“…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.”
Judah had several distinct advantages over the northern kingdom of Israel. Her territory was more secluded, which made invasion more difficult. This fact saved Judah from defensive warfare a number of times. Judah also had a unity of government, not found in Israel. Moreover, Judah was bound together by strong religious bonds, national ideals, and social interests. The people of Judah, with the temple and the authentic priesthood centered in Jerusalem had a religious interest and high purpose that proved to be a blessing to them in many crises. Lastly, the very presence of Solomon’s temple with a system of legitimate worship already established was influential in bonding the Hebrew nation more than once. This environment became fertile ground for weeds of self-importance and autonomy.
The first ten years of his reign Asa was blessed with peace and prosperity . The surrounding nations were too busy securing their thrones and other internal affairs. They therefore did not immediately harass Judah. But soon enough Baasha looked on disapprovingly at Asa’s victories and privileged circumstances. Asa’s moral reforms had succeeded in drawing away many of Baasha’s citizens ; thus he could no longer remain inactive. Moving swiftly into Judah, Baasha seized Ramah, only four miles north of Jerusalem itself . This action not only stopped the migration of Baasha’s subjects who were attracted in great numbers to Jerusalem, but also cut off the main road north out of the Holy City. Baasha shut down all communications between Judah and Israel and dominated all the trade routes.
Baasha’s threatening and warlike gestures were regarded by Asa as a cause for immediate retaliation. Unfortunately, he did not consult God in the matter but instead took things into his own hands. Ingenuity, stealth, and clever backroom deal-making were the only things which could save Judah, or so he thought. Asa plotted a first-class diplomatic triumph.
Asa’s zeal resulted in an imperfect trust in God. Years of success can cause any politician or manager of public affairs to forsake a dependency in God. Sadly, Asa forgot that it was God Who had in the past given the Ethiopian army into his hand, but now he adopted the crooked ways of worldly policymakers. The ongoing achievements of powerful men can bring about a condition of self-sufficiency.
He hatched a shrewd plot convincing the Syrian army to switch sides and attack Israel. He emptied the temple treasury as a bribe to send along with a delegation to Damascus. The proposal was that Ben-hadad would break with Asa and attack Baasha’s northern territories .
Asa’s scheme seemed to work. Ben-hadad double-crossed Baasha and invaded Israel . Baasha was forced to quickly reposition his armies from Ramah to the north . Asa then moved in and confiscated the building materials Baasha left behind, using them to fortify his own defensive cities of Geba and Mizpah .
The plan was ostensibly clever and outwardly successful. But the entire affair demonstrated a lack of trust in God. Instead of asking God to deliver Judah, Asa used manipulation and intrigue. Asa was deluded by his many previous accomplishments into supposing that he could now contrive an escape from the present danger using his intellectual powers and political skill. Ten years of prosperity had deluded him in thinking that there is no continual need for or dependence on God. The relatively safe geographical landscape and unified government God had provided Judah had been taken for granted; indeed, Judah probably thought this accomplishment was their own doing as well.
Instead of depending on the good and powerful One True God, Asa relied on the safety of a pagan king. Apparently he believed that his conspiracy got the work done, and who can argue? From an earthly and practical point of view Asa’s plan is brilliantly executed. But the victory is a temporary one. Asa bought his earthly support at grievous price.
Asa’s abandonment of God’s care is condemned by the prophet Hanani, “…You have relied on the King of Syria and did not rely on the LORD your God…” . Hanani reminds Asa that despite overwhelmingly poor odds, God had delivered the powerful Egyptian army into Judah’s hands in the past . He would have done the same thing in regard to Baasha’s armies, too; in fact, God would have happily provided victory over the Syrians at the same time . The penalty for foolishly abandoning God’s care and provision is that Asa is condemned to battle for the rest of his life .
What was Asa thinking? God is observing all men everywhere and at all times . The dangerous circumstance Asa had found himself in had not gone unnoticed by God. The safety and security God had given Judah for ten long years was falsely believed to be the result of man’s effort, not God’s.
When calamity strikes, the foolish are called to action and not prayer. Rule: Pray, then act. Christians everywhere should learn from Asa’s mistakes. Beware of “successes” that seems to come without God.
To be continued …