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THIS Study shows us a young king whose environments in youth had been unfavorable, in that his father was far from being a good man, and his early years were under the influence of a grandmother who was an idol worshipper. In the midst of this unfavorable setting Asa quickly developed a loyalty to God and soundness of judgment beneficial to his kingdom. We have all had experience with characters of this kind. We have occasionally seen children of evil parentage who seemed to see the evil of the parental course, and to be nauseated therewith, and by this led into right paths. It has at times appeared as though Divine Providence occasionally interposed in prenatal influences which made the child very different in bent of mind from either of its parents. St. Paul seems to indicate something of this kind in his own case when he declares that Divine Providence had favored him from his mother's womb. (Galatians 1:15.) Nothing in this, however, interferes with the will of the individual—his free agency.
Asa did much to abolish idolatry in his kingdom, and to sway the minds of the people to reverence and obedience of Almighty God. In consequence, he had peace for ten years, during which time he encouraged his people and spurred himself on to activity in the training of an army, and in the completing of fortified cities on the extremity of his kingdom, for protection against attacks of enemies.
Following the ten years of peace came Zerah, an Ethiopian prince, and an army of a million and three hundred chariots of war, to attack the kingdom of Judah. After the custom of the times they foraged on the country through which they passed, appropriating, devastating, etc.—"taking spoil." This was the very occasion for which Asa had made preparation during his ten years of peace. He went forth with his army to beat the invader. Nevertheless, his faith looked up to God for the victory, realizing that with him was the power to give or to withhold victory. In the battle which followed, Asa and his army were successful; their foes were smitten, discomfitted, scattered, and the spoils went with the victory.
Returning from the victory with hearts grateful to God they were met on the way by a Prophet—Azariah—who in the name of the Lord counselled the king and his people that they had all done well and faithfully, and that, therefore, God's blessing was with them, and that [R4724 : page 380] the continuance of Divine blessing would depend upon their faithfulness to God and to the requirements of his Law. The hour of victory is a more dangerous one than the hour of distress; the heart is more apt to be proud and self-conscious and to feel its own importance. The Divine warning helped the King and his people to appreciate the situation and to take a firmer stand than ever for righteousness. A second and more thorough reformation was thus inaugurated—no idolatry was thenceforth permitted in the kingdom under penalty of death, and the Lord's blessing continued with the kingdom—Judah.
Benevolent people, interested in peace congresses, etc., sometimes inquire how we should understand the fact that the God of the Old Testament Scriptures was a God of Battle—sometimes commanding war and the utter destruction of many. The answer to this question can be appreciated only when the situation is viewed from the proper standpoint, which is this:
The whole world was lost in sin and was under condemnation to death as unworthy of life, unworthy of Divine favor. Whether, therefore, God permitted them to die by famine, pestilence, or by what we sometimes designate natural death, mattered not—the death sentence must sooner or later be executed against them at any rate—all must go down to the tomb. We thank God, however, that his gracious plan has provided a redemption of Adam and all of his race from the tomb and from death, and a full opportunity eventually, by resurrection, to come to a true knowledge of God and righteousness, and, if obedient thereto, to return ultimately to Divine favor and to more than was lost in Eden—all of this recovery accomplished through Calvary.
The nation of Israel was no exception to this reign of sin and death, but God chose them as a nation to make of them types, shadows, illustrative of his gracious purposes. It was to this intent that he entered into a typical Covenant with them, through a typical Mediator, under a typical Atonement for their sin, effected by typical sacrifices for sins. They became his typical people, and he [R4725 : page 380] their king, whom they pledged themselves loyally to obey.
Thus in a figurative way Israel stood as representatives of God and his righteousness in the midst of an idolatrous world, and, later, when the ten tribes broke away, it left the kingdom a specially representative kingdom of God, to which the loyal-hearted of all the tribes religiously resorted. From this standpoint God's promise to this nation was his Divine blessing in giving them peace and earthly prosperity in proportion as they would be loyal to him, and war, famine, pestilence, insurrection, trouble, in proportion as they would neglect their Covenant with him and fail to render obedience to him as their Monarch, as their God. All of God's dealings with that nation typed greater blessings for the future. We are not to understand that either then, or since, any other nation has occupied this same relationship toward God, nor that he similarly rewards and punishes faithfulness or unfaithfulness with particularity in each nation.
Spiritual Israel, St. Peter tells us, is a "Royal Priesthood, an holy nation, a people for a purpose, that they should show forth the praises of him who has called us out of darkness into his marvelous light." This Spirit-Begotten Israel is not an earthly nation, has no earthly wars with carnal weapons. This Holy Nation has no promise of earthly peace and prosperity, as rewards of obedience to God, but, contrariwise, is assured that in the world she shall have tribulation, hatred, opposition, suffering and that her reward will be spiritual. She will now have the peace of God which passeth all understanding, and by and by, through the "First Resurrection," "an abundant entrance into the everlasting Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
Nearly every page in history may teach lessons to those who are desirous of learning them. The experiences of King Asa may, for instance, give us the lesson that in the years of our youth we should properly put away all idolatry of money, of fame, of honor of men, and should seek to know and to do the will of the Lord from the heart. In the early years of life we should erect the fortresses of character which will serve us as a defence against attacks of the world, the flesh and the Devil in our later years, and when the battle comes, thus prepared, we are still to look to the Lord for victory, realizing the force of the Apostle's words, "When I am weak in myself then I am strong in the Lord."
Nor should a great victory elate us and make us careless and self-sufficient. Warned of the Lord as was Asa, we should make our consecration still more thorough and thus continue to fortify ourselves, that we may be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might.
Not understood, how trifles often change us;
The thoughtless sentence or the fancied slight
Destroys long years of friendship and estrange us,
And on our souls there falls a freezing blight—
Oh, God! that men would see a little clearer,
Or judge less hardly when they cannot see!
Oh, God! that men would draw a little nearer
To one another! They'd be nearer Thee,