"And Asa cried unto the Lord his God, and said, Lord, it is nothing with Thee to help, whether with many or with them that have no power; help us, O Lord our God; for we rest on Thee, and in Thy name we go against this multitude. O Lord, Thou art our God; let not man prevail against Thee."
2 Chronicles xiv. n.
Asa had had a long, peaceful reign, which the Chronicler traces to the fact that he had rooted out idolatry. But at length war-clouds gathered in the south, and Zerah the Ethiopian came against him with an army which is, probably erroneously, set down at a million strong. Like a wise man Asa made his military dispositions first, and prayed next. He set his troops in order, and then he fell down on his knees, and spoke to God. His prayer brings out the salient points of the true attitude in reference to the tasks and dangers of life.
It begins with steadfastly looking his own weakness in the face, as was not difficult when he was outnumbered by two to one. We may not be in such a plight, but if we take fair account of our duties, perils, temptations, of life's certainties and possibilities, we shall have to repeat Asa's acknowledgment that we "have no power." The more humbly we think of our own capacity the more truly we shall estimate ourselves. The world preaches up self-reliance as the conquering temper; Jesus bids us cultivate self-distrust as the condition of victory. That does not mean any mere shuffling off of responsibility from our own shoulders, but it means looking the facts of our lives, and of our own characters, in the face. And however apparently easy may be our course, and however richly endowed in mind, body, or estate we may be if we do that, we shall find that we each are like "the man with ten thousand" that has to meet " the king that comes against him with twenty thousand." We shall not "desire conditions of peace" with our enemy, for that is not what in this case we have to do, but we shall look about us, and not keep our eyes on the horizon and on the levels of earth, but gaze upwards to see if there is not there an ally that we can bring into the field to redress the balance, and to make our ten as strong as the opposing twenty. Now all that is eminently true about us Christian people, if we are doing any work for our Master. What are we among so many? A mere handful. If the Christian Church had to undertake the task of Christianising the world with its own strength, it might well stop altogether. "We have no might." The disproportion both numerically and in all things that the world estimates as strength (which are many of them good things) is so great that we are in a worse case than Asa was. We are not only numerically weak, but a multitude of non-effectives, mere camp followers, have to be deducted from the musterroll; and the few who are left have more than enough to do in holding their own, to say nothing of attempting to charge the far-extended lines of the enemy. So, profound self-distrust is wisdom.
But it ought not to paralyse us, but to lead to our summoning God into the field. Asa did so, and used a remarkable expression, which the Revised Version renders by, "Lord, there is none beside Thee to help between the mighty and them that have no power," which is equivalent to saying that God, and God only, can adjust the difference between the mighty and the weak, and, by placing His hand on the feeble hand, can make it stronger than the mailed fist of the foe. God can turn the scales, and, by laying His might into the lighter, can cause it to outweigh the heavier. If God is with us, our sparse ranks outnumber the "big battalions" on the other side. One man with God at his back is always in the majority; and, however many there may be on the other side, "there are more that be with us than they that be with them." There is encouragement for people who have to fight unpopular causes in the world, who have been accustomed to be in minorities all their days. Bring God into the field, and the little band, which is compared in another place in these historical Books to "two flocks of kids" fronting the enemy that had flowed all over the land, is in the majority. The consciousness of weakness may unnerve a man, but the self-distrust that catches at God's skirts is the parent of brave confidence. We open the door for God's entrance when we feel our powerlessness. The lakes are in the hollows, the mountain tops are dry. If we will dig a reservoir in our hearts by self-distrust, He will pour the flashing flood of His power into it. The little hermit-crab, with its soft, unarmoured body, makes for an empty shell and houses there; so we, with our exposed natures, should shelter in God, where we shall be safe. As the unarmed population of a land invaded by the enemy pack their goods and hurry to the nearest fortified place, so when I say to myself, "I have no strength," let me say, "Thou art my Rock, my Strength, my Fortress, and my Deliverer; my God in whom I trust, my Buckler, and the horn of my Salvation, and my high Tower."
"We rest on Thee," said Asa, using a very picturesque word, which is the same as is employed to describe how Saul, on the fatal field of Gilboa, was seen leaning on his spear. Wearied, wounded, broken-hearted, desperate, he leaned hard, resting heavily his languid weight on the strong shaft. That is how we are to rest our whole selves on God. If we do not much feel the need of support, we shall lean lightly; if we feel our weakness, we shall lean hard, and then God will come quickly.
Courageous advance will follow self-distrust and summoning God by faith. "In Thy name we go against this multitude." It was two to one; but that did not matter. Cowardice and want of faith dress themselves in the garb of "prudence" and "judicious caution." "Dare, dare, always dare." Dash is not always presumptuous. Creeping prudence and cautious calculation are all the better for a touch of it. If God is with us, we may well be bold.
Asa presented a plea which was sure to prevail when he based his petition on, "Thou art my God." God gives Himself to us, and we have to take Him for ours by faith, and make Him truly ours, because we make ourselves His. "It takes two to make a bargain," and there must be not only God's giving Himself, but our taking Him, before we can trulj say, "Thou art our God." Asa had another plea— "Let not man prevail against Thee." What business had he to identify his little kingdom and his victory with God's cause and God's conquest? Only this, that he had flung himself into God's arms, and because he had done so and was trying to do what God would have him do, he was quite sure that it was not Asa but Jehovah that the million of Ethiopians were fighting against. People warn us against the fanaticism of taking for granted that our cause is God's cause. Well, we need the warning sometimes, but we may be quite sure of this, that if we have made God's cause ours, He will make our cause His, down to the minutest matters in our daily lives.
And, then, if thus we say in the depths of our hearts, "There is none other that fighteth for us, but only Thou, O God!" it will be with us as it was with Asa, "the enemy fled, and could not recover themselves, for they were destroyed before the Lord and before His hosts.