“Do Not Relax Your Watchfulness” 

Scripture Text: 2 Chronicles 16:1-14 

July 23, 2023  

Faith Presbyterian Church, Tacoma, WA 

Pastor Nathaniel H. Gutiérrez 


We are parachuting into this text this morning and so I would like to provide a little background for the chapter that we are about to read.  

Throughout the Bible you read of king after king who did not walk in the ways of the Lord. Every now and then there was a king who was different, a king who followed God’s ways and who gives us hope. 

Here in the book of Chronicles, we read of King Asa. Asa did what was right in the eyes of the Lord his God. He took away the alters and high places of false worship and broke down the pillars and cut down the Asherim. So far, so good! Many kings would not have even done this! 

During his reign we learn of an interesting account. We read that an Ethiopian army “came out against Asa with an army of a million men and 300 chariots.”  This was a terrifying thing, because King Asa’s army was half the size of that of the Ethiopians, so he cried out to God for help.  

In response to his cries for help, “the LORD defeated the Ethiopians before Asa” and Asa carried away much spoil. Theologians suppose that it was this spoil that was used to fill the Lord’s house with sacred gifts or offerings of gold and silver. [2 Chronicles 14:11-15] 

After this, God sent a prophet to King Asa reminding him of the importance of continuing to seek the Lord. And in response, Asa obeyed! He put away all idols in the land, and in fact went further!  

We read that “they entered into a covenant commitment to seek the LORD, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and with all their soul, but that whoever would not seek the LORD, the God of Israel, should be put to death, whether young or old, man or woman.” 

And if that were not enough, he also removed his mother from being queen mother, because she had made a detestable image for Asherah. He cut down her Asherah image, crushed it, and burned it as the brook Kidron.  

But then in line of that text we read that the high places were not taken out of Israel. And the very next line is, nevertheless, the heart of Asa was wholly true all his days and he brought into the house of God the sacred gifts of his father and his own sacred gifts, silver, and gold, and vessels. And there was no more war until the thirty-fifth year of the reign of Asa. [2 Chronicles 15] 

Up to this point, we see that Asa has followed God’s Word, and has gone the extra mile to trust in God. The only strike against him was that he did not remove the high places (15:17).  

Chapters 14 and 15 end with God’s gift of years of peace.  

Let’s begin our reading of God’s Word at this point.  

2 Chronicles 16:  1In the thirty-sixth year of the reign of Asa, Baasha king of Israel went up against Judah and built Ramah, that he might permit no one to go out or come in to Asa king of Judah.  

2 Then Asa took silver and gold from the treasures of the house of the LORD and the king’s house and sent them to Ben-hadad king of Syria, who lived in Damascus, saying, 3 “There is a covenant between me and you, as there was between my father and your father. Behold, I am sending to you silver and gold. Go, break your covenant with Baasha king of Israel, that he may withdraw from me.” 4 And Ben-hadad listened to King Asa and sent the commanders of his armies against the cities of Israel, and they conquered Ijon, Dan, Abel-maim, and all the store cities of Naphtali. 5 And when Baasha heard of it, he stopped building Ramah and let his work cease. 6 Then King Asa took all Judah, and they carried away the stones of Ramah and its timber, with which Baasha had been building, and with them he built Geba and Mizpah. 

2Chr. 16:7   At that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said to him, “Because you relied on the king of Syria, and did not rely on the LORD your God, the army of the king of Syria has escaped you. 8 Were not the Ethiopians and the Libyans a huge army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet because you relied on the LORD, he gave them into your hand. 9 For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. You have done foolishly in this, for from now on you will have wars.” 10 Then Asa was angry with the seer and put him in the stocks in prison, for he was in a rage with him because of this. And Asa inflicted cruelties upon some of the people at the same time. 

2Chr. 16:11   The acts of Asa, from first to last, are written in the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel. 12 In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was diseased in his feet, and his disease became severe. Yet even in his disease he did not seek the LORD, but sought help from physicians. 13And Asa slept with his fathers, dying in the forty-first year of his reign. 14 They buried him in the tomb that he had cut for himself in the city of David. They laid him on a bier that had been filled with various kinds of spices prepared by the perfumer’s art, and they made a very great fire in his honor. 

This is the Word of the Lord: (Thanks be to God) 

“All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” [1 Peter 1:24-25] 

Let’s pray together. 

What Happened? 

So what happened to King Asa?! He started off so well!  

At the start of his life, we see a man who is determined to fight for the Lord and for his kingdom. He makes tremendous sacrifices and unpopular decisions. He is determined to get rid of false gods, idols, and pagan worship. He is willing to face his mother, and remove her from office, which was no small thing. She was, as the text says, “queen mother” – which was a very important role. [Selman, 414]  

Like King David with Goliath, Asa had a faith in God that enabled him to be willing to face the giant Ethiopian army that was twice the size of his. That was a big deal, and was a complete act of faith. 

So what changed? What happened to the Asa from these previous chapters? How did he go from a man of God to a hard-hearted king? 

It seems that it wasn’t just one thing, but several things that contributed to his final days being far different than his first days.  

1) Asa Allowed the High Places 

In the preceding two chapters, we read that at one point early in his reign, Asa did put away all the high places of false worship. But then after years of success and peace all around, those high places must have crept back in and were reestablished. It seems this happened from time to time. In 2 Kings 17 we read that the people of Israel at times would secretly build for themselves high places in all their towns.  

And we see that Asa did not put away all the high places of false worship. Which leads us to believe that he could have and should have! 

Now, don’t get me wrong, Asa did a lot, and the Scriptures tell us that the heart of Asa was true to God all of his days.  

The Bible does not ignore the fact that his heart was in the right place. He had good motivations; he longed to do the right thing. He fought harder than countless other kings who ruled in absolute wickedness.  

Asa’s heart was true to God. And while the Bible tells us that Asa had a good heart, the Scriptures also mention that there were areas of his life that Asa didn’t seem to be as concerned about. Areas that he left unattended.  

And one of those areas was that he did not remove all the high places of worship.   

These high places were offensive to God. For they were altars that were built high on the mountains where the people sacrificed both to God and to false gods.  [Keil & Delitzsch, Ch. 26]  Other theologians note that these were shrines used for false, adulterous worship to Baal or other false gods. [Keun-Jo Ahn “A Study of בָּמָה (Bamah; High Place) in the Old Testament: Its Biblical and Theological Significance.” p. 27] 

We don’t know why Asa did not get rid of all the high places, but the Bible takes special note of the fact that Asa did not [15:17]. We might wonder if Asa felt that with everything else he had done for God: making a covenant with God, threatening extreme measure of death to any who would not seek the Lord, and even removing his mother from office, that he perhaps concluded that he didn’t need to worry about the smaller things. And Asa not only removed his mother’s Asherah image, but he cut it down, crushed it and burned it at the brook Kidron and removed her from her position. 

But again, for all the good he did, the Scripture notes one important detail, that Asa did not remove the high places. And it seems that that is where his life began to decline. 

Because we see a change in him. Once a king who cried out for God’s help, now he is a king who makes treaties with a pagan king.  

2) Relied on a Pagan King 

Asa found himself in a difficult place. We read that Baasha, king of Israel went up against Judah. Surely he was trying to prevent him from having access to Jerusalem for religious or trade reasons, which distressed King Asa. [Selman, 417] 

He knew he needed help, and rather than crying out for help to the Lord, as he did when facing the one million Ethiopians, he handled his problems by making a covenant with a pagan king. Rather than trust in the Lord with all of his heart, he leaned on his own understanding.   

In order to outwit the king of Israel, he devised a plan. And that plan required that Asa go into the house of the LORD, and take out all the treasure of silver and gold as payment for the pagan king of Syria to help him defeat his enemy. [v.2]  

Let me repeat that again. Asa took the treasures from the house of the Lord. The gold and silver and treasure that was given to God, offered by his father, by himself and the people. The treasure that represented the results of God’s victories he gave to a pagan! [Selman, 418] 

And Asa is not only dipping into the treasures, he is emptying out the Lord’s house (as if God were not even there to notice, or as if God had died in his mind) and going and taking that treasure to offer it over to a pagan king.  

The symbolism of this act is profound. Asa has forgotten about God and has put all his hope in a worldly king.  

The theme of this chapter is a negative one in contrast with the preceding history. Asa went from having faith and trust in God to unbelief. He relied on human beings rather than God, and failed to seek God as he had done previously. [Selman, 416] 

In previous chapters, where Asa had made a covenant with God, we see that here he abandons it completely in order to make a new covenant with a pagan king. Where he had previously “relied on God who had delivered him from a mighty [Ethiopian] army, now he relied on human resources alone (v.7).” [Selman, 418-419] 

He did not remove the high places, he made a treaty with a pagan king, and then he closed  himself off from God’s Word.  

3) Persecuted the Prophet and his People 

While this might have appeared to be a great strategy, and Asa appears to have benefited politically from his tactics, we read that God was very displeased with him and he sent a prophet to Asa to tell him that God would not overlook this: 

“Because you relied on the king of Syria, and did not rely on the LORD your God, the army of the king of Syria has escaped you. 8 Were not the Ethiopians and the Libyans a huge army with very many chariots and horsemen? [God reminds him] Yet because you relied on the LORD, he gave them into your hand…. You have done foolishly in this, for from now on you will have wars.” [2 Chron. 16:7-9] 

As we see in other places in Scripture, God sends a prophet to speak his word to the king. But the reaction is not what we would expect. When King David sinned against God with Bathsheba and in the murder of Uriah the Hittite, David heard the word of God in the mouth of prophet Nathan and immediately repented of his sins.  

But Asa’s response shows a hardness of heart. He adds to his sin by becoming angry at the prophet for the word of God that he spoke, and here we read of the first place a king persecutes a prophet. Asa locks the prophet in prison and on top of that begins to inflict cruelties upon some of the people at the same time. [Selman, 419] 

Asa allowed for the high places, entered a treaty with a pagan king, closed himself off from God and then further dug in his heels when it came to his illness.  

4) Relied Only On Doctors 

Finally, we read that Asa became severely diseased in his feet. This should have driven Asa to repentance, but Asa had become so hardened in his sin, that instead of crying out to God for help and asking him for relief, he sent for the physicians. Of course, it is not wrong to send for doctors, we should! But the problem was that he sought out doctors in place of crying out to God and put human assistance above divine assistance. [Spurgeon, “A Lesson from the Life of King Asa”] 

As with the alliance, the problem here was that he chose these things over and against his covenant God and then refused to repent. Asa died, and we do not read of any sign of repentance later in life.  

Asa’s life began with a passionate and zealous heart for God. He was a man who eagerly obeyed and trusted God in the most difficult moments of his life. When he was up against the fight of his life, he wholeheartedly cried out to God. 

But then as time went on, we see he began to compromise and forget about his need for God.  

Earlier in Asa’s rule, there is no chance that high places would have existed. Not even his mother had been safe! Asa had zealously destroyed and eliminated all high places, but then later it appears that more rose up that he would have been aware of, but he did nothing to destroy them.   

These were gradual and seemingly small compromises.  

Then, while there was no war, as we read in 2 Chron. 15:19, we see that Asa makes further compromises.  

Asa began to lose sight of God and his need for God. He needed God for the big things, for the big wars, and while he was young. But once he felt secure of himself, and felt capable, he started to make his own decisions. He trusted in his own flesh, and his own wisdom.  

Proverbs 30 illustrates the danger of riches and blessings. It reads,  

“Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.” 

Brothers and sisters, in the life of King Asa, the Lord teaches us an important lesson. He shows us the importance of watching over our hearts with all diligence until the very end. 

In these chapters, we see many lessons. Above all, we learn of the deceitfulness of one’s heart.  

While we often fear how the world could cause us harm, or how the devil might try to devour and destroy us, the Scriptures also teach us that we need to guard against our own flesh. 

After all, as Jeremiah said, “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” [Jeremiah 17:9]  

And the great Apostle Paul himself wrote, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate…when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.  

22 …I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.” [Romans 7:15, 21-23] 

See, Paul recognized that even though we are saved by grace through faith, that a living faith must live a godly life. We must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling [Phil. 2:12]    

We must keep and guard our heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. [Prov. 4:23] One way we guard our hearts is by being constantly vigilant. For a little sin can go a long way. 

So how do we do that? 

A little leaven leavens the whole lump 

Jesus taught his disciples that to guard your heart, means to be vigilant in the little things. For he who is faithful in little is faithful in much. We cannot become lax in our watchfulness, even when it comes to the smaller struggles in life.  

As we’ve seen, Asa had an impressive way of following God. He was a respectable and honored king. He did very difficult things! But there were some areas of his obedience to God where he was okay being more lax. Areas that he possibly considered to be smaller, more insignificant matters like the high places. We often do the same.  

Throughout Jesus’ ministry, the disciples were warned to guard themselves from the leaven of the Pharisees. For a little leaven, leavens all the dough. And a little bit of false teaching, thinking, or disobedience could spread into their thinking, into their hearts and into their lives.  

See sin, just like leaven, has the same effect in our lives. It spreads and spreads, gradually taking over our hearts, minds, actions, and life. And it only takes a little leaven. It doesn’t take a lot. Just a little bit of corrupting sin – not a lot.  

The interesting thing about leaven is that it is basically so tiny it is invisible to us without the use of a microscope, and yet it is hard at work transforming the landscape below the surface.  

And in the same way, even the smallest of sins, that seem small and insignificant in our lives, can have the same effect in our lives.  

And the fact is, because we don’t understand or see how one small area of our lives can spread throughout our lives, it can be easy to dismiss its power. 

But just like a spark in a very dry forest can cause complete devastation, so a small spark of sin can bring about terrible and devastating consequences in our lives.  

Charles Spurgeon explains it this way: 

Just get one small error into your minds, get one small evil into your thoughts, commit one small act of sin in your life, [allow] these things to be …fondled, favoured, petted, and treated with respect, and you cannot tell whereunto they may grow. They are small in their infancy: they will be giants when they come to their full growth. You little know how near your soul may be to destruction, when you shamelessly indulge in the smallest act of sin! [Spurgeon, “Is it not a little one?” Some words modernized for flow and comprehension

And to further illustrate his point he gives this example:  

Little sins often act as burglars do;- burglars sometimes take with them a little child; they put the little child into a window that is too small for them to enter, and then he goes and opens the door to let in the thieves. So do little sins act. They are but little ones, but they creep in, and they open the door for great ones. [Rev. C.H. Spurgeon, “Is it not a little one?”- Gen 19:20] 

Brothers and sisters, the Evil One knows that we are on guard against the larger sins in life. He will not come at us through the front door. He will send in something seemingly insignificant. A sin that appears so harmless and inconsequential that it is hardly paid attention to.  

These little sins are, no doubt, like the high places and Asherah poles that seemed to pop up like weeds in Israel and Judah. If the Old Testament is any indicator of the patterns of humanity, godly people will often make allowances for high places in their lives.  

What are these smallest of sins that seem insignificant in our lives? That we allow in our thoughts, in our hearts and in our actions? Those things that are bad, that are evil, but seem inconsequential in our lives. That seem insignificant in comparison to the greater sins out there in life? 

One day will something like this be said of you?  

“In all of his days he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, but nevertheless his cell phone usage was not removed from his life…or his TV usage…or fill in the blank.”  

What is your high place? 

It is your pride? Do you quietly judge those around you?  

Is it your anger? Do you find yourself raising your voice so that others have to listen to you?  

Is it your sarcasm or coarse joking? Do you choose to jab others, rather than seeking reconciliation when you are upset? 

Or maybe you have those sins under control, you aren’t angry or prideful toward others. Instead, you hate yourself, you hate how you look, you hate how you sound, you hate everything about yourself. Brothers and sisters, your self-contempt, is no more than pride disguised as false humility. Your self-contempt is likely rooted in anger that God should have made you different than he did, because you deserve to be better. 

Or maybe you allow yourself freedoms at home and in private that you would never dream of allowing in front of others. You reason that the language you use, the insults you shovel out, or the things you do in private, are not as bad as murder, blasphemy, or adultery, and so you deceive yourself into thinking that while they aren’t great, at least you’re better off than the next guy.  

Friends, our hearts are deceitful above all things. Our hearts are desperately wicked.  

The seemingly small and insignificant sin our lives will spread. They will take more and more real-estate in your hearts, minds, and actions.  

Paul to the Galatian church writes: “You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? ….9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” [Galatians 5:7, 9] 

As we relax our obedience even in these small areas of life, they will permeate and fill the other areas of life.  

We must, as John Owen wrote, “Be killing sin, or sin will be killing you.”  

So first, we must be diligent to remove the high places, the areas of our life that seem insignificant and we must hear God’s Word and turn to him. 

But next we must listen to God’s Word, and rather than grow hardened, we must repent.  

Hardening vs. Repentance  

Many of us know the story of the Prodigal Son. If you don’t, the short version is that it is about a rebellious son who asks for his inheritance early only to then squander it in unthinkable ways. With a severe famine in the land, the son has no choice but to return to the father in humiliation and ask if he be one of his hired servants.  

What makes that parable so powerful is that while the son expects to be rejected and treated like a hired servant, instead, what we see is the loving and grace-filled response from the father. The father embraces him and celebrates his return, clothing him with the best robe, putting a ring on his finger and shoes on his feet, and throwing a celebratory banquet.   

This parable is important for us, because we need to realize that it is a picture of how we expect God to react to our sinfulness and waywardness, and a picture of how God actually reacts. 

And we need to hear this because, God does call us to absolute obedience. He calls us to be holy as he is holy. To be perfect as he is perfect. He wants us to be watchful and to guard our heart from slipping into sinful ways. To be faithful in the little, and to be killing sin.  

We should fear God, and we should fear growing hardened in our sin as Asa did.  

And, at the same time, it is essential that we also remember that God is after our heart.  

He wants us to know that while he calls us to absolute holiness, he also surrounds us with compassion and love. He offers us help – to be our strength.  

See, the hardships we face and the sins we struggle with, are meant to drive us outside of ourselves. In these struggles, together with Paul we exclaim, AH!!! “Wretched man that I am!” 

God, in his love, will convict us and break us from trusting in our own flesh.  

We are inwardly convicted, and we are corrected through the hearing of his word. That is why we need his word so badly. Because the Word and the Spirit, convict us and drive us to repentance and to God where we need to be.  

Asa, on the other hand, turned away from God’s Word. He despised the Word of the Lord and locked the prophet in jail, refusing to repent from his sin. And his heart hardened toward all those around him. 

Brothers and sisters, let us not backslide, but turn from our sins. This begins with the power of the Spirit and the hearing of God’s Word.  And that includes us taking seriously the call to remove the high places that you have allowed to exist in our life.  

Today, repentance means you not only think on this message, but that you take action, that you create a plan. That you would write down a takeaway from this message that has teeth.  

That you would not simply bemoan the sins in your life, but that you would consider today what you will do to cut down your Asherah, how you will take action to tear down your high places and crush them and burn them. To destroy them completely…and if or when they reappear, you crush them again and do not offer them a space in your life. [2 Chronicles 15:16-17]  

Asa gradually let down his guard against sin. He let some things slide. And, like David or the prodigal son, if he had repented from his sin, we would have had a much different outcome. A much happier story. A story of repentance and forgiveness. 

May the life of Asa remind us that more than doing our job, or leading our families or succeeding in workplaces, God wants us to come to him. He wants us for himself. He wants us to repent from our sins, and to turn to him for help. 


In conclusion, as we consider the life of Asa, may we consider how he started strong in his faith, seeking the Lord with all of his heart, but then how he ended hardened, unrepentant, and distant from God.  

May we learn from this warning, to be careful to hear and respond, and to put to destruction the high places in our lives. Repenting from sin, and turning to God who is our help. For he calls us to bring our struggles before him. He beckons us to come to him as he waits with open arms, ready to clothe us in his righteousness, and his love. Turn to your gracious Lord, who is faithful and steadfast. For he who began a good work in you, will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  [Phil. 4:7] Amen.  

Sources Referenced 

Ahn, Keun-Jo. 2009. “A Study of בָּמָה (Bamah; High Place) in the Old Testament: Its Biblical and Theological Significance.” 한국기독교신학논총 63  

          (May): 21–36. https://search-ebscohost-com.wscal.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lsdar&AN=ATLAiEYD160930000606&site=ehost-live. 

Delitzsch, F. and Keil, C. F., KEIL & DELITZSCH OT COMMENTARY. Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.: 1996. 

Payne, Barton J. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: 2 Chronicles Vol. 4 Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1988. 

Selman, Marin J. 2 Chronicles: TOTC Vol 11, Downers Grover, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1994.  

Spurgeon, Charles H., “A Lesson from the Life of King Asa”- 2 Chronicles 16:9: Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Volume 20: January 1, 1874. 


Spurgeon, Charles H., “Is it not a little one?”- Gen 19:20: A Sermon (No. 248) Delivered on Sabbath Morning, April 17th, 1859. At the Music Hall, Royal  

          Surrey Gardens.  https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/spurgeon_charles/sermons/0248.cfm 

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