In the books of 1 and 2 Kings, a major area of emphasis is God’s blessing His people if they obey Him and cursing them if they don’t. This is true for the various kings as well. There were around forty of them, and most “did evil in the eyes of the Lord.” Only eight are said to be good kings.
One of the good guys was named Asa. He did a lot of good things. He got rid of the idols that his father had set up around the country. This in itself took courage because Asa was changing the religious climate of the nation. There were sacred prostitutes, including homosexuals, associated with these idols, and Asa removed them as well. He did this even though many of the Jews resented his intrusion into their sexual practices.
Asa did not play favorites in his religious reforms. His own grandmother was a devotee of a female goddess, so she was removed from her position of power in his government. The idol she had set up was destroyed publicly. Asa also wanted to honor the name of the Lord. He brought a great deal of wealth into the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem (1 Kgs 15:9-15).
It would be difficult to find a better endorsement of a king than the one Asa receives from the author of 1 Kings. It is said that “his heart was loyal to the Lord all his days” (v 14). Since he ruled for 41 years, this was impressive indeed. He did what was “right in the eyes of the Lord” and is said to have been like David, a man after God’s own heart (v 11).
Not surprisingly, Asa received many blessings from God. He lived a long life and reigned over four decades, one of the longest reigns of any of the kings. He also experienced many years of peace, and the land prospered. When confronted by enemies, the Lord gave him victory over them. His citizens enjoyed great spoils from these battles (2 Chron 14:6-15).
Obviously, Asa is an OT figure we should emulate. He was a man who bravely stood up against evil and did what was right. He even confronted his own family and the evil history of his royal father. When we consider how morally depraved his nation was for so many years, he comes across as a spiritual superman.
We have a tendency to elevate our heroes and think they can do no wrong. Some may want to do that with Asa. But that would be a mistake. He had weaknesses. The people worshipped idols on various high places around the country. For whatever reason, he did not tear many of them down (1 Kgs 15:14).
There were also times when Asa trusted in his own strength instead of relying on the Lord. At one point he faced a danger from his neighbor to the north. Instead of seeking the Lord, he robbed the temple of some of its wealth in order to pay a pagan king to help him (vv 18-19). And he did not look to the Lord for help when he faced illness (v 23; 2 Chron 16:12).
Some might step back and conclude that he is not a good example, after all. Maybe he left those high places up because he had friends in high places who wanted them to stay. How could he turn to a pagan king for help when God had blessed him so richly? It would be easy to judge him harshly.
I don’t look at Asa in that way. I think he is an encouraging example for the people of God. He shows that we all have weaknesses and, on occasion, we all fail to follow the Lord as we should. The author of 1 Kings is simply showing us some of Asa’s warts, and we all have spiritual warts.
We see this in the NT. The disciples have a heart for the Lord. They leave all to follow Him. But they fail over and over.
We could be hard on them, just as we can be hard on Asa. But if we are, we must be hard on ourselves if we are to be consistent. I really like Asa because he teaches us a very important lesson. We can ask the Lord to give us a good and noble heart. We can desire to please Him and rely on His Spirit to transform us into His image. But there are times when we will fall short. When we do, we can realize that we can have a heart that is loyal to the Lord, even if there are some warts on the outside.
Ken Yates (ThM, PhD, Dallas Theological Seminary) is the Editor of the Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society and GES’s East Coast and International speaker. His latest book is Hebrews: Partners with Christ.
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