At that time, Hanani the seer came to Asa, king of Judah and said to him: “Because you relied on the king of Aram and not on the Lord your God, the army of the king of Aram escaped from your hand. Were not the Cushites and Libyans a mighty army with great numbers of chariots and horsemen? Yet when you relied on the Lord, he delivered them into your hand. 2 Chronicles 16:7
During the 36th year of King Asa’s reign in Judah, he courted an ally against Israel – Ben-hadad, king of Aram. Previous to this, in his long reign, Judah was more peaceful and there were only a few wars. In fact, he won over two noted wars – against the Cushites and the Libyans because, as Hiram said, he ‘relied on the Lord.’
During Asa’s reign, where there was peace, there was also prosperity. The walls of Jerusalem were fortified, and Asa ‘did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.” But at the end of his reign as king, during the war against King Baasha of Israel, he secured the support of Ben-hadad. “Asa then took the silver and gold in the treasuries of the Lord’s temple and of his own palace and sent it to Ben-Hadad King of Aram, who was ruling Damascus. ‘Let there be a treaty between me and you,’ he said, ‘as there was between my father and your Father. See, I am sending you silver and gold. Now break your treaty with Baasha king of Israel so he will withdraw from me.'”
At the outset, this action was mercenary. King Asa bribed Ben-Hadad to drive away the Israelites from the borders. Of course Asa gained an edge in this war because King Baasha of Israel eventually abandoned his task of setting up walls that would prevent Asa’s constituents from leaving Judah. King Asa then used the materials Baasha’s men left to fortify the borders of Judah.
What Asa did seemed logical, after all, Judah had the money to pay an ally and people were prosperous enough to not want to engage in any war. Better hire warriors to do the fighting for them.
But God was not pleased. Why?
Sometimes, it is easier to rely on a logical solution to a problem. If we have the means, why not exhaust everything in our means to make sure we get what we want? We hold on to what we can see, and are not predisposed to seeking God’s help all the time. We may say after passing a difficulty that God has blessed us. We may even say that we prayed. But did we really? How much is the percentage of our relying on God as compared to the percentage of our relying on our own solutions?
As in the case of the Kings of both Judah and Israel, Christians must commit themselves to God and seek him in times of need and plenty. But our faith is often fragile and vulnerable to attacks from within and without. In Asa’s case, even a history of God’s faithfulness which he witnessed in his time didn’t make him more faithful in his old age. At the end of the day, he was full of himself, and angry at God.
But maybe it is easier to rely on God when one is up against the wall or is completely needy. It maybe more difficult to rely on God when one has the means to use in times of hardships. Asa used the treasures of the temple of God to pay an ally for his country’s protection. When he got ill, he did not seek God but relied solely on physicians. This is not to say that relying on physicians is wrong but if that was the only thing he relied on, then there was something wrong with his faith. Asa’s pattern of unbelief is due to a refusal, a passivity, a rejection of what is possible beyond one’s reality. Because these were his hard realities: He was face to face with a stronger enemy, so where could he turn? He was afflicted with disease, so what would he do?
God told Asa after refreshing his memory of what He did and is still able to do, “When you relied on the Lord, he delivered them into your had. For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” God reminded Asa that Asa was witness and participant in those events. But Instead of acknowledging God’s merciful acts in the past, Asa got angry with God’s messenger.
Many Filipinos will often say “Nasa Diyos ang awa, nasa tao ang gawa.” But for true Christians, it is not just God’s mercy God gives us, but God’s judgment, God’s grace, God’s provision, God’s protection, God’s love. He holds our lives in his hands. He knows the number of the strands of our hair.
Asa got angry because he was being judged by God himself. He was being judged because he ‘relied on the king of Aram and not on the Lord.’ That was what was wrong with his faith. His heart was not fully committed, and God is a jealous God.
In this chapter of the book of 2 Chronicles, God’s promise is ‘strength’ and the condition is commitment. When we begin to see how our faith begins to falter, let us go back and remember God’s goodness throughout our personal history. Then let us check our hearts. Is it fully committed? Or do we persist on our ‘pagkatao’, on our stubborn belief that we are in charge?
May God help us.