2 Chronicles 16

2 Chronicles 16
by Pastor Mark Hudson

Not everyone finishes well.  A lot of people start things, but finishing well, let alone finishing, is a different story.  Asa is still considered a good king, but he did not continue the way he started.  While Asa’s trouble starts with provocation from Israel’s king Baasha, Asa’s response was not good.  Clearly, this blockade at Ramah would prove harmful to Judah had Asa let it stand.  But this bit of aggression prompts a number of bad decisions by Asa.  Asa has been bringing wealth into the house of God (15:18).  Now Asa is taking silver and gold out of the house of the Lord and sends that money to Ben-hadad, king of Syria.  Syria is a pagan nation.  Why is Asa making a covenant with Syrian?  There is no mention of Judah seeking God or asking a prophet for help.  Rather, Asa immediately enters into a covenant with Syria.  Asa softens the deal by paying Syria to go against Asa’s brothers – Israel.  So, Syria, in the north, attacks Israel’s northern border, which diverts their attention from the south.

The attacks worked.  “When Baasha heard of it (the Syrian attacks on his northern border), he stopped building Ramah (in the south) and let his work cease.”  Then Judah destroys the building project the norther tribe Israel had begun.  “. . . [T]hey carried away the stones of Ramah and its timber . . . and with them be built Geba and Mizpah” (v. 6).

God speaks to him through a prophet: Hanani the seer who rebuked the king.  Notice the verb ‘relied’ in both vs. 7 and 8.  In verse seven, the verb is used negatively while in verse 8, this was a positive experience in the past.  We see a similar rebuke in v. 12 where “he did not seek the Lord, but sought help from physicians.”  We are not to conclude that we should not go to doctors, but the theme in this chapter is that Asa is no longer seeking the Lord.

Asa’s example is a reminder for those who are in the latter part of their life.  You don’t want people to wonder what happened to you and why you seemed to turn away from the Lord.  For all the years you serve and know God, your hard heart can make people question your faith and maybe God’s faithfulness by your hard heart.  You do not want to bring dishonor to God, nor do you want to turn away from Him after decades of His grace in your life.

But this is where we find King Asa.  He not only does not seek God in his last few years; he also become hostile to His prophets and those who support Hanani.  For Asa it is bad enough to turn away from God.  It was so bad that Hanani, the prophet, had to rebuke him.  But Asa “was angry with the seer and put him in the stocks in prison, for he was in a rage with him because of this.”  If that wasn’t enough, v. 10 continues with “And Asa inflicted cruelties upon some of the people at the same time.

We might imagine that Hanani’s word of rebuke became known.  Certainly, Asa’s actions were known after such a long time of seeking God.  And possibly because of Asa’s earlier reforms, people from Judah were seeking the Lord, engaged in worship, and obeying God’s Word.  Asa may have played a part in their spiritual renewal.  So, of course they agree with Hanani.  Isn’t that what a younger Asa had taught them?

Now Asa turns on these believers with a vengeance.  Asa was “in a rage”  at the prophet and “inflicted cruelties” on those who agreed with Hanani.  Asa’s response was the opposite of what it should have been.

Asa missed Hanani’s message that God is eager to “give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him” in v. 9.  Hanani is almost saying to Asa, “All you had to is ask God.  He is actively looking for people He can support.”  Asa lost an opportunity.  It is hard to know what happened to Asa.  Was it pride, a sin that he never asked God to help him fight, or was he growing cold toward God?  We will never know in this life.  But clearly something changed in Asa’s attitude toward God.

Yet, what is interesting is that Asa’ burial was still celebrated.  He was not cremated but a “great fire” was held in his honor.  So, we are left with a mixed message.  Asa is both a great king and a hard-hearted king.  I suppose in many ways, we find that same struggle in our lives.  Maybe not to the degree of Asa, but we certainly do not want everyone to know about our sins either.

Dear heavenly Father, You have been so so good to us and yet we harbor sin and protect it from Your Holy Spirit thinking we can hide it or “deal” with it ourselves.  But you want to help us.  You are the only One who can.  Help us to end well by continuing to seek You and by watching over our own hearts.  Keep us vigilant and to continue to believe in the gospel until our dying breath.  Lord, we do not want to be a stumbling block to others.  So, strengthen our faith in Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.