2 Chronicles 16:12-13
And Asa in the thirty and ninth year of his reign was diseased in his feet, until his disease was exceeding great…
1. Though it is not my purpose to dwell upon the general features in this history, I cannot help remarking how strongly one is inclined in hearing it to exclaim, "Lord, what is man! In his best estate, moral as well as physical, he is altogether vanity." Here is a person that appears to have been piously educated, that in his youth was piously and deeply impressed; that when clothed in royal purple still remembered his responsibility to a higher power, and felt and acknowledged his dependence on it; that in his mature years departed not from the way in which he had been trained up; and that knew by a single personal experience that it is a way of pleasantness and a path of peace; in his old age guilty of the greatest inconsistencies, to say the very least. May we not reasonably suppose that, during his long prosperity, his heart had become in a measure hardened by the deceitfulness of sin; that indolence had corrupted, and pride, taking occasion from the happy condition of his people, of which he had been the instrument, had puffed him up; and that prayer, in consequence, had been restrained before God? Be sober, be vigilant, be prayerful, be humble, is the moral of this melancholy tale.
2. This monarch's history may also teach us that, what we deem our strongest point of character may in fact prove our weakest. Asa's distrust in Divine, and over-trust in human power, was the last sin, most probably, which he thought would ever beset him. "Though all men forsake Thee," said St. Peter, "yet will not I." His courage he was sure would abide, however that of the other disciples might falter. That he felt was not his weak point; and probably it was not naturally. When we are conscious of weakness, and in consequence lean constantly on an Almighty arm, then our strength never faileth. How can it? In the confidence of this it was that the apostle Paul said, "I can do all things through Christ strengthening me." On the other hand, let a man feel strong in himself, and of consequence lean on himself, in the things of religion, we are told we can do nothing. The lesson, then, to be learned from the history of Asa, in this view of it, plainly is, to glory in nothing as of ourselves, to distrust ourselves even in our strongest point, and to count all our sufficiency as of God through Christ.
3. A third particular in this narrative, well worth noticing, is the pertinacity which Asa exhibited in his sin, and how in consequence one transgression led on to another. David committed some most fearful sins, and a prophet was sent to reprove and warn him. His confession was, "I have sinned against the Lord." Not so Asa. His crime, though indeed not so horrible, was equally certain; yet when the prophet reproves him, the historian tells us "he was in a rage with him because of this thing"; and added to the sin, and to a denial of it, persecution of God's servant for delivering God's message. The sin of Asa, though certain and heinous, as I have said, was not so palpable and overt as that of David. It lay more exclusively between God and his own soul. It was an offence which shortsighted men, who cannot read the heart, could not with propriety charge him with. The sins which are known with certainty only to Omniscience are the last which corrupt human nature is willing to acknowledge. It hides itself from its own guilt and from its obligation to confess and forsake its sin, under the cover of its fellow-creatures' ignorance. From this hiding place, to which Asa had manifestly fled, man could not dislodge him. God's resources, however, were not exhausted.When His prophet failed to do it, He sent another messenger to the king in the shape of a most painful disease which finally proved mortal.
1. Health, it is generally acknowledged, is the very greatest of all personal and temporal blessings. By its influence on the inner man it gives new glory to objects already bright, and pours light on that which would otherwise be dark. It converts to luxuries the plainest food, and adds a sweetness to a cup of cold water which nectar in the hand of an invalid partakes not of. Health is valuable not only as an exemption from pain and anxiety, but as a positive good. It causes positive happiness to spring up — to well up from the depths of the soul, the operation of which the man may be unable to explain, but to the mysterious sweetness of which he is ready to testify with a rejoicing, and, would that we could say always, a grateful heart. I do not mean to say, however, that the blessing when in possession is always adequately realised and appreciate. Like other things, the loss of it, at least for a time, is in many cases necessary to open our eyes to its value. The fact that the natural issue of sickness is death is, of itself, enough to give health an inestimable value; and that fact is felt by him who has felt the gnawings of disease; and who that has reached even middle life has not experienced them?
2. But though it is thus inevitable, disease may be mitigated and its fatal consequences postponed. This is effected by one of the greatest mercies which Providence has vouchsafed to man: I mean the healing art. It is not common, perhaps, to regard it in this light, but most certainly it ought to be so regarded. This art is one of great dignity and beneficence. It is found in every country, and among the most savage and most cultivated nations of the earth; and though it seems to have advanced more slowly than many other — perhaps most other — arts and sciences, yet so early was its commencement, and so universal has been its cultivation, it has now attained great perfection. In most departments, where once human aid was unattempted or unavailing to the patient, it is astonishing what can be done for his relief, and for his restoration to society and the full enjoyment of it. This blessed art, moreover, is but an imitation of a merciful provision of nature; even as when pursued and practised on its proper principles, it consists in a co-operating with, and taking advantage of, the powers of nature. With the recuperative and healing properties of nature a true practitioner of the healing art is a co-worker. It is his high calling, in a scientific manner to aid and minister to and increase this beneficent provision. He is not occupied in helping to gratify an idle vanity, nor in pandering to luxury and over-indulgence. His business is, in the way described, to relieve distress, to dry the tear of sorrow, to rekindle the lamp of hope. It has been acutely observed that there is a likeness in the practice of this art, not only to the healing power of nature referred to, and to the course of that Providence by which both nature and art have been ordained, and to the all-merciful conduct of God manifest in the flesh while He sojourned on the earth, but also in the methods which Providence uses ordinarily for the attainment of these benevolent ends. "Both are designed to restore what is lost, and to repair what is disordered; both have the production of ease and happiness for their ultimate object; both frequently make use of pains and privations as the means of procuring it, but neither of them employs an atom more of these than is necessary for that purpose."
3. Now from all this it follows that though nothing is expressly said in commendation of this art in the Holy Scriptures, nor any command given to resort to it for relief under our bodily ailments, yet the art and the use of it are manifestly according to the mind and will of God. The mere fact that God has put healing virtue into the productions of the animal and vegetable kingdoms, and given man the power to discover its existence, is sufficient warrant, in the silence of Scripture, for the thankful use of it wherever it may be necessary. It has been thought by some that the sin here condemned was resorting not to regular physicians, but to those who attempted cures by charms and other superstitious devices. Such conduct, though not generally thought so by those who indulge in it, is essentially atheistic. He was seeking good from a source not sanctioned by Heaven. He was in pursuit of health in a quarter which God did not bless. In a word, he was not seeking it of Him from whom cometh every good and perfect gift. This was atheism. It is not necessary, however, to suppose that Asa ran into this sin. He was guilty enough, and furnished sufficient ground for the censure in the text, without going to this extreme. Let us suppose, what the Scripture narrative makes probable, that through the influence of prosperity and its attendant snares and temptations, the heart of Asa had waxed cold; that his religious feelings had declined; that whereas before, God was in his thoughts as his dependence, his protection, his comfort, his consolation, his joyful portion, now he lives in forgetfulness of Him, or, if thoughts of God ever enter his mind, they come but seldom and are speedily dismissed. While living habitually in this way, sickness smites him, violent and severe, and very naturally alarming. He sends for the physicians — for many of them. His dependence is on the powers of nature to the exclusion of the Divine Author of these powers. He looks anxiously to human skill, but feels no want, or offers no prayer for the Divine blessing on it. Asa seems to have sought a cure, as he would have done had he never heard of that almighty Being in whose hand are the issues of life and death. We see here that the Lord is a jealous God, and will not give His glory to another, and that His glory and His right as God is to be recognised by His intelligent creatures everywhere, in all the exigencies, duties, and privileges of life. In instituting the present system of means and ends, He did not intend that it should be forgotten that He planned the whole; and that the whole, destitute of any self-sustaining power, is sustained only by Him. He not only created all things, but also upholds all things by the word of His power. This is a fact, and a fact manifestly connected with His glory. He expects, therefore, that all intelligent creatures feel it and acknowledge it. There are two errors — opposite extremes, which He would have them carefully avoid. The first is a reliance upon Him to the exclusion or neglect of the means which He has commanded to be used. At first view it might seem as if such conduct were putting special honour upon Jehovah; but in truth it is open rebellion against His will. He hath not commanded this at our hands. It is a strange offering — an unclean sacrifice. In His works and in His Word, God has enjoined the diligent use of means; it is impious to turn away from the commandment, even under the pretence of honouring Him. The other extreme, and equally presumptuous, is a reliance on the means to the neglect of the Divine agency and blessing. If the first was an arrogant theism, this is a gross and stupid atheism. Paradoxical as it may sound, our duty and the dictate of pure reason is, that we use means as diligently as if God's aid were altogether unnecessary, and rely on God as sincerely as if means were unavailing. This is Scripture; this is the highest reason; nay, this human nature herself teaches when in extremity and unperverted by a theory. Who, when in conscious danger of his life, does not with a convulsive eagerness grasp at any and every means of safety, and at the same time lift a voice of agonising supplication for the Divine assistance? Our duty, then, plainly inculcated by the text, is to use means and to trust in the Lord, and to do this not of necessity, because death is imminent, but from a principle of obedience to His will, respect for His honour, and love to His name; and to do it also not only in extreme cases, but at all times. It belongs to such a spirit, as a matter of privilege as well as duty, to seek to the Lord also, and rely upon His help. In conclusion, I would observe that the text teaches a lesson in all analogous cases. For instance, if such is the temper of mind in which we should look for medicines to heal the body, the same should we have in the use of food for the maintenance of life. A blessing asked, when we take our meals, is only in conformity with these principles. So our Lord when on the earth regarded it, for He sanctioned it by His practice. And again it plainly says to those whose calling in life is trade, that whilst they industriously employ all honourable means for the maintenance and advancement of themselves and their families, they should bear in mind that there is an overruling Providence which sees through the complications of events as man cannot, and can give them such issue as may be pleasing in His sight. In short, the text teaches us that we should all, at all times and under all circumstances, realise the presence of God and lean upon His power and goodness, vouchsafed us through Jesus Christ our Lord.
(W. Sparrow, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And Asa in the thirty and ninth year of his reign was diseased in his feet, until his disease was exceeding great: yet in his disease he sought not to the LORD, but to the physicians.