“Like Father, Like Son”
Not in Asa’s Case!
WHAT was your father like? Or, if you are a woman, what was your mother like?
A common English saying is “Like father, like son.” The same idea is carried in the German Der Apfel fällt nicht weit vom Stamm. (The apple falls not far from the trunk.) These sayings spring from the fact that a child often has traits and attitudes that his parent had before him.
Is that so with you? Maybe persons have even said that you act or think like your parent. Are you pleased with that? Do you want to be like your father or mother?
Probably you can think of many admirable things about your parent that you would be happy to display yourself. But what if a person honestly saw that his parent’s way of life ran counter to some Bible principles? Of course, he would not rebel openly against such a parent. But in view of how strong parental influence is, a son or a daughter in that situation would need to put forth sincere, persistent effort to develop ways or attitudes that did not follow the parental pattern. Yet it would be worth doing so, especially if this would bring the offspring closer to God, our heavenly Father. We can see this from the interesting Biblical example of Asa.
THE COURSE ASA TOOK
In the 10th century B.C.E. Asa became king of Judah. His father Abijam (Abijah) had set a bad example; instead of zealously trusting in Jehovah God, Asa’s father tolerated idolatrous practices at “high places” of false worship. In this, Abijam was “walking in all the sins of his father,” Rehoboam. (1 Ki. 14:22-24; 15:3) So do you think that Abijam’s son Asa could break away from the unfaithful pattern? Or, would it be, “Like father, like son”?
The revealing history recorded in the Scriptures shows that Asa did not follow in the steps of his father or grandfather. “Asa proceeded to do what was right in the eyes of Jehovah, like David his forefather.” Yes, he chose not to be like his immediate father, or even his grandfather. He patterned himself after his great-great-grandfather, David, in zeal for true worship. The Bible goes on to say about Asa: “He had the male temple prostitutes pass out of the land and removed all the dungy idols that his forefathers had made.” (1 Ki. 15:11, 12; 2 Chron. 14:2-5a) He carried on a vigorous campaign against idolatry.
REWARDED BY JEHOVAH
Asa’s faith in Jehovah was grandly rewarded. How? Well, in time a force of a million men under Zerah the Ethiopian came against the kingdom of Judah. The king appealed to the Most High with the words: “O Jehovah, as to helping, it does not matter with you whether there are many or those with no power. Help us, O Jehovah our God, for upon you we do lean, and in your name we have come against this crowd. O Jehovah, you are our God.”—2 Chron. 14:9-11.
God listened to this king who was proving to be different from his father. With divine help, Asa’s subjects succeeded in administering a humiliating defeat to the enemy Ethiopians.—2 Chron. 14:12, 13.
After this the prophet Azariah met Asa and encouraged him and his subjects to remain faithful to Jehovah, saying: “Jehovah is with you as long as you prove to be with him; and if you search for him, he will let himself be found by you, but if you leave him he will leave you.” Possibly referring to the turbulent period of Israel’s unfaithfulness before the start of the monarchy, Azariah continued: “Many were the days that Israel had been without a true God. . . . There were many disorders among all the inhabitants of the lands. And they were crushed to pieces, nation against nation and city against city, because God himself kept them in disorder with every sort of distress.” But it did not need to be that way. If both people and king proved different from their unfaithful forefathers, the prophet said that “there exists a reward for your activity.”—2 Chron. 15:1-7.
Asa and his subjects responded well to the words of Azariah. They continued the start that had been made in cleansing the nation of idolatry. At the temple of Jehovah, they put the altar again in a proper condition, for it evidently had been defiled earlier. During an assembly held in the 15th year of Asa’s rule, the people covenanted to serve Jehovah and agreed that those who deliberately refused to do so should not live. Among those assembled were many from the northern 10-tribe kingdom who had deserted to Asa “when they saw that Jehovah his God was with him.”—2 Chron. 15:8-15.
As for Asa, he did not even hold back from taking action against his idolatrous grandmother Maacah, who was regarded as a kind of ‘first lady’ in the kingdom. “Because she had made a horrible idol to the sacred pole,” or the goddess Asherah, Asa did not permit her to continue in her position.—1 Ki. 15:13; 2 Chron. 15:16.
THE TENDENCY TO SLIP
Anyone who has chosen to be different in some respect from a godless parent may find that continued effort is needed in order to cultivate a Christian personality. For some time a person may seem to succeed in being different, but then slip back into the pattern of his godless parent when he grows older or comes under special pressure. We can note that danger from Asa’s life.
It was “in the thirty-sixth year of the reign of Asa”b that Israelite King Baasha made a move against the southern kingdom of Judah. To prevent his subjects from deserting to Asa, Baasha began fortifying the border city of Ramah. Instead of continuing to trust in Jehovah’s protection, Asa resorted to intrigue. Asa bribed Syrian King Ben-hadad to break his covenant with the Israelite 10-tribe kingdom. Syrians raided Israelite cities in the north, forcing Baasha to stop his building work and to withdraw his forces from Ramah. Asa mustered his subjects and also invaded the territory of the 10-tribe kingdom. They seized the building materials at Ramah and used these to do building work at Geba and Mizpah.—2 Chron. 16:1-6.
However, Asa’s faithless action did not escape the notice of Jehovah. Through his prophet Hanani, God told Asa: “You leaned upon the king of Syria and did not lean upon Jehovah your God. . . . Did not the Ethiopians and the Libyans themselves happen to be a very great military force in multitude, in chariots and in horsemen; and because of your leaning upon Jehovah did he not give them into your hand? For, as regards Jehovah, his eyes are roving about through all the earth to show his strength in behalf of those whose heart is complete toward him. You have acted foolishly respecting this, for from now on there will exist wars against you.”—2 Chron. 16:7-9.
On hearing these words, did Asa humble himself? No. He took offense, commanding that Hanani be imprisoned. Asa also began to oppress some others among his subjects. The final three years of Asa’s life were not happy ones. He suffered from an affliction of his feet, possibly gout. But in this case, too, he did not look to Jehovah God for help but sought the aid of healers who may have resorted to occult means in an effort to bring about cures. After having ruled for about 41 years, Asa died.—1 Ki. 15:23, 24; 2 Chron. 16:10, 12-14.
Asa’s life demonstrates clearly that we cannot ignore the influence of our parents, an influence for good or for bad. But Asa showed that “Like father, like son” need not be an inevitable rule.
a Second Chronicles 15:17 and; 1 Kings 15:14 indicate that ‘Asa did not remove the high places.’ This may mean that, despite having been destroyed earlier, the high places cropped up again during Asa’s rule. Or, it may be that high places as centers of idolatry were removed, whereas improper worship of Jehovah at high places continued.
b Evidently counting not his actual rule but from the time that the 10 tribes broke away from the royal house of David.