It was an unfair fight. The people of the Kingdom of Judah were hopelessly outmatched. This was the biggest battle their King had ever faced.
2 Chronicles chapter 14 gives the account of King Asa. Asa, we’re told, “did what was good and right in the sight of the Lord” (verse 2; New Revised Standard Version). He removed foreign altars and idols and commanded Judah to seek God and keep His commandments (verse 4). The Kingdom experienced a period of peace under the King’s rule. Asa built cities and surrounded those cities with walls, towers, gates and bars to fortify them. Because of his leadership, Judah went through a period of prosperity.
Asa’s army had 300,000 fighters, armed with large shields and spears. His army, described as “mighty” also had 280,000 troops from Benjamin who had shields and bows.
But one day, Zerah, the Ethiopian, decided to attack Asa’s Kingdom. The trouble was Zerah’s army had 1,000,000 men!
King Asa and his army went out to fight Zerah. The battlefield was a valley called Zephathah. King Asa knew his army was outnumbered. Greatly so.
What was his response? Attempt a peaceful negotiation with Zerah? Run and try to rally the troops to ambush the Ethiopians on another day? Call on allies from other nations to join the fight? Surrender?
None of the above options. He prayed, saying (verse 11):
“O Lord, there is no difference for you between helping the mighty and the weak.
Help us, O Lord our God, for we rely on you,
and in your name we have come against this multitude.
O Lord, you are our God; let no mortal prevail against you.”
The next verse (verse 12) has a powerful beginning: “So God defeated the Ethiopian army before Asa and before Judah and the Ethiopians fled.” King Asa went in pursuit and the Ethiopians “fell until no one remained alive; for they were broken before the Lord and his army (verse 13).” The people of Judah went on to plunder the cities and went back to Jerusalem with livestock in abundance.
There are lessons in this great battle.
Let God fight for you
I thought it was interesting that the Bible didn’t say “Asa and his army” beat the Ethiopians. It was God and God’s army who did so. Yes, many Christians know the numerous scriptures about letting the Lord fight for you but when we face the cancer diagnosis, the challenge at work or in our marriage or the medical report about a sick family member, we quiver and quake. It doesn’t make sense.
Psychologists refer to this concept as “cognitive dissonance”. It’s the state of simultaneously holding two beliefs that contradict each other. You may say: “I know God is capable of saving me, but I don’t believe He actually will. Why would He bother with me?” Excuses may range from: “I haven’t been reading my Bible lately…I missed one month of tithing; I only prayed for 5 minutes this morning. I swore when another driver cut me off in traffic. This problem is a mess of my own making. God is too busy. He has the universe to control. God doesn’t care about this.”
At the heart of it: “I am undeserving of rescue or God doesn’t care enough about me. I’m not favoured. Delivery by God is reserved for special, super-Christians, the chosen few.”
You are special
Yes, your mum, your favourite teacher and your best friend may have told you while you were growing up that you were remarkable, one-of-a-kind. As you got older you may have felt less special because of the way others have treated, or rather, mistreated you. A question you may have as a result of their behaviour is: am I really that special to God?
The psalmist had this to say in Psalm chapter 116, verses 1-2:
1 I love the Lord, because he has heard
my voice and my supplications.
2 Because he inclined his ear to me,
therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
The image conveyed here is God drawing near to us when we pray for His deliverance and God actually listening. The psalmist was confident he would be heard. The psalmist’s references to “calling on the name of the Lord” treat prayer as an act of worship and thanksgiving to God (see verses 13 and 17). He speaks about it as if calling on God is something God is pleased when we do. We know that God wants us to live rightly so that sin doesn’t block our prayers but a repentant heart crying out to God in earnest is a call God doesn’t ignore.
I know it’s hard. We see examples around us where prayers don’t appear to have been answered or we have been through difficult situations in the past that didn’t end the way we wanted them to.
But can we allow God to be God? Can we pray and give the problem to Him totally, to answer as He sees fit? Can we truly be okay with the answer, even if it’s not what we wanted to hear? Rough stuff, I know. But mature faith enables us to accept God’s response, whatever it is.
At the end of the day, the fight is rigged for Christians. Even if we die, we have eternity with God. Someone sent me a meme this week that says “I never lose, I either win or I learn.”
Trust God for victory in the small battles too
Later in life, King Asa developed a foot disease. 2 Chronicles chapter 16 verse 12 says that as his sickness got more severe, instead of calling on God, Asa relied on doctors. He died 2 years later. Medical technology is great. We need good doctors, nurses and hospitals. Nevertheless, God is the primary source of healing. He heals using various means.
It boggles my mind that Asa who saw with his own eyes God’s delivery of his people from an all-consuming army wouldn’t have asked God to cure a case of athlete’s foot! God cares about the big and small things in our lives.
I urge you to learn from King Asa. Whether you are mighty or weak, God saves. Rely on Him. Nothing will prevail against you.
Sharma Taylor is a corporate attorney with a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Law from Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. This year, she is committed to believing for bigger things.
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