Asa the Ace?
There was a lot of excitement in the UK yesterday. Even in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis, street parties assembled (with social distancing) throughout Britain. It was fascinating to watch video footage of Churchill waving from the balcony of Buckingham Palace – cigar in mouth – to an excited multitude assembled on the Mall. The nation was called to reflect on a joyful, collective, sigh of relief - World War 2 was complete and peacetime won at last.
In recent weeks I've been doing some livestream stuff on Chronicles. Ezra reviews past history to learn from former kingdom glories. He stirs up former exiles, now returned to Zion, to look ahead to the Christ - the coming Messiah will sum-up and excel all that was best that didn't last. In his 10-year reign (v1), Asa, a good, right, king (v2), gives us a glimpse of the sort of Messiah we might expect.
"Asa his son reigned in his place. In his days the land had rest for ten years. And Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God" - 2 Chronicles 14:1-2
What are the traits that Ezra particularly notes?
First Asa was godly (v3-4)
Foreign idols were banned. Folk religion was stopped. Judah sought the LORD. Asa enforced its Torah. Cities were also purged. Incense altars were removed. True Yahwism was revived. God gave Judah rest.
"He took away the foreign altars and the high places and broke down the pillars and cut down the Asherim and commanded Judah to seek the LORD, the God of their fathers, and to keep the law and the commandment. He also took out of all the cities of Judah the high places and the incense altars. And the kingdom had rest under him" - 2 Chronicles 14:3-5.
Second Asa rebuilt cities (v6-7)
What a rebuilding project: suburbs, walls and towers; municipal gates and bars; his dividend of peace was massive civic construction projects. Peace, prosperity, and fortification was the result.
"He built fortified cities in Judah, for the land had rest. He had no war in those years, for the LORD gave him peace. And he said to Judah 'Let us build these cities and surround them with walls and towers, gates and bars. The land is still ours, because we have sought the LORD our God. We have sought him, and he has given us peace on every side.' So, they built and prospered" - 2 Chronicles 14:6-7.
Third Asa assembled armies (v8)
Now he turned his attention to the reconfiguring of the military: two huge fighting forces; fully-equipped for war; 300,000 troops from Judah and an equivalent Benjamite force - all were crack commandos.
"Asa had an army of 300,000 from Judah, armed with large shields and spears, and 280,000 men from Benjamin that carried shields and drew bows. All these were mighty men of valour" - 2 Chronicles 14:8.
Fourth Asa triumphed mightily (v9-15)
The Devil never takes an advance of God's Kingdom lying down - Ethiopia, no doubt incited, now launched an attack from the South: 300 panzer-tanks were no match for Asa's armed forces - he chased 1,000,000 troops from the field of Zephathah. Prayer was what prevailed, mass graves at Gerar the result.
"Zerah the Ethiopian came out against them with an army of a million men and 300 chariots, and came as far as Mareshah. And Asa went out to meet him, and they drew up their lines of battle in the Valley of Zephathah at Mareshah. And Asa cried to the LORD his God, 'O LORD, there is none like you to help, between the mighty and the weak. Help us, O LORD our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this multitude. O LORD, you are our God; let not man prevail against you.' So the LORD defeated the Ethiopians before Asa and before Judah, and the Ethiopians fled. Asa and the people who were with him pursued them as far as Gerar, and the Ethiopians fell until none remained alive, for they were broken before the LORD and his army. The men of Judah carried away very much spoil" - 2 Chronicles 14:9-13.
On the way home, they also plundered Philistines and nomads, enabled by God fear:
"They attacked all the cities around Gerar, for the fear of the LORD was upon them. They plundered all the cities, for there was much plunder in them. And they struck down the tents of those who had livestock and carried away sheep in abundance and camels. Then they returned to Jerusalem" - 2 Chronicles 14:14-15.
Christ is far, far, better than Asa both in devotion and duration. Devoted to true religion, His Gospel removes idols and His Spirit empowers preaching. His love compels saints praise. Messiah fortifies His Church - truth's pillar and bulwark. Founded on apostolic doctrine, with Christ Himself chief capstone, the Kingdom of God is now comprised of living bricks, knit in common faith and replete with loving truth. Jesus's army is vast, full of saint-soldiers valiant-for-truth. Fighting side by side, leaning on God's Word, no foe should make afraid. Fully clad and armed. Weapons of holy war. Both right-hand and left. Imbued with all prayer. Open mouths win war. Messiah won the battle. Yet Jesus fought alone. Not only desert temptations, but also in His cursed, sin-bearing, triumphant crucifixion. By His atoning blood, Christ has vanquished Satan and all demons - defeated and dispersed the curse of death and Hell, all powers and principalities, with full deliverance for sinners - from all God's enemies and ours.
How wonderful it was to be a citizen under Asa - all Christians should be ecstatic that we are saved and sanctified to serve Jesus. The victory is complete - D-Day is in the past. VE day now is sure - let's get involved in mopping up the earth until God's salvation is complete. There'll be so much wartime footage of the Church's mighty conquest, under the banner of King Jesus, to contemplate in the new cosmos!