*Note: We began this occasional series "Lessons from the Kings" on our sister site – LivingWithFaith.org – but we realized that many of the themes and details of the series fit better here, so we have transferred the series and will now be carrying the monthly installments here.
King Asa of Judah was the great-grandson of Solomon and ruled only two generations after the split between the tribes of Judah and the rest of Israel. The son of king Abijah, who appears to have trusted in the true God (2 Chronicles 13:18), Asa ruled Judah for 41 years and seems to have been upright in his acts for most of that time.
He was clearly zealous in maintaining the worship of God and acted decisively to root out idolatry and its associated immorality, destroying the pagan altars and sacred places throughout the kingdom. The king even deposed his own grandmother for worship of pagan gods and turned the people back to the traditional worship of God. Asa, we are told, did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God (2 Chronicles 14:2).
Asa also fortified cities in Judah and successfully repelled an invasion by a hugely outnumbering Cushite-Egyptian force with a demonstration of clear faith. The biblical record tells us: “Then Asa called to the Lord his God and said, ‘Lord, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, Lord our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this vast army. Lord, you are our God; do not let mere mortals prevail against you’”(2 Chronicles 14:11). Chronicles continues to detail how Asa’s forces routed the much larger army and drove it from Judah. As a result, the kingdom had peace under Asa and for many years no one tried to make war against him.
But in his 36th year of rule Asa was confronted by Baasha, king of the northern tribes, who constructed a fortress at Ramah, less than ten miles from Jerusalem. While Asa had responded in faith to the Cushite threat, he appears to have crumbled under this one. Taking all the gold from the temple of God he offered it to Ben-Hadad, king of Damascus, as a bribe to convince that king to negate his treaty with Baasha and to invade the Northern Kingdom (2 Chronicles 16:2-6). Ben-Hadad took the gold and invaded his erstwhile ally, Israel, forcing Baasha to withdraw from Ramah.
Asa then tore down Baasha’s stronghold and used the stone to build two fortresses in his own territory. History shows these two fortified areas were not successful in protecting Judah from attacks that would occur in the future, so ultimately Asa traded the gold taken from the temple for a false security. In that sense, Asa’s two fortresses are clearly symbols of a failure of faith (2 Chronicles 16:7-9).
Considering his earlier faith under sudden, more intense pressure, we can only conclude that Asa fell under a more prolonged and unrelenting stress as Baasha began to build his forces on Judah’s border. It seems Asa discovered that wars of attrition can erode our confidence more than sudden danger. Doubtless there is a lesson for us in this. It is often easier to respond in faith to a sudden crisis, but more difficult when the problem drags on and wears us down. In those circumstances we must be careful not to allow the problem to become an excuse for taking from God what is rightfully His – perhaps not in gold, but in our time and energy as well as our trust and confidence in Him.
Perhaps as a result of the attrition of his faith, it is recorded that in his old age Asa was afflicted with a disease of his feet, and he “sought not to the Lord, but to the physicians” (2 Chronicles 16:12), meaning his trust was only toward the physical. Nevertheless, Asa was considered for the most part a good king and was honored by many of his people when he died. The story of Asa's responses to different threats may also serve as a lasting lesson for us – especially in our response to protracted stresses and problems. Sometimes the greatest need for faith is not in sudden crises, but in the ongoing problems of everyday life.