The Good Kings Of Judah
There is a definite need of revival in the Church. This new series by Arthur Naismith on revivals in Old Testament times teaches the personal condition necessary for such a manifestation of recovery and blessing. Let us follow these articles with interest and let us apply their lessons to our own lives.
When the causes and development of a disease have been determined, the pathological symptoms ascertained, and the diagnosis and prognosis made, the skilled medical practitioner commences the treatment. Consider now
The Divine Prescription
that proved effective in producing a temporary restoration to spiritual health.
Amid the many vicissitudes through which the nation had passed since Israel’s rejection of the Theocracy and the commencement of the monarchy, God had been at work behind the scenes of public political life building up a resistance to the destructive satanic forces that threatened the vitality of His people. Though the development of this force that was to counteract the pernicious influence of the court was secret and little known, it was nevertheless salutary, steady and solid. The schools of prophets, instituted by Samuel, were ministering — almost unnoticed — spiritual nourishment from God’s Holy Law and moulding the character of not a few of Judah’s leaders. Asa had possibly come under this benign influence, and the ready response to many of his severe measures in restraining moral corruption and idolatrous paganism is an evidence that such a resistance had been built up in the nation’s corporate system.
God graciously granted a period of tranquility without recourse to tranquillizers, for ‘the land was quiet ten years’ (2 Chron. 14:1). That period of peace was just what was needed after the turbulent fevers of war and internecine strife that had distressed the kingdom of Judah in the days of Asa’s predecessors.
Asa’s first act was one of Purging. “He took away the altars of the strange gods, and the high places, brake down the images and cut down the groves” (2 Chron. 14:3). He removed also the high places and the images of the sun-god (verse 5). He then set himself against every form of moral evil, which included unnatural vices and the lewd rites of sensuous heathen religions, and swept away the Sodomites out of the land (1 Kings 15:12). The nations of the earth, and particularly those nations that have in the past enjoyed the special favour of God and possessed His Word, stand greatly in need of such a purging in these last days. The wickedness and moral corruption of modern times far exceed the vices of Judah in Asa’s day.
A dangerous malignant growth also demanded immediate surgical treatment, so an Excision from the most vital part of the body politic became necessary. Maachah, the queen-mother, who was the king’s grandmother, had established in Jerusalem her own shrine for the worship of Astarte, the queen of Heaven, and set up within the temple an idolatrous and obscene emblem, a horrible abomination of some monstrous kind. Asa first destroyed the idol, burning it near the river Kidron and consigning its calcinated remains to the waters of the brook. With equally commendable zeal and justice he removed the queen-mother from her position of honour and power, thus depriving her of all her baneful authority. In this way he rooted out the cancer that would have infected the nation with abominable heathen rites and vitiated all his efforts.
Restorative Measures had next to be taken to promote as speedy a recovery as possible and build up a strong resistance to the virus that might assail the nation from within and the plague that might attack them from without. Because of his people’s long attachment to traditional shrines, Asa set about the deforestation of sacred groves and the removal of high places; but he found that the people continued to cling to their outdoor sanctuaries, so all the high places were not removed (1 Kings 15:14). When a relapse did occur, this was to prove a great obstacle to full and permanent recovery. Cities were built, fortifications constructed, and the frontiers made secure against invasion. These proved effective against the assaults of the Ethiopians in the fifteenth year of Asa’s reign.
Next, the account had to be settled. The Dues must be paid, not to the royal physician but to the Divine Healer. Gratitude was joyfully expressed and enthusiasm deeply stirred as the offerings poured into Jehovah’s treasury. What a rebuke to those of us who enjoy so liberal a share of the Lord’s bounty in the spiritual, mental and physical realms and yet make such a niggardly return! Seven hundred oxen and seven thousand sheep were offered to the Lord in the third month, at the time, no doubt, of the Feast of Pentecost.
What finer evidence of renewed health and national revival could be found than the splendid, salutary vow contained in the covenant the people made with Jehovah! “They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul” (2 Chron. 15:12). But alas! compulsion cast its pall of weakness over the nation, for embodied in the agreement were the terms, “Whosoever should not seek the Lord God of Israel should be put to death” (verse 13). The House of God, its vessels restored, became once more the gathering centre for the people of God (2 Chron. 15:18); the law of God became for the time their guide, and the high places were deserted.
What a joy it would be in these days of declension in which we live, to see such a restoration and revival, the high places forsaken and the true children of God gathering unitedly in His name, the name of Him who said, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
What a triumph it would have been had Asa’s story closed with the sacrifices, covenant and dedication of 2 Chronicles 15! But there was
A Painful Relapse
In the declaration of Hanani the seer, Jehovah’s messenger to Asa, God reveals not only His power and grace for the support of those who fear Him, but also His righteousness and severity in dealing with flagrant disobedience to His revealed will. The words that the prophet Zechariah (Zech. 4:10) used to assure and encouraged Zerubbabel in a later revival were used by Hanani to rebuke Asa who, by departing from the Lord, drew down the curtain on the God-sent revival of his earlier years. “The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth” (2 Chron. 16:9). Asa is thus reminded that the omniscient Lord is ceaselessly on the look-out for occasions to help those who are faithful to Him.
Three acts of retrogression on Asa’s part hindered a complete fulfilment of the divine purpose of blessing in Asa’s reign. These are recorded in 2 Chronicles 16.
The first of these was Asa’s alliance with a heathen monarch. In this he set a bad example which was later followed by his son Jehosphaphat whom Hanani’s son Jehu had to rebuke in similar fashion. Such a league as Asa made with Ben-hadad, the powerful king of Syria, was an abomination to the Lord. There is nothing that will quench the flame of a Heaven-sent revival more quickly and completely than the unequal yoke: for “what fellowship hath Christ with belial?”
Asa’s foolishness reached its height in his loss of faith in the God who had so marvellously helped him, and in his reliance on helpless man. This was brought home to the king at a time when, doubtless, he was pluming himself on his own wisdom and prudence. When he was afflicted with a painful physical malady that attacked his feet, “he sought not to the Lord, but to the physicians,” who, like Job’s comforters, proved to be “physicians of no value.” How sad that he whom God had appointed as His royal physician in Judah for the healing of His people’s spiritual disease, and who had walked so well in the path of God’s appointing, should not turn to Jehovah-Rophecah in his need when his walk became unsteady because of the disease of his feet, but go to heathen witch-doctors who pretend to effect cures by charms and incantations!
Asa’s treatment of the man whom God sent to reprove him for his folly, and to those who sided with God against him in his foolish course, proclaimed his defiance of the Heaven-sent messenger. First, his alliance was wrong: then, his reliance was not on God; and now his defiance of God’s prophet and God’s Word was the final step in his backsliding. And so he who had made a splendid beginning and walked in ways that pleased the Lord ended his days diseased in his feet both physically and spiritually, until his disease was exceeding great.”