In yesterday’s blog, we looked at the great choices that King Asa made during his life. One of his first actions as King was to rebuild the spiritual foundations of the city. What a great first choice for each of us to make – to tear down idols and build up our spiritual foundations. He also chose to live in humility, acknowledging that God was the provider of his victories and blessings. He gave his battles to the Lord, allowing Him to bring the victories. He didn’t take credit for himself.

Asa’s great choices resulted in his people earnestly seeking God. What a great legacy!

I was surprised at what came next.

1In the thirty-sixth year of Asa’s reign, King Baasha of Israel invaded Judah and fortified Ramah in order to prevent anyone from entering or leaving King Asa’s territory in Judah. 2Asa responded by removing the silver and gold from the treasuries of the Temple of the LORD and the royal palace. He sent it to King Ben-hadad of Aram, who was ruling in Damascus, along with this message: 3“Let there be a treaty between you and me like the one between your father and my father. See, I am sending you silver and gold. Break your treaty with King Baasha of Israel so that he will leave me alone.”
2 Chronicles 16:1-3 (NLT)

King Asa had been king for 36 years at this point, and he made many good choices during his reign. Then something happened. Asa made a tragic choice in this battle What was different about this battle than the others? The difference was King Asa’s tragic choice of going into battle without seeking the Lord. He looked at the situation, decided how to deal with it, and went about doing it. He never sought the Lord.

When he went to battle the first time, Scripture records that

Then Asa cried out to the LORD his God, “O LORD, no one but you can help the powerless against the mighty! Help us, O LORD our God, for we trust in you alone. It is in your name that we have come against this vast horde. O LORD, you are our God; do not let mere men prevail against you!”
2 Chronicles 14:11 (NLT)

There was none of that in the 36th year of Asa’s reign. Maybe he thought he had it all figured out after being king for 36 years. Maybe he was just tired and forgot to ask God. I don’t know. I do know that we all mess up sometimes. When we’ve done something before it’s easy to simply make a decision about how to handle a situation and take action. We tragically forget to call upon the Lord.

That’s not the most tragic decision of King Asa’s life, however. The Lord was gracious and merciful and He gave King Asa victory. Then then he sent another prophet to Asa. Remember the first prophet he sent? The prophet encouraged Asa and told him that whenever he sought the Lord, he would find the Lord. This time, the prophet had a different message.

7At that time Hanani the seer came to King Asa and told him, “Because you have put your trust in the king of Aram instead of in the LORD your God, you missed your chance to destroy the army of the king of Aram. 8Don’t you remember what happened to the Ethiopians and Libyans and their vast army, with all of their chariots and charioteers? At that time you relied on the LORD, and he handed them over to you. 9The 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.”
2 Chronicles 16:7-9 (NLT)

God knows our hearts. He desires that we seek him – in fact Scripture says that he searches the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. There was a time when that was true of King Asa. But somehow, it was no longer true. King Asa’s tragic choice was to rely on himself and on others instead of relying on God. And because of that choice, Asa’s heart was not strengthened and his country would be at war continually.

Which brings us to the greatest opportunity Asa had to make a great or tragic choice. Unfortunately, we see that the choice he made was also a tragic one:

10Asa became so angry with Hanani for saying this that he threw him into prison and put him in stocks. At that time Asa also began to oppress some of his people. …12In the thirty-ninth year of his reign, Asa developed a serious foot disease. Yet even with the severity of his disease, he did not seek the LORD’s help but turned only to his physicians. 13So he died in the forty-first year of his reign.
2 Chronicles 16:10-13 (NLT)

What a sad, tragic ending for a king who started his reign by pulling down demonic strongholds and exhorting the people to faith. In the end, King Asa, who had served in such humility, allowed rebellion and pride to grow when he heard the words of correction from the prophet.

I am reminded of Paul’s exhortation to finish the race well.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.
Hebrews 12:1 (NLT)

That cloud of witnesses is all those saints who have gone before us – because of their example of living faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down. What was slowing King Asa down? It was his pride and it cost him dearly at the end of his life – it tripped him up as this passage says. We’re to strip off that weight and run with endurance the race God has set before us.

King Asa made the tragic decision near the end of his life to trust his own instincts instead of relying on God. We don’t know what led him to that place. Perhaps he was hurt by others. Perhaps he just became complacent from living an easy life during times of peace. Honestly, that scares me more than anything – to fall into the trap of trusting my own judgment because things have been going so well – to fall into the trap of forgetting to ask God for wisdom and help – to forget to rely on him. We don’t know what caused King Asa to fall into that trap, but he did. And after making that poor choice, he made the most tragic choice of resisting God’s discipline, of not humbling himself before God and the people of his land. And the result is that he and his country were at war until King Asa’s death a few years later.

We saw in yesterday’s blog that King Asa’s great choices impacted his people in a positive way. Today we see that his tragic choices impacted his people in a tragic way. The same is true in our lives. Our good choices, especially the choice to pursue God wholeheartedly, impact those around for their good. And our poor choices impact them negatively.

The older I get, the more I want to finish well. And the more I am aware how easy it would be to become dependent on my own abilities, or how easy it would be to become complacent with where I am, not seeking to know God more and serve God more.

Let’s not make the same tragic choice that King Asa made in his latter years. Let’s stay close to God – always pursuing Him, always running our race with endurance, always trusting Him for the victory.

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