King Asa reigned peacefully in Judah for 35 years. Unfortunately, he made a bad decision during his thirty-sixth year as the ruler of the southern kingdom. Baasha, the king of Israel, declared war on Judah. He invaded Judah and took control of a key city called Ramah. He did this to block an important trade and pilgrimage route that led to Jerusalem. Instead of consulting God and trusting Him to help, Asa came up with his own plan to reclaim Ramah. He took all the gold and silver that was dedicated to God from the Temple and used it to bribe the powerful, pagan king of Syria into becoming his ally. He added gold and silver from the palace and sent a huge offering to Benhadad the king of Syria with this message: “I’m sending this gift so that you will break the peace treaty you now have with Israel and make a treaty with us instead.” King Benhadad accepted the gold and silver and signed a treaty with Asa. He immediately began to invade the northern towns of Israel that were close to his border. King Baasha of Israel now had to abandon his takeover of Judah’s cities and defend his own northern cities. This made it possible for King Asa to win back Ramah. Asa’s plan seemed to have worked well—until a prophet named Hanani came to Asa and said, “Don’t you remember what God did for you when the mighty army from Ethiopia invaded? He rescued you. But this time, instead of asking God for help, you relied on the pagan king of Syria. What you have done is very foolish. Because of this, God will not help you when the Syrians become your enemies. The Lord is looking for people who are completely committed to Him. Those are the people He wants to help.” King Asa was so angry with the prophet’s message that he threw the prophet into prison. Instead of admitting he was wrong and asking God to forgive him, Asa turned his back on God, and in his last years he became a cruel, harsh king. Suddenly he developed a disease in his feet that was so painful he could not walk. Yet he refused to ask God for help. Instead, he relied on his own doctors. He died after two years of terrible pain. During Asa’s last years as king of Judah, several kings came and went in the kingdom of Israel. (One of them only lasted seven days before he was murdered!) They were all very wicked—just as Jeroboam had been when he was ruling. While Asa was still on Judah’s throne, the most evil of all the kings came into power in Israel. His name was Ahab. He was married to a woman named Jezebel. She worshiped Baal. Baal was considered to be the most powerful of all the Canaanite’s false gods. He took on many forms depending on who was worshiping him. Sometimes he was considered to be the sun god. Other times he was the storm god or the god of fertility. Worshipers of Baal often became very loud and wild. Sometimes they purposely injured themselves thinking they could gain Baal’s favor. They even sacrificed their own children to him. God detested Baal worship!
Asa’s plan to win back the territory that Israel had snatched from Judah was wrong for a couple of reasons. First, he never consulted God. And second, he put his faith in a man who did not even know or worship God. Are you careful to stop and consult with God before you figure out a plan of action? God will always reveal the right plan when we seek His wisdom and His advice.