READ: 2 Chronicles 16-18, Psalm 131, Mark 14, James 3
It is incredibly difficult to finish well. The last views we have of Noah, Lot, Gideon, Samson, Eli, David, and even Solomon for all his wisdom, are less than ideal. Asa is one of the more troubling of the lot. For 36 years Asa faithfully follows the Lord and even defeats a million-man army from Sudan. After 36 years Asa turns to the Syrians for help against Israel and God rebukes him: “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal” (2 Chron. 16:9a).
God is eager to act on our behalf and His one requirement is loyalty–unflinching loyalty to the end. You would think 36 years of loyalty would earn Asa a mulligan, but no. “You have done foolishly; therefore from now on you will have wars” (v. 9b). It is a fearful thing to fall from the hands of a loving God. Thirty-six years of loyalty could not carry Asa past treason–for that is what it is when we stop trusting the Lord. Something profound shifted in Asa. He started treating truth-tellers poorly and oppressing the people (v. 10) and became diseased in his feet, “yet in his disease he did not seek the Lord, but the physicians” (v. 12). Even a funeral bed filled with spices and fragrant ointments could not cover up the stench of a life that rotted at the end (v. 14).
Jehoshaphat, Asa’s son, seemed at first to take notice. He walked like David before the Lord (17:3). God established his kingdom (v. 5). Jehoshaphat delighted in the ways of the Lord (v. 6) and sent teachers with the law throughout the kingdom (vv. 7, 9). As a result God protected Jehoshaphat from the people around (v. 10). Our loyalty is our protection. But that loyalty must be to the end and it must be comprehensive. Jehoshaphat marries Jezebel’s daughter (!), goes to war as Ahab’s ally (and almost dies), and then gets confronted by Jehu: “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord? Therefore the wrath of the Lord is upon you” (19:2). Add Jehoshaphat to those who stumble at the end. Comprehensive loyalty includes having the same enemies God has. We cannot befriend those God is against. We cannot be mostly loyal–not even 36 years worth. God has to have all our trust, all our lives.
Because comprehensive loyalty is so rare, God seeks it out. And when God finds it, He shows Himself strong on behalf of the loyalists. My heart trembles at the biblical record. If these incredible men (far wiser, godlier, and stronger than I) could not be enduringly loyal, how can I? I think about Peter’s and the disciples’ promises of loyalty moments before they ran away, lied, and cursed the name of Jesus. My heart is also stirred: “Jesus, help me be that exceptional fool: stubborn enough to trust you with all my heart for all things, for all my days.”