As the first king of the divided kingdom of Judah, Rehoboam drifted further from following God. When he died his son Abijah continued that trend during his three-year reign:
“He followed all the sinful practices of his father before him. He was not wholeheartedly devoted to the Lord his God, as his ancestor David had been” (1 Kings 15:3 NET).
When Abijah’s son Asa became king, it must have been a breath of fresh air! “During his reign the land had rest for ten years. Asa did what the Lord his God desired and approved” (2 Chronicles 14:1-2). Peace and a return to God’s ways. But to return to God, what did Asa have to do?
As we read about his reign we discover that he immediately got rid of anything that interfered with the worship of God. “He removed the pagan altars and the high places, smashed the sacred pillars, and cut down the Asherah poles” (2 Chronicles 14:3). To follow God he realised that they had to quit following idols and pagan gods. But it wasn’t a matter of just stopping. He needed to rid the land of anything that would tempt the people to return to idolatry.
But it wasn’t enough to get rid of those things that were sinful – they needed to replace what was sinful with what was good. “He ordered Judah to seek the Lord God of their ancestors and to observe his law and commands” (2 Chronicles 14:4). They needed to replace the sinful idolatry with “seeking the Lord God” and obeying “his law and commands”. Only by getting rid of what was sinful and replacing it with obedience to God could they once again be faithful to God.
His obedience to God was even seen in how he led his army. Later, when outnumbered by an opposing army he turned to God for help.
“O Lord, there is no one but you who can help the weak when they are vastly outnumbered. Help us, O Lord our God, for we rely on you and have marched on your behalf against this huge army. O Lord, you are our God; don’t let men prevail against you” (2 Chronicles 14:11).
God answered Asa’s prayer and gave the army of Judah victory against the Cushites, wiping them out so they were no longer a threat. Asa had learned that with God on his side, there was no enemy that could successfully attack them.
He also realised that bringing Judah back to God required him to remove any possible temptation to the people. This included removing Maacah, his grandmother, from her position as queen mother. The reason was simple: she was still involved in idolatry. She had refused to change. Asa removed her from her position and destroyed her Asherah pole.
Is there not a lesson for Christians today in Asa’s reaction to sin? If we want to be faithful to God, we also must get rid of the sin in our lives. It might even require us to go to the extent of severing connections with people who would lead us back into sin.
But, like Asa, we need to not just get rid of the sin, we need to replace it with obedience to God – doing what God wants of us. The only way we can know this is to be spending time in God’s word, just as Asa told the people of Judah. They could not obey God’s law and commands without first knowing it. And the same is true for us today.
Let us seek to not only know God’s word but to apply it in our lives.
Readings for next week: 2 Chronicles 13-16; 1 Kings 15-16; Psalms 77-78