A daily devotion for June 26th
Asa King of Judah
2 Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God. 3 He removed the foreign altars and the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. 4 He commanded Judah to seek the Lord, the God of their ancestors, and to obey his laws and commands. 5 He removed the high places and incense altars in every town in Judah, and the kingdom was at peace under him. 6 He built up the fortified cities of Judah, since the land was at peace. No one was at war with him during those years, for the Lord gave him rest.
7 “Let us build up these towns,” he said to Judah, “and put walls around them, with towers, gates and bars. The land is still ours, because we have sought the Lord our God; we sought him and he has given us rest on every side.” So they built and prospered.
8 Asa had an army of three hundred thousand men from Judah, equipped with large shields and with spears, and two hundred and eighty thousand from Benjamin, armed with small shields and with bows. All these were brave fighting men.
9 Zerah the Cushite marched out against them with an army of thousands upon thousands and three hundred chariots, and came as far as Mareshah. 10 Asa went out to meet him, and they took up battle positions in the Valley of Zephathah near Mareshah.
11 Then 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, Lord our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this vast army. Lord, you are our God; do not let mere mortals prevail against you.”
12 The Lord struck down the Cushites before Asa and Judah. The Cushites fled, 13 and Asa and his army pursued them as far as Gerar. Such a great number of Cushites fell that they could not recover; they were crushed before the Lord and his forces. The men of Judah carried off a large amount of plunder. 14 They destroyed all the villages around Gerar, for the terror of the Lord had fallen on them. They looted all these villages, since there was much plunder there. 15 They also attacked the camps of the herders and carried off droves of sheep and goats and camels. Then they returned to Jerusalem.
15 The Spirit of God came on Azariah son of Oded. 2 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. 3 For a long time Israel was without the true God, without a priest to teach and without the law. 4 But in their distress they turned to the Lord, the God of Israel, and sought him, and he was found by them. 5 In those days it was not safe to travel about, for all the inhabitants of the lands were in great turmoil. 6 One nation was being crushed by another and one city by another, because God was troubling them with every kind of distress. 7 But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.”
8 When Asa heard these words and the prophecy of Azariah son of Oded the prophet, he took courage. He removed the detestable idols from the whole land of Judah and Benjamin and from the towns he had captured in the hills of Ephraim. He repaired the altar of the Lord that was in front of the portico of the Lord’s temple.
9 Then he assembled all Judah and Benjamin and the people from Ephraim, Manasseh and Simeon who had settled among them, for large numbers had come over to him from Israel when they saw that the Lord his God was with him.
10 They assembled at Jerusalem in the third month of the fifteenth year of Asa’s reign. 11 At that time they sacrificed to the Lord seven hundred head of cattle and seven thousand sheep and goats from the plunder they had brought back. 12 They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their ancestors, with all their heart and soul. 13 All who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, were to be put to death, whether small or great, man or woman. 14 They took an oath to the Lord with loud acclamation, with shouting and with trumpets and horns. 15 All Judah rejoiced about the oath because they had sworn it wholeheartedly. They sought God eagerly, and he was found by them. So the Lord gave them rest on every side.
16 King Asa also deposed his grandmother Maakah from her position as queen mother, because she had made a repulsive image for the worship of Asherah. Asa cut it down, broke it up and burned it in the Kidron Valley. 17 Although he did not remove the high places from Israel, Asa’s heart was fully committed to the Lord all his life. 18 He brought into the temple of God the silver and gold and the articles that he and his father had dedicated.
19 There was no more war until the thirty-fifth year of Asa’s reign.
Asa’s Last Years
16 In the thirty-sixth year of Asa’s reign Baasha king of Israel went up against Judah and fortified Ramah to prevent anyone from leaving or entering the territory of Asa king of Judah.
2 Asa then took the silver and gold out of the treasuries of the Lord’s temple and of his own palace and sent it to Ben-Hadad king of Aram, who was ruling in Damascus. 3 “Let there be a treaty between me and you,” he said, “as there was between my father and your father. See, I am sending you silver and gold. Now break your treaty with Baasha king of Israel so he will withdraw from me.”
4 Ben-Hadad agreed with King Asa and sent the commanders of his forces against the towns of Israel. They conquered Ijon, Dan, Abel Maim and all the store cities of Naphtali. 5 When Baasha heard this, he stopped building Ramah and abandoned his work. 6 Then King Asa brought all the men of Judah, and they carried away from Ramah the stones and timber Baasha had been using. With them he built up Geba and Mizpah.
7 At that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said to him: “Because you relied on the king of Aram and not on the Lord your God, the army of the king of Aram has escaped from your hand. 8 Were not the Cushites and Libyans a mighty army with great numbers of chariots and horsemen? Yet when you relied on the Lord, he delivered them into your hand. 9 For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war.”
10 Asa was angry with the seer because of this; he was so enraged that he put him in prison. At the same time Asa brutally oppressed some of the people.
11 The events of Asa’s reign, from beginning to end, are written in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel. 12 In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was afflicted with a disease in his feet. Though his disease was severe, even in his illness he did not seek help from the Lord, but only from the physicians.
Then 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, Lord our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this vast army. Lord, you are our God; do not let mere mortals prevail against you.2 Chron 14:11
Have you ever felt like King Asa felt? Have you ever thought you were secure, with plenty of money in the bank, with good health and a future that looked bright and rosy, and then suddenly, Wham! Bam! — disaster looms? You realize you are outnumbered, outgunned and outclassed, up against a circumstance too big for you to handle. I'm sure there are some facing that very kind of thing.
Notice that the very first thing Asa does is to recognize the unique ability of God to give help — unique ability — because nobody helps like God does. The reason there is none like God to help, of course, is that God knows so much more about us than anyone else and there are a thousand and one things God can do to set us free. King Asa recognizes also that part of the uniqueness of God is that it does not make any difference whether you are mighty or weak. This phrase,
to help the powerless against the mighty, reveals that human contribution to the victory is insignificant in God's eyes. He can use armies if he wants to, or he can use a single individual.
The second thing King Asa did was to request specific aid for the present emergency. He prayed,
Help us, Lord our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this vast army. When you are confronted with a situation like that, you do not have time to pray
around the world. I once heard of a man who was invited to pray for someone who was dying in a hospital. As he stood beside the bed, this man began his prayer,
Bless the missionaries in China and India and Africa, etc. He continued in that vein until someone stopped him and said,
I'm sorry. While you were in India the patient died. It is important to come to the point in our prayers, to deal with the specific situation, as King Asa did here. Do not tell God what to do. That is the mistake so many of us make. We have our prayer all outlined, written down even. We say,
Lord, first do this. Then when that happens, do this. God's best and most frequent answer to such a prayer is to check the square that says,
None of the above. He has his own way of working. He will not give way to us. That is what makes us get so angry at God.
Then, third, King Asa reminds God of a divinely established relationship:
Lord, you are our God. He is saying,
We did not make you our God. You chose us. You created this relationship we have. We are your people, therefore, if this battle is lost, you lose. That is the ground we stand on in our prayers before God. This is what King Asa is crying. Any defeat would be God's defeat. Asa stands upon that relationship. That relationship gives us boldness too. We are invited to come before God and ask for help because we are sons. We are invited to come boldly because God himself promises that we will obtain mercy and find grace. It is already ours to help in time of need, so we are exhorted to come boldly.
Father, thank you that I may come to you in good times and in times of crisis. There is nothing too big for you, nothing that takes you by surprise. Thank you that you are my God and a very present help in times of trouble.
Life Application: Asa's prayer illustrates three important principles for us to observe in our prayers. Do our prayers reflect our cognizance of God's character and the ways in which he works? Do we pray expectantly, specifically, and in complete dependency upon God's power and purpose and presence?
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