Monday, August 29, 2011

Asa & Mary Baker Eddy (I Kings 15:24)

Who was Jehoshaphat’s father? King Asa.

Jehoshaphat’s father, Asa, was king of Judah (I Kings 15:8-24; II Chronicles 14:1-16:14). The civil war that divided Israel into Judah (south) and Israel (north) was the result of the unreasonableness of Asa’s grandfather, Rehoboam (I Kings 12:1-20). As such, Asa was the third king of Judah.

Asa is one of the few kings of the divided monarchy that receives a favorable review in the Biblical text (I Kings 15:11, 14; II Chronicles 14:2). He reigned for 41 years (II Chronicles 16:13). Spiritually, he reinforced strict national observance of Judaism (II Chronicles 14:3-5; 15:8-15) and even removed his own mother (possibly grandmother), Maacah, for heathenism (I Kings 15:13; II Chronicles 15:16). Politically, Asa stopped a large scale invasion by the Egyptian-backed chieftain Zerah the Ethiopian (II Chronicles 14:9-15) and outbid Baasha, king of Israel, to secure a treaty with Ben-Hadad, king of Aram, to thwart Baasha’s advance on his capitol (I Kings 15:16-22; II Chronicles 16:1-6).

Were someone to summarize your life as the book of Kings did Asa’s, what accomplishments would be listed? What failures? If your mother were sinning (hypothetically, I do not mean to talk about anybody’s mama) would you correct her?

Though Kings chronicles only one criticism of Asa, Chronicles relays three. Each book notes that the high places were not removed during Asa’s administration but both quickly add comments lauding the king’s heart (I Kings 15:14; II Chronicles 15:17). Chronicles adds two opprobriums, both questioning Asa’s total reliance upon God late in his life. The seer Hanani accused the ruler of being overly dependent on his alliance with Aram and Asa imprisoned the prophet in response (II Chronicles 16:7-10). Finally, though both Kings and Chronicles record an anticlimactic foot ailment incurred during his last days (I Kings 15:23; II Chronicles 16:12), Chronicles adds the censure, “His disease was severe, yet even in his disease he did not seek the LORD, but the physicians (II Chronicles 16:12 NASB)”. Ironically, Asa’s name means “healer” or “physician” in Hebrew.

Some religious groups, most famously Christian Science, have used this latter disparagement as a proof text to reject worldly medicine even during a severe illness. Despite being married to a man named Asa, the case of the Biblical Asa is not found in founder Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910)’s opus Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. He was, however, written about in the publication she founded, The Christian Science Journal. In 1910, Silas Cobb wrote, “there is no record that God or Jesus Christ made use of any material remedy to cure disease; but it is recorded that king Asa ‘slept with his fathers,’ after trying drugs to heal him; which would seem to indicate that it was wrong (The Christian Science Journal,Vol. 28, No. 3, June, 1910).”

Asa is criticized for not seeking the Lord first, not for consulting physicians. It is not an either/or proposition. A physician can be the hands of God in a given situation. Both the Old and New Testaments record servants of God recommending medication. Isaiah the prophet used a “cake of figs” to heal a boil (II Kings 20:7 NASB) and Paul prescribed Timothy “a little wine” to treat a stomach ailment (I Timothy. 5:23 NASB).

Do you believe that God still cures illnesses? Why did Asa, who was devoted to God, not seek divine assistance in this instance? When you get ill, do you pray? What if you deem the illness to be insignificant? Why was this anticlimactic detail included in Asa’s life summary?

Perhaps it was recorded to remind that Asa could not jump like his son Jehoshaphat...

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