Kings of Israel and Judah (2) – King Asa
With reference to my previous “Kings of Israel and Judah (1) – Introduction” post, in which I suggested kings could be placed in one of four categories concerning character, King Asa of Judah, who reigned 41 years, following “bad” kings Rehoboam and Abijah, could be put in either “good kings with varying degrees of bad” or “good kings who in later life went / did bad” categories.
It was said of him: “And Asa did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, as did David his father … Asa’s heart was perfect with the Lord all his days” 1Kings 15: 11, 14. The Chronicles writer concurs: “Asa’s heart was fully committed to the Lord all his life” 2Chronicles 15:17, but like the Kings’ writer recognised: “he did not remove the high places from Israel”. We read about Asa, both in 1Kings 15 and 2Chronicles 14-16. While both accounts cover many of the significant events in Asa’s life, the Chronicles account provides a more comprehensive cover, especially furnishing more evidence that despite being a good king he was also a good king who in later life became bad (or did bad) and details of the two major military conflicts that took place showing him in good and then bad lights.
There is no doubt he began his reign well, in particular removing some of the rampant idolatry, including that of his own grandmother. He made good decisions that benefited the people, such as public works projects and building up defenses to help ensure security. And he needed it – Judah was attacked by an even more formidable army from the South (Cush) and despite his preparations, humanly speaking Judah was no match. His response was to call upon the Lord, who delivered them. This pleased God, who sent His prophet to encourage Asa and remind him of His covenant with them and the consequences of obedience and disobedience. Asa responded positively, continuing to clean house, and the Lord blessed Asa and Judah (who responded well) and it was evident to all, including some from the northern tribes choosing to settle in Judah, where unlike in Israel God was honoured.
It seems all went well until 36 years into Asa’s reign. The conflict between the northern and southern kingdoms that began under Jeroboam and Rehoboam continued and reached a high point when Israel under its king, Baasha, created an embargo such that people could not enter or leave Judah, and he did so in alliance with neighbouring Aram (Syria) under its king, Ben-Hadad. Unlike before when Judah was attacked when he called on the Lord to help, Asa took treasure from the Temple and gave to Ben-Hadad as a bribe to switch sides. The move worked, but at a cost. The Lord sent Hanani, a prophet, to rebuke Asa, and tell him as a result of his foolishness he will be at war. For his pains, Hanani was imprisoned and Asa also began to oppress some of his own people. 3 years later, Asa was afflicted with a severe disease in his feet and, notably, he did not seek the Lord. When he did die, Asa was given a splendid funeral but there was no indication he repented of his foolishness. Even so, he did leave a worthwhile legacy, for it was said of his son, Jehoshaphat, who followed Asa as king: “In everything he followed the ways of his father Asa and did not stray from them; he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord” 1Kings 22:43.
I have never heard a sermon preached on King Asa but, upon searching online, many “Asa” sermons could be found, notably by preachers as different as C.H.Spurgeon and David Wilkerson. The underlying theme of both was the salutary lesson of someone who began well but finished badly; and it is one we do well to heed.