Asa Had the Answer by Larry W. Peebles August 12, 2016 16.30
What does one do when outnumbered two to one? We are not talking two against one, or even two hundred against one hundred. What if we were talking over one million enemy soldiers advancing against a nation, and the King’s army to defend the nation consisted of half that many? What does one do?
King Asa of Judah found himself in that situation in Chapter 14 of 2 Chronicles. By way of background, Asa was the fifth King of Judah, following his ancestors King David, his son Solomon, his son Rehoboam, and his son Abijah. Asa was the son of Abijah. Much is written and studied about the reign of David and Solomon. They both loved the Lord with all their hearts, and purposed to follow the Lord and lead the people according to God’s laws and plan. Each had their moments involving personal sin and weakness to overcome. When Solomon died, the kingdom split into two kingdoms, Israel and Judah. Rehoboam’s first challenge as the new king was to unite the tribes of Judah and Benjamin into the kingdom of Judah, and to fortify the cities of Judah. The remaining ten tribes formed the kingdom of Israel. During the first three years of his reign, Rehoboam was successful in doing this as long as he followed the Lord. However, after his success in establishing himself as King, and fortifying the kingdom, he drifted away from the Lord. The king of Egypt attacked Judah in Rehoboam’s fifth year, captured the fortified cities, and advanced as far as Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 12). The prophet Shemaiah gave the word of the Lord to Rehoboam (v. 5) “You have abandoned me; therefore, I now abandon you to Shishak [king of Egypt].” The king and the leaders immediately saw the error of their ways, and humbled themselves before God. Then the Lord sent this word through His prophet (v. 7, 8) “Since they have humbled themselves, I will not destroy them…..they will, however, become subject to him [the king of Egypt], so that they may learn the difference between serving me and serving the kings of other lands.”
Shishak attacked Jerusalem and carried off the treasures of both the temple and the royal palace. He took everything, including the gold. With a valuable lesson having been learned, Rehoboam began again establishing his kingdom and fortifying the cities. The rest of his reign was then marked with continual warfare with Jeroboam, king of Israel.
Abijah followed Rehoboam as king, and faithfully followed the Lord. Though he reluctantly carried on the fight against his Israelite brothers, in one particular battle with Jeroboam, Abijah addressed the army of Israel (2 Chronicles 13). He pointed out that God intended the kingship of all of Israel (Israel and Judah) belonged to the descendants of David. The divided kingdom of Israel was an offshoot of the rebellion of Nabat, one of Solomon’s officials, but not a son. In verse 12, he said “Men of Israel, do not fight against the Lord, the god of your fathers, for you will not succeed.” God routed Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah that day. Verse 18 says “the men of Judah were victorious because they relied on the Lord, the God of their fathers.”
With all this as background, we then see Asa, son of Abijah become king of Judah. 2 Chronicles 14:2 says “Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God.” During years of peace, he built up the towns, and put walls, gates and bars around them. He prospered. He built an army of 300,000 from the tribe of Judah, and 280,000 from the tribe of Benjamin.
Thirty years after his grandfather’s lesson in the battle with Shishak, Asa learned that Zerah the Cushite was approaching with a “vast” army (literal translation-thousands of thousands, or a thousand thousand [million]). There is historical evidence to suggest he was a general hired by the current pharaoh of Egypt. With all the prosperity and peace in the land, Egypt thought it was time to drain the temple treasury again, and loot the royal palace. How could Asa defend his people against an army of over one million with an army of only 580,000 men? Verse 11 says “Asa called to the Lord his God, and said ‘Lord, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, O Lord our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this vast army. O Lord, you are our God; do not let man prevail against you.’”
Verses 12-15 in Chapter 14 tell us the ending of the story. The Lord struck down the Cushites. Asa and his army pursued, annihilating such a great number they could not recover. The men of Judah carried off a large amount of plunder, including plunder from the enemy villages destroyed in a counter-attack. They also carried off droves of sheep and camels before returning to Jerusalem. The Lord turned what could have been a devastating attack into a stunning rout and counter-attack. Instead of having their treasures plundered, the kingdom of Judah saw its wealth and treasures grow.
Upon their return to Jerusalem, 2 Chronicles 15: 1-2 says “The Spirit of God came upon Azariah son of Obed. He went out to meet Asa and said to him, “Listen to me, Asa and all Judah and Benjamin. The Lord is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.”
The lessons we see in these Scriptures contain some jewels of wisdom. They apply not only to nations and leaders of nations, but to individuals as well. Consider these twelve take-away points:
- We must be careful to attribute our success to the Lord. Psalm 121:2 says “My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”
- Human nature is to forget where our success comes from, and to drift away from the Lord when we are successful.
- When we drift away from the Lord, we must rush back to Him with humility, and ask for forgiveness.
- Drifting away from the Lord carries consequences we may have to live with for a while.
- When we humbly come back to the Lord, He restores us and lets us start over again.
- Men do not prevail when they fight against the Lord.
- When going into battle, better to rely on the Lord than on the size of your army.
- God helps the powerless against the mighty.
- When the Lord is on our side, we can expect astonishing results, but never predictable results.
- When we are with the Lord, He is with us.
- When we seek the Lord, we will find Him.
- If we forsake the Lord, He will forsake us.
When Solomon finished the temple, the Lord appeared to him at night and said (2 Chronicles 7:14) “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land.” What to do when the problems and opposition that face a person or a nation are overwhelming? Where do we start when we have lost our moral bearings? Solomon received the answer when he was king. Asa remembered the answer when he was tested. We return to the Lord our God.