Tuesday, May 24
Reader: “The Lord will stay with you as long as you stay with him!”
Response: “Whenever you seek him, you will find him.”
Scripture: 2 Chronicles 15:1-15
Then the Spirit of God came upon Azariah son of Oded, and he went out to meet King Asa as he was returning from the battle. “Listen to me, Asa!” he shouted. “Listen, all you people of Judah and Benjamin! The Lord will stay with you as long as you stay with him! Whenever you seek him, you will find him. But if you abandon him, he will abandon you. For a long time Israel was without the true God, without a priest to teach them, and without the Law to instruct them. But whenever they were in trouble and turned to the Lord, the God of Israel, and sought him out, they found him.
“During those dark times, it was not safe to travel. Problems troubled the people of every land. Nation fought against nation, and city against city, for God was troubling them with every kind of problem. But as for you, be strong and courageous, for your work will be rewarded.”
When Asa heard this message from Azariah the prophet, he took courage and removed all the detestable idols from the land of Judah and Benjamin and in the towns he had captured in the hill country of Ephraim. And he repaired the altar of the Lord, which stood in front of the entry room of the Lord’s Temple. Then Asa called together all the people of Judah and Benjamin, along with the people of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Simeon who had settled among them. For many from Israel had moved to Judah during Asa’s reign when they saw that the Lord his God was with him. The people gathered at Jerusalem in late spring, during the fifteenth year of Asa’s reign.
On that day they sacrificed to the Lord 700 cattle and 7,000 sheep and goats from the plunder they had taken in the battle. Then they entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their ancestors, with all their heart and soul. They agreed that anyone who refused to seek the Lord, the God of Israel, would be put to death—whether young or old, man or woman. They shouted out their oath of loyalty to the Lord with trumpets blaring and rams’ horns sounding. All in Judah were happy about this covenant, for they had entered into it with all their heart. They earnestly sought after God, and they found him. And the Lord gave them rest from their enemies on every side.
Are we reading about God’s chosen people? Repenting and seeking the Lord? Yes! This account is about a rare time when the king and the people responded to the prophet’s warning. The beginning word, “then,” tells us to look back a few verses to see what had just happened. King Asa is coming back from an astounding victory in battle having defeated an Ethiopian army of over one million with his forces of 580,000. As the two sides came together, Asa had prayed, “Help us, O Lord our God, for we trust in you alone” and God had delivered the vast horde into Judah’s hand. As King Asa returned from the conflict, he heard the words of the prophet, Azariah. Incidentally, this is the only time in all of Scripture we hear of this prophet.
The nation of Israel had earlier split into the ten northern tribes (Israel) and the two southern tribes (Judah and Benjamin). Asa was the third king of Judah since the split.
The words of the prophet were clear and direct: stay with the Lord and he will stay with you; abandon him and you are on your own path to disaster. Asa heeded the message and destroyed the Asherah pole his grandmother had set up. He even fired her as queen mother for her idolatry. He repaired the altar in front of the Temple Solomon had built and gave a great amount of gold and silver to the Temple. As a result of God’s blessing Asa and Judah for their faithfulness to God, many people from the northern tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Simeon moved to Judah! They all gathered to offer sacrifices to the Lord (keeping in mind the perfect number seven). They renewed a covenant to be faithful to the Lord. They earnestly sought the Lord in every situation and the Lord blessed them and gave them rest from their enemies on every side. Imagine that! Judah being faithful to God and receiving blessing and peace as a result.
But during the last five years of his forty-one years as king, Asa began to drift in his trust so that at the end of his reign, as the northern kingdom of Israel harassed him, rather than completely trusting God as he had in his early years, he made an alliance with another nation “just in case.” He took the gold and silver out of the Temple he had put in to make a payment to his allied partner. Another prophet confronted Asa and he angrily put that prophet in prison and began to oppress some of his people. The last two years he developed a serious foot disease. But instead of turning to the Lord, he trusted solely in his doctors. He died and was buried in a tomb he had carved out and a huge funeral fire was held in his honor. A sad story comes to an end.
We read the story and wonder how the people could abandon God when things were going so well. His story is a good warning to us. Faith in God must happen anew every day of your life. The memory of yesterday’s faith is important, but we need to trust all over again today. Taking on “help” for God seemed like a good idea to Asa, but it undercut his undivided trust. God doesn’t need our help. Joshua brought down the walls of Jericho with a trumpet blast and a yell. Hezekiah trusted the Lord as God wiped out 185,000 Assyrians overnight. When you are fat and happy and things are going well, keep trusting in God completely. He is the source of blessing. When you get a “foot disease,” you can trust doctors, but don’t neglect to put your faith in the true Physician.
Music: “‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus” Alan Jackson
Bonus: This recording is from the late 1960’s! Walter Arties passed away in 2008. His breath control was astonishing. We had the opportunity to meet him when we were on Campus Crusade staff in the early 1970’s. He was a very humble servant of God.
“All He Wants is You” Walter Arties This music is from another era!!
Lord, if only my will and trust may remain right and firm towards Thee, do with me whatsoever it shall please Thee. For it cannot be anything but good, whatsoever Thou shalt do with me. If it be Thy will I should be in darkness, be Thou blessed; and if it be Thy will I should be in light, be Thou again blessed. If Thou vouchsafe to comfort me, be Thou blessed; and, if Thou wilt have me afflicted, be Thou ever equally blessed―Amen. ―Thomas à Kempis from Prayers Ancient and Modern, p.92