Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Oops. Let's do it again.

So Abijah slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the city of David; and Asa his son reigned in his stead. In his days the land had rest for ten years.  And Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God.  He took away the foreign altars and the high places, and broke down the pillars and hewed down the Asherim, and commanded Judah to seek the LORD, the God of their fathers, and to keep the law and the commandment.  He also took out of all the cities of Judah the high places and the incense altars. And the kingdom had rest under him.  ~2 Chr 1-5

In my last entry I wrote about how much I find in the Old Testament.  Reading about Asa is another example of an Old Testament story with applications to life right now.  King Asa was doing a great job when he starts off here, destroying the foreign altars and commanding the people to worship God.  He offers sacrifices to God and even dethrones his own mother (the king's mother was a big deal in the kingdom) for worshiping idols.    During his reign, he was attacked by the Ethiopians.  He called out to God and his army was delivered from the stronger force.  Everything seems to be going great for Asa before Chapter 16.

In the thirty-sixth year of the reign of Asa, Baasha king of Israel went up against Judah, and built Ramah, that he might permit no one to go out or come in to Asa king of Judah. Then Asa took silver and gold from the treasures of the house of the LORD and the king’s house, and sent them to Ben-hadad king of Syria, who dwelt in Damascus, saying,  “Let there be a league between me and you, as between my father and your father; behold, I am sending to you silver and gold; go, break your league with Baasha king of Israel, that he may withdraw from me.”  And Ben-hadad hearkened to King Asa, and sent the commanders of his armies against the cities of Israel, and they conquered Ijon, Dan, Abel-maim, and all the store-cities of Naphtali.  And when Baasha heard of it, he stopped building Ramah, and let his work cease.  Then King Asa took all Judah, and they carried away the stones of Ramah and its timber, with which Baasha had been building, and with them he built Geba and Mizpah.

At that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah, and said to him, “Because you relied on the king of Syria, and did not rely on the LORD your God, the army of the king of Syria has escaped you. 8 Were not the Ethiopians and the Libyans a huge army with exceedingly many chariots and horsemen? Yet because you relied on the LORD, he gave them into your hand.  For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show his might in behalf of those whose heart is blameless toward him. You have done foolishly in this; for from now on you will have wars.” Then Asa was angry with the seer, and put him in the stocks, in prison, for he was in a rage with him because of this. And Asa inflicted cruelties upon some of the people at the same time.

The acts of Asa, from first to last, are written in the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel.  In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was diseased in his feet, and his disease became severe; yet even in his disease he did not seek the LORD, but sought help from physicians.  And Asa slept with his fathers, dying in the forty-first year of his reign.  They buried him in the tomb which he had hewn out for himself in the city of David. They laid him on a bier which had been filled with various kinds of spices prepared by the perfumer’s art; and they made a very great fire in his honor.

~2 Chr 16

So, Asa goofs.  People do that sometimes.  When confronted, Asa threw the seer in the stocks instead of repenting.  It appears from this story he started being cruel to the people at the same time.  When he fell ill later, Asa refused to return to God and instead continued to rely on others.  The situation clearly went from bad to worse for Asa based entirely on his own response.

How often do we make a situation go bad to worse?  Maybe we don't actively go out and build idols to worship, but once we're on a roll we just let go of what we know is right.  I do it all the time.  Perhaps I'm not getting along with a friend and we've exchanged some snappy words.  I could stop and change the subject, but instead I may bring it up again just to get in a witty remark.  Maybe I've realized I'm on the gossip train and ought to get off, but instead decide to stay on it because I've already screwed up and this information seems awfully interesting.  Or a friend will correct me for doing something I shouldn't be doing, and instead of being thankful for the reminder I get annoyed and prideful.  These aren't all that uncommon - all three have happened this week.

It is perfectly acceptable to bail from bad behavior once we've realized we're there, no matter how long it takes us to realize it.  We can't take back what we've already done, but we can take charge of the next moment and ask that God give us the strength to do what is necessary.  

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