[This devotional/scoutmaster minute was delivered at our Court of Honor program last night]
Asa was the third king of the Kingdom of Judah and the fifth king of the House of David (great-grandson of Solomon)1. Asa started his reign by doing what was right in the eyes of the Lord (1 Kings 15:11) and purged the land of idolatry. As scouts we would say that Asa pursued his “Duty to God” based on his position and responsibilities.
Because Asa put his Duty to God first, he was able to accomplish much. Early in Asa’s reign, an army of a million warriors and 300 chariots came against Judah (2 Chronicles 14:8-15). Severely outnumbered, Asa turned to God and prayed;
“Lord, there is no one besides You to help in the battle between the powerful and those who have no strength; so help us, O Lord our God, for we trust in You, and in Your name have come against this multitude. O Lord, You are our God; let not man prevail against You.” (2 Chron 12:11NASB)
Asa placed his full trust in the Lord – he gave God his complete Loyalty. Asa’s faith was well placed, and God gave Judah a great victory; not only decimating their enemies but also capturing great spoils of war.
After this great victory, we learn that “…the Spirit of God came on Azariah the son of Oded, and he went out to meet Asa and said to him, “Listen to me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin: the Lord is with you when you are with Him. And if you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you.” (2 Chron 15 1-2 NASB)
Because of this message seeking the loyalty of Asa and his citizens, they strengthened their “whole-hearted” commitment to God and were granted peace for many years.
Unfortunately, when Asa saw the signs of a new war, he took matters into his own hands. Instead of whole heartedly relying on God to intervene on Judah’s behalf, Asa negotiated with mercenaries and invaded Israel. At face value, it looked like a victory: Judah won the day and carried away valuable building materials to further fortify their own cities.
However, Hanani, a prophet, came to Asa and admonished him for breaking his loyalty to God and trying to handle things as he saw fit apart from God. Hanani’s message from God mentioned that Asa had, in fact, acted foolishly by trusting in the mercenaries (who remained a threat to Judah) instead of continuing Asa’s loyalty in God alone. Based on the earlier war where Asa was greatly outnumbered, this war could have had an even greater victory if Judah’s armies had defeated BOTH the mercenaries and Israel’s army by God’s strength and design. Further, in 2 Chronicles 16:9a it says; “For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His [emphasis added].” (NASB).
God seeks people who are consistently loyal to Him with their whole heart. As scouts and scouters, we pledge to do our duty to God and we agree that we value and pursue trustworthiness, loyalty, and reverence in our daily lives. Our pledge becomes effective when we give ALL of our heart (our loyalty!) to God. In that scenario, God can direct us to accomplish great and mighty things while giving God all of the Glory/credit for the result. Unfortunately, if we’re merely repeating these statements and don’t mean them, or have a heart with divided loyalties, I have to wonder whether God sees us as He saw Asa after his decision to take matters into his own hands.
King Asa didn’t take the message from Hanani well: Asa got angry and had Hanani imprisoned. Later, Asa suffered from a severe disease centered in his feet. Rather than seek God’s intervention, he stubbornly hardened his heart by trusting only his courtly physicians until his death. Compare Asa’s tragic end to Hezekiah’s brush with death in 2 Kings 20: 1-6: Hezekiah cried out to the Lord and asked to be spared due to his prior, whole-hearted devotion (loyalty) to God. He was healed and granted fifteen additional years of life.
As scouts and scouters, we have choices to make. We can follow the earlier example of Asa and give our whole-hearted loyalty to God. In this case God will give us victory in our battles despite overwhelming odds and God will be glorified by His great acts on our behalf. On the other hand, we could model Asa’s later reign by trusting in our own cleverness to save the kingdom without calling on God. We may find a victory, but it will certainly be a far less rewarding outcome than had we leaned on God in faith. Additionally, by withholding our loyalty from God, we’re testifying to everyone around us that we don’t really believe that God is capable or deserving of our trust and faith. It can be intimidating to face an army with a million men, but only if we don’t trust God’s loyalty to us and His love for us (Psalm 23; Matthew 10:29-31; Luke 15; Romans 5:8; Romans 8:28; Romans 8:38-39; et.al.)
For scouts, Asa’s choices and outcomes can represent many issues confronting young men. Asa purged the land of idolatry. What sorts of idols are captivating our youth? How can scouts, individually, take a stand against these things? Is idolatry, at a simplistic level, replacing our loyalty to God with loyalty to something or someone else (consider the first commandment found in Exodus 20:3-6)? As scouts, should we simply avoid idolatry (personally), or take a stand against it by encouraging others to give their loyalty to God alone? If yes, how? (1 Thessalonians 5:14-22) If no, why not?
This troop’s scouts are besieged by a cultural world view that is openly hostile to Christianity [Note: you don’t need to be a “Christian” to be involved in scouting; however, the families in our troop share a common faith and we examine scouting ideals under that shared faith practice]. They’re confronted by twisted life lessons from television, films, and tragically flawed sports heroes. These sources proclaim that bad behavior is actually good, cool, or should be rewarded (i.e. ‘successful’ bank robber as hero, lawless pirate as hero, etc.), and that which is traditionally labeled as virtuous is actually bad for your reputation or is somehow intolerant, bigoted or hateful towards those who are uncomfortable being judged by their creator (Psalm 36:1-4; John 16:8; Romans 1:18-32). Do our scouts get the message that “Duty to God, Others, Self” and living the scout law actually makes a difference when rooted in real faith and whole-hearted loyalty to God? Are there multiple mentors/messengers in these scout’s lives sharing an encouraging message of being loyal to scouting ideals and more critically, faith ideals?
Perhaps our scouts are pressured to make decisions about pornography, sex, drugs, alcohol, etc. Do they realize that they can call out to God for His intervention and protection? Do they recognize that “standing alone” endangers them – that they may overcome the immediate issue (i.e. compromise their faith by hanging with the “in-crowd”), but later suffer specific consequences of sinful disobedience? Do they recognize calling out to God as a valid and valuable choice, or do they treat God’s presence as a semi-myth – another “bible story” from Sunday School that isn’t grounded in reality? As the world teaches our scouts to ignore God, are we countering that duplicitous message with the truth from scriptures and examples of God working in our lives each day?
From the scouter’s perspective, there are troubling headlines about BSA being petitioned on open membership regardless of proclaimed sexual orientation (which many people of faith tie to a moral choice and “popular culture” does not), and efforts to strip faith from scouting. We also get bombarded by the press who love sensationalistic headlines about declining popularity of scouting reflected in membership numbers, and how our commitment to values is “old fashioned and out of touch”. These issues often remind me of how the Philistines lined up against Israel and taunted them to send out a man against Goliath. Are these cultural issues and news reports taunts to get us to commit to foolish, self-determined reactions? Or are they a call to action where our first step is to pray as Asa first prayed:
“Lord, there is no one besides You to help in the battle between the powerful and those who have no strength; so help us, O Lord our God, for we trust in You, and in Your name have come against this multitude. O Lord, You are our God; let not man prevail against You.”
If we really believe that faith is integral to scouting, then we do not need to worry about the numbers in the army that encompasses us or fret over what may happen – we need to exercise our loyalty – our duty to God. Holding on to our concerns and trying to solve the perceived problem(s) on our own misses the point of King Asa’s object lesson.
God’s vision is so much greater than our own – let’s first place our complete (whole-hearted) trust in Him to do great things within the Scouting program (and every other area of our lives), secondly pray and lastly be prepared to act on His guidance. Asa still sent his army into battle (be prepared for any situation), but the key to victory was whole-hearted loyalty to God instead of short-sighted self-reliance (Duty to God/Reverence are the “bookends” to scouting’s ideals and God must come first if we believe He is who He claims to be).