These chapters tell us about the up and down reign of King Asa. In chapter 14 he does what is right in the eyes of the Lord, and God establishes he reign with peace and prosperity for the kingdom. But something happens to him, and by the 36th year of his reign he’s a different man, a rebellious and stiff-necked man. When an enemy sets itself up against Judah, instead of seeking the Lord for protection, he goes to another king. This works, but the Lord is not happy with him:
7 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 has escaped from your hand. 8 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. 9 For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war.”
What a great picture the writer, and thus God, gives us of the human predicament. By nature there is no heart that can be fully committed to the Lord. By nature, Paul says, we are objects of God’s wrath. So as the eye of the Lord range throughout the earth, this commitment is something he will never find, that is, until Jesus of Nazareth is born.
Asa is just one example of the failure of the human heart to do what is required to have a deep and abiding relationship with a holy God. I think the contrast in these chapters makes it even more powerful. Here was one of the great kings of Israel, but he could not sustain his commitment to Yahweh. In fact, his response to being confronted with his infidelity is anger! In fact, “he was so engaged” he put the seer in prison. The human heart outside of Christ is wicked. His final indignity is an illness in which he also does not seek help from the Lord, “but only from physicians.” He would rather die, which of course he does, than submit himself to the Lord, a perfect picture of the sinful human heart.
Christ came to transform that heart from one of enmity to love, one that is enabled to be found as fully committed because the relationship is now as a father to a child, one of acceptance and love, not judgment and wrath. In effect, because of the work of Christ, we now want to love and follow our God and Father. Yes we fail again and again, but the failure doesn’t destroy us and drive us from him as it did Asa. In fact because of the depth of the mercy and grace in Christ, in the “it is finished,” the penalty paid, the debt canceled, God’s wrath fully satisfied in the perfection of Christ, our gratitude compels us. We can rejoice in the Lord because the relationship has been transformed by Him! We love him, as John says, because he first loved us. The power of the gospel.