“As soon as Asa heard these words, the prophecy of Azariah the son of Oded, he took courage and put away the detestable idols from all the land of Judah and Benjamin and from the cities that he had taken in the hill country of Ephraim, and he repaired the altar of the LORD that was in front of the vestibule of the house of the LORD” (v. 8).
Continuing our look at the reign of King Asa of Judah as recorded in 2 Chronicles, we come today to a fuller description of the king’s religious reforms. After Asa’s defeat of Zerah the Ethiopian (2 Chron. 14:9–15), Azariah the son of Oded met Asa to encourage his reformation. Azariah exhorted Asa that the Lord would be with him while he was with the Lord but that the Lord would forsake him if he forsook the Lord. God would reward Asa if he were to continue reforming Judah’s religion (15:1–7).
Azariah’s speech reflects the covenantal dynamic of God’s blessed presence and cursed absence. Since God is omnipresent, He is never wholly absent from His people or from anything in creation. There exists no place where the Lord is not at hand (Ps. 139). However, God does not always manifest His presence in terms of blessing. For God to be with His people as they are with Him means that He is with them to bless them with success as they seek His face and strive to obey Him. For God to forsake His people when they forsake Him means that He hands them over to discipline and to the covenantal curses of defeat when they impenitently disobey Him (Deut. 28). The Lord is always with His creation, particularly His covenant people, and He is there either to bless or to curse.
Azariah’s prophecy moved Asa to take “courage and put away the detestable idols” (2 Chron. 15:8) from Judah and Benjamin as well as from the cities he conquered in the hill country of Ephraim. He also led the Judahites, Benjaminites, and defectors from the northern tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Simeon in making a covenant to seek only the Lord. This description reflects the fact that Benjamin, though originally part of the northern kingdom of Israel, was eventually absorbed by Judah. It also demonstrates that many individuals from the northern tribes did not abandon the Davidic monarchy when the kingdom was divided but rather remained loyal to David’s descendants. Note that Simeon’s territory originally lay in the south, surrounded by Judah’s tribal allotment (Josh. 19:1–9), but for reasons not entirely known to us, many Simeonites moved north.
Asa was so committed to his reform that he even removed Maacah, his grandmother (the word translated “mother” can also refer to a more distant female relative), from her position as queen mother because she was an idolater (2 Chron. 15:16; see 1 Kings 15:2). He did not let family ties keep him from doing what was right.
Coram DeoLiving before the face of God
Jesus says that we are not worthy of Him if we love our mother or father more than we love Him (Matt. 10:37). Practically speaking, one of the things this means is that we cannot let our love for our parents allow us to overlook their idolatry. In other words, we, like Asa, must be willing to bear witness to our parents to the truth of the one true God if they reject Him, and we cannot let our love for our relatives move us to join them in rejecting the Lord.