(This is a brief overview for Sunday school teachers and Bible study leader of the Lifeway Explore the Bible lesson for this text. A video version of this overview is available at:
ONE way you could open this lesson would be to refer to the landmark decision our Supreme Court handed down last week, overturning the Roe v Wade decision in 1973 that somehow found a guarantee of abortion rights in the Constitution. For the last almost 50 years, our country had endured this evil, with 63 million babies being killed — but last Friday, June 24, that was overturned. It marked a great turn BACK from evil in our country.
(Or you could introduce the lesson with some other story of a “turning back,” or “revival” that took place, or a pastor who came to your church and turned things around, or a personal turning back to God in your life, or the life of someone you know.)
Then you might say: this week our lesson in I Kings refers to a similar “turning back”, a revival that took place in Judah under King Asa.
NOTE (as we talked about last time) we see the divided Kingdom here: Israel in the north, under King Jeroboam, and Judah in the south. Verse 9 opens this passage saying: “So in the 20th year of Jeroboam the king of ISRAEL (the 10 tribes of the north that split away), Asa began to reign as king of JUDAH” (the southern Kingdom that stayed with the descendants of Solomon). The focus in this lesson will be on Asa and the southern Kingdom of Judah. (you might have your map handy and point out where Judah is, as a reminder)
— Chapter 14 = Solomon’s son Rehoboam, king of Judah, “did evil” :22 says, building false idols and places of worship, allowing male cult prostitutes, doing what the nations God cast out from the land before Israel came, did.
— Chapter 15 opens with Rehoboam’s son Abijam becoming king, and he continued in the same sins, :3 says.
— Then we come to our focus passage, I Kings 15:9-22, as Asa becomes king over the southern Kingdom, Judah.
And :11 says “Asa did what was right in the sight of the LORD.”
So Asa brought about a “revival” or a “return” to the Lord in the land (thus the title for this week’s lesson: “Return.”
So Asa brings a revival, a return to the Lord. But what did he specifically DO? Whenever we return to God, there should be specific marks of it.
Back in the “old days” we’d often see decisions in church for “rededication of life” to the Lord. And that’s a good thing. But when we “rededicate” ourselves, we need to be committed to do some specific things. I remember being a counselor at a youth camp one time, and a young person came forward, saying they wanted to rededicate themselves to the Lord. I said, that’s great: but what specifically do you mean by that? Are there some specific things you are going to STOP doing; do you know some specific things God wants you to START doing/doing again? I encouraged to make it specific.
So Asa here leads his people in a “return” to God.
In :11-15, what all do we see that Asa did, specifically, that was “right in the sight of the Lord”? (You can point these out, or to get your class involved, have them read this passage and then call out what they see …)
— :12 he removed the male cult prostitutes from the land
— :12b he removed the idols his fathers had made
— :13 he removed his mother from being queen mother (more on this later!) He cut down her image and burned it
— :14 he was “wholly devoted to the LORD all his days”
— :15 he dedicated a lot of silver and gold utensils to the LORD and brought them to the temple.
So there are a LOT of evidences of specific things he did, as he led Judah to return to God. He didn’t just say, “Let’s get right.” He led them in specific things.
This is how it should always be: when you get your heart right with God, you will show it in specific ways/actions. There will be specific things you STOP doing: like in Asa here, he stopped the cult prostitutes and idols); He DID something: removed his mother; GAVE utensils to the Lord, and so on.
So you might challenge your group: what specific actions would God be saying to you, that you need to take to return to Him?
What specifically do you need to STOP?
What specifically do you need to START/START AGAIN?
Don’t be content to just say, “I want to be right with God.” If you’re really coming back to Him, you will show it with specific actions.
BUT ONE OF THESE THINGS REALLY STICKS OUT TO ME, and the Bible focuses on it somewhat here: :13 and what Asa did regarding his mother. :13 “he removed Maacah his mother from being queen mother, because she had made a horrid image as an Asherah …”.Even though she was his mother, he destroyed the ungodly image she worshiped, and even went to the extreme of removing her from the position of “queen mother.”
This gives us a point of application here that is one of the most difficult aspects of the Christian life: Some of the hardest stands we have to take for the Lord, may be in regard to our own family.
This could be a good place to talk about the balanced place that the FAMILY should have in the Christian life. God’s word shows us that family is a priority; but it is not to be our highest priority, as many mistakenly believe.
??? You could open this section by asking: “What are some verses that talk about the priority of the family for the believer?
— Genesis 2, “the man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh”
— Ephesian 5 “Husbands, love your wives”
— I Timothy 5 “if anyone does not provide for his own family, he is worse than an unbeliever”
And there are many others you/your class can think of.
As a result of this, many today = “Family is #1!” But that is not quite the Christian viewpoint. As odd as it may sound, family is NOT #1 for the Christian; GOD is #1! As always, the Bible is our guide on this, and the scripture is very clear on it.
???What are some verses/scriptural examples that teach that the Lord is to have priority even over family???
— In Matthew 4: James & John left their boat “and their father” and followed Jesus! Following Jesus was to be more important to them than staying with their father!
— Luke 8:19-21 Jesus’ mother and brothers couldn’t get to Him because of the crowd, and they told Him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside” — but Jesus said in :21 “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.”
— Luke 14:26 “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.”
Now, we don’t believe Jesus meant LITERALLY to “hate” our family, but He IS saying that following HIM is to be our greatest priority, even over our own family.
— Luke 12:5 Jesus = “Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division … (He said in :53) “They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother,” and so on. Because you are going to have to choose following HIM above THEM.
All of which tells us, that for the Christian: FAMILY IS NOT #1; JESUS IS TO BE #1!
(If you want to use another example from the Old Testament: In Moses’ blessing of Levi in Deut. 33:9, he said Levi (the priests) “Who said of his father and his mother, ‘I did not consider them,’ and he did not acknowledge his brothers, nor did he regard his own sons, for they observed Your word and kept Your covenant.”
This refers to Exodus 32, when :25 = the people of Israel were out of control with their orgies with the Golden Calf. Moses said in :26 “Whoever is for the LORD, come to me!” And it says the sons of Levi came to him, and Moses commanded them to get their swords, and just start smiting everyone — doesn’t matter who they are, family member, anyone, to settle the rioting down. And they did. And Moses commended them: they considered obeying the LORD more important even than their own family.
So the point is: For the Christian, family is not #1; Jesus is #1. And obeying HIM is to take priority over everyone and everything else in our lives.
One example from the mission field: my sister is with the IMB in SE Asia. A young man there was saved last year, and his father became so angry that he became a Christian, that he cut him off from paying his college, and called him back home. He called him before the whole family to explain himself and his new commitment (which was a great opportunity, by the way!) But they were all against him. He basically had to go against his whole family, to follow Christ. But this is what Jesus wanted him to do. His family was not to be #1; Jesus was.
So here you might ask your class??? Has anything like this ever happened to YOU, or to someone you know? Have you ever had to take a stand for the Lord, that opposed family, or was offensive to family: spouse, kids, other relatives???
There have been several times when I had to stand on Biblical principles, that my extended family was not happy about. You/your class may have some instances like that, that you can share.
Emphasize, that as Christians, we should never SEEK to offend people; we want to be as loving as we can. But the fact is, like Jesus said, if we follow Him, there will be times when we have to choose Him even over our own family. And when those times come, we need to be willing to do it. Like Asa shows us here, family is not #1 for the Christian, GOD IS!
Then let’s look for just a second at the last section of the focus passage: :16-22, what I might call “ASA’S PRAGMATIC COMPROMISE.” :17 says the King of Israel (the northern Kingdom) warred against Asa, so :18 says he took the silver & gold from the temple, and gave it to Ben-Hadad of Syria, which was north of Israel, who then went to war with Israel, and caused them to withdraw from their war against Asa and Judah.
??? So the question here (and this might lead to some discussion in your group. Do you think what Asa did was right? The Bible doesn’t say right here “this is good/this was bad.” It just records what happened. Was it right or wrong? You might get some good discussion on this.
But in OTHER places it becomes more clear. God tells His people, DO NOT go to other nations for help:
— +x Isaiah 31:1 “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help And rely on horses, And trust in chariots because they are many And in horsemen because they are very strong, But they do not look to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the LORD!”
— +x our First Baptist Angleton daily Bible reading this week in Hosea 7:11 it said: “They call to Egypt, they go to Assyria” — but :10 = “Yet they have not returned to the LORD their God, nor have they sought Him for all this.”
And there are several other passages like this.
This is what Asa did here: he took all the precious items from the Lord’s temple, and gave it to the King of Aram in Damascus. So Asa did what God condemned in other places, like Hosea & Isaiah. And in fact, in II Chronicles 16:7-10 the prophet Hanani rebukes Asa for what he did.
AND of course, you don’t want this just to be a “speculative history lesson” here at this point. We always need to APPLY the scripture to us today! So you could apply it in this way:
??? What are some ways that WE TODAY might compromise in this same way??? What are some people/things we turn to, to help us, often in the place of seeking God???
(some suggested answers could be:
— Government/political help instead of God
— medical help instead of God
— worldly counsel instead of God’s (like we saw last week)
— one application might be: just as Asa took God’s money from the temple to solve his problem, so we might take our tithe money, or building fund money, or some funds we’d dedicated to the Lord, and use it for a problem we had, instead of looking to God!
And we might emphasize that there is a place for some of these things: medicine, government, etc. — but we should never seek them FIRST, and we should never seek them in the place of God, or compromise what should have been given to God, which is what Asa appears to have done here.
So Asa was basically a good king; he led in a “revival/return” to the Lord in many ways; but he did compromise some in this situation. Reminding us that even “good Christians” are never perfect, and we must all rely on the grace of God.
OK, I hope this will help you get started on your lesson for Sunday. I’ll be praying for you this weekend. See you next time, Lord willing!