2 Chron 15:1-9 The Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded, and he went out to meet Asa and said to him, "Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin: 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. For a long time Israel was without the true God, and without a teaching priest and without law, but when in their distress they turned to the Lord, the God of Israel, and sought him, he was found by them. In those times there was no peace to him who went out or to him who came in, for great disturbances afflicted all the inhabitants of the lands. They were broken in pieces. Nation was crushed by nation and city by city, for God troubled them with every sort of distress. But you, take courage! Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded." As soon as Asa heard these words, the prophecy of Azariah the son of Oded, he took courage and put away the detestable idols from all the land of Judah and Benjamin and from the cities that he had taken in the hill country of Ephraim, and he repaired the altar of the Lord that was in front of the vestibule of the house of the Lord. And he gathered all Judah and Benjamin, and those from Ephraim, Manasseh, and Simeon who were residing with them, for great numbers had deserted to him from Israel when they saw that the Lord his God was with him.
Biblical concept of peace is not the absence of war, but the presence of God. Asa's reign was a reign of peace, even though he had to fight against the unprovoked attack from his enemies. But whether in rest or in war, the presence of God was with Asa and he had peace as soon as the enemy was defeated. Asa was able to experience the presence of God continually in his lifetime because he did what was "good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God" (14:2). So, what exactly did Asa do that was good and right?
(1) Eliminate idolatry ("He removed the foreign altars and the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles"): Idolatry is like adultery--it is a form of infidelity to the one whom we should give our commitment and loyalty to. In idolatry, we make something No. 1 instead of God. It diverts the love we have for God to something less than God. And that makes us less than the person we could be and ought to be, because we become like the object we worship. Consider how people begin to talk, dress and behave like the "idols" (American or Korean) they worship. If it's money and wealth, well, we will talk, look and smell like it. Jesus puts the choice before us: "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money" (Matt 6:24).
(2) Refocus on God & His Word ("He commanded Judah to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, and to obey his laws and commands): It's not just putting off something negative, but also putting on something positive. He commanded God's people to seek the Lord and to obey his word. There is no easy way to a God-centred life. If we neglect daily reading of His Word, we are not neglecting the "Bible" or the "Written Word" -- we are neglecting the Living Word that is found in the Written Word: "You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life" (John 5:39-40). Scriptures are not given to increase our knowledge about Christ but to increase our obedience to Christ as Lord.
(3) Remove False Worship ("He removed the high places and incense altars in every town in Judah"): Here we are looking at worshipping false gods, but worship the true God but in false ways. The high places and incense altars were built up in every town in Judah as substitute worship places in lieu of the temple in Jerusalem. It was "more convenient" because it did not require the people to travel long distances to Jerusalem to offer their sacrifices. It was the ancient version of consumer religion--give the people what they want, so as long as they pay their tithes. These "false" religious worship practices have to be removed so that people do not confuse the forms with the reality. The glory of God will never manifest in any place but the Holy of holies. And the Holy of holies was found only in one place--the temple in Jerusalem. Worship requires commitment and death to self-gratifications and self-comforts. If we are truly seeking God, it does not really matter if the chairs are cushioned or the "worship hall" is air-conditioned. We can worship anywhere - even on the hard floor of the prisons with only a guitar and maybe an overhead slide projector. It's really about the Presence of God and it's only found in one place - the place of Spirit-filled hearts. Focus on substance and the reality, not the forms.
And when the Presence of the Lord is in the land, there will be peace: "The Lord is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you." And for this to happen, we need not only to tell the people to get rid of what is wrong, but also teach them what is right: "For a long time Israel was without the true God, and without a teaching priest and without law, but when in their distress they turned to the Lord, the God of Israel, and sought him, he was found by them" (15:3-4, ESV).
May God raise up more "teaching priests" who know the Word and willing to instruct the people of God to fulfill their destiny and seek the Lord and His Presence in the land.
Lord, thank You for the ministry of "teaching priest". May Your church be a place of teaching and training of Your people. May the Your pulpit be a teaching pulpit where lives are formed and transformed. Amen,