“Whether Small Or Great”

By Harry R. Osborne

Asa was the third king of Judah after the division of the kingdom. The two kings preceding him, Rehoboam and Abijah, exemplified the way of error. The inspired writer sums up the seventeen year reign of Rehoboarn by saying, “He did that which was evil, because he set not his heart to seek Jehovah” (2 Chron. 12:14). In summing up the life of Abijah, the Bible says that he walked in “the sins of his father” and that “his heart was not perfect with Jehovah his God” (1 Kgs. 15:3). Asa, however, did not follow the path of apostasy, but “did that which was good and right in the eyes of Jehovah his God: for he took away the foreign altars, and the high places, and brake down the pillars, and hewed down the Asherim, and commanded Judah to seek Jehovah, the God of their fathers, and to do the law and the commandments” (2 Chron. 14:2-4).

In his effort to effect this time of restoration, Asa called Judah together to worship God and commit themselves unto his service. Notice the words of 2 Chronicles 15:12-13:

And they entered into the covenant to seek Jehovah, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and with all their soul; and that whosoever would not seek Jehovah, the God of Israel, should be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman.

The context goes on to show that Asa meant what he said. His own mother, Maacah, had an idolatrous image. Her sin was not tolerated. She was removed from her place of queen as Asa cut down her idol, ground it to pieces and burned the remains (2 Chron. 15:16). No preferential treatment was given, for Asa loved God more than any person, “whether small or great.”

In recent years, several events have made me think back upon this account. After all, the need for insisting upon purity in doctrine and practice by all, “whether small or great,” exists today as it did in the time of Asa. However, from time to time we hear the plea to exempt some from the close scrutiny of truth because they are “great.” Those who try to uphold and apply God’s standard of truth are often seen as the evil ones. It is often amazing to hear the objections some raise to the ones who simply try to preach the truth and call all to practice such.

I wonder if any such effort existed in Asa’s time. Just think what those opposing Asa’s efforts for God’s cause could have said:

“Who does that young fellow think he is anyway? ” Asa was probably in his late twenties or early thirties when this happened. Those who did not like the principles he upheld could have called him a “young buck” who was not “dry behind the ears” or the Hebrew equivalent thereof. They could have asked who this “Johnny-come-lately” is to challenge the way things had been for fifty years or more. If they made such put downs of Asa, would the truth he upheld be any less so?

‘That guy is just out to make a name for himself!” They could have said the whole thing was the result of “wanton glory” as Asa sought “self-promotion.” In attributing evil motives to Asa, they could have persuaded many people that Asa was the problem, thus diverting attention from the real issue. They may even have accused Asa of “manufacturing issues” so that he could attack “otherwise faithful brethren because of some difference of understanding concerning some point of Bible teaching.” The results would have been devastating to Judah if such would have caused them to accept sinful practices in their midst.

“He is just too legalist!” It would have been a little early for them to call Asa a “Pharisee,” but surely there was some comparable term of derision in that day. Some may have scoffed at Asa’s emphasis on the need for doctrinal truth. They could have claimed that “spirit is more important than truth.” One of them could have exclaimed, “I know some people in idolatry who have more spirit in their little finger than some of my conservative brethren have in their whole body!” No doubt, the fellow could have added, “I had rather err on the side of charity on such matters as these than on the side of rigidness.” Would such objections have made strict adherence to God’s commandments less necessary?

“We need to be more tolerant.” One brother might have mused, “If blackballing and ostracism were consistently applied few of us would have enough friends for a potluck supper.” They may have noted the fact that “the high places were not taken away” by Asa (1 Kings 15:14). This could have caused one to plea, “There seems to be some space for tolerance in this area. Am I overstepping the boundary of good judgment to suggest that we may need to make room for more? After all, we disagree in other areas which are surely as crucial.” One of the intellectuals could have concluded, “I confess that consistency is a formidable reason why I can work and worship with this private practicer of idolatry in spite of our differences.”

“Why can’t Asa just be positive?” After all, most of Asa’s actions recorded in the Bible would be regarded as “negative” by most people today. He tore down idols, demolished their altars, burned what remained, removed his mother as queen, and drove out the homosexuals. (Oh how we could use him as king in this country!) It is worth noting that the inspired commendation of Asa in 1 Kings 15:12-13 is composed entirely of such “negative” actions. Man’s subjective assessments of events as “positive” or “negative” do not change God’s view of them.

Who knows, some could have even tried to use Asa’s removal of his mother against him. They might have decried Asa’s action as a “personal attack” and “an unheroic assault on an old queen” who has “earned the respect and esteem of the people in Judah of our time.” Who knows, Maacah may have even been “a legend in her own day.” When they got through lauding and praising all of the past accomplishments of Maacah, would her idolatry be any better? As a matter of fact, would not her place of honor and respect have made her more dangerous in leading others into her error?

Lest one think this whole exercise in speculation is wasted space, let me note that the above statements are merely modified forms of things being said today. Take away the reference to Asa’s opposition to ancient error and replace it with some brother’s opposition to modern error and you’ve got it. Substitute the ridicule or character assassination of some faithful teacher for that of Asa and the words are identical. Instead of Maacah, use the name of some preacher of error or defender of some sinful practice and you will recognize current speech among our brethren.

If such objections would have failed to justify an acceptance or compromise with error in Asa’s time, why would they work in our time? Don’t be deceived!

Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 24, pp. 739-740
December 21, 1989