The apostle Paul teaches that God’s purpose for creating nations was to draw the hearts of people back to Himself (Acts 17:26–27). An example of this can be found in the story of King Asa. God explains to Asa that, in the days of Israel’s judges, He had troubled the nation with every kind of distress and with international military pressure:
“For a long time Israel was without the true God, without a priest to teach them, and without the Law to instruct them. But whenever they were in trouble and turned to the LORD, the God of Israel, and sought him out, they found him. During those dark times, it was not safe to travel. Problems troubled the people of every land. Nation fought against nation, and city against city, for God was troubling them with every kind of problem” (2 Chron. 15:3–6).
The people and their leaders were placed in such distressing situations that they were compelled to either draw near to God in obedience or utterly forsake the Lord. Indeed, the book of Judges is replete with Israel’s cyclical pattern of rebellion, that resulted in God’s affliction, thus prompting repentance, which then produced deliverance. God troubled the nation as a means of provoking a change of heart and behavior.
The prophet Azariah revealed to Asa that God was not a helpless bystander in Israel’s history. Moreover, He did not blame the nation’s troubles upon its political policies. Certainly, we can assume that God used poor political decisions to accomplish His purposes, but God declares that it was ultimately He who permitted every kind of problem to arise within the nation, and that it was both a judgment and an act of mercy. In other words, God was not content to abandon the nation when it rejected Him. Instead, God did what was necessary to alert the people to their rebellion in order that He might redeem them and restore them to their true purpose.
Azariah exhorts King Asa, “The LORD is with you while you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you” (2 Chron. 15:2). Just as in the days of Israel’s judges, deliverance could be found in the time of King Asa if the people would seek God. In his commentary on Chronicles, Old Testament scholar John Thompson writes:
It was not that Asa needed courage to face another war but to undertake more fully a reform he had begun earlier. His reform program began at the start of his reign, but he was young and not able to resist the influence of his mother, Maacah, who encouraged various illegitimate religious practices (cf. v. 16). … [I]t is clear that it was the prophecy of Azariah (v. 1) that gave Asa the courage he needed in the face of his powerful mother to remove the abominable idols from the whole land of Judah and Benjamin and from the towns he had captured in the hills of Ephraim.
Unfortunately, sometimes God must trouble a nation before it is willing to look beyond itself. National crises, boundary disputes, and poor leadership are tools that God uses to alert us to the destructive consequences of our disobedience while there still remains time for repentance. Even when it appears God has turned against a nation or has abandoned it to experience the consequences of its decisions, God remains nearby, calling the people to set aside their rebellion and return to Him.
1. Thompson, John. New American Commentary, “The Reformation (15:8 –15).” Logos Bible Software.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. Biblegateway.com.