Asa: The Man Called Foolish

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This message was part of the series called “The Bible’s Biggest Losers” being preached at Waterloo Pentecostal Assembly.

INTRODUCTION

Tonight, I’m going to continue with the journey we’ve been taking through the Bible uncovering some people that could be called “losers” and step into the era of Israel’s Kings. Actually, I’m going to skip through a few years of the nation’s history past the time where the single nation of Israel split into two nations, Judah and Israel, and the nation of Judah has a king named Asa.

Today we’re going to look at the story of King Asa. In his story we find one that is repeated, I believe too often, in amongst Christians of our world – particularly in our part of the world. It is the story of misplaced hope, a story of a man called foolish.

{READ 2 CHRONICLES 16:1-14}

There is a verse that particularly stands out in this account of King Asa’s later year of life.

2 Chronicles 16:9 (NIV)
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.”

In this verse Asa is given the label of foolish and if you’ll remember, he isn’t too happy with it! Here we are told that Asa was foolish for not relying on God. In a moment I want to look at the two reasons mentioned in the text why what Asa did was considered foolish. But first, I’d like to make sure we all have the situation clear.

A thousand years before Jesus was born David was the king of Israel and the kingdom was united and prosperous. After him, Solomon, his son, reigned over the united kingdom. But when Solomon died there was conflict and division, and the southern kingdom, made up of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, separated from the northern kingdom made up of the other ten tribes. The southern kingdom is usually called Judah and the northern kingdom is usually called Israel. The first king of Judah was Rehoboam. When he died his son Abijah ruled for only three years. And after Abijah his son Asa became king in Judah.

Asa ruled for 41 years and thirty-five years of that reign was almost totally peaceful. God was with him and blessed him and protected him and prospered him in wonderful ways. But something happened in Asa’s life over those years, and when trouble came he no longer trusted God.

Chapter 16 describes what happened in the 36th year of Asa’s peaceful reign. Verse 1 says that Baasha the king of Israel (the northern kingdom) went up against Judah (i.e., against Asa). He built a fortified city named Ramah as a kind of siege and blockade against Judah, so that he could control access to Asa’s land.

Now here is where Asa should have stopped and cried out to the Lord. But instead of turning to the Lord, he turned immediately to human resources. Verse 2 describes what he did: he “took silver and gold from the treasures of the house of the Lord and the king’s house, and sent them to Benhadad king of Syria.”

In other words, Asa pays the king of Syria (with temple money!) to attack Israel from the north and get Baasha off his back. Benhadad does exactly that. Verse 4 describes Benhadad’s campaign against the cities of Israel. And it works.

So Asa tears down Ramah, and all is well – or so it seems. Judah is secure. There is peace. Baasha is humiliated.

There is a great lesson to be learned here. So many times when we rely on ourselves and our own resources things seem to go well for a season. But things are not well when we have stopped hoping in God and started hoping in what man can do. We miss tremendous blessings and we bring unnecessary hardship on ourselves. Look at the blessing Asa missed (2 Chronicles 16:7b)!

2 Chronicles 16:7b (NIV)
“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.

God would not only have protected Asa from Baasha and Israel, He would have given the entire army of Aram into the hand of Asa. But Asa threw it away by trusting in money and planning instead of God.

As a result, what seemed to be a good plan turned out to be a disastrous mistake. His peaceful life soon faced uncomfortable hardship.

2 Chronicles 16:9b (NIV)
You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war.”

Now we know from other places in the Bible that if we repent after such unbelief, God will even take the chastisements of hardship or the consequences of sin and turn them for our good, and they will be fatherly discipline and not judicial condemnation. But it seems that Asa never did that. He carried his folly with him to the grave.

2 Chronicles 16:12 (NIV)
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.

Something tragic had happened in Asa’s life. In the thirty-five years of God’s blessing on his reign he had gradually (it seems) become a secular humanist 2,800 years before the term was invented.

When there is a military threat you don’t think of God, you think of money in the treasury and political alliances and armed forces. When there is a threat to your health, you don’t think of God, you think of doctors and medicine. That is not to say that either of these options are not proper but that often times when we face disastrous threats in our lives our hope is often place more in worldly resources other than God’s! No doubt Asa still went visited the temple But God was gone out of his life as a moment by moment loved and trusted reality. Trusting God, relying on God, hoping in God were not part of his life any more.

I said earlier that there are two reasons mentioned in the text why this is a great folly.

God had already proven Himself

The first reason is that God had proved to Asa in the past that when he trusted him, great things happened for his good.

2 Chronicles 16:8 (NIV)
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.

God fought for Asa when Asa trusted Him.

You can find this story in 2 Chronicles 14. Indeed, it is in this chapter that we are first introduced to Asa and there you find that what happens in the beginning of his reign as king is a sharp contrast to that which happened at the end of his reign.

2 Chronicles 14:2 (NIV)
2 Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God.

As you read further in chapter 14 you find that it is obvious that Asa was clearly seeking to obey God and restore his kingdom to God’s favor. As a result, you would think that things would go “hunky dorey” for the young king – that he would have not problems! Guess again! Verse 9 tells us that Zerah the Ethiopian came out against them [Asa] with an army of a million men and three hundred chariots. You wouldn’t describe that as a small army.

Reading further we find that Asa went out to meet Zerah in battle however in verse 11 there is a very important distinction between the way Asa approached this threat and the one he faced near the end of his reign.

2 Chronicles 14:11 (NIV)
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, 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.”

Notice well: Asa had an army, he had a lot of worldly resources at his disposal. But he was on his face before God saying that armies are not the decisive thing in battles but only the Lord. Asa says in effect, “We’re not trusting, we’re not hoping in our army [our resources] but in you Lord.” You see, Asa’s prayer indicated in terrible situation of his life, his willingness to hope and trust in God’s resources for the outcome. Now, that does not mean that Asa withdrew his army and sat waiting around for God to do something. The distinction is that while Asa knew he and his army had a role to play and had to be ready for the battle – it was God who would decide the outcome.

Let think of this in terms of going to the doctor. Going to the doctor for aid in a medical problem is not wrong. But banking all your hope and all your trust in the doctor (or the army) and not praying the way Asa prayed here is foolishness.

And did Asa pray! He humbled himself and hoped in God. And verse 12 describes what happened:

2 Chronicles 14:12 (NIV)
12 The LORD struck down the Cushites before Asa and Judah. The Cushites fled,

Then, picking up in chapter 15, verse 1, we find that God sends a prophet Azariah to Asa to make sure that he understood what had just happened.

2 Chronicles 15:2b (NIV)
“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.

But it seems that Asa soon forgot this lesson. Asa’s trust in money and military might and political alliances and human physicians in the latter part of his reign was folly because God had made it so clear in the beginning of Asa’s reign that He would do great things for him if he would simply trust Him and not forsake him. Asa’s failure to rely on God was foolish because God had been so amazingly good to him and helped him in the past simply for crying out and trusting.

It is God’s nature to show His power on behalf of people who trust Him.

The second reason given in the text for why Asa’s reliance on man was folly is that the very nature of God is that He is eager to show His power on behalf of people who trust Him. He not only did it once in the past when Asa needed it with the Ethiopians, but it is the very makeup of God to do so. This is what it means to be an absolutely all-knowing, all-powerful, all-sufficient God who over-flows with might and glory. God – just because He is God – loves to show off His power on behalf of the weak who trust Him.

Read carefully the first part of 2 Chronicles 16:9:

2 Chronicles 16:9 (Living)
9 For the eyes of the Lord search back and forth across the whole earth, looking for people whose hearts are perfect (=whole, blameless, i.e., wholly relying on God, that’s what the context requires) toward him, so that he can show his great power in helping them.

God means for you to know something very profound about Him from this verse this morning. And he means for it to change your life so you don’t commit Asa’s folly – so that you have more peace and freedom and courage and power in spite of the circumstances and situations you find yourself in.

Now what does God want you to see about Himself? Consider this: if I say, “The eyes of the narcotic agents run to and fro throughout the city seeking to capture drug dealers and make the community drug free,” what I mean is that this is their job and they are really out to do it. It is the nature of narcotic agents to seek out and find drug dealers so that they can be dealt with.

Or if I say, “The eyes of the scouts of the big athletic departments are searching to and fro throughout the high schools of Ontario seeking to find the best athletes,” what I mean is that this is their job, and they are really out to do it. It is the nature of an athletic scout to seek and find good athletes and try to recruit them.

Well, that’s the way we should read verse 9: “The eyes of the Lord (God, the Creator of the Universe) search back and forth across the whole earth to show His might on behalf of those whose heart is wholly relying on Him – on people who trust Him!” When the prophet says that, what He means is that this is God’s job, and He is really out to do it. It belongs to the very nature of God that He overflow with divine power in the lives of people who trust Him. This is right at the heart of God!

This is not something God does on the weekends. It is not something He just does in church or holy places. It’s not His hobby or after-hours recreation. This is what God is doing all the time everywhere. God’s eyes are everywhere always, so that He never misses one single opportunity any time, anywhere to demonstrate His power on behalf of humble people who rely on Him and His resources rather than mankind and our resources. (tie in with Christ’s choice for the disciples)

Asa’s reactions and trust in the resources He had was foolish because He didn’t understand that God is just waiting for the opportunity to pour out His resources and His power in the situation.

Now some of you may be thinking – that’s great – but I have trusted God – I have placed my hope in Him and He let me down. Friend, if that’s the case I am truly sorry – for I have felt the damage that is done to my own faith when I felt that God had let me down. But then, thankfully, one day I realized something. Did God really let me down? You see, after I thought about it I realized that instead of hoping and placing my trust in God for the situation I faced, I was hoping and placing my trust in what I expected God to do. Do you see the difference?

Friends, there is also an important lesson to learn here. God doesn’t always show Himself and His power in ways that we expect! Again, return to the story of Asa and you’ll see that God was prepared to show His power in a way that Asa wouldn’t expect. When the prophet Hanani came from the Lord to speak to Asa the message did not contain anything about Baasha (the king that was giving Asa so much trouble) instead the prophet declared that Asa had missed the opportunity of having the army of King Aram defeated. By trying to deal with the smaller problem with his own resources, Asa prevented God from dealing with the bigger problem with His resources.

So friends if you feel that God has let you down ask yourself this question, “Has God really let me down or am I trusting and hoping in what I expect God will do instead of just trusting and hoping in God and yielding to what HE wants to do!!!”

CONCLUSION

Asa, the man called foolish. His life resembles the lives of so many people today. Maybe as you here his story you recognize certain elements in your own life.

There are those who, like Asa, at some point in their lives placed their trust and hope in God – they faced an incredibly difficult situation or circumstance and simply trusted and hoped in God. Because of this, God displayed His wonderful power in their life and in the situation or circumstance. But here they are now. They are facing other situations, other circumstances – maybe not as dire – or maybe more so but rather than trusting in God and hoping in Him they’ve begun to rely on their own resources and find that for them it seems to work better. Maybe they haven’t had any problems with this choice yet, but they will. You see, our resources can only go so far – but God’s resources are limitless…

Then, there are also those who won’t trust God, who won’t hope in Him. Either they don’t have need to or they feel God has failed them or failed others. Again, there will come a time when one by one those things or persons that they do place the trust and hope in fail them. And if they don’t turn to God there will be nothing to hope for or nothing to trust.

Of course, nobody likes to be called foolish, Asa didn’t – the scriptures say He was angry with the prophet for the message he gave and not only did he put Hanani in prison but he also began to take his anger out on those around him. Friend’s if this message is hitting home this morning – don’t lash out as Asa did. Instead hear these words very carefully, the way to wisdom is to realize that you are foolish apart from God. Don’t ignore it, don’t excuse it, don’t explain it away – just come before God and say, “Lord, I have been foolish – I’ve trusted, I’ve hoped in anything but You – I’ve had a change of heart God – I want to trust you and hope in you alone…”

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2 Responses to Asa: The Man Called Foolish

  1. Jim row says:

    You should credit John Piper for this sermon because it is his…

  2. Hey Jim,
    Thanks for pointing this out. I first preached this quite a while ago. I don’t recall reading any of Piper’s messages but I did go searching on the internet and found his message that indeed is very similar to what I preached which indicates that more than likely I did get some of the material from his message (especially a couple of the illustrations). Here’s the link -> http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/asas-folly. I always want to give credit where credit is due so again, thanks for pointing this out!

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