To inspire his downcast audience, the Chronicler recounted the days Judah enjoyed under men like King Asa, including their military success and spiritual devotion. The Chronicler elevated Asa as an example for his audience. He noted, “Asa did what was good and right in the sight of the LORD his God…He told the people of Judah to seek the LORD God of their ancestors and to carry out the instructions and the command” (2 Chron 14:2, 4). King Asa, reigning over the settled land of Judah, said to the people, “Let’s build these cities and surround them with walls and towers, with doors and bars. The land is still ours because we sought the LORD our God. We sought Him and He gave us rest on every side” (2 Chron 14:7). While this rest was temporarily interrupted by the Ethiopian invasion, Asa prayed in faith that Lord would not allow His devout ones to be routed by a foreign power (2 Chron 14:8-15; themes permeating Psalms 123 and 129). What is the point? The returned exiles and their descendants should make haste to seek the Lord in hopes that they too could regain control of their land.
This was the goal of the author also in 2 Chronicles 15. When the Spirit of God came on Azariah, he prophesied to the king, saying, “For many years Israel has been without the true God, without a teaching priest and without law, but when they turned to the LORD God of Israel in their distress and sought Him, He was found by them” (2 Chron 15:3-4). Could not the Chronicler’s audience identify? He hoped so, and the bulk of 2 Chronicles 15 was written as a stimulus for the Chronicler’s audience to respond like Asa. The king removed idolatry from the cities and renewed the altar of the Lord in the temple (2 Chron 15:8). Because of Judah’s faithfulness, “The LORD gave them rest on every side” (2 Chron 15:15).
In order to warn his audience of the dangers of not trusting in the Lord in times of danger, the author recounted in 2 Chronicles 16 Asa’s failure to rely upon the Lord. When Israel’s King Baasha came against Judah, Asa made a treaty with the king of Aram. Judah was saved, but Asa was censured. Hanani confronted the king, “Were not the Cushites and Libyans a vast army with very many chariots and horsemen? When you depended on the LORD, He handed them over to you. For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to show Himself strong for those whose hearts are completely His” (2 Chron 16:8-9). Asa’s heart was hardened. He put Hanani in prison and when he became ill he did not seek the Lord for healing (2 Chron 16:10-12).
While the Chronicler noted, “There was no war until the thirty-fifth year of Asa’s reign” (2 Chron 15:19), the next three years were dominated by strife in Judah. The cumulative arrogance of Solomon, Jeroboam, and Rehobaom—together with the rampant idolatry Israel committed in the Promised Land—led to war after war before and after the reign of Asa. Besides the civil wars of the divided kingdom, Israel and Judah had to endure attacks from Syria, Assyria, Egypt, and the Babylonians. From the latter days of Solomon’s reign onward, Israel would never again dwell in Canaan in freedom and peace. While Joshua recognized in his day that the Lord had given His people rest from their enemies (Josh 21:43-44), the land did not remain at rest. In the Old Testament, the concept of spiritual rest was inseparable from the absence of war. As God’s redemptive plan progresses into the New Testament, spiritual rest is inseparable from reliance upon Jesus Christ.
(1) In Matt 11:28-29, Jesus said, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for yourselves.”
(2) Jesus’ statement is why the author of Hebrews could so boldly challenge his readers to seek spiritual rest in covenant faithfulness to Christ. After detailing the unfaithfulness of the wilderness generation, he said, “Let us then make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall into the same pattern of disobedience” (Heb 4:11).