part of Asa’s life: “Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God.”  At the beginning Asa’s primary concern was to be fully consecrated to God because he was conscious that the Lord’s eyes were on him.  He not only had a good heart, he also got rid of anything that would hurt him or his people.  His great grandfather Solomon had started the spiritual slide and now he was determined to reverse it.  Look at verse 3: “He removed the foreign altars and the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles.”  Shortly after I got saved I was convicted about the type of music I was listening to so I remember smashing several albums (does anyone remember LP’s?) and taking a scissors to my 8-Track Tapes.  I could no longer listen to Black Sabbath or sing along to AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” when I knew most of my friends were headed there.

Asa not only removed the revolting, he also urged his people to renew their relationship with God.  Notice verse 4: “He commanded Judah to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, and to obey his laws and commands.”  As a result of seeking the Lord, He gave them rest from all their enemies for the first ten years (see 14:1).  We see in verse 7 that during this time of peace, they weren’t lazy but rather built up the towns.  That’s a good word to us.  When things are going well, make sure you keep worshipping and working.

God strengthens those who are sold out to Him

What kind of grade would you give yourself for this first test?  To what degree are you completely consecrated?  Anything you need to stop doing?  What do you need to smash, remove or cut down?  Anything you need to start doing?  God strengthens those who are sold out to Him.

I think we could give Asa an “A” on the Consecration Test.

2. The Control Test (2 Chronicles 14:8-15). 

There’s always another test around the corner, isn’t there?  Verse 8 tells us that Asa had a pretty good sized army filled with brave fighting men but in verse 9 we read that a vast African army made up of thousands upon thousands, or as some translations put it, one million men, came upon them.  The Ethiopian army also had three hundred chariots, the best war technology of the day, which would be like our armored tanks today.  

Instead of resorting to military strategy or fleeing from the fight, Asa clears up one of the most important questions of his life: Who is in charge?  He settles the control question by calling out to the Lord His God in prayer in verse 11: “Lord, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty.  Help us, O Lord our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this vast army.  O Lord, you are our God; do not let man prevail against us.”  Check this out.  Asa doesn’t mention himself at all in this prayer and his people only a few times; but he refers to God nine times!  He trusted in the character of God and affirmed that He was in control.

This prayer only has 49 words but it is packed with power.  There are two main parts to the prayer.  First, he affirms who God is and second, he asks for help.  It’s interesting that he doesn’t tell God what to do; he leaves that up to the Lord.  He had an army but He knew that the Almighty was in control.  He starts with praise and then moves to his plea.  To say it another way, he begins with relationship before making his request.  Friends, when we pray, we must recognize God’s ability and our inability; He is God and we are not.  Asa clearly states that he is going to rely on the Lord to do His work.  In God’s economy, it doesn’t really matter how big our battles are because He’s always bigger.  Note: I came across an interesting historical tie-in while I was studying.  This battle area was quite close to the same spot where David slew the giant as a result of calling out to the Lord.

God answered this prayer and then Asa did his part by chasing the enemy back to where they belonged; and in the process they were able to retrieve some spoils.  We need to intercede and take action.  Friend, have you settled the control question?  Is there something in your life that seems too big to handle on your own?  Remember what God said to Abraham in Genesis 18:14: “Is anything too hard for the LORD?”  Hold on to what Jesus said in Mark 9:23: “Everything is possible for him who believes.”  Missionary George Muller once said: “Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible.  There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible.  Faith begins where man’s power ends.”  

Is there something you’re facing right now that is way too big to handle on you own?  Can I encourage you to pray this prayer taken from verse 11 right now and insert an impossible situation you are facing?  One of the best ways to pray is to personalize the words of Scripture and pray them back to God: “Lord, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty.  Help me, O Lord my God; for I am powerless but I rely on you, and in your name I come against this huge impossibility [describe your problem here].  O Lord, you are my God and you are in control.  Help me, O Lord and do not let this problem prevail against me.”

Because Asa prayed when faced with an impossible situation, he pulls down a solid “A” on the Control Test.  

3. The Commitment Test (2 Chronicles 15:1-19). 

In chapter 15, which coincidentally covers what happened in the 15th year of his reign, God used a prophet named Azariah to challenge Asa and the people to a deeper commitment in their relationship with God: “The Lord is with you when you are with him.  If you seek him, he will be found by you…For a long time Israel was without the true God…but in their distress they turned to the Lord…But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.”  I love how Asa responded to this commitment test in verse 8: “…he took courage.  He removed the detestable idols…he repaired the altar of the Lord.”

It’s worth noting that even though Asa removed idols in chapter 14, he had to do it again in chapter 15.  Why is that?  It’s because more idols always pop up over time – their size and shape and names may change but their power remains.  That’s why we need to repeatedly recommit ourselves to Christ.

Verse 9 tells us that he assembled all Judah and Benjamin and then I want you to notice something else.  This information will help explain what happens in chapter 16.  There were also people from Ephraim, Manasseh and Simeon who had settled among them.  These tribes were from the northern kingdom of Israel.  What made them come to Judah?  Look at the last part of verse 9: “…had come over to him from Israel when they saw that the Lord his God was with him.”

Asa responded to God’s altar call and they all gathered together to sacrifice thousands of cattle, sheep and goats and to seal their commitment with “a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul” (verse 12).  Verse 13 says that anyone who did not seek the Lord would be put to death.  They all took an oath accompanied “with loud acclamation, with shouting and with trumpets and horns.  All Judah rejoiced about the oath because they had sworn it wholeheartedly” (verses 13-14).  

Asa was so serious about this that he even removed his own grandma from her position as queen mother because she had made a repulsive Asherah idol, which was the Assyrian love goddess.  Friends, we must resolve to do what’s right even when a close relative opposes us.  He cut down what his granny was worshipping, broke it and then burned it in the Kidron Valley, which was where the sewage from the Temple ran.  He was serious, wasn’t he?  God strengthens those who are sold out to Him.

Verse 17 tells us that Asa’s heart was fully committed to the Lord but we also see some cracks starting to form: “Although he did not remove the high places from Israel.”  Friend, as you analyze your life, is there some secret sin or place you go that is keeping you from being totally sold out?  We see that after many years, Asa needed to make a recommitment.  Perhaps you need to do the same right now.  

Because Asa did not totally remove the sinful spots, I’m going to give him a “B” on his Commitment Test.

4. The Compromise Test (2 Chronicles 16:1-6). 

Chapter 15 ends on an ominous note: “There was no more war until the thirty-fifth year of Asa’s reign.”  While the country enjoyed peace for twenty more years, things change in the thirty-sixth year.  Look at 16:1: “Baasha king of Israel went up against Judah and fortified Ramah to prevent anyone from leaving or entering the territory of Asa king of Judah.”  Baasha is upset that so many of his people have gone south to worship in Judah so he decided to reinforce Ramah, a border town so that no one could leave or enter Judah.  It was like a barricade or an economic embargo, preventing both travel and trade from taking place.

This test seems to come out of the blue.  One of two things happened.  Either Asa panics and forgets to pray or he thinks it’s not that big of a problem so he tries to solve it himself.  Instead of believing God he used his networking skills and decided to bribe the king of Syria and hired him as a paid terrorist to cause problems in some of the cities in Israel so that Baasha would withdraw from Ramah.  And, guess what?  His plan worked.  Asa relied on his own resources and his own plans but he compromised big-time.  Let’s look a little more closely at what he did.

  • He used God’s money out of the treasuries of the Temple.  We need to be careful that we don’t use God’s money for evil purposes.  Malachi 3:8: “Will a man rob God?  Yet you rob me. But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ In tithes and offerings.” 
  • He hired a pagan king instead of praying.  Sadly, he purchased protection that God was offering for nothing.  We know from 2 Chronicles 24:23 that Syria would cause Judah huge problems many years later: “…The army of Aram marched against Joash; it invaded Judah and Jerusalem and killed all the leaders of the people.  They sent all the plunder to their king in Damascus.” 
  • Just because something “works,” it doesn’t mean that God is blessing it.  There were three factors that contributed to Asa’s decision.  First, it was possible.  He had a lot of money.  Second, there was precedent.  His father and other kings had done the same thing.  And third, it was pragmatic.  After all, it worked.  It’s easy to think that if something we do is successful, then it must be right.  This applies at a church-wide level as well.  We must guard against doing what seems natural because what’s natural isn’t always what God wants.  Proverbs 16:25: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”

This might have made good political sense and seemed like a smart strategy but Asa has now compromised which will lead to some fatal consequences.  He started his reign by leaning on God’s Spirit and now he seems to have put trust in his flesh.  The Apostle Paul wonders why this happens to believers in Galatians 3:3: “Are you so foolish?  After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” 

Goose Gossage, a relief pitcher in Major League baseball for 22 years, was just elected to the Hall of Fame.  In a January interview with ESPN, he made a statement that could have come out of King Asa’s mouth: “I came into situations that God couldn’t get out of, and I got out of them.  I’m not blowing my own horn, but this is just fact.  Nobody did it like me.”  Do any of you feel that way about your own skills or smarts today?  Can you think of any area in your life where you have been compromising?  Are you cutting corners anywhere?  

sometimes God gives us what we want but then our own souls can wither because what we really need is God Himself

Remember, sometimes God gives us what we want but then our own souls can wither because what we really need is God Himself.  Psalm 106:15: “And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul.”  Sin will always take you further than you planned to go, cost you far more than you can pay and keep you longer than you planned to stay.

Asa receives an “F” on the Compromise Test.

5. The Correction Test (2 Chronicles 16:7-10). 

Asa was given an opportunity to turn things around when God sent a prophet named Hanani in verse 7: “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.”  If Asa had trusted God, he would have defeated not only Israel but would have also been victorious over Syria.  He then reminds Asa of what God did when the Ethiopians invaded in verse 8: “Yet when you relied on the Lord, He delivered them into your hand.”

One of my favorite verses in the entire Bible is proclaimed by the prophet in verse 9: “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him…”  Do you know who God is looking for today?  He’s searching for those who are sold out to Him so He can strengthen them.  He’s not looking for smart or strong people.  He’s on the look out for fully devoted followers.  When he finds one, He pours His power into them.  I love this quote by D.L. Moody: “The world has yet to see what God can do with and for and through and in and by the man who is fully and wholly consecrated to Him.  I will try my utmost to be that man.” 

The wheels really come off for Asa at this point.  Instead of responding to the correction, he erupts in verse 10: “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.”  Asa does not want to be corrected by anyone and so he took the prophet and put him in prison.  And, he took out his anger on the people around him.  Here are a couple questions to ponder.  If you’re filled with rage and anger and conflict and bitterness, is it because you don’t want God to correct you?  And then do you take your guilty conscience out on people?  Is your disobedience causing you to destroy others?  

I’ve been on both sides of this one.  When I’ve tried to correct some people they’ve blown up and let me have it.  And, I’ve done something similar when others have tried to point out some things I need to work on.  Proverbs 15:10 says: “Stern discipline awaits him who leaves the path; he who hates correction will die” and Proverbs 15:32 declares: “He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding.” 

Asa’s GPA is sliding fast because he earned yet another “F,” this time flagging the Correction Test.

6. The Confession Test (2 Chronicles 16:11-14). 

God in His grace, tried to get Asa to confess and so he sent some trouble to him.  Look with me at verse 12: “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.”  Tragically, Asa is no longer on speaking terms with the Almighty and is now to proud to pray.  

When King Hezekiah became ill, he prayed earnestly and God extended his life by 15 years in 2 Kings 20:5: “I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you.”  When Asa’s feet get diseased, there’s no mention of him praying or crying or seeking the Lord.  Trouble with his feet was a message that something had gone wrong with his walk.  Instead, he hobbled to a doctor.  Many commentators believe that this could have been something akin to a witch doctor or a heathen sorceress.  While there is nothing wrong with going to doctors, we must always go to the Lord first.  I believe God sent the sore soles in order to for him to be sorry in his soul but it didn’t happen.  

Asa gets another “F” on the Confession Test because he doesn’t even think about going to God with his troubles and he doesn’t come close to confessing his sin.

Assimilating Asa’s Lessons

In an effort to help us assimilate some lessons from Asa’s life, allow me to make some summary applications.

  1. Determine to follow God’s directions right now.  
  2. Decide today how you will respond to the tests that will come tomorrow.  
  3. Confess any pride that you have.
  4. Take spiritual slippage seriously.
  5. Focus on your family.  Thankfully Asa broke the cycle and was not as wicked as his father.  And he left a legacy for his son Jehoshaphat who “did what was right in the sight of God.”  (2 Chronicles 20:32).
  6. Seek God when pain comes.

Taking the Test

As we prepare to take communion, 1 Corinthians 11:28 tells us to “examine ourselves.”  Using our outline for today, give yourself a grade for each of these six exams.

  • The Consecration Test
  • The Control Test
  • The Commitment Test
  • The Compromise Test
  • The Correction Test
  • The Confession Test

Here’s one final lesson from Asa’s life: No matter what your grade is, God is a God of grace.  Asa wasn’t 100% holy but he was still honored by his people when he died.  In fact, his name appears in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1:8. Aren’t you glad that God uses us despite our imperfections?  Here’s the good news.  While none of us can ace God’s test, because of grace the score that Jesus received (a perfect A) has been placed into God’s grade book next to your name – if you’ve received Him as your Savior.

Friend, it really is important to read everything before you do anything.  If we hope to pass the tests that come our way, we must follow the directions because God strengthens those who are sold out to Him.  Let’s approach communion as a time to remember what Jesus did, to recommit ourselves to Him, and to ask Him to revive us and His church for His glory and for our good. Amen.

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?