2 Chronicles 14:1-4
And Asa did that which was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God.
Asa faithful to his God
We have watched the steady fall of the kingdom of Israel Judah also began in shame and ended in disaster, but its shame was not so unmixed nor its disaster so complete. The reason for this better fate is suggested in our text: the saving influence of good men interposed to hold the people to God and prosperity. Our lesson presents Asa as the righteous leader of his people.
1. Asa reformed the religion of Judah. Like Gideon, he began his rule with a bold attack upon the popular idolatry. The worship of Baal and Ashtoreth had clung to the people ever since they met it when entering Canaan, in spite of God’s warning that for this very sin the inhabitants were cast out before them. In recent years Solomon had patronised it, Rehoboam encouraged and Abijah confirmed it; and under these royal leaders Judah had become fascinated with its worship and debauched with its hideous vice. But the reformer’s axe went crashing through the groves. He was well named Asa(“Physician,” “Cure”), for he healed the hurt of his people. We hear of no resistance to his vigorous measures. The conscience of the nation yet answered to the conscience of the king: “the land was quiet before him.”
2. Asa advanced the material prosperity of Judah. In the ten years of rest which God gave him “he built fenced cities, with walls and towers, gates and bars,” to protect them from Israel on the north and Egypt on the south.
3. Passing now to determine the nature and the extent of Asa’s influence, we find the cause of his success in his piety. He was a sound reformer, an able king, and a successful soldier, because he was faithful to his God. “He did that which was right, and commanded the people to serve the Lord.” So, too, his best work for his subjects was upon their characters. Asa’s influence was most important and enduring. He ascended the throne at a crisis in the nation’s history. Israel was already twenty years along in its fatal transgression, and Judah was hastening after it. His father and grandfather had forsaken the righteousness of David and perpetuated the iniquity of Solomon, rather than his splendour or his wisdom. Had the succeeding reign of forty-one years followed the same course, we must believe that the current toward wickedness would have been set past turning. Had Asa been like Jeroboam, Judah would have gone down like Israel. Through Asa’s faithfulness the old man’s dying blessing has come to pass: “Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: thy father’s children shall bow down before thee, and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.” For Judah prevailed above his brethren, and of him came the chief ruler. The Jewish monarchy fell at last, but the real cause for which Asa struggled shall never perish. He who reads the story of Israel and Judah will mark with wonder the controlling power exercised by the king upon the religious faith of the nation. If it is written of one, “He did evil in the sight of the Lord,” it is always true that “he made Israel to sin.” If he worshipped Jehovah, his subjects worshipped with him. The character of the king decided the character of the people. The saving influence of righteous leaders. The power to lead others may come either from external circumstances or from personal qualities.
1. The influence given by external circumstances.
2. Besides the control given by external circumstances, we may notice the influence of personal qualities. Not what the man has, but what the man is, makes him a leader. Jeroboam is an instance in point. Beginning life as a common labourer, he died king of Israel. How continually have gifted, accomplished, and learned men brought saving help to the Church of God throughout her history. There is a subtle, mighty influence which should always be consecrated to holy uses--popularity, power to win the favour of others. Disciplined character has a peculiar mastery over others for good. Its control is quieter and deeper than any we have marked; it is the atmosphere of a soul refined to its highest uses. “All high beauty has a moral element in it. Gross and obscure natures, however decorated, seem impure shambles; but character gives splendour to youth, and awe to wrinkled skin and grey hairs.” God has been at great pains to fit souls for this service. (Monday Club Sermon.)
2 Chronicles 14:7
Therefore said he unto Judah, Let us build these cities . . . while the land is yet before us
The duty of improving present opportunity
(a Sunday-school sermon):--Consider--
The opportunity for labour with which we are blessed. “The land is yet before us.”
1. We have liberty to labour.
2. The facilities are great: multiplication of elementary books, circulation of Bibles, etc.
3. The encouragements are numerous. The prejudices of society are in our favour. God’s command, etc.
II. The importance of labouring while we have this opportunity.
1. What is the work to which we are called? That of teaching the young the Word of God (Deuteronomy 6:6-7; Psalms 78:5; Psalms 78:7; Proverbs 22:6).
2. The duty of improving existing opportunities. Conclusion: Address children. If you had to pass through a long and dark passage where there were many deep pits, how anxious, at the beginning, would you feel for light. Such is the Word of God given to you at your entrance into life (Psalms 119:105). (J. G. Breay, B.A.)
2 Chronicles 14:11-12
And Asa, cried unto the Lord his God.
Victories over superior numbers
These victories over superior numbers may easily be paralleled or surpassed by numerous striking examples from secular history. The odds were greater at Agincourt, where at least sixty thousand French were defeated by not more than twenty thousand Englishmen; at Marathon the Greeks routed a Persian army ten times as numerous as their own; in India English generals have defeated innumerable hordes of native warriors. For the most part victorious generals have been ready to acknowledge the succouring arm of the God of battles. Shakespeare’s Henry V, after Agincourt, speaks altogether in the spirit of Asa’s prayer: “O God, Thy arm was here; and not to us, but to Thy arm alone, ascribe we all.” When Elizabeth’s fleet defeated the Spanish Armada, the grateful piety of Protestant England felt that its foes had been destroyed by the breath of the Lord: “Afflavit Deus et dissipantur.” (W. H. Bennett, M.A.)
The superiority of moral to material force
Characteristic instances are to be found in the wider movements of international polities. Italy in the eighteenth century seemed as hopelessly divided as Israel under the judges, and Greece as completely enslaved to the “unspeakable Turk” as the Jews to Nebuchadnezzar; and yet, destitute as they were of any material resources, these nations had at their disposal great moral forces: the memory of ancient greatness and the sentiment of nationality; and to-day Italy can count hundreds of thousands like the chronicler’s Jewish kings, and Greece builds her fortresses by land and her ironclads to command the sea. The Lord has fought for Israel. But the principle has a wider application. The English and American pioneers of the movements for the abolition of slavery had to face what seemed an impenetrable phalanx of powerful interests and influences. It may be objected that if victory were to be secured by Divine intervention, there was no need to muster five hundred and eighty thousand men, or indeed any army at all. We have no right to look for Divine co-operation till we have done our best; we are to work out our own salvation, for it is God that worketh in us. (W. H. Bennett, M. A.)
King Asa’s prayer on the eve of battle
I. Our text is a prater--the surest weapon in war as in all other emergencies.
II. It is the prayer of a king on the eve of battle, and therefore partakes of a national character.
III. It is a prayer of faith, exhibiting reliance on the Divine arm for help, and therefore implying humiliation, together with a distinct conviction that no human force, however vast, can prevail, except under the recognised championship of the Almighty. (The Penny Pulpit.)
The all-sufficiency of God’s help
I. Asa acted promptly and energetically as the occasion required. Only one purpose moved him, and that was to bring out all the military strength of his kingdom, and at once, with no unnecessary delay, strike the foe, every soldier realising that the crown of victory was the prize to be won or lost, according as he should be faithful or unfaithful in his particular duty. Having acted thus promptly and energetically, then--
II. Asa called on God for help. He did not ask God to work a miracle on his behalf. Whoever calls upon God for help without first helping himself, without first putting forth his own efforts to secure that for which he invokes the Divine aid, will call upon God in vain. There are other elements of strength in war besides those which are merely physical. God is a moral and spiritual force which will make an army of inferior numbers more than adequate to encounter and overcome the mere physical force which inheres in superiority of numbers. Hence the wisdom and virtue of prayer.
III. What was the issue? “The Lord smote the Ethiopians before Asa, etc. (W. T. Tindley, D.D.)
This King Asa, Rehoboam’s grandson, had had a long reign of peace, which the writer of the Book of Chronicles traces to the fact that he had rooted out idolatry from Judah. “The land had rest, and he had no war . . . because the Lord had given him rest.” But their came a time when the war-cloud began to roll threateningly over the land, and a great army came up against him. Like a wise man he made his military dispositions first, and prayed next. This prayer contains the very essence of what ought to be the Christian attitude in reference to all the conditions and threatening dangers and conflicts of life.
I. The wholesome consciousness of our own impotence. It did not take much to convince Asa that he had “no power.” His army, according to the numbers given of the two hosts, was outnumbered two to one. If we look fairly in the face our duties, our tasks, our dangers, the possibilities of life and its certainties, the more humbly we think of our own capacity, the more wisely we shall think about God, and the more truly we shall estimate ourselves. The world says “Self-reliance is the conquering virtue.” Jesus says to us, “Self-distrust is the condition of all victory.” And that does not mean any mere shuffling off of responsibility from our own shoulders, but it means looking the facts of our lives, and of our own characters, in the face. And if we will do that, however apparently easy may be our course, and however richly endowed in mind, body, or estate we may be, we shall find that we each are like “the man with ten thousand” that has to meet “the King that comes against him with twenty thousand”; and we shaft not “desire conditions of peace” with our enemy, for that is not what in this ease we have to do, but we shall look about us, and not keep our eyes on the horizon, and on the levels of earth, but look up to see if there is not there an ally that we can bring into the field to redress the balance, and to make our ten as strong as the opposing twenty. Now all that is true about the disproportion between the foes we have to face and fight and our own strength. It is eminently true about us Christian people, if we are doing any work for our Master. You hear people say, “Look at the small number of professing Christians in this country, as compared with the numbers on the other side. What is the use of their trying to convert the world?” If the Christian Church had to undertake the task of Christianising the world with its own strength, we might well threw up the sponge and stop altogether. “We have no might.” But we are not only numerically weak. A multitude of non-effectives, mere camp-followers, loosely attached, nominal Christians have to be deducted from the muster-roll. So a profound self-distrust is our wisdom. But it is not to paralyse us, but to lead to something better, as it led Asa.
II. Summoning God into the world should follow wholesome self-distrust. Asa uses a remarkable expression, which is, perhaps, scarcely reproduced adequately in another verse, “It is nothing with Thee to help, whether with many or with them that have no power.” It is a strange phrase, but it seems most probable that the suggested rendering in the Revised Version is nearer the writer’s meaning, which says, “Lord! there is none beside Thee to help between the mighty and them that have no power,” which to our ears is a somewhat cumbrous way of saying that God, and God only, can adjust the difference between the mighty and the weak. Asa turns to God and says, “Thou only canst trim the scales and make the heavy one the lighter of the two by casting Thy might into it. So help us, O Lord, our God.” One man with God at his back is always in the majority. There is encouragement for people who have to fight unpopular causes in the world. The consciousness of weakness may unnerve a man; and that is why people in the world are always patting each other on the back and saying, “Be of good cheer, and rely upon yourself.” But the self-distrust that turns to God becomes the parent of a far more reliable self-reliance than that which trusts to men. My consciousness of need is my opening the door for God to come in. Just as you always find the lakes in the hollows, so you will always find the grace of God coming into men’s hearts to strengthen them and make them victorious, when there has been the preparation of the lowered estimate of one’s self. Hollow out your heart by self-distrust, and God will fill it with the flashing waters of His strength bestowed. The way by which we summon God into the field: Asa prays, “Help us, O Lord, our God, for we rest on Thee”; and the word that he employs for “rest” is not a very frequent one. It carries with it a very striking picture. It is used in that tragical story of the death of Saul, when the man that saw the last of him came to David and drew in a sentence the pathetic picture of the wearied, wounded, broken-hearted, discrowned, desperate monarch leaning on his spear. You can understand how hard he leaned, with what a grip he held it, and how heavily his whole, languid, powerless weight pressed upon it. And that is the word that is used here. “We lean on Thee” as the wounded Saul leaned upon his spear. Is that a picture of your faith?
III. Courageous advance should follow self-distrust and summoning god by faith. It is well when self-distrust leads to confidence. But that is not enough. It is better when self-distrust and confidence in God lead to courage. And as Asa goes on, “Help us, for we rely on Thee, and in Thy name we go against this multitude.” Never mind though it is two to one. What does that matter? Prudence and calculation are well enough, but there is a great deal of very rank cowardice and want of faith in Christian people, both in regard to their own lives and in regard to Christian work in the world, which goes masquerading under much too respectable a name, and calls itself “judicious caution” and “prudence.” If we have God with us, let us be bold in fronting the dangers and difficulties that beset us, and be sure that He will help us.
IV. The all-powerful plea which God will answer. “Thou art my God, let not man prevail against Thee.” That prayer covers two things. You may be quite sure that if God is your God you will not be beaten; and you may be quite sure that if you have made God’s cause yours He will make your cause His, and again you will not be beaten. “Thou art our God.” “It takes two to make a bargain,” and God and we have both to act before He is truly ours. He gives Himself to us, but there is an act of ours required, too, and you must take the God that is given to you, and make Him yours because you make yourselves His. And when I have taken Him for mine, and not unless I have, He is mine, to all intents of strength-giving and blessedness. (A. Maclaren, D.D.)
The name of God written in life
Our whole life ought to be filled with His name. You can write it anywhere. It does not need a gold plate to carve His name upon. It does not need to be set in jewels and diamonds. The poorest scrap of brown paper, and the bluntest little bit of pencil, and the shakiest hand will do to write the name of Christ; and all life, the trivialities as well as the crises, may be flashing and bright with the sacred syllables. Mohammedans decorate their palaces and mosques with no pictures, but with the name of Allah in gilded arabesques. Everywhere, on walls and roof, and windows and cornices, and pillars and furniture, the name is written. There is no such decoration for a life as that Christ’s name should be inscribed thereon. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "2 Chronicles 14". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany