Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Good King Gone Bad

There was once a king named Asa, who reigned over part of a divided Israel, called Judah between 912 – 873 B.C.  Unlike some of the kings before him and many of the kings after him, Asa followed God with all his heart.  He tore down the idols and he deposed people who worshipped idols including his own grandmother.  He ushered in a golden age for his kingdom.  Then, inexplicably, in the thirty-sixth year of his reign, he stopped relying on God and began relying on other people. 
Upon threat of war, Asa made a treaty with a former enemy.  After this, a prophet, Hanani, came to Asa and told the king that he should have asked for God’s help as he had done all his life.  Rather than admit his mistake, Asa did what many of us do when confronted with our errors; he got angry and defensive.  He had Hanani imprisoned. In addition, Asa took his anger out on his own people and began oppressing them. The last three years of Asa’s reign were plagued with war.  Finally, he contracted a painful foot disease and rather than ask God for help and healing, he went to the doctors, who were unable to heal him.  He died three years later.
What happened?  How did Asa go from being a good king and a faithful follower of God to a dictator and one who rejected and ignored God?  How did he lose his Purpose?  I have a few theories.  They are only theories based on the information in the story itself, but perhaps they are worth considering.
Maybe he just got tired of doing everything himself.  Thirty-five years is a long time in any job and perhaps the struggle of being a good king wore on him.  It is often more work to do the right thing than it is to do the wrong thing, especially when one is doing it alone.  There is no mention of a wife, friends or advisors in his life.  He had a son, Jehoshaphat, so he must have been married, but we don’t know the health of that relationship.  The right partner, friends or counselors in life can often keep us from making foolish errors.  In fact, one of the hallmarks of a good relationship is the ability to point out mistakes or bad behavior in a loving way.  King Solomon said, “In a multitude of counselors there is great wisdom.”
Maybe he found his Purpose in being king, but after 35 years, he needed a new Purpose.  This can happen.  Some things are for a season of life, not the entirety of it.  Again, 35 years is a long time to do the same job.  Maybe he wanted to do something else and didn’t know how to extricate himself.  In those days, being a king was a lifetime job.  Yet, most of us are born with several skills and abilities and it’s frustrating when we’ve hit our peak but we can’t, or choose not to, go on to other things.
Perhaps he believed he didn’t need to be in his Purpose any longer.   Perhaps he thought his age and his years of service allowed him to take it easy and do what he wanted rather than what he was called to do.  I don’t think our job is over until it’s over though.
Maybe he believed that his age or his physical condition predetermined his behavior.  There are older people who are wise and who are role models.  Sadly, there are also older people who are neither.  I recognize the prejudice I have in myself with regard to older people.  When I see an older person, I assume, because of his or her age, he or she is wise and comforting.  That’s not the case far more often than I’d like to admit.  Age and experience do not automatically grant maturity and wisdom.  We get maturity and wisdom (and keep them) by changing erroneous behaviors and ways of thinking.
Finally, perhaps his Purpose was really at an end.  Perhaps he needed to retire, rest and read.  Perhaps he needed to be a mentor or an advisor.  Perhaps he needed to get his affairs in order and spend his last days serving God by just being with Him.
The truth is we don’t really know why Asa acted the way he did.  No other information was provided.  What is known is that people can lose their Purpose.  This, for me, is a lesson to stay on guard and to be present until the end of my days. At any time, during his last three years, King Asa had an opportunity to turn things around.  He chose not to and we don’t know why.   Every moment is an opportunity, but every moment is also a test.  Asa missed the opportunities and failed his test.  We don’t have to do either.  We only need to Get Started and Keep Going…every single day.