I love the historical books because they are stories about people. Inevitably, these people are flawed – some more than others, but God’s grace and faithfulness are always center-stage!
In today’s reading, there are four main characters: Three ancient kings and Paul.
Paul’s story in Acts comes to an end in today’s reading. We find Paul imprisoned in high standing in Rome – receiving guests in self-provided housing. I’ve always thought this was a strange way for Acts to end…seemingly in the middle of the story without any conclusion. But I think this is a fitting end to Acts – for we leave him in the middle of ministry – preaching the gospel to anyone who would hear! He also wrote Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon during this Roman imprisonment, and there is extra-biblical evidence that Paul was released and continued his ministry to the far-reaches of Spain before he was imprisoned for a 2nd time in Rome and martyred.
Paul. He embodied the grace of Jesus Christ as God changed him from a persecutor of Christians to the faith’s boldest ambassador! How could you not be inspired by Paul’s story??!!
The other characters from today’s reading include three ancient kings. Two “evil” kings, Jeroboam and Abijah, and one “not so evil king,” King Asa…
The Chronicler makes a great effort to contrast Jeroboam, evil king of Israel with the kings of Judah. Even though Abijah, king of Judah, was described as doing “what was evil in the sight of the Lord,” the priests and people of Judah had remained faithful to God. Jeroboam, on the other hand, had created his own cult religion to separate himself from his Judahite brothers. In 2 Chronicles 13, we read of these two kings going to war, and even though Israel’s army was double in size, God gave Judah the victory to show his favor toward Judah’s faithfulness.
And then we read of Asa, son of Abijah and king of Judah. He wasn’t as amazing as Paul. But he wasn’t as evil as the other two kings. He was a mix of both.
Asa began his reign in exemplary fashion, destroying the high places and other modes of idol worship that had sprung up during his father’s reign. He also gathered all of Judah together to renew their covenant commitment. Asa enjoyed military favor as God gave him great victory over the huge Ethiopian army. But, as Asa aged, he began to take God’s grace for granted and instead of relying on the Lord, he turned to self-reliance.
Asa was a good man, and that was his problem. He became overconfident in his old age and neglected his need for God.
Out of all the characters in today’s reading, I relate to Asa the most.
How easy it is to slip into self-reliance when we are enjoying the blessings of God’s favor!!
I know I will never be as amazing as Paul. And God-willing, I will never be as evil as Jeroboam and Abijah. But Asa… well, I can easily slip into Asa’s sin of self-reliance. I pray for God to keep my brokenness ever before me so that I might never take God’s grace for granted!!!