I’ve been meditating on the fact that where we start is not necessarily where we end up. This is true in a good way–people come out of awful circumstances and reach great heights. For example, we recently watched “Spare Parts,” a true story about Latino high school students in a poor, crime-ridden community. Although they came from a disadvantaged background, they managed to develop an underwater robot that beat the best colleges in the country, including MIT.
But I recently read a story that went the other way. A man started out well and ended up in mediocrity. Actually worse.
Asa, king of Judah, tried to follow God. One day his army found itself outnumbered almost 2 to 1 against African soldiers. But he prayed, “Help us, O Lord our God, for we trust in you alone.” And he won.
Then God gave him a promise: “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.”
So Asa got going. He led his people back to having a relationship with God. He even deposed his own mother, the queen, who was setting a bad example.
It seemed like nothing could stop him. True to his word, God gave them peace for 25 years. Not a single enemy bothered them.
Then trouble arrived at the border. Israel, their northern neighbor, invaded.
Asa must have been afraid. He knew he was outmatched and needed help. So he did what most kings do. He looked around for an ally to help him and he found one.
He told the king of Aram, “Let there be a treaty between you and me like the one between your father and my father… Break your treaty with King Baasha of Israel so that he will leave me alone.”
The plan worked. The invaders left and life returned to normal–apparent success.
Unfortunately, God didn’t see it that way.
God told him:
Don’t you remember what happened to the Ethiopians and Libyans and their vast army…? At that time you relied on the Lord, and he handed them over to you. The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. What a fool you have been! From now on you will be at war.
You’d think this rebuke would have turned Asa around, but it didn’t. He jailed one of God’s prophets for telling him the truth and then started to oppress his own people. Even getting seriously ill didn’t change the downward spiral:
He did not seek the Lord’s help but turned only to his physicians.
Asa changed from being a man who trusted God to a man who didn’t. How did that happen?
I don’t know. Maybe he forgot that God was the source of his success. In any case, I think there are a few lessons we can learn.
1. Trusting God means that we can’t do what normal people do sometimes. Asa made the mistake of doing what normal kings do–look at the numbers, strategize, make alliances. Notice that he was just doing what his father (the former king) had done. He was following good precedent. However, from a divine perspective, it was abandoning God to rely on something else.
2. Apparent success does not equal God’s blessing. Asa’s plan worked. It was so tempting to rely on the king of Aram because the fact is that many times those strategies work. He won in the short run but lost something much more important–God was not with him anymore.
3. If we do it the normal way, we get the normal consequences. Asa chose to be a normal king, and he got what kings get–war. He forgot that those 25 years of peace were the result of supernatural protection. When he stepped outside that protection, he became just another king facing an uncertain world.
4. God wants to support us. He is actually looking everywhere in his earth for people who will trust him. However, there is a huge push to “cover all our bases” and plan for every contingency. It is, of course, impossible to plan for every contingency, but we like to try. In the midst of that, our trust can become divided and our hearts are no longer “fully committed.”
The sad thing about Asa is that he had chances to change after he failed, but he never took them.
We need to ask ourselves, “What am I trusting in rather than God?” Is it people or plans or our own ability to figure things out? Whatever it is, we need to give it up because God is waiting to help us if we completely commit ourselves to him.
Let’s seek the Lord and fully trust him.