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King Asa- The Early Middle Years

Yesterday we learned about Asa and the early years of his reign. You can read it and catch up here.

Read 2 Chronicles 15:1-19

Verse 1- “The Spirit of God came upon Azariah”. Who is Azariah? We know little, other than what is given to us in this chapter. According Smith’s Bible Dictionary, Azariah means ‘whom the Lord helps’ and is a common Hebrew name. It is a name repeated in the Old Testament, so be careful not to associate this one with others. This Azariah is a prophet and son of Oded, who is also a prophet.

So, the Spirit of God came upon Azariah. The Hebrew word for ‘spirit’ is ruah, which is often translated as ‘breath’. For example, Genesis 6:17 says “I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it.”  The word ‘breath’ here is ruah. It’s a beautiful thought to me that God breathed into Azariah and used him to deliver a divine message to King Asa. I want that, too! God, please fill me with Your breath. I want to breathe You in and feel Your peace and goodness and mercy radiate all the way to my toes.

Ok, back to Azariah. God filled him with His spirit and gave him a message for Asa. It was a message that could not wait for Asa’s return to Jerusalem, so Azariah met him in the road, on his way home. Azariah literally went out and stopped Asa in his tracks. What was this important message?

  1. Verse 2- “Listen to me, Asa and all of Judah and Benjamin. The Lord is with you when you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you, but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you.” After the death of King Solomon, God divided Israel and here the tribes of Judah and Benjamin (usually referred to as ‘Judah’) are being ruled by King Asa. The other ten tribes (collectively known as Israel) have had various kings and we’ll also learn about those in future posts. The rest of the verse is pretty straight forward- you want God? Serve Him and He’ll stay with you. Abandon Him and He’ll abandon you.
  2. Verses 3-6- “For a long time Israel was without the true God, without a priest to teach and without the law. But in their distress they turned to the Lord, the God of Israel, and sought Him, and He was found by them. In those days it was not safe to travel about, for all the inhabitants of the lands were in great turmoil. One nation was being crushed by another and one city by another, because God was troubling them with every kind of distress.” This is referring back to the time of the judges in the book of Judges. Throughout the book, the Israelites would serve God then leave Him for false gods. God would allow an enemy to come in and make life miserable for the Israelites. They would finally call out to God for help and He would save them, usually by raising up a powerful judge to rally the troops and conquer their enemy. This happened over and over and over again. That is the book of Judges in a nutshell.
  3. Verse 7- “But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.” God approves of how Asa is leading his kingdom. It’s hard work but as long as he sticks with God, God will take care of him. Even though He’s speaking directly to Asa here, this same promise is repeated throughout the Bible and, thankfully, to us.

This word from God really set Asa on fire for the Lord. Once again he went throughout Judah cleaning house of all the detestable idols and objects used to worship false gods. He repaired the altar that was used for worship in God’s temple. We don’t know why it needed repair, the scriptures never said. Various commentaries propose several explanations, but honestly, the one that made the most sense to me was, the altar was over 60 years old and just needed some repair work done.

Verse 9 says large numbers of people from Israel came and settled in Judah. Why did they leave their homes and everything they knew? Because God was still being worshipped in Judah and making Himself known. They wanted to be a part of that! Israel’s king was openly worshipping false idols and these Israelites rejected that and moved to where God was loved and given then respect He deserved.

Verse one of chapter 14 tells us that Asa had peace for ten years. In verse 10 of chapter 15, all of Judah assembled in Jerusalem in the fifteenth year of Asa’s reign. So five years has passed from Zerah attempting to take over Judah until now. Since they assembled in the third month, they were probably celebrating the Feast of Weeks (also known as the Feast of Pentecost). The Feast of Weeks is one of three feasts the Israelites use to celebrate God’s provisions in giving them good harvests. The first is the Feast of Firstfruits that takes place right after the Passover and celebrates the barley harvest. 50 days later, the Feast of Weeks is celebrated because of the wheat harvest. Then later the Feast of Tabernacles celebrates the olive and grape harvest. All able-bodied men were required to go to Jerusalem and present their very best offerings to the Lord.

During this time of offering and celebration, the Israelites sacrificed a lot of animals. Seven hundred head of cattle and seven THOUSAND sheep and goats, in fact. (Aren’t you glad we don’t have to do that anymore? Just one more reason to be thankful for the work of Jesus on the cross!) These were animals taken during their victory over the Cushites. God provided the victory therefore they offered the plunder back to Him as thanksgiving sacrifices.

While all the Israelites were together, they decided to enter into a covenant with God. The two things they swore to: 1. Seek the Lord with all their heart and soul. The God of their fathers, the One who hasn’t changed and is still the same today. The God who saved their fathers from the Egyptians, from all the situations they got themselves into, the same God who speaks to you and me today. 2. They would put to death anyone not serving God, anyone worshipping false idols. This was not a new law; this was spelled out way back in Deuteronomy 17:1-7, the Israelites just chose to ignore it. If it was actively used to begin with, Israel would have had a lot less trouble in the last five hundred years. Just about every bad situation they found themselves in was caused by a false idol. Either the country as a whole had turned to idolatry or their leader was practicing idolatry. God does not share His people and had to send reminders as to who was really in charge!

So the Israelites took an oath and with loud acclimation, shouting, and trumpets, entered into a covenant with God. All of Judah rejoiced because they swore it whole heartedly. They sought God eagerly and He was found by them. Y’all, it’s no different today! This was written thousands of years ago but the words are no less true right this very minute than in 896 BC. When I started the task of studying the Old Testament, I knew I was going to learn a whole pile of history. But there are so many life lessons to be learned and this is one of them. Our God is ALIVE and just waiting for us to call His name. It doesn’t matter what’s in your history. Drug abuse, abortion, lying, sexual whatever, alcoholism, theft, etc. It doesn’t matter as long as you want God, ask Him to forgive you and to live in your heart. It’s just that easy (Romans 10:9-10)! He can forgive anything. Our God is waaaaaaay bigger than any problem you will ever have (1 John 1:9). Even if you’re already a Christian and just haven’t been as close to God as you want, all you have to do is call His name and He’s right there. Open your Bible and read. Open your mouth and pray. Seek Him and you, too, will find Him.

King Asa was serious about there being no idols in Judah. He even deposed his own grandmother as queen mother because she had an Asherah pole. There was no room for any other gods in his kingdom! Verse 17 says “Although he did not remove the high places from Israel, Asa’s heart was fully committed to the Lord all his life.” What are high places and why didn’t he remove them? They are places of worship, usually on a hill top, where Israelites would go worship and offer sacrifices to God. While these places aren’t bad, per se, God had commanded all worship and sacrifice be done in one location, the temple in Jerusalem. I’m assuming because these high places were used to worship God, that’s why Asa allowed them to remain even though they are contrary to what God commanded.

Remember all the loot they took off the bodies of the dead Cushite soldiers? Here it is in verse 18. Asa dedicated it to the Lord and gave it to the temple treasury. During Asa’s grandfather’s reign (Rehoboam), Shishak, king of Egypt, attacked Judah and took everything of value out of the temple. Asa is now trying to build the treasury back up. God gave them victory over the Cushites and they gave to God all the treasure they found. God also gave Asa and the people of Judah peace all around for several years.

Join me tomorrow as we finish up our study of Asa’s life.

 

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