A Funny Thing (a 2013 rerun)

Reading in 2Chronicles again this morning.  Hovering over the account of King Asa’s reign and thinking again of how easy it seems to be for those who start well to not finish so well.  That seeking the LORD now doesn’t guarantee, in and of itself, that one will always seek the LORD.  Another reading this morning seems to capture the warning pretty well:

So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. 

(1Thessalonians 5:6  ESV)

Rerunning some thoughts from 2013 that captured for me the warning communicated by the reign of King Asa.

Pride is a funny thing . . . funny weird . . . not funny ha-ha. And, if there was ever a people who should have the pride thing in hand, it’s us believers. We who have already acknowledged our bankruptcy, who have recognized that in us, and of ourselves, no good thing exists, who have seen that our best is as filthy rags before a holy God. But there are enough warnings in Scripture that indicate the reality that those who once humbled themselves in the sight of the LORD can somehow rationalize lifting themselves back up again. Point in case this morning? King Asa of Judah (2Chronicles 14-16).

Here’s the essence of King Asa’s story . . .

Asa is identified as one of the kings who “did what was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God” (14:2).  He encouraged Judah (the southern kingdom of the divided Israel) to seek the LORD. And, he put his money where his mouth was by tearing down the high places of idol worship. For a decade, there was peace and prosperity in Judah during which time he also built up an army of 580,000 fighting men (14:8). Then, 10 years into his reign, Zerah the Ethiopian comes out against Judah with a military force of one million men (sub-lesson: there’s always someone bigger and better than you). Out numbered almost two-to-one, Asa cries out to the LORD, believing that God is bigger yet than the Ethiopian army (again, note sub-lesson),

“O LORD, there is none like You to help, between the mighty and the weak. Help us, O LORD our God, for we rely on you . . .”

(2Chronicles 14:11 ESV)

And the LORD strikes the Ethiopians and Judah is victorious. King Asa then, was a man who pursued God, a man who trusted in God, and a man who knew practically the reality of the power and faithfulness of God.

And it gets better (before it gets worse).

The Spirit of God comes upon a guy named Azariah who prophesies to Asa and his people,

“The LORD is with you while you are with Him.  If you seek Him, He will be found by you, but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you.”

(2Chronicles 15:2 ESV)

And it sparks national revival in Judah. The people enter “into a covenant to seek the LORD, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and with all their soul” (15:12) and “all Judah rejoiced over the oath, for they had sworn with all their heart and had sought Him with their whole desire, and He was found by them, and the LORD gave them rest all around” (15:15). So King Asa was a godly man who led others in a passionate pursuit of devotion to the LORD.

So far, so good. Even though King Asa was a powerful man, he had been a humbled man. As such, he had learned to cast himself upon His God. And in that state, though he was “top of the food chain” in Judah, he acknowledged Him who is above the kings of all the earth and sought Him with all his being.

But fast forward 25 years and, like I said, pride is a funny thing. King Asa is again attacked by a powerful army, the army of Israel. But this time he relies on his own wisdom and devices. He looks to his own means. So he purchases military power from Syria.

What he doesn’t do is seek the LORD. And God calls him on it through another prophet (16:7-8). And, rather than humble himself at the rebuke of God, Asa throws the prophet into prison. Weird. And this hard-hearted self-sufficiency continues even when Asa, three years later, becomes severely sick, “Yet even in his disease he did not seek the LORD, but sought help from physicians” (16:12). Weird, again.

I wonder if, during those years of peace and rest, Asa, in his own mind, doesn’t rewrite history a bit. I wonder if he starts remembering how he defeated the Ethiopians. If he gets into the habit of patting himself on the back on how well he has brought peace and prosperity to the land. It seems that over the years seeking after God has waned . . . that self-sufficiency has increased . . . and that pride, that funny weird not funny ha-ha thing, has turned His heart away from God.

It’s another one of those warnings to those of us who have been running the race for a few years now. To not to presume that we’ll finish well . . . to not coast on what we think are our accomplishments. It’s a flashing yellow light cautioning me to not think more highly of myself than I ought, but to continually acknowledge God’s grace and God’s power in all the victories I’ve known. It’s a reminder that pride will cloud the thinking and create a sense of self-sufficiency that will turn my heart away from the God I so desire to give my heart to.

Father, by Your grace, and for Your glory, keep me from funny weird . .

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