*July 27 - August 2
The Rise of the House of Asa
MEMORY TEXT: "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'" (2 Chronicles 15:2, NIV).
GOOD KING ASA. First, Rehoboam reigns, then Abijam (also known as Abijah): Who says that bad leaders are a problem only for today?
Next comes Asa. Finally, the kingdom of Judah gains a decent king. It needed one. By the time Asa took the throne, the religious situation in Judah in the south (though better than in the north) called for a dire remedy. That is exactly what Asa brought it.
This week, the lesson covers the reign of Asa, both the good and the bad aspects. Though time does not permit us to delve into all the details, look at the reforms Asa instituted, which include not only eradicating false worship and ideas but promoting truth in its place. That principle, of course, still remains today.
THE WEEK AT A GLANCE: Why does the Bible compare various kings to David? Can we truly understand how David could be considered "perfect"? What kind of spiritual state was Judah in when Asa took control? What did he do to try to remedy the problem? How was God able to use Asa, despite his own lack of faith at times?
*(Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, August 3.)
Sunday July 28
After Rehoboam's death, Abijam, his son, reigned in his place. Abijam, clearly, was no better than his father, for "he walked in all the sins of his father, which he had done before him" (1 Kings 15:3).
Notice what comes next in the text: It says that the king's heart was not loyal to God, "as was the heart of his father David" (vs. 3, NKJV). Scripture says farther on that "David did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, and turned not aside from any thing that he commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite" (vs. 5).
Many commentators, over the centuries, have struggled with this text and others that talk about how the Lord viewed David. First Kings 11:4 says that Solomon's heart was not "perfect with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father." In contrast, 2 Chronicles 34:2 says of King Josiah that "he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the ways of David his father." How could David, who had more than his share of mistakes (besides the horrible sin against Uriah), nevertheless be seen by God as "perfect" (1 Kings 15:3) or as someone who had "done what was right in the eyes of the Lord"? (vs. 5, NIV). How can the following verses, perhaps, help us understand the principle here?
1 Sam. 16:7 ________________________________________________________________________
1 Kings 8:61 _______________________________________________________________________
1 Chron. 12:38 _____________________________________________________________________
2 Chron. 16:9 ______________________________________________________________________
Ps. 101:2 __________________________________________________________________________
The key issue, it seems, is that Abijam did evil because his heart was not right with the Lord. The attitude of our hearts toward God is inevitably reflected by our works. Of course, even those whose hearts are right, like David, can sin, even seriously. But if one's heart is right with God, those sins are not counted against him or her. A heart right with God is a heart that repents; it is a heart that confesses sin; a heart that seeks victory, mercy, and grace in order to obey.
|If our hearts are perfect with God, should our works not be, as well? If not, why not?|
Europe in the 1700s was a time of great intellectual ferment. The continent had experienced a massive revolution in knowledge. What changed was not only what people knew but their entire understanding of what it meant to "know" something. Previously, people "knew" only what the ancient sources and authorities had told them, nothing more. Now, however, knowledge was based on science, on reason, on what you could study and learn from natural phenomenon. For many, only what one could reason out and learn from nature and science was true; everything else was myth, or, at least, unknowable.
Fearful of the dangerous direction this attitude was taking Europe, French Huguenot Pierre Bayle tried to stem the tide by showing the limits of reason and by arguing that matters of faith extend beyond reason alone. To buttress his point, he told the story of King David-a liar, an adulterer, a murderer, a cheat-yet of whom the Lord said: "I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart" (Acts 13:22). How could that be true? Bayle asked. His answer was simple: It is true, because it deals with something beyond human reason, and that is, God's grace.
However, within a century, Voltaire took Bayle's essay about David and, without many changes in the text, turned it around and used it as an attack on faith itself. Here was King David, wrote Voltaire, a liar, an adulterer, a murderer, a cheat, yet of whom the Lord said: "I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart" (Acts 13:22). How could that be true? Voltaire asked. His answer was simple: It cannot be, because it is unreasonable and absurd. A man who kills, lies, cheats, and murders cannot be someone after God's own heart.
As Christians we would side, of course, with Bayle. Voltaire's attitude, in contrast, shows how far beyond the reach of human reason alone God's grace is, especially to the unconverted. The greatest event in all human history, the death of Jesus on the cross, is an event that goes way beyond human reason alone. No wonder Paul talked about the "mystery of the gospel" (Eph. 6:19). Nothing is more of a mystery than how God can accept sinners; such as liars, adulterers, murderers, and cheaters like David or even like ourselves.
|Read carefully the following few verses:
2:5-8. How do these verses help us understand what Voltaire did
"And the Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded: And he went out to meet Asa, and said unto him, Hear ye me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin; The Lord is with you, while ye be with him; and if ye seek him, he will be found of you; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you" (2 Chron. 15:1, 2).
After the short, unhappy reign of Abijam in Judah (from 913-911 B.C.), Asa, his son, reigned in his stead. According to 1 Kings 15:10, he reigned 41 years in Jerusalem. It was a time of great revival and reformation. In the texts quoted above, a theme appears that emerges again and again in the Bible, that of blessings for obedience, trouble for disobedience. Notice how it is phrased in the above texts. It is written differently here than in some of the other places that teach, basically, the same thing.
Read, for example, 1 Kings 3:14, 1 Kings 9:4-6, and 1 Kings 11:38 and compare how they are phrased in contrast to 2 Chronicles 15:1, 2. How are the ideas related? How is the idea of being obedient to God linked to the idea of seeking Him?
Read verses 3-7 in 2 Chronicles 15. Look at the elements listed there. Israel had been without the "true God," without a "teaching priest," and "without law" (vs. 3). There was "no peace" to those who came in or went out; there was great turmoil on all "the inhabitants of the lands," and that included war (vs. 5, NKJV). Sounds like nothing but trouble. In fact, it was trouble, and in their trouble, the kingdom of Judah sought the Lord, and He was "found by them" (vs. 4, NKJV).
How often this principle is seen. We bring trouble upon ourselves because of disobedience, and out of that trouble we seek the Lord, who will never turn us away if we come back in faith and repentance. How much better it would be for all of us, both as a church and as individuals, to stay faithful from the start, thus avoiding the suffering that brings us back to where we should have been all along.
|In 2 Chronicles 15:2, the Lord says that if you forsake the Lord, "he will forsake you." How do you understand what it means when God forsakes someone? Does it mean that He totally abandons him or her, with no more interest in what he or she does? Or, perhaps, does it mean He abandons an individual as a result of his or her deeds? How do you understand the concept?|
The chronology of Asa is complicated, but he was apparently quite young when he came to the throne, which may account for the continuing influence of Maachah, the queen mother.
During the first fifteen years of his reign, Asa initiated a movement to restore the worship of Jehovah in Judah. Among the things he did were the following: He banished the religious practice of male prostitution; he removed all the idols in the land (1 Kings 15:12); he removed his own mother (or grandmother) from being queen because of her wrong practices (1 Kings 15:13); and he restored the altar of the Lord (2 Chron. 15:8).
All these outward practices, however, would be of no avail if the hearts of the people were not right, or not "perfect" toward the Lord. That is why, perhaps, of all the things that Asa did, none was more important than what was recorded in 2 Chronicles 15:9-15.
Read carefully 2 Chronicles 15:9-15. What is going on there? What was Asa trying to do? Notice how many times the texts talk about their hearts. Why, without change inside the people themselves, would all their other outward actions ultimately fail?
Notice verse 13 in regard to his mother. What do his actions imply regarding the limits that even close family ties must have when contrasted with obeying the commands of the Lord? See also Luke 14:26.
How fascinating, too, that Asa's heart is said to be "perfect" with the Lord, even if his actions weren't. He did many good things, that's clear, but he didn't do everything the Lord wanted him to. The high places weren't removed, something that he should have done as king. "Nevertheless," the text says that "Asa's heart was perfect with the Lord all his days."
Clearly, then, whatever having a heart perfect for the Lord means, it doesn't mean perfection of action, as in sinlessness.
"And Asa did that which was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God: For he took away the altars of the strange gods, and the high places, and brake down the images, and cut down the groves" (2 Chron. 14:2, 3).
"The heart of Asa was loyal all his days" (2 Chron. 15:17, NKJV).
Though depicted as loyal to the Lord, Asa had displayed some weaknesses that Satan exploited (Don't we all?). In 2 Chronicles 16, Baasha, king of Israel, invaded Judah; Asa, who in a previous military crisis (see 2 Chron. 14:9-13) trusted in the Lord, instead made a pact with a pagan king, Ben-Hadad of Syria. When rebuked by the prophet Hanani for his lack of trust (2 Chron. 16:7, 8), Asa, instead of humbly accepting the rebuke, acted in a manner more befitting some of his predecessors.
What did this king, who had been deemed loyal "all his days" (2 Chron. 15:17), do in response to the rebuke? See 2 Chron. 16:10. What were some of the other consequences of Asa's actions? See also 2 Chron. 16:9.
Toward the end of his life, after he had been stricken with a disease, Asa did not seek the Lord but, instead, sought out the physicians (vs. 12), another apparent lapse of faith on his part.
The following verse, perhaps, gives a hint regarding how God could call Asa loyal, even though Asa still shows a lack of faith at times: "For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. Herein thou hast done foolishly: therefore from henceforth thou shalt have wars" (2 Chron. 16:9). The text says that "Herein thou hast done foolishly" (emphasis supplied). In other words, the Lord pointed to this specific incident, as opposed to the tenor of Asa's whole life, which had been one of a heart "perfect" toward Him. Though Asa acted foolishly here, with some unfortunate results, He was still considered loyal to the Lord.
Second Chronicles records Asa's last act as one in which he showed lack of faith. Asa then dies. Yet, he's recorded as having been loyal? What lesson can we learn from this story? At the same time, what conclusions would be dangerous to draw from it?
Read the following portraits of Asa: Asa No. 1. "The faith of Asa was put to a severe test when 'Zerah the Ethiopian' . . . invaded his kingdom. . . . In this crisis Asa did not put his trust in the 'fenced cities in Judah' that he had built,. . . nor in the 'mighty men of valor' in his carefully trained army. . . . Setting his forces in battle array, he sought the help of God.
"But in time of peace Asa . . . had been preparing for any emergency. He had an army trained for conflict; he had endeavored to lead his people to make their peace with God. And now. . . his faith in the One whom he had made his trust did not weaken."Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, pp. 110, 111.
Asa No. 2. "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. 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" (2 Chron. 16:10, l2,NIV).
Nettie rented a room from a Muslim family while she studied in Cote d'Ivoire, West Africa. Her landlord did his best to make her comfortable. Often during the rainy season, the metal roof over her bedroom leaked in spite of the landlord's attempts to repair it. When it rained, she simply moved her bed to a dry spot and set out pots to collect the water. It was inconvenient, but she did not mind.
Nettie was a new believer, and the truths she was learning about God set her heart afire.
One evening at prayer meeting the believers had just divided into groups to pray when Nettie heard raindrops falling on the roof, slowly at first, then rapidly until the rain beat so heavily that it almost drowned out the voices praying around her.
Nettie remembered that she had left her books lying open on her bed and the floor. Some were books she had borrowed from the friend who had led her to Christ. The books would be ruined by the rain! There was no time to run home and rescue the books. She could only whisper "Lord, remember my room."
By the time the group had finished praying, the rain had stopped. Nettie hurried home to salvage what she could of the books and dry out her room. How would she ever be able to replace the books she knew must be ruined? she wondered.
As she entered the house, she saw pots scattered across the floor of the main room, which seldom had a problem with leaks. If there is so much water in the living room, what will I find in my room?
Nettie dodged the drips and hurried toward her room. She opened the door and turned on the light, but she saw no evidence of water. She knelt down to feel the carpet. It was dry. She touched the books. They were dry! Everything was as she had left it in the morning.
Nettie called her landlord, "Uncle, come and see!" When he arrived, she pointed excitedly, "Look! It did not rain in my room!"
He surveyed the dry carpet and shouted, "Allah is great!"
"Yes," Nettie said. "God is great!" Then Nettie told him that when the rain started, she had prayed that God would keep her books dry.
Nettie did not know the story of Gideon's fleece, but God had shown her that Gideon's God is still in the business of answering prayers. Nettie shared her story the following night during testimony time.
Nettie has since been baptized. She knows that God can and does work miracles for His children today, just as he did in Bible times.
Nettie is a pseudonym. The author wants God alone to receive the glory for her testimony. Nettie continues studying computer science.
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