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Study Series:                              FINISHING WELL                       Session No. 5                     Bible Reading:  2 Chronicles 16/1-14

Introduction

Twenty silent years. That's how much water has passed under the bridge since we last observed King Asa. We have seen his reforms in the religion of his nation those many years ago. As we re-connect with him now - some 20 years later, I can't help but wonder how things are going now that his reign has extended from the 15th year to the 35th year? (Compare 15/10 and 15/19)

We concluded Session 4 noting a strange compromise or contradiction.

Although the pagan shrines were not completely removed from Israel, Asa remained fully committed to the LORD throughout his life. (2 Chron 15:17)

I wonder if we might not have our first clue towards an answer to the question that started us on this journey in the first place: "What happened to change Asa's life and impact his later years?" In fact, the statement above seems to harbour a contradiction. On the one hand Asa remained fully committed to the Lord throughout his life. On the other hand, the pagan shrines were not completely removed from Israel. Maybe we just have to accept that, as much as he wanted the land to be free of pagan shrines, there was only so much he could do.

Let's examine the evidence. Be aware that in examining Asa's life, we might just end up examining our own.

INTERACTION:  What do you think so far? If you had to describe King Asa to another person, what words would you use at this stage of our exploration based upon the impressions you have from the previous 4 Sessions? What questions would you ask Asa if given the opportunity?

It doesn't take long for an uneasiness to emerge. Something has happened in the last 20 years that has changed the heart of this man. What is it? When did this 'thing' take place? Was it a process or an event of some kind? What has been the impact on the nation and, more particularly, what has happened to Asa?

The second part of Asa's life begins with a declaration of war!  King Baasha of the Northern Kingdom invaded Judah and Benjamin and fortified the city of Ramah. But not to worry, Asa has faced this kind of intimidation before, hasn't he? (Read again chp 14/9-12), The lesson then was to learn complete dependence on the Lord God.

So, having been part of that miraculous victory, Asa would have known exactly what to do. He would call the nation to prayer, call on the name of the Lord his God and watch as the Lord accomplished another victory.

But, no!  Asa takes the gold and silver from the Temple; gold and silver that he and his father had put there because it was devoted (belonged) to the Lord (15/18) and, instead of calling on the Lord, he went to a traditional enemy of his nation and bought a military alliance with the King of Aram.

This is a stunning turn of events. It seems that God doesn't have a place in Asa's calculations. There is no mention of waiting on God for directions. God is just ignored. Last time the first thing he did was call on the Lord. Not this time.

Is this really the same Asa that we left 20 years ago? If so, then his passion for God and for his nation has virtually vanished. That he would take the gold and silver from the Temple is very disturbing because it has echoes of the story and Achan in Joshua 7/19-21. He was the man who, during the conquest of Jericho, took some of the plunder that had been devoted to the Lord, buried it in his tent and thereby brought about the defeat of the nation at which we can "steal" from God?

INTERACTION:  Individually, what do we have that belongs to the Lord? Anything? Nothing?  Are there any ways in which we can "steal" from God?

In taking the treasures from the Temple, Asa was, in effect, stealing what belonged to the Lord. In that action he displayed a careless, presumptuous and even arrogant attitude. He showed little regard for sacred, consecrated objects and what they represented.  In his early years Asa was very dependent upon the Lord. Now he uses God's treasures to buy an alliance with the enemy.

There is no mention of prayer. No mention of consulting the Lord for guidance or direction. Years ago when that Ethiopian warlord came against Asa and his nation, Asa's first response was to pray to God for victory (14/9-12). Did he learn anything from that experience? It would seem that spiritual strategies and solutions have been replaced by human effort and ingenuity.

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.  Seek his will in all you do, and he will direct your paths (Prov 3:5-6). 

If Asa knew that proverb, then he certainly did not believe it or practice it in this situation.

Well, as it happened, the alliance with the King of Aram paid off and Baasha was driven back to his own borders which, some would say, justified Asa's strategy and the job got done. But at what cost to the relationship Asa shared with the Lord.

 FOOTNOTE:  Not only do I hope that you and I will "finish well" whenever our time here on earth is concerned, I hope we will finish each of these study sessions well! One way to encourage that is for us to ask two questions at the end of each session

a) What am I supposed to KNOW (learn) from this session?

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b) What am I supposed to DO as a result of this session that is a practical application?

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