We continue with the chronicling of the kings of Judah, and today we see Asa, son of Abijah, grandson of Rehoboam, great-grandson of Solomon, on the throne of Judah.
Asa is ruler of the southern part of the kingdom since the northern territories have seceded from the union and are under the independent kingship of Jeroboam and his descendants who have set up a monarchy all their own and have appointed their monarchs titled “king of Israel.”
Asa, king of Judah is the man of the hour, and in this chapter we find Asa to be a good king who wishes to put things into order. It is only a matter of a few generations from David’s time, but already his ancestors have turned to other gods and to idol-worship. Asa attempts to clean house, and the Lord is pleased with him. He builds up many towns and establishes old ways yet again.
The text tells us this about him: 2 Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God. 3 He removed the foreign altars and the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. 4 He commanded Judah to seek the LORD, the God of their ancestors, and to obey his laws and commands. 5 He removed the high places and incense altars in every town in Judah, and the kingdom was at peace under him. 6 He built up the fortified cities of Judah, since the land was at peace. No one was at war with him during those years, for the LORD gave him rest.
But a time comes when Asa is forced to go to war to defend his people. In addition to preparing for battle by way of rounding up his troops and weapons, he does something even more potent: he prays.
He says this: “LORD, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, LORD our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this vast army. LORD, you are our God; do not let mere mortals prevail against you.”
The Lord is quick to hear his prayer and give Asa victory.
And so, Asa renews the old covenant with the Lord to love the Lord and only the Lord. The text tell us this: 14 They took an oath to the LORD with loud acclamation, with shouting and with trumpets and horns. 15 All Judah rejoiced about the oath because they had sworn it wholeheartedly. They sought God eagerly, and he was found by them.
But, as is so very often the case, even the best of us have feet of clay. In his latter years, it appears that Asa’s faith must have wavered, and it is said that he relied on a neighboring kingdom, Aram, for support in his battles, and in doing this, he evidently demonstrated a lack of complete faith and trust in the Lord’s hand of deliverance.
In line with this, a seer by the name of Hanani comes to Asa to announce that because of Asa’s turning to help to mere mortals, the hand of the Lord would not be with him. He says, 9 For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.
There is a lesson to be learned here, for sure. As predicted, Asa is not successful against his enemies this time around. And we don’t exactly know how or why his heart had become turned against the Lord but it is said that even in his old age when afflicted by a serious illness, he turned only to his physicians for help, and not to the Lord. Surely, surely, there is a lesson in this for us all—for all time.
Turning now to our reading in the book of Romans, we find Paul almost struggling to articulate his views on the great debate of the Jews versus the Gentiles, and in this chapter, in particular, the matter of the sovereign choice of God. The omnipotence and omniscience of the Lord God Almighty cannot be questioned, says Paul. We do not comprehend the ‘how’ or the ‘why’ to God’s choice of displaying mercy and compassion on some and not others.
In line with this, Paul asks: 23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— 24 even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles.
There is always more than meets the eye, and although we cannot always see or even understand the purpose behind God’s withholding of mercies, we must learn to accept that in his wisdom, God chooses to do as he does.
Paul uses the analogy of a potter when he asks: 20 But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?
Turning to our psalm for the day, we find a beautiful one in Psalm 19. David, the psalmist, offers a cause-and-effect style of praises in highlighting the purpose or effect of each of the qualities and characteristics of adopting and adhering to God’s laws. He says:
7 The law of the LORD is perfect,
refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
8 The precepts of the LORD are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.
9 The fear of the LORD is pure,
The decrees of the LORD are firm,
and all of them are righteous.
10 They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the honeycomb.
David goes on to say in all humility, these further words of supplication:
12 But who can discern their own errors?
Forgive my hidden faults.
13 Keep your servant also from willful sins;
may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless,
innocent of great transgression.
14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Finally, a verse from the book of Proverbs in which Solomon, the wise king of Israel, exhorts the reader:
1 Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler;
whoever is led astray by them is not wise.
May God bless the reading and reflection His Word.