Unpacking the King’s Secret to Success and Failure

Last week, my daily Bible reading plan took me through the middle chapters of 2 Chronicles that gave the account of the first few Kings of Judah. A striking pattern emerged for the kings’ successes and failures, one that is threaded throughout Scripture. 
The secret is this—whenever the kings humbled themselves and sought the Lord they were victorious no matter how dire the circumstances. Conversely, whenever they relied on their own devices or other earthly means they were miserably defeated. In Chapter 12, for example, the army of Egypt with its 1,200 chariots and 60,000 horsemen came against Rehoboam. The prophet Shemaiah told him that the Lord had brought this siege against him because he had “abandoned the Lord.” The Chronicler reported in the very next verse that upon hearing this, the king and the princes humbled themselves. The result? “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…’”
The next chapter Chronicles the reign of Abijah, son of Jeroboam. Abijah was the first of the great reformer kings. He was particularly concerned with reforming Judah’s priesthood. When a conflict broke out with the northern kingdom of Israel, he stood on Mt. Zimariam with his army of 400,000 outnumbered two to one against Israel’s 800,000 mighty men and spoke the following words in a scene that could be right out of the movie Braveheart: “’ “And now you think to withstand the kingdom of the Lord in the hand of the sons of David, because you are a great multitude and have with you the golden calves that Jeroboam made you for gods… Behold, God is with us at our head, and his priests with their battle trumpets to sound the call to battle against you. O sons of Israel, do not fight against the Lord, the God of your fathers, for you cannot succeed.’” The result? The priests sounded the trumpets, and when the dust cleared, Abijah had wiped out 500,000 of Israel’s mighty men. 
Perhaps the greatest illustration of the King’s secret to success and failure comes in the life of the next King of Judah, King Asa. King Asa experienced both victory and defeat based on whether or not he was relying upon the Lord. His defeat of the Ethiopians made his father Abijah’s victory look like an exhibition match. With a 580,000 man army, he defeated a force as large as the entire U.S. active military. His success against the Ethiopians was attributed to this prayer that the Lord answered: “’O Lord, there is none like you to help, between the mighty and the weak. Help us, O Lord our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this multitude. O Lord, you are our God; let not man prevail against you.’”
Asa did something incredibly dumb, though, late in his reign. Instead of seeking the Lord when Israel came against him, he made an alliance with the king of Syria. This alliance granted him victory in the short run and much bloodshed was avoided. In the long run, though, this would lead to his condemnation. The prophet Hanani delivered the verdict in hopes Asa would turn and seek the Lord saying, “’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… 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.” Asa refused to repent and as a result, would spend his last years in misery and die a horrible death. 
So what do we learn from these stories? In short, reliance on the Lord pleases Him and leads to glorious victory. Reliance on anything or anyone other than the Lord leads to defeat and misery. It is not the circumstances that matter. What matters is who or what you are trusting in as you face those circumstances. When the glory of the Lord is the victory you seek and the means by which you seek it, then you are guaranteed success. You can do all things through Christ, and only through Christ, who strengthens you.