“…because you have relied on the king of Syria and have not relied on the LORD your God, therefore the king of Syria has escaped out of your hand …. And in the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa became diseased in his feet. His disease was severe, yet even in his disease he did not seek the LORD, but the physicians.”
Asa was the third king of Judah (roughly 913-873 B.C.). He was one of the few rulers of his time who tried to bring about some social and religious reform. In our time and place, a so-called “true” conservative is often contrasted with Ronald Reagan. Asa was a Jewish conservative, being compared to King David[i].
He was a religious, political and social reformer. Upon ascending the throne, he promptly announced his support for the religious right and went on to ban most forms of pagan worship introduced by his predecessors – even the idols belonging to his own family[ii]. Apparently he believed that authentic change begins in the home. He also did away with sodomite prostitution[iii], and restored and revitalized the temple priesthood and the Mosaic laws[iv]. Harsh penalties were imposed upon any who refused to accept these reforms[v].
He was an energetic builder. Asa renovated and strengthened the fortresses originally built by his grandfather Rehoboam[vi]. Cities were constructed using conscripted labor and materials confiscated from his political adversary, Baasha[vii].
He was a shrewd and competent military leader. He amassed a militia of choice men and armed them with the finest technology. Asa had the foresight to fortify his cities against future attack during times of peace and prosperity[viii]. Despite being outnumbered two to one, he successfully defeated a superior army of Ethiopians[ix].
He was a cunning diplomat. Asa achieved certain triumph through backroom deal-making and political intrigue, but was later condemned for it by his clergy and his God[x]. He showed a lack of trust in the Almighty by bribing the pagan king, Ben-hadad, to mobilize against Judah’s political enemy to the north. Asa became irritated with the clergy’s denunciation and threw their spokesman into prison[xi]. For good measure, he went on to oppress his own citizens.
During most of his reign his people enjoyed a period of prosperity, peace, and morality[xii]. He was generally considered a good and competent leader[xiii], but age is not always as venerable as it should be – nor does it necessarily bring wisdom and enlightenment. Not long after, he contracted a painful foot disease, regarded as a punishment for his self-reliance and failure to trust in God.
To be continued …
[i] 1 Kings 15:11
[ii] 1 Kings 15:12-13
[iii] 1 Kings 15:12
[iv] 1 Kings 14:4
[v] 1 Kings 15:13
[vi] 2 Chronicles 14:6-7
[vii] 1 Kings 15:22-23
[viii] 2 Chronicles 14:6-7
[ix] 2 Chronicles 14:9-13
[x] 2 Chronicles 16:1-6
[xi] 2 Chronicles 16:7-10
[xii] 2 Chronicles 14:1, 7; 15:19
[xiii] 1 Kings 15: 11; 2 Chronicles 14:2