The inclination of our hearts toward pride or humility becomes evident when God brings to our attention something in our lives that is not pleasing to Him. The way we respond to Him in moments of conviction reveals the true condition of our heart. This is illustrated in the lives of two Old Testament kings, Rehoboam and Asa.
Rehoboam inherited the throne of Israel from his father, Solomon. In the midst of his reign, Rehoboam encountered trouble.
When the rule of Rehoboam was established and he was strong, he abandoned the law of the Lord, and all Israel with him. In the fifth year of King Rehoboam, because they had been unfaithful to the Lord, Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem with 1,200 chariots and 60,000 horsemen. . . . And he took the fortified cities of Judah and came as far as Jerusalem. Then Shemaiah the prophet came to Rehoboam and to the princes of Judah, who had gathered at Jerusalem because of Shishak, and said to them, “Thus says the Lord, ‘You abandoned me, so I have abandoned you to the hand of Shishak.’” (2 Chronicles 12:1–5)
Rehoboam’s heart was filled with sin and self. He had led the nation far away from God. The Lord raised up an enemy to punish Rehoboam for his rebellion. God wanted Rehoboam to understand why the nation was under siege, so He sent a prophet to explain. Read what happened next.
Then the princes of Israel and the king humbled themselves and said, “The Lord is righteous.” When the Lord saw that they humbled themselves, the word of the Lord came to Shemaiah: “They have humbled themselves. I will not destroy them, but I will grant them some deliverance, and my wrath shall not be poured out on Jerusalem by the hand of Shishak.” (2 Chronicles 12:6–7)
When confronted with their sin, Rehoboam and the leaders of the people respond with humility. God responded by granting them deliverance. Notice how the entire nation benefited from the right response of their leaders.
Now look at Rehoboam’s grandson, Asa, who became king of Judah three years after Rehoboam’s death. Asa had a long and (for the most part) prosperous reign. The Bible records many positive things about Asa and his leadership. He began his reign by taking some major steps of obedience.
And Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God. He took away the foreign altars and the high places and broke down the pillars and cut down the Asherim and commanded Judah to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, and to keep the law and the commandment. He also took out of all the cities of Judah the high places and the incense altars. And the kingdom had rest under him. He built fortified cities in Judah, for the land had rest. He had no war in those years, for the Lord gave him peace. . . . So they built and prospered. (2 Chronicles 14:2–7)
Even under Asa’s godly leadership, however, trouble eventually came to his kingdom. The Ethiopian army drew up for battle against Judah. In his time of trouble, Asa trusted in the Lord. He cried out to God and, by His hand, routed the enemy. God honored Asa for his faith and affirmed His blessing on his leadership. Asa responded in humility, and the spiritual resolve of the nation was deepened (see 2 Chronicles 15).
Several years later, another enemy approached, and this time Asa responded differently. Rather than trusting in the Lord, Asa turned to the nearby Syrians for help. God sent a prophet to rebuke him for this folly.
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. 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. “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.” (2 Chronicles 16:7–9)
Even though he had erred greatly, Asa was given the opportunity to humble himself, acknowledge his wrongdoing, and receive God’s mercy. The Scripture goes on to tell us how he responded to the prophet from God:
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. . . . 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. And Asa slept with his fathers, dying in the forty-first year of his reign. (2 Chronicles 16:10, 12–13)
Both men sinned. Both were confronted with their sin. One accepted this rebuke as God’s way of cleansing; the other received it as an assault on his reputation. Humility restored Rehoboam; pride ruined Asa.
Making it Personal: How do you typically respond when God uses others to point out areas of sin or failure in your life? Is your response more like that of Rehoboam or Asa?