Introduction: This chapter continues the story of Asa’s reign over Judah. Here, Asa responded to God’s prophet by leading Judah in reforms. This in turn led to God’s blessing of spiritual renewal. From Asa’s reforms, God reveals seven lessons for obtaining spiritual renewal. These include: (1) seeking God with all your heart, (2) the confession of sin, (3) the courage to obey God’s Word, (4) changing your behavior, (5) repentance, (6) commitment, and (7) reform.
First, through a prophet, God warned that He was there for them if they sought Him out. But He also warned His people that He would forsake them if they forsook Him. His blessings were in part conditional. Through this encounter, God reveals that spiritual renewal begins by seeking Him out with all your heart and your mind. Second, God revealed that His people suffered in darkness because they had forsaken His Word. From their mistake, God reveals that spiritual renewal requires the confession of sin. Third, God’s prophet then encouraged Asa that God would reward him if he acted with faith-led obedience. From this, God reveals that He will reward you with spiritual renewal when you act with the faith-led courage to obey His Word. Fourth, Asa showed courage in his faith by making changes throughout Judah to ensure that the people followed God’s Word. From Asa’s example, God reveals that spiritual renewal requires that you change your sinful behavior. Fifth, Asa then led the people in atoning for their sins. Today, your atonement comes through Jesus’ blood and His forgiveness of sins. He wants you to find spiritual renewal by accepting His atonement and repenting of your sins. Sixth, Asa’s attempt to lead the nation in spiritual renewal included a public vow to follow God’s Word. Through his example, God reveals that spiritual renewal requires a personal commitment. Finally, Asa led the nation in spiritual renewal by making partial reforms to make sure that the nation would not return to sin. God blessed him for his partial reforms. Yet, Asa’s failure to make complete reforms would later cause both he and the nation to return back to their sins. From Asa’s failure in this area, God reveals that spiritual renewal requires reform or it will fail.
The prophet Azariah gives God’s conditional promise and warning to Asa. God sent the prophet Azariah to warn Asa that God’s promises to His people were in part conditional on the people not forsaking Him: “1 Now the Spirit of God came on Azariah the son of Oded, 2 and 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. And if you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you.” (2 Chr. 15:1-2). The Jews lacked wisdom because they did not fear God (Prov. 1:7; 9:10; Ps. 111:10). They did not fear God because they had just defeated a mighty Ethiopian army (2 Chr. 14:9-14). Fearing God is not fearing His discipline. The Bible defines it is as “hating evil.” (Prov. 8:13). The Jews tolerated idolatry and thereby failed to hate the evil that it represented. Solomon, Rehoboam, and Abijah made idolatry both open and pervasive in Judah (1 Kgs. 14:23-24). The evil practices included (1) temple prostitution with “male cult prostitutes” (1 Kgs. 14:24; Dt. 16:22) and (2) worship using pagan “Asherah” polls, with sexually explicit carvings (1 Kgs. 14:24). Their tolerance of evil caused the Jews to embrace evil. They forsook God and they were left to experience misery. Do you fear God by hating evil? Or, do you tolerate evil things?
Seek God and you will find Him. Azariah encouraged the Jews that “the Lord is with you when you are with Him. And if you seek Him, He will let you find Him;” (2 Chr. 15:2). Moses gave the same advice: “But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.” (Dt. 4:29). “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jer. 29:13). Jesus repeated this advice: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” If you are seeking spiritual renewal, it must begin with a diligent attempt to seek out God’s will through the Word and prayer.
God previously warned the Jews that He would forsake them if they forsook Him. The prophet Azariah’s warnings about God forsaking them should not have come as a shock to the Jews. God previously gave the exact same warning to Solomon: “9 As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever.” (1 Chr. 28:9). Because the Jews did not fear God, they did not take these warnings seriously. Out of love for His people, God gave His people another warning. Does God need to give you multiple warnings before you return to Him?
God only forsook His people temporarily to correct their behavior. God previously warned David that his eternal kingship would not exempt future kings from discipline, just as a loving father disciplines a wayward son: “14 I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men,” (2 Sam. 7:14). In a similar way, God disciplines His people out of love: “Thus you are to know in your heart that the LORD your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son.” (Dt. 8:5). “It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?” (Heb. 12:7). “But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world.” (1 Cor. 11:32). When Solomon later adopted idolatry and rebelled against God, God was forced to discipline him and the entire nation of Israel (1 Kgs. 11:1-13). If God has disciplined you, rejoice because He loves you. If He has corrected you, show reverent fear for Him by turning back to Him.
Fearing God leads to obeying God’s Word as it is written, not just what you agree with. When Moses gave the Law, he warned the Jews to follow it without deviating from it in any way: “So you shall observe to do just as the LORD your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right or to the left.” (Dt. 5:32). “and do not turn aside from any of the words which I command you today, to the right or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them.” (Dt. 28:14). “Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go.” (Josh. 1:7). “Do not turn to the right nor to the left; turn your foot from evil.” (Prov. 4:27). Josiah was remembered as one of the Jews greatest kings because he “did [not] turn aside to the right or to the left.” (2 Kgs. 22:2). God also wants you to obey all of His Word.
God will not forsake you when He disciplines you. Even though God would discipline the Jews, He promised never to permanently forsake them: “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” (Dt. 31:6; Heb. 13:5). ‘“Moreover, I will make My dwelling among you, and My soul will not reject you.”’ (Lev. 26:11). “No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.” (Josh. 1:5). “For the LORD will not abandon His people on account of His great name, because the LORD has been pleased to make you a people for Himself.” (1 Sam. 12:22). “ but My lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you.” (2 Sam. 7:15). Sin would, however, limit the extent of this blessing to the land of Judah: ‘“However, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son for the sake of My servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen.”’ (1 Kgs. 11:13). “So the LORD was very angry with Israel and removed them from His sight; none was left except the tribe of Judah.” (2 Kgs. 17:18). “But I will not break off My lovingkindness from him, nor deal falsely in My faithfulness.” (Ps. 89:33). Sin may prevent you from experiencing the fulness of God’s blessings. Yet, He will never leave you or abandon you because of sin. For that, you can give thanks.
God’s revelation that the people were in darkness because they turned away from Him. The prophet Azariah revealed to the people that they lived in darkness and distress because they had forsaken God’s Word: “3 For many days Israel was without the true God and without a teaching priest and without law. 4 But in their distress they turned to the Lord God of Israel, and they sought Him, and He let them find Him. 5 In those times there was no peace to him who went out or to him who came in, for many disturbances afflicted all the inhabitants of the lands. 6 Nation was crushed by nation, and city by city, for God troubled them with every kind of distress.” (2 Chr. 15:3-6). Judah’s idolatry could be traced back to Solomon. He turned from God and began to worship some of the pagan gods: “5 For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians and after Milcom the detestable idol of the Ammonites. 6 Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not follow the Lord fully, as David his father had done. 7 Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable idol of Moab, on the mountain which is east of Jerusalem, and for Molech the detestable idol of the sons of Ammon.” (1 Kgs. 11:5-7). The Jews paid a heavy price of darkness and misery because of his sins.
God’s prior warnings that rebellion would lead to suffering and darkness. God made conditional promises of blessing to Moses that depended upon the Jews’ obedience (Dt. 28:1-14; Lev. 26:1-13). God also made a similar conditional promise to David (2 Sam. 7:12-16). God later repeated that He would impose discipline upon Solomon’s descendants if they disobeyed Him: “6 But if you or your sons indeed turn away from following Me, and do not keep My commandments and My statutes which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, 7 then I will cut off Israel from the land which I have given them, and the house which I have consecrated for My name, I will cast out of My sight. So Israel will become a proverb and a byword among all peoples. 8 And this house will become a heap of ruins; everyone who passes by will be astonished and hiss and say, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this land and to this house?’ 9 And they will say, ‘Because they forsook the Lord their God, who brought their fathers out of the land of Egypt, and adopted other gods and worshiped them and served them, therefore the Lord has brought all this adversity on them.’’” (1 Kgs. 9:6-9). God’s prophetic warnings included promises that He would: (1) destroy the Temple (1 Kgs. 9:7); (2) expel the Jews (1 Kgs. 9:7; Dt. 29:24-28); and (3) the Jews would become pariahs amongst the nations (1 Kgs. 9:7; Dt. 28:37). God, however, gave the Jews many further warnings before He fulfilled His warnings. He later allowed foreign armies to destroy the Temple in 586 B.C. He also allowed the Jews to be taken into both Assyrian and then Babylonian captivity. The Jews were then derided by the pagans.
God’s will judge any nation that embraces idols. No person should treat sin lightly (Ro. 6:26). God is a consuming fire when in the presence of sin: “for our God is a consuming fire.” (Heb. 12:29; 10:27; Ex. 24:17; Dt. 4:24; 9:3; Ps. 97:3; Is. 33:14; 2 Thess. 1:7). For those who do not repent, He warns: “I will pour out My indignation on you; I will blow on you with the fire of My wrath, . . .” (Ez. 21:31(a)). ‘“Is not My word like fire?’ declares the LORD, ‘and like a hammer which shatters a rock?’” (Jer. 23:29). “The soul who sins will die.” (Ez. 18:4(b)). Unless you accept that God will judge sin, you will feel no pressure to repent. Staying silent about His judgments also doesn’t help others. Are you helping others turn to Christ to spare them from judgment? (Matt. 28:16-20).
God’s promise to be faithful and reward Asa for his faith-led obedience. Azariah then encouraged Asa to be strong and courageous. God would reward him if he acted with faith-led obedience: “7 But you, be strong and do not lose courage, for there is reward for your work.” (2 Chr. 15:7). God knows that obedience is not easy. Your spiritual enemy will use every tool available to him to pull you off your walk. Thus, you should regularly pray for the strength to obey. You should also encourage others to do the same.
A nation’s obedience brings God’s blessings. God never wants you to obey Him out of some kind of quid pro quo expectation that you will get something in return. Instead, He wants your obedience as an outgrowth of your love for Him. When a nation obeys Him in humility, He will bless the nation: “and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chr. 7:14). Are you and your church praying for your country to repent and humbly obey God’s Word?
God will also remember your sacrifices for Him. God will always remember your sacrifices for Him when you serve with the right motives: “For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.” (Heb. 6:10). “Thus says the LORD, ‘Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears; for your work will be rewarded,’ declares the LORD, ‘And they will return from the land of the enemy.”’ (Jer. 31:16). For example, you will be blessed each time you serve God by helping the poor secretly: “And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.” (Matt. 10:42; Mk. 9:41). “One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the LORD, and He will repay him for his good deed.” (Prov. 19:17). Have you given God any reasons to bless you?
Asa acts with courage to initiate changes in response to God’s promises. Asa responded to the Word of God by making changes throughout Judah to ensure that the people followed God’s Word: “8 Now when Asa heard these words and the prophecy which Azariah the son of Oded the prophet spoke, he took courage and removed the abominable idols from all the land of Judah and Benjamin and from the cities which he had captured in the hill country of Ephraim. He then restored the altar of the Lord which was in front of the porch of the Lord.” (2 Chr. 15:8). Asa could not make things right by simply uttering some magic words. He had to have courage to take down idols that had existed since Solomon’s reign. He needed to lead the people in changing their behavior. Only with a real change that brought about obedience could they find spiritual renewal.
Obey God’s Word, not your own understanding. The Jews had an understanding that idolatry was acceptable because every king from Solomon had allowed for it. Yet, the Jews were not to lean on their own understanding of right and wrong: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Prov. 3:5). “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but he who walks wisely will be delivered.” (Prov. 28:26). The Jews’ failure to trust God’s Word led to both darkness and suffering. Their spiritual renewal could not begin until they changed their ways and obeyed God’s Word.
Obedience is a sign of someone living in the fellowship of a covenant relationship. God told the Jews that their obedience was a sign that they were in a covenant relationship with Him: “Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine;” (Ex. 19:5). “God said further to Abraham, ‘Now as for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations.”’ (Gen. 17:9). Are you living in a covenant relationship with Jesus through your obedience.
Jesus is not your Lord if you refuse to do what He says. A believer may proclaim Jesus as Lord. Yet, Jesus is not your Lord if you openly disobey Him: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” (Matt. 7:21). “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Lk. 6:46). “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” (Jam. 1:22). “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matt. 7:24). “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.” (Matt. 7:26). Is your faith evidenced through obedience to Jesus’ Word?
Asa leads the people in atoning for their sins. In order to lead the nation into spiritual renewal, Asa then led all of God’s peoples who had assembled in Judah, regardless of their tribal background, in atoning for their sins: “9 He gathered all Judah and Benjamin and those from Ephraim, Manasseh and Simeon who resided with them, for many defected to him from Israel when they saw that the Lord his God was with him. 10 So they assembled at Jerusalem in the third month of the fifteenth year of Asa’s reign. 11 They sacrificed to the Lord that day 700 oxen and 7,000 sheep from the spoil they had brought. 12 They entered into the covenant to seek the Lord God of their fathers with all their heart and soul; 13 and whoever would not seek the Lord God of Israel should be put to death, whether small or great, man or woman.” (2 Chr. 15:9-13). The 700 oxen and 7,000 sheep symbolized the complete atonement of the Jews’ sins. They took their renewal so seriously that they promised to put to death anyone who broke their vow.
God desires a contrite and repentant heart. Without the sheading of blood, there could be no atonement for the Jews’ sins: “And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Hebr. 9:22). Yet, God also wanted the Jews to consciously recognize and repent of their sins. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, o God, You will not despise.” (Ps. 51:17). Thus, their humility in repenting was more important than the number of animals that they sacrificed before Him.
Repent of your sins and change your ways. Believers also cannot be expected to enjoy the fulness of Jesus’ blessings if they fail to repent of their sins and live as a new creation. In preparation for Jesus, John the Baptist called all sinners to repent. ‘“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”’ (Matt. 3:2). Jesus also began His ministry with a call to repentance: “From that time Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”’ (Matt. 4:17; Lk. 18:13.) If you say that you are without sin, the truth is not in you (1 Jo. 1:8). Yet, if you confess your sins, Jesus will forgive you: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jo. 1:9). You can show that you have made a real repentance by living as a new creation in Jesus: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Cor. 5:17). If you have repented of your sins, are you living as Jesus’ example to others?
Asa leads the people in a vow of obedience, and God gives them peace. Asa also led the nation in spiritual renewal by leading the people in a public vow or commitment to follow God’s Word: “14 Moreover, they made an oath to the Lord with a loud voice, with shouting, with trumpets and with horns. 15 All Judah rejoiced concerning the oath, for they had sworn with their whole heart and had sought Him earnestly, and He let them find Him. So the Lord gave them rest on every side.” (2 Chr. 15:14-15). The Jews did more than merely making a public vow. They “rejoiced” at the opportunity to do so.
Public vows of obedience were important throughout the Old Testament. After receiving the Ten Commandments, Moses had the 70 elders and the people make public vows to accept it: “3 Then Moses came and recounted to the people all the words of the Lord and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do!” (Ex. 24:3). Joshua did this as well (Josh. 8:34-35). God did not want His people to forget His law. Thus, at least once every seven years during the festival of Tabernacles, also called Booths or “Sukkot”, God required that Jews listen to the public reading of the law as a body (Dt. 31:9-13). Josiah later led the people in a similar renewal their covenant with God: “1 Then the king sent, and they gathered to him all the elders of Judah and of Jerusalem . . . And all the people entered into the covenant.” (2 Kgs. 23:1-3). God wanted the Jews to make public vows so that they would take their vows seriously. The Jews could also keep each other accountable.
God also wants you to publicly confess your faith in His New Covenant. Like the Jews, God also wants you to publicly confess your faith and agreement to the New Covenant: “But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ -- that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;” (Ro. 10:8-9). If you confess Jesus to be Lord and Savior before others, He in turn will confess you in heaven: “And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God;” (Lk. 12:8; Matt. 10:32). Are you sharing the good news of the Gospel with others? (Matt. 28:16-20).
Develop your faith by reading and hearing the Word and seeing how it is fulfilled. When your faith is weak, you can also make it grow by hearing the Word and seeing how it is confirmed. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Ro. 10:17). “So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?” (Gal. 3:5). Developing your faith is important because an “unbelieving heart” will cause a person to fall away from God (Heb. 3:12). Are you reading and studying the Word to strengthen your faith?
Asa takes partial steps in removing influences that would cause a relapse into sin. Finally, God showed that He was faithful to reward Asa and the Jews for their reforms. Yet, because their reforms were not complete they sowed the seeds for their return to sin: “16 He also removed Maacah, the mother of King Asa, from the position of queen mother, because she had made a horrid image as an Asherah, and Asa cut down her horrid image, crushed it and burned it at the brook Kidron. 17 But the high places were not removed from Israel; nevertheless Asa’s heart was blameless all his days. 18 He brought into the house of God the dedicated things of his father and his own dedicated things: silver and gold and utensils. 19 And there was no more war until the thirty-fifth year of Asa’s reign.” (2 Chr. 15:16-19). Maacah was the favorite of Rehoboam’s 18 wives (2 Chr. 11:21; 1 Kgs. 15:2). She was the granddaughter of David’s son Absalom (2 Chr. 13:2; 2 Sam. 14:27). She was an idolater and had an evil influence over Rehoboam. She also influenced Rehoboam to select Abijah to be his heir when there were other older sons who were next in line to the throne (2 Chr. 11:22). She then influenced Abijah to practice idolatry (1 Kgs. 15:1-5). Her influence ended only with Asa’s reforms (2 Chr. 15:16). Yet, Asa did fully remove all of the pagan high places (2 Chr. 15:17). His failure to fully destroy all of these high places would later cause the Jews to return to idolatry.
The Jews paid for Solomon’s sins for hundreds of years. Later kings allowed these altars to be rebuilt. Hezekiah briefly destroyed these altars (2 Kgs. 18:4). Yet, Manasseh and Amon restored these pagan altars. These leaders did this because the people wanted their idols. Josiah later systematically destroyed every idol that had previously broken the people’s covenant with God (2 Kgs. 23:4-14). Josiah’s sons, however, reversed his reforms because they did not share in his faith-led obedience.
Stay pure and obey Jesus, or Satan will turn your heart against Jesus. Your spiritual renewal will not likely last unless you remove influences that cause you to sin. “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnerships have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,’ says the Lord. ‘and do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you. And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,’ Says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Cor. 6:15-18). Have you taken steps to separate yourself from evil influences and to guard your heart?
Without Spirit-led leaders, the people will naturally drift into rebellion. Without godly leaders, “. .. every man did what was right in his own eyes.” (Jdgs. 17:6(b); 21:25.) Both then and now, God warns believers not to adopt a relativistic standard of morality: “You shall not do at all what we are doing here today, every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes;” (Dt. 12:8.) Moses also warned that the people would return to rebellion and disobedience without guidance: “27 For I know your rebellion and your stubbornness; behold, while I am still alive with you today, you have been rebellious against the Lord; how much more, then, after my death? 28 Assemble to me all the elders of your tribes and your officers, that I may speak these words in their hearing and call the heavens and the earth to witness against them. 29 For I know that after my death you will act corruptly and turn from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the latter days, for you will do that which is evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking Him to anger with the work of your hands. 30 Then Moses spoke in the hearing of all the assembly of Israel the words of this song, until they were complete:” (Dt. 31:27-30). Are you voting for godly leaders and praying for the Spirit to convict leaders who reject God’s Word?
Jesus rewards those with faith with the peace that surpasses all understanding. God rewarded the Jews for their partial obedience with many years of peace. Jesus also promises to reward you when you have the faith to obey Him. He is the Prince of Peace who offers the peace that surpasses all understanding: “For a child will be born to us, a . . . Prince of Peace.” (Is. 9:6). “For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall,” (Eph. 2:14). “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:7). “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ . . .” (Rom. 5:1). His definition of peace, however, is different than the world’s definition: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” (Jo. 14:27). His peace does not prevent stressful things from happening. It is instead the ability to stay calm, collected, and happy in the face of adversity. In other words, God will not give you peace by changing your surroundings. He will give you peace by changing your response to your surroundings and other people. Yet, this requires faith that Jesus is in control and that He will protect you.