“There Exists a Reward for Your Activity”
AT THE head of his army, King Asa hastens down the deep valley from the Judean highlands to the coastal plain. Where the valley widens, Asa pauses and gasps. Below him is an enemy camp—and it is huge! Those Ethiopian troops must number one million—literally. Asa’s army totals a little over half that many men.
In the face of an impending battle, what occupies Asa more than anything else? Orders for his generals? Encouragement for his troops? Letters to his family? No, indeed! Faced with this crisis, Asa prays.
Before we review that prayer and examine what happened on this occasion, consider the kind of man Asa was. What made him act the way he did? Was he justified in seeking God’s help? What does the account regarding Asa tell us about how Jehovah blesses the activities of His servants?
During the 20 years that followed the division of Israel into two kingdoms, Judah had become thoroughly corrupted by pagan practices. When Asa became king in 977 B.C.E., even the royal court was tainted by the worship of Canaanite fertility gods. But the inspired chronicle of Asa’s reign says that he “proceeded to do what was good and right in the eyes of Jehovah his God.” Asa “removed the foreign altars and the high places and broke up the sacred pillars and cut down the sacred poles.” (2 Chron. 14:2, 3) Asa also ousted from the kingdom of Judah “the male temple prostitutes,” who practiced sodomy in the name of religion. Asa did not limit himself to these purges. He also urged the people to “search for Jehovah the God of their forefathers” and to observe “the law and the commandment” of God.—1 Ki. 15:12, 13; 2 Chron. 14:4.
Pleased with Asa’s zeal for true worship, Jehovah rewarded him with years of peace. The king could thus say: “We have searched for Jehovah our God. We have searched, and he gives us rest all around.” The people made use of this situation by fortifying the cities of the kingdom of Judah. “They went building and proving successful,” says the Biblical account.—2 Chron. 14:1, 6, 7.
ON THE BATTLEFIELD
In view of Asa’s record, we should not be surprised that he prayed when confronted with the largest human army mentioned in the Scriptures. Asa knew that God rewards acts of faith. In his prayer, the king pleaded for Jehovah’s help. Asa recognized that if he relied on God and had his backing, it did not matter how numerous or powerful the enemy was. Jehovah’s name was involved in this conflict, and Asa therefore appealed to God on that basis. The king prayed: “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. Do not let mortal man retain strength against you.” (2 Chron. 14:11) That was like saying: ‘The Ethiopian invasion is an attack on you, Jehovah. Do not allow your name to be dishonored by permitting weak humans to overthrow those who bear your name.’ So it was that “Jehovah defeated the Ethiopians before Asa and before Judah, and the Ethiopians took to flight.”—2 Chron. 14:12.
Today, Jehovah’s people face many powerful opponents. We will not fight them with material weapons on a literal battlefield. Yet, we can be sure that Jehovah will reward with victory all faithful ones who wage spiritual warfare in his name. Our personal battles may include exertion to resist the pervading spirit of moral laxity, to fight our own weaknesses, or to protect our family from defiling influences. Whatever adversity we face, however, we can find encouragement in Asa’s prayer. His victory was Jehovah’s victory. It showed what can be expected by all who rely upon God. No human power can withstand Jehovah.
ENCOURAGEMENT AND A WARNING
On his return from battle, Asa was met by Azariah. This prophet gave both encouragement and a warning: “Hear me, O Asa and all Judah and Benjamin! 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. . . . Be courageous and do not let your hands drop down, because there exists a reward for your activity.”—2 Chron. 15:1, 2, 7.
These words can strengthen our faith. They show that Jehovah will be with us as long as we serve him faithfully. When we cry out to him for help, we can be confident that he hears us. “Be courageous,” said Azariah. It often takes great courage to do what is right, but we know that we can do so with Jehovah’s help.
Because Asa’s grandmother Maacah had made “a horrible idol to the sacred pole,” Asa faced the difficult task of removing her from her royal position as “lady.” He met the challenge and also burned her idol. (1 Ki. 15:13) Asa was blessed for his resolve and courage. We too must stick unflinchingly to Jehovah and his righteous standards whether our relatives are loyal to God or not. If we do, Jehovah will reward us for our faithful conduct.
Part of Asa’s reward was to see many Israelites from the apostate northern kingdom flow into Judah when they observed that Jehovah was with him. They appreciated pure worship so much that they chose to leave their homes in order to live among servants of Jehovah. Asa and all Judah then joyfully entered into ‘a covenant to search for Jehovah with all their heart and soul.’ The result? God “let himself be found by them; and Jehovah continued to give them rest all around.” (2 Chron. 15:9-15) How we rejoice when lovers of righteousness embrace the pure worship of Jehovah!
However, there was also an ominous side to the words of the prophet Azariah. He warned: “If you leave [Jehovah] he will leave you.” Never may that happen to us, for the consequences can be tragic! (2 Pet. 2:20-22) The Scriptures do not reveal why Jehovah sent Asa this warning, but the king failed to heed it.
“YOU HAVE ACTED FOOLISHLY”
In the 36th year of Asa’s reign, King Baasha of Israel made hostile moves against Judah. Perhaps to prevent his subjects from expressing loyalty to Asa and pure worship, Baasha began to fortify the border city of Ramah, five miles (8 km) north of Jerusalem. Instead of seeking God’s help as he had when facing the Ethiopian invasion, Asa sought human help. He sent a gift to the king of Syria, asking him to attack the northern kingdom of Israel. When the Syrians carried out some attacks, Baasha withdrew from Ramah.—2 Chron. 16:1-5.
Jehovah was not pleased with Asa and sent the prophet Hanani to tell him so. Being aware of how God had dealt with the Ethiopians, Asa should have learned that Jehovah’s “eyes are roving about through all the earth to show his strength in behalf of those whose heart is complete toward him.” Perhaps Asa received bad advice or did not consider Baasha and his forces to be such a great threat and thought that he could handle it on his own. In any case, Asa resorted to human reasoning and failed to rely upon Jehovah. “You have acted foolishly respecting this,” said Hanani, “for from now on there will exist wars against you.”—2 Chron. 16:7-9.
Asa reacted badly. In a rage, he threw the prophet Hanani into the stocks. (2 Chron. 16:10) Could Asa have thought, ‘Do I deserve to be reproved after being faithful for many years?’ Now in his advancing years, had he lost some of his reasoning powers? The Bible does not say.
In the 39th year of his reign, Asa became very ill with an ailment in his feet. “Even in his sickness he searched not for Jehovah but for the healers,” says the account. At that time, Asa seems to have been neglecting his spiritual health. Evidently in that condition and frame of mind, he died in the 41st year of his rule.—2 Chron. 16:12-14.
Nevertheless, Asa’s good qualities and zeal for pure worship seem to have outweighed his errors. He never stopped serving Jehovah. (1 Ki. 15:14) From that standpoint, then, what can his life story teach us? It can help us to realize that we ought to reflect on how Jehovah helped us in the past, for such treasured memories can move us to pray for his assistance when we face new trials. Yet, we should not presume that we need no Scriptural counsel inasmuch as we have served God faithfully for years. Regardless of our record, Jehovah will reprove us if we err. We need to accept such correction mildly so that we benefit from it. Most important of all, our heavenly Father will be with us as long as we prove to be with him. Jehovah’s eyes search the whole earth for those acting faithfully toward him. He rewards them by exerting his power in their behalf. Jehovah did that for Asa, and He can do it for us.
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Jehovah rewards faithful ones who wage spiritual warfare
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Courage is needed to do what is right in Jehovah’s eyes