To the history of Asa – his name means “healing” or “restoration” – are dedicated in the first book of Kings only sixteen verses (1Kgs 15:9-24), while this second book of Chronicles dedicates three chapters to him.
From the long reign of Asa, the chronicler selects four events:
1. His first reformation with the resulting peace (2Chr 14:1-8);
2. his victory over the Cusjiet Zera (2Chr 14:9-15);
3. his second reformation as a result of his victory (2Chr 15:1-19);
4. his act of unfaithfulness and its consequences (2Chr 16:1-14).
We can use these four events to divide his history into, as it literally says when the end of his life is described, “the first and the last” (2Chr 16:11). His life has a first and a last part. The contrasts can be seen in 2 Chronicles 14-15 on the one hand and 2 Chronicles 16 on the other hand. His history makes clear that there is a blessing attached to the search for God, but also how foolish it is to seek help from people.
1 - 8 Asa King of Judah
1 So Abijah slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the city of David, and his son Asa became king in his place. The land was undisturbed for ten years during his days. 2 Asa did good and right in the sight of the LORD his God, 3 for he removed the foreign altars and high places, tore down the [sacred] pillars, cut down the Asherim, 4 and commanded Judah to seek the LORD God of their fathers and to observe the law and the commandment. 5 He also removed the high places and the incense altars from all the cities of Judah. And the kingdom was undisturbed under him. 6 He built fortified cities in Judah, since the land was undisturbed, and there was no one at war with him during those years, because the LORD had given him rest. 7 For he said to Judah, “Let us build these cities and surround [them] with walls and towers, gates and bars. The land is still ours because we have sought the LORD our God; we have sought Him, and He has given us rest on every side.” So they built and prospered. 8 Now Asa had an army of 300,000 from Judah, bearing large shields and spears, and 280,000 from Benjamin, bearing shields and wielding bows; all of them were valiant warriors.
There is war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam (2Chr 12:15) and between Abijah and Jeroboam (2Chr 13:2), but in the days of Asa – he reigns from 911-870 BC – there is ten years rest (verse 1). This is because he does what is good and right in the sight of the LORD (verse 2). This rest has not been there since the tearing of the realm.
Asa with Jehoshaphat, Joash, Amaziah, Uzziah, Jotham, Hezekiah, and Josiah is one of the eight kings of Judah who do what is right “in the sight of the LORD”. The “sight of the LORD” speak of the absolute attentiveness of the LORD; nothing is hidden from him. “His eyes … like a flame of fire” (Rev 1:14) see and see through everything. These eyes also note that of these eight kings, seven deviate from Him at a later age. Only from Jotham no deviation is mentioned (2Kgs 15:32-38). The general testimony, however, is that they have done what is right in His sight. When someone gets older, it doesn’t automatically mean that he becomes more spiritual. None of the kings of the ten tribes did what is good in the sight of the LORD, except Jehu in the beginning of his reign.
Asa starts his reign with a big cleaning (verse 3). All idolatry goes out. He also commands Judah to seek God and to observe the law and the commandment (verse 4). Because Asa removes everything that dishonors God, there is rest in the kingdom during his reign (verse 5). The seeking and doing of the Lord’s will gives peace. It is good to remove evil, but if seeking the Lord does not replace it, a vacuum will arise that will be filled by the evil one (cf. Mt 12:43-45).
Also, observing “the law and the commandment” provides protection against an invasion by the enemy. If the believer feeds on the truth of God’s Word and lives up to it, it will make him strong, and his life will be to the glory of God. A time of rest is a time when the flesh is not active and the fruit of the Spirit becomes visible.
Asa makes good use of the time of rest by strengthening the cities (verse 6; cf. Acts 9:31). In a time of rest we should not be unemployed, but busy. Strengthening the defense (verse 7) can be applied to strengthening our spiritual life:
1. Walls” speak of separation from the world to God, which gives security.
2. “Towers” are lookouts and speak of being attentive to an attack by the enemy, so we can see him from afar.
3. “Gates” speak of allowing the good and closing for the wrong.
4. “Bars” ensure the safety of life, that nothing is allowed in it that is detrimental to the new life.
Asa does all this at the beginning of his reign.
The example of Asa is therefore especially applicable to the newly converted or the youth, for whom life with the Lord is still ahead of them. The seeking of the Lord gives rest. From that rest can be built a healthy spiritual life. It is important that young believers feed on God’s Word and read books that explain God’s Word and work confirmation in faith. Those who do so will be prosperous in the growth of their faith life.
The rest that Asa has, does not make him carefree. He also has a well-equipped army to repel any possible attack on the people. The men of Judah can fight with spears if they have to deal with an enemy nearby (verse 8). The large shield can stop the arrows being fired at them from a distance. The men of Benjamin can shoot with the bow to hit an enemy from a distance. The small shields can repel the sword from the enemy when it is close to them. The men from Judah and Benjamin are all “valiant warriors”. They stand shoulder to shoulder and are complementary in their abilities.
9 - 15 Victory Over the Ethiopians
9 Now Zerah the Ethiopian came out against them with an army of a million men and 300 chariots, and he came to Mareshah. 10 So Asa went out to meet him, and they drew up in battle formation in the valley of Zephathah at Mareshah. 11 Then Asa called to the LORD his God and said, “LORD, there is no one besides You to help [in the battle] between the powerful and those who have no strength; so help us, O LORD our God, for we trust in You, and in Your name have come against this multitude. O LORD, You are our God; let not man prevail against You.” 12 So the LORD routed the Ethiopians before Asa and before Judah, and the Ethiopians fled. 13 Asa and the people who [were] with him pursued them as far as Gerar; and so many Ethiopians fell that they could not recover, for they were shattered before the LORD and before His army. And they carried away very much plunder. 14 They destroyed all the cities around Gerar, for the dread of the LORD had fallen on them; and they despoiled all the cities, for there was much plunder in them. 15 They also struck down those who owned livestock, and they carried away large numbers of sheep and camels. Then they returned to Jerusalem.
In these verses we have a second history in the life of Asa. The LORD has given him rest. Everything is in peace. Then comes the trial. If Asa has everything in order, “the evil day” comes (Eph 6:13a). Then it turns out that he stands firm because he has put on the armor. The fact that the enemy comes here to Asa (verse 9) is not the result of deviation. Then the enemy’s attack would be a disciplinary act of God to make the people return to Him through it. However, the people here have not deviated from the LORD. The LORD has another intention with this attack. He allows the enemy to go up against Judah to test the faith of the people.
The way in which Asa engages in the battle provides proof of his loyalty and consecration. When the enemy goes up against him, he goes out to meet him (verse 10). Asa is not afraid. The lack of fear is not because he relies on his trained and well-equipped army. The enemy’s attack leads him to prayer (verse 11). He is not blind to the superiority of the enemy. The enemy’s army is twice as big as his army. He sees himself facing a huge crowd and realizes that he lacks the strength to overcome this enemy. However, he knows the power of the LORD. He calls to Him and thereby places the LORD between himself and the enemy.
If God stands between us and our difficulties, the difficulties will not fade away, but we will measure them according to the power of God and not according to our own strength, or better: the lack thereof. If our cause and that of God are one, we are invincible. Asa, who sought God in his prosperity, approaches to Him with boldness in days of trial. He goes to Him as “His God” (verse 11). This personal relationship with God is of the utmost importance in every circumstance in which we find ourselves.
The prayer of Asa is short, but rich in content. In it he expresses his unconditional confidence in God’s omnipotence (cf. 1Sam 14:6). He knows and pronounces that the LORD is the only One Who can help. Asa relies only on Him. He also knows that the LORD is there for everyone who recognizes his own powerlessness and therefore calls upon Him. Asa can also say that he did not end up in this situation because of willfulness. He knows that he is in the way of the LORD, and that in His Name he has come against the enemy, “this multitude”.
Therefore he boldly appeals to God, that He proves Himself strongly to these mortals. He makes it a matter between the LORD, the Almighty God of His people, and man. What will man be able to do against that almighty God? There is a great faith and also a great knowledge of God in what Asa says about God and in the way he speaks to Him.
His prayer is heard. The LORD stands up for Asa and Judah. He strikes the Ethiopians in such a way that they flee (verse 12). Asa and the people pursue them and kill many. As a result, there is no power left for the enemy to resume battle. God gives a great victory. The army of Israel is the army of the LORD, “His army” (verse 13). The cities that are overwhelmed are aware that the judgment comes over them because of the LORD, the God of Israel (verse 14; cf. Exo 23:27; Deu 11:25; Jos 2:9; Rev 6:16). After the victory the booty is taken to Jerusalem, God’s center (verse 15).