As last year came to a close, part of my Bible reading focused on 1 & 2 Kings and Chronicles. Several distinct patterns flowed through the text.
Kings who were evil rarely changed. Those who did received forgiveness and restoration quickly.
Very few kings, even the godly ones, followed God faithfully from beginning to end.
When good kings fell, it was because God had made them successful, but eventually they relied on their success instead of on God.
The last point hits closest to home for me in my daily life. When I first try a new task, I fear failure. So I hit my knees.
Lord, what do You want me to write?
Lord, I have no idea what to teach. Help me!
Lord, planning and conducting education for my children is overwhelming. Please guide me!
Over time, however, I gain experience. I learn things and begin to apply what I have learned. I do not immediately drop the prayers, but I gradually cease praying over the areas where I have experience.
Lord, I have this blog post, but will You help me write the article?
Okay, Lord, I can handle teaching the youth on Wednesday night. I just need Your help with this Bible study prep.
Lord, the curriculum is all set and figured out, but our schedule isn’t working anymore. Will You give me a new one?
Oh what a graceful God I serve! Almost every time I begin to rely on my own experience, He gives me a nudge. Usually, it seems that nudge comes from reading about Israelite kings like Asa.
Asa had an army of three hundred thousand men from Judah, equipped with large shields and with spears, and two hundred and eighty thousand from Benjamin, armed with small shields and with bows. All these were brave fighting men. Zerah the Cushite marched out against them with an army of thousands upon thousands and three hundred chariots, and came as far as Mareshah. Asa went out to meet him, and they took up battle positions in the Valley of Zephathah near Mareshah. Then Asa called to the Lord his God and said, “Lord, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, Lord our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this vast army. Lord, you are our God; do not let mere mortals prevail against you.” The Lord struck down the Cushites before Asa and Judah. The Cushites fled, and Asa and his army pursued them as far as Gerar. Such a great number of Cushites fell that they could not recover; they were crushed before the Lord and his forces. The men of Judah carried off a large amount of plunder. 2 Chronicles14:8-13
Asa had a huge army, ready to fight. But he still called on God to fight the battle for him. This time, anyway. Unfortunately, later in his reign a different story takes shape.
In the thirty-sixth year of Asa’s reign Baasha king of Israel went up against Judah and fortified Ramah to prevent anyone from leaving or entering the territory of Asa king of Judah. Asa then took the silver and gold out of the treasuries of the Lord’s temple and of his own palace and sent it to Ben-Hadad king of Aram, who was ruling in Damascus. “Let there be a treaty between me and you,” he said, “as there was between my father and your father. See, I am sending you silver and gold. Now break your treaty with Baasha king of Israel so he will withdraw from me.” 2 Chronicles 16:1-3
God was not amused.
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. 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. 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.” Asa was angry with the seer because of this; he was so enraged that he put him in prison. At the same time Asa brutally oppressed some of the people. The events of Asa’s reign, from beginning to end, are written in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel. In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was afflicted with a disease in his feet. Though his disease was severe, even in his illness he did not seek help from the Lord, but only from the physicians. 2 Chronicles 16:7-12
Usually I heed nudges like this one, desiring to not follow in the final footsteps of Asa. Sometimes, I’m a bit more thickheaded. Oh, how wonderful it is that I serve a gracious God! He disciplines me, as He did Asa, reminding me over and over again to rely on Him. The discipline may come through failure. It may come through stress that wears down my body. It may come through things falling apart and falling behind at home or in my work. Whatever it is, He never ceases to speak to me, to get my attention, and to woo me back to full reliance on Him.
Lord, may I rely on You fully today. May I wake up tomorrow determine to make the same decision. Thank You for Your reliability, Your nudges, Your discipline, and Your grace!