Asa and Gout; Starting Strong and Finishing Weak
“In the thirty ninth year of his reign Asa became diseased in his feet. His disease was severe, yet even in his disease he did not seek the Lord, but the physicians.” – 2 Chronicles 16:12
Asa, the third king of the southern kingdom of Judah, is a man who oftentimes gets overlooked within the pages of God’s Word. Historically, he has been somewhat overshadowed by his own son, King Jehoshaphat. But Asa’s life is a life that every believer should ponder. It is the perfect example of a good start with a poor finish.
Much was accomplished for the glory of God under the leadership of King Asa. His reign lasted for 41 years, a timeframe in which great spiritual awakening occurred among the people of Judah. For most of his tenure, Asa was determined to honor God (1 Kings 15:11). He led spiritual reform throughout the land by driving away heathen cults saturated in idol worship. It was Asa’s personal mission to purge the land of pagan worship and idolatry. In fact, he eventually dethroned his own grandmother, who at the time was acting as queen. Even she was involved in pagan idolatrous worship. Her name was Maacah, and she was guilty of setting up asherah poles, instruments used in idol worship (1 Kings 15:12-13). Asa’s godly traits do not end there. He was also known for showing a compassionate heart. The population of Judah under Asa’s leadership greatly multiplied because of a steady flow of refugees from the neighboring Northern Kingdom of Israel. They were people seeking safety, national security, and personal freedom. King Asa welcomed these strangers and took them in, and did so out of pure compassion (2 Chronicles 15:9). With King Jehoshaphat succeeding him, the people of Judah were blessed to have two consecutive kings that, for the most part, were committed to the things of God. Their reigns together totaled 66 years.
But sadly, the end of Asa’s reign was not that glorious. Even though he started out as a man diligently seeking after the Lord, he did not finish strong. His last years were marked with compromise and disregard for the things of God. For instance, at one point he took riches and valuables out of the Lord’s house and offered them to the pagan king of Syria. (2 Chronicles 16:2). But in doing so, Asa was aligning himself with a non-believing pagan. Asa’s compromising pact with a worldly pagan king should serve as a reminder to us that God’s people are not called to align themselves with the world.
Yet there is more to the story. Similar to how God confronted King David through the prophet Nathan about his sin (2 Samuel 12:1-12), God sent a prophet to confront Asa (2 Chronicles 16:7-9). But instead of repenting, he held on to his sin and became bitter towards God. By the end of his life, King Asa had become extremely ill with a sickness in his feet. Most scholars feel that his sickness was what you and I know today as gout. He sought the advice of physicians, but because of his bitterness towards God, he did not seek the counsel of the greatest physician of all.
I have met a few believers who are guilty of doing the opposite of what King Asa did pertaining to his sickness. They pray to the great physician and neglect going to doctors. This raises a question. Should a Christian go to the doctor when we have the Lord as our great physician? The answer is yes. Seeking the care of doctors and seeking the Lord is not an “either or” situation. Rather it is a “both and” situation. King Asa unfortunately consulted the doctors only. Others seek the Lord only and do not seek out medical treatment. Both of these actions are wrong. God wants you to humbly worship Him and seek his face when you are physically ill (Exodus 23:25), but at the same time, you should go see the doctors God has placed in your path. Doctors are a gracious gift from God, and can be used as tools to perform His will.
Undoubtedly, Asa’s life had its ups and downs. Yet his story offers us lessons about running the race and staying the course so we can finish strong (2 Timothy 4:7) Ask God to speak to you clearly about what you can learn from Jehoshaphat’s dad.