Reflections on Scripture

by Wayne Bandy

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Scripture Passage

      2 Chronicles - Chapter 16 (Contemporary English Version)
    1. In the thirty-sixth year of Asa's rule, King Baasha of Israel invaded Judah and captured the town of Ramah. He started making the town stronger, and he put troops there to stop people from going in and out of Judah.
    2. When Asa heard about this, he took the silver and gold from his palace and from the LORD's temple. Then he sent it to Damascus with this message for King Benhadad of Syria:
    3. "I think we should sign a peace treaty, just as our fathers did. This silver and gold is a present for you. Would you please break your treaty with King Baasha of Israel and force him to leave my country?"
    4. Benhadad did what Asa asked and sent the Syrian army into Israel. They captured the towns of Ijon, Dan, Abel-Maim, and all the towns in Naphtali where supplies were kept.
    5. When Baasha heard about it, he stopped his work on the town of Ramah.
    6. Asa ordered everyone in Judah to carry away the stones and wood Baasha had used to fortify Ramah. Then he fortified the towns of Geba and Mizpah with these same stones and wood.
    7. Soon after that happened, Hanani the prophet went to Asa and said: You depended on the king of Syria instead of depending on the LORD your God. And so, you will never defeat the Syrian army.
    8. Remember how powerful the Ethiopian and Libyan army was, with all their chariots and cavalry troops! You trusted the LORD to help you then, and you defeated them.
    9. The LORD is constantly watching everyone, and he gives strength to those who faithfully obey him. But you have done a foolish thing, and your kingdom will never be at peace again.
    10. When Asa heard this, he was so angry that he put Hanani in prison. Asa was also cruel to some of his people.
    11. Everything Asa did while he was king is written in The History of the Kings of Judah and Israel.
    12. In the thirty-ninth year of his rule, he got a very bad foot disease, but he relied on doctors and refused to ask the LORD for help.
    13. He died two years later.
    14. Earlier, Asa had his own tomb cut out of a rock hill in Jerusalem. So he was buried there, and the tomb was filled with spices and sweet-smelling oils. Then the people built a bonfire in his honor.

2 Chronicles - Chapter 16

Entered: June 02, 2008

The chronicler skips here to the end of Asa's reign in Judah giving us the beginning of his reign in the previous two chapters and then the end. It is bewildering as to why so many leaders do not end well. This is the case with Asa. He started well and remained true to God throughout most of his reign, but by his 36th year as king he had evidently become reliant on his own leadership capabilities.

It was in Asa's 36th year of reign that Israel's king Baasha came out against him, building a fortress at Ramah, on the Israel-Judah border about six miles north of Jerusalem. Baasha's purpose was to prevent Israelites from defecting to Judah, which had been occuring throughout Asa's reign. Though this might not seem a huge threat, it was troubling enough to Asa that he sought the help of Syria. This proved to be Asa's undoing. Why had he depended on the Lord when early in his reign the Cushites presented a much larger threat but now in the face of a seemingly insignificant threat he must depend on the help of a pagan king?

To thwart King Baasha, Asa bought the help of Syria's King Ben-hadad. Ben-hadad attacked Israel on its northern border forcing Baasha to turn away from Ramah on the southern border to defend itself on the north. Asa's scheme worked, but who then would defend him against the Lord's displeasure for not depending on Him. The Lord sent the prophet Hanani to speak to Asa and he boldly laid out the problem. Because Asa had chosen to fight depending on man rather than God, he would have wars from then on. Asa was enraged at this message, and instead of heeding this word and repenting, he threw Hanani in prison. This, of course, complicated Asa's problem rather than solve it.

Asa's actions put him at enmity with the Lord and he was afflicted with a foot disease. This did not turn him back to the Lord, though. Instead he depended on his physicians rather than the Lord. Shortly thereafter he died. Up to this point he had been one of Judah's best kings and the people greatly mourned his death.

Entered: October 21, 2014

King Asa started well in his reign but did not finish so well. His reign raises the question of whether it is in one's best interest to have no difficulties in life? The events of chapter 15 come early in Asa's reign and represent a high note in his leadership and walk with the Lord. He had depended on the Lord for protection against his enemies and led extreme spiritual reform in Judah, ridding the nation of idolatry and bringing the people to make a covenant with the Lord to always seek Him. This was followed by years of peace and prosperity.

Then toward the end of Asa's reign Israel raised a threat against Judah. Might the Lord have brought this break in peace as a test of Asa's faithfulness. If so, he failed the test. Had his years of peace led him to depend on himself and his own devises rather than on the Lord? When Baasha, king of Israel, started building a fortified city on the border between the two nations, Asa interpreted this as a threat to Judah. And, indeed, the chronicler interprets it as such. However, it is presented as primarily a move to stop defectors from leaving Israel to go to Judah.

What did Asa do to address this threat from Israel? Did he call out to the Lord for help as he had done against the Cushites who brought an army against him that was twice the size of his own? Hardly. Instead, he withdrew treasuries from the Lord's temple and used them to pay King Ben-hadad of Aram to break his treaty with Israel and force Baasha's hand to withdraw from Judah. Ben-hadad attack Israel in the north forcing Baasha to withdraw his forces from the southern border, allowing Asa to tear down the fortified city Baasha was building and use the materials to build his own fortified cities along the border.

This did not sit well with the Lord. Not only had Asa looked to a pagan king for help instead of the Lord, he used treasuries from the Lord's temple to pay him. A 'seer' - an ancient name for prophet - by the name of Hanani went to have a talk with Asa about his dependence on Ben-hadad instead of the Lord. Though it is not mentioned that the Lord sent him, this was surely the case. Hanani reminded Asa of his dependence on the Lord when the Cushites and Libyans came against him with vast armies and of the Lord's deliverance in those instances. In his message to Asa, he stated an important truth, saying, "For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to show Himself strong for those whose hearts are completely His." (16:9) This says to me that the Lord is always looking for opportunities to demonstrate His strength, but He can only do so when He finds someone whose heart is completely His. We cannot be double-minded going back and forth between seeking God and depending on our own resources. As James points out, "Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, double-minded people!" (James 4:8)

The prophet Hanani told Asa, "You have been foolish in this matter, for from now on, you will have wars." (16:9) Did Asa thank Hanani for setting him straight and repent before the Lord? No. Instead, he became angry and threw the prophet in prison and then further took his anger out on the people by mistreating them. Three years later Asa developed a severe foot disease which evidently led eventually to his death. Again he did not turn to the Lord for help, but depended only on his physicians. One can only guess that he died a somewhat bitter man. A pity considering his earlier time of blessing because of his dependence on the Lord.

Despite his unhappy ending, Asa had been one of Judah's better kings, and at his death the people honored him greatly.