1 Kings 15:9–22
God was faithful to the promise He made to David that there would always be a son of David on the throne in Jerusalem (2 Sam. 7:12–16). But that doesn’t mean the sons of David were always faithful to God.
In the 345 years between the death of Solomon in 931 B.C. and the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C., the southern kingdom of Judah had 20 kings in a straight-line succession of father to son. Only eight of them did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.
One of them was Asa, Solomon’s great-grandson. Asa enjoyed a long reign of 41 years in contrast to his father who reigned only three years and his grandfather who reigned 17.
This establishes the pattern we will see throughout 1 and 2 Kings. With the exception of Manesseh who ruled for 55 years (2 Kings 21:1–18), evil kings had short reigns. The shortest reign for a good king was Jotham who nevertheless ruled for 16 years (2 Kings 15:33).
Asa demonstrated his wholehearted devotion to God by getting rid of the male prostitutes associated with cultic worship practices. He also destroyed all the idols his fathers had made. And in perhaps his boldest move, he stripped his own mother of her queen mother title because she made an Asherah image.
These verses highlight two truths. The first is that when you are following God wholeheartedly, you may still face opposition and hardship. This was true for good king Asa. For 24 years of his 41-year reign, he was at war with the northern kingdom of Israel and its evil king, Baasha (1 Kings 15:33–34). Baasha fortified the city of Ramah, creating a blockade that cut off goods and personnel coming in and out of Judah.
The second truth is that even godly people make poor choices sometimes.
Asa feared the alliance between Israel and Syria. So he gathered the silver and gold in the temple treasury and offered it to Ben-hadad, the king of Syria, in exchange for Ben-hadad breaking his covenant with Baasha and forming an alliance with Asa instead.
Ben-hadad did indeed break his treaty with Baasha and allied Syria with Judah instead. But Asa was rebuked by God’s prophet Hanani for his failure to trust God. In 2 Chronicles 16:9, Hanani told him, “You have been foolish in this matter. Therefore, you will have wars from now on.”
Asa’s gift to Ben-hadad got the results Asa was hoping for. Ben-hadad turned and attacked his former ally, forcing Baasha to abandon the building of his blockade in Ramah.
In turn Asa took the building materials Baasha left behind and used them to build two cities in Judah’s territory. But while this could be seen as a short-term gain, ultimately it was a long-term loss.
In the parallel account of Asa’s reign in 2 Chronicles 16, things got worse for Asa after this. He put Hanani the seer in prison, began to mistreat his subjects and developed a disease in his feet that got worse and worse over time.
The last word about the reign of this good king is that “even in his disease he didn’t seek the Lord but only the physicians” (2 Chron. 16:12).
In God’s calculus, the ends never justify the means. God gives support to those who are wholeheartedly devoted to Him. When Asa was under pressure, he came up with a man-made solution instead of trusting God to provide His deliverance.