The Word Made Fresh
1Then the LORD’s spirit filled Azariah son of Oded, 2and he went out to meet Asa and said to him, “Listen to me, Asa and all Judah and Benjamin: The LORD is with you as long as you are with the LORD. If you seek the LORD you shall find, but if you abandon the LORD you shall be abandoned. 3For a long time Israel was without the true God. They had no true priest and no law. 4But when they cried out to the LORD in their distress they found the God of Israel. 5In those days it wasn’t safe for anyone to safely travel because of all the violence that threatened the people. 6They were in distress because there was nation against nation and city against city and God sent them all kinds of problems. 7But as for you, be brave! Don’t let your efforts be half-hearted, and your work will be rewarded.”
8When Asa heard the prophet Azariah son of Oded he was strengthened with courage and did away with all the disgusting idols in the land of Judah and Benjamin and from the towns he had captured in the hills of Ephraim. He repaired the LORD’s altar in front of the entrance to the LORD’s house. 9He called together the people of Judah and Benjamin and also the people from Ephraim, Manasseh and Simeon who had deserted to him from Israel when they realized the LORD his God was with him. 10They came together in Jerusalem in the third month of the fifteenth year of Asa’s reign. 11They made sacrifices to the LORD that day from among all the animals they had brought: seven hundred oxen and seven thousand sheep. 12They made a promise to seek the LORD, the God of their ancestors, with all their heart and soul, 12and declared that whoever refused to seek the LORD, whether young or old, man or woman, should be put to death. 14They made promises to the LORD with shouting and loud voices, accompanied with horns and trumpets. 18All of Judah celebrated their promise because it had come from their hearts. They had sought God with all their hearts and the LORD answered them and gave them peace all around.
16King Asa removed his mother from her position as queen mother because she had made a disgusting idol of the goddess Asherah. Asa tore down her idol and smashed it and burned it at the Kidron streambed. 17Of course, not all the hilltop shrines were removed from Israel, but Asa’s heart was true all his life. 18He brought into God’s house all the gifts of silver and gold objects he and his father had devoted to the LORD. 19And the land was at peace until the thirty-fifth year of his reign.
1-7: Every now and then someone will pop up as God’s mouthpiece to advise the king. For David it was Nathan (1 Chronicles 17:3), for Rehoboam it was Shemaiah (2 Chronicles 12:5), for Abijah it was Iddo (2 Chronicles 13:22). Now comes Azariah son of Oded to confront Asa as he returns from his successful campaign against the Ethiopians. Rehoboam suffered defeat at the hands of the Egyptians and was told it was because he had abandoned the LORD. Now Asa, having successfully repelled the Ethiopians, is told by Azariah that if he, too, ever abandons the LORD, the LORD will abandon him. Azariah encourages him to continue his faithfulness and to be strong.
8-15: It is a wonderful thing what a little positive reinforcement can do for a man. Azariah’s pat on the back turns Asa into a sterling reformer. He orders the removal of idols all over Judah and the Israelite cities he has captured. He repairs the altar in Jerusalem and summons the people to a huge ceremony to renew their covenant with the LORD. This is a bold move, and a stroke of genius. The country has been inundated with refugees from Israel and the rituals in Jerusalem help assimilate them into Judah; they are told to repudiate the no-gods of Israel and resubmit themselves to the LORD. Or die.
16-19: Even the queen mother, Maacah, is made to toe the line. Asa removes her (she may actually have been his grandmother – see the note on 1 Kings 15:9-15) from her exalted position in the royal court because she has an idol made of the Aramean deity, Asherah. As a result of all these reforms, his kingdom enjoys a long period of peace. But their cousins to the north aren’t going away just yet.
A leader who is faithful and true to the LORD can do amazing things for the people he or she leads because the people will instinctively know they are not following someone who guards authority selfishly. Unfortunately, even though the text says Asa was true to the LORD all his days, we will find in the next chapter that was not exactly the case.