We are here told what good effect the foregoing sermon had upon Asa.
I. He grew more bold for God than he had been. His victory would inspire him with some new degrees of resolution, but this message from God with much more. Now he took courage. he saw how necessary a further reformation was, and what assurance he had of God’s presence with him in it; and this made him daring, and helped him over the difficulties which had before deterred him and driven him off from the undertaking. Now he ventured to destroy all the abominable idols (and all idolatries are abominable, 1 Pet. 4:3) as far as ever his power went. Away with them all. He also renewed the altar of the Lord, which, it seems, had gone out of repair, though it was not above thirty-five years since Solomon’s head was laid, who erected it. So soon did these ceremonial institutions begin to wax old, as things which, in the fulness of time, must vanish away, Heb. 8:13.
II. He extended his influence further than before, 2 Chron. 15:9. He summoned a solemn assembly, and particularly brought the strangers to it, who had come over to him from the ten tribes. 1. Their coming was a great encouragement to him; for the reason of their coming was because they saw that the Lord his God was with him. It is good to be with those that have God with them, to come into relation to, and contract acquaintance and friendship with, those that live in the fear and favour of God. We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you, Zech. 8:23. 2. The cognizance he took of them, and the invitation he gave them to the general assembly, were a great encouragement to them. All strangers are to be helped, but those that cast themselves upon God’s good providence, purely to keep a good conscience, are worthy of double honour. Asa gave orders for the gathering of them together (2 Chron. 15:9), yet it is said (2 Chron. 15:10) that they gathered themselves together, made it their own act, so forward were they to obey the king’s orders. This meeting was held in the third month, probably at the feast of Pentecost, which was in that month.
III. He and his people offered sacrifices to God, as his share of the spoil they had got, 2 Chron. 15:11. Their offering here was nothing to Solomon’s (2 Chron. 7:5), which was owing to the diminution either of their zeal or of their wealth, or of both. These sacrifices were intended by way of thanksgiving for the favours they had received, and supplication for further favours. Prayers and praises are now our spiritual sacrifices. And, as he took care that the altar should have its gift, so he took care that the temple should have its gold: He brought into the house of God all the dedicated things, 2 Chron. 15:18. It is honesty to render to God the things that are his. What has been long designed for him, and long laid by for him, as it should seem these dedicated things had been, should at length be laid out for him. Will a man rob God, or make slow payment to him, who is always ready to do us good?
IV. They entered into covenant with God, repenting that they had violated their engagements to him and resolving to do better for the future. It is proper for penitents, for converts, to renew their covenants. It should seem, the motion came not from Asa, but from the people themselves. Let every man be a volunteer that covenants with God. Thy people shall be willing, Ps. 110:3. Observe,
1. What was the matter of this covenant. Nothing but what they were before obliged to; and, though no vow or promise of theirs could lay any higher obligation upon them than they were already under from the divine precept, yet it would help to increase their sense of the obligation, to arm them against temptations, and would be a testimony to the equity and goodness of the precept. And, by joining all together in this covenant, they strengthened the hands one of another. Two things they engaged themselves to:—(1.) That they would diligently seek God themselves, seek his precepts, seek his favour. What is religion but seeking God, enquiring after him, applying to him, upon all occasions? We shall not enjoy him till we come to heaven; while we are here we must continue seeking. They would seek God as the God of their fathers, in the way that their fathers sought him and in dependence upon the promise made to their fathers; and they would do it with all their heart and with all their soul, for those only seek God acceptably and successfully that are inward with him, intent upon him, and entire for him, in their seeking him. We make nothing of our religion if we do not make heart-work of it. God will have all the heart or none; and, when a jewel of such inestimable value as the divine favour is to be found, it is worth while to seek it with all our soul. (2.) That they would, to the utmost of their power, oblige others to seek him, 2 Chron. 15:13. They agreed that whosoever would not seek the Lord God of Israel (that is, would either worship other gods or refuse to join with them in the worship of the true God, that was either an obstinate idolater or an obstinate atheist) he should be put to death. This was no new law of their own making, but an order to put in execution that law of God to this purport, Deut. 17:2-5 If this law had been duly executed, there would not have been so many abominable idols found in Judah and Benjamin, 2 Chron. 15:8. Whether men may now, under the gospel, be compelled by such methods as these to seek the Lord is justly questioned; for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, and yet mighty.
2. In what manner they made this covenant. (1.) With great cheerfulness, and all possible expressions of joy: The swore unto the Lord; not secretly, as if they were either ashamed of what they did or afraid of binding themselves too fast to him, but with a loud voice, to express their own zeal and to animate one another; and they all rejoiced at the oath, 2 Chron. 15:14, 15. They did not swear to God with reluctancy (as the poor debtor confesses a judgment to his creditor), but with all the pleasure and satisfaction imaginable, as the bridegroom plights his troth to the bride in the marriage covenant. Every honest Israelite was pleased with his own engagements to God, and they were all pleased with one another’s. They rejoiced in it as a hopeful expedient to prevent their apostasy from God and a happy indication of God’s presence with them. Note, The times of renewing our covenant with God should be times of rejoicing, and national reformation cannot but give general satisfaction to all that are good. It is an honour and happiness to be in bonds to God. (2.) They did it with great sincerity, zeal and resolution: They swore to God with all their hearts, and sought him with their whole desire. The Israelites were now in an extraordinarily good frame. O that there had always been such a heart in them! This comes in as the reason why they rejoiced so much in what they did: it was because they were hearty in it. Note, Those only experience the pleasure and comfort of religion that are sincere and upright in it. What is done in hypocrisy is a mere drudgery. But, if God has the heart, we have the joy.
V. We are told what was the effect of this their solemn covenanting with God. 1. God did well for them: He was found of them, and gave them rest round about (2 Chron. 15:15), so that there was no war for a long time after (2 Chron. 15:19), no open general war, though there were constant bickerings between Judah and Israel upon the frontiers, 1 Kgs. 15:16. National piety procures national blessings. 2. They did, on the whole, well for him. They carried on the reformation so far that Maachah the queen-mother was deposed for idolatry and her idol destroyed, 2 Chron. 15:16. This was bravely done of Asa, that he would not connive at idolatry in those that were nearest to him, like Levi, that said to his father and mother, I have not seen him, Deut. 33:9. Asa knows he must honour God more than his grandmother, and dares not leave an idol in an apartment of his palace while he is destroying idols in the cities of his kingdom. We may suppose this Maachah was so far convinced of her sin that she was willing to subscribe the association mentioned (2 Chron. 15:12, 13), binding herself to seek the Lord, and therefore was not put to death as those were that refused to sign it, great as well as small, women as well as men: probably it was with an eye to her that women were specified. But because she had been an idolater Asa thought fit to divest her of the dignity and authority she had, and probably he banished her the court and confined her to privacy, lest she should influence and infect others. But the reformation was not complete; the high places were not all taken away, though many of them were, 2 Chron. 15:3, 5. Those in the cities were removed, but not those in the cities of Judah, but not those in the cities of Israel which were reduced to the house of David; or those that were used in the service of false gods, but not those that were used in the service of the God of Israel. These he connived at, and yet his heart was perfect. There may be defects in some particular duties where yet the heart, in the man, is upright with God. Sincerity is something less than sinless perfection.