1 Kings 15:13
Without question, parents should love their children, even if they do not live up to their parents’ ideals. It is also no question that parents need to think about their own values when being confronted with the behavior, choices, and thoughts of their children; and vice versa. Experiences can change our perspectives on life. In some cases, this is good. If a daughter accepts Jesus as her Saviour and Lord or the Sabbath as God’s day of rest, her non-Adventist parents are confronted with a new situation to which they have to react in one way or another. We would hope that the experience of a change in their daughter’s life would trigger a positive change in their own lives. However, in other cases a change of perspective based on experiences may be detrimental. If experiences and our subjective interpretation of them determine our lives, we may bypass our reasoning powers and give up exercising faith in Scripture as God’s Word.
Another issue is the strength of family ties. These can be very helpful. But family ties can also hinder our personal development and prevent us from doing what is right and needed.
1 Kings 15:13 reads, “He [King Asa] also removed Maacah his mother from being queen mother because she had made an abominable image for Asherah. And Asa cut down her image and burned it at the brook Kidron” (ESV).
I. THE CONTEXT OF 1 KINGS 15
King Asa was king of Judah. The kingdom of Israel had been divided into two kingdoms under his grandfather Rehoboam. Since the division of Israel into two kingdoms, Judah was in apostasy to the Lord. Asa’s father Abijam had reigned only three years. He did not follow God. Then came Asa, ruling fortyone years. He brought about a reform in Judah.
It must have been hard for him to choose a way of life so different from that of his father and grandfather. In addition, Maacah, functioning as queen mother, was an influential person and opposed to his belief system. We do not know why Asa turned to the Lord, while his family was involved in idolatry. But we know that he went against the tide and committed himself to the Lord.
This happens also in our days. The Holy Spirit touches the hearts of people. Some respond and become believers, as did Paul in the first century AD and many others later. Christians have been ridiculed by their family members, rejected, disowned, persecuted, and killed.
II. THE TEXT
Asa was most likely in a difficult situation. Oftentimes queen mothers were more influential than the king’s wife/ wives. The new king had to be grateful to his mother,1 because she had helped him become king among other candidates. But Maacah was practicing open idolatry in an especially offensive way. The image erected through her was most likely worshipped by many people. By violating the Ten Commandments, she not only challenged God but also undermined the king’s authority and his plans.
Throughout history people have excused, protected, and even supported their family members even when crimes were committed. The high priest Eli’s sons were abusive priests, oppressing others and having sexual relations with women who served at the entrance to the tabernacle. While Eli admonished them, he wrongly did not remove them from office.
The term “nepotism” describes favoritism and partiality toward relatives. Nepotism is well known in politics, business, and even in the religious sphere. But Asa did not tolerate the idolatrous behavior of his mother. He removed her from her sphere of influence because of her apostasy and her bad example to the people. This was a courageous action. The short record of his life in 1 Kings 15 includes this incident. It is considered so important that it was reported. But by stressing this action, the biblical record indicates that in many other cases this was not so. Ahab did not stand up to his wife Jezebel but succumbed to her evil influence. King Herod did not dare to refuse the petition of Herodias’ daughter to have John the Baptist beheaded. Yet King Asa stood up to the queen mother as the cause of the Lord was too important.
A. We and Our Families
The message of this text is clear: God has priority. He comes first. Family ties are important (1 Tim 5:8). God established the family. Families are the foundation of society and need our support and love. So, should we care for and treasure our immediate and our extended family? Certainly. But should we make ourselves dependent on our family when it comes to our relationship with Jesus, faith, beliefs, and Christian lifestyle? Definitely not! God comes first. If our family disregards God’s will, we do not give in. We do not bend justice. We do not promote our own people. But we love them deeply.
According to Jesus, if we love father or mother, son or daughter more than Him, we are not worthy of Him. And if we have left our family for Jesus’ sake, we will receive much more and “inherit eternal life” (Matt 19:29, ESV). Jesus comes first.
B. We and Our Experiences
This brings us to the other and related issue, our personal experiences. Experiences are important for our Christian walk. Who would like to miss the joy of an answered prayer, divine intervention in great danger, and the many little and big incidents that tell us that God cares for us? But not all experiences are good. There are tragedies in our lives, our community, and society. There are also experiences that may lead to completely wrong conclusions—for example, arriving at prejudices against certain people groups.
Although experiences are an important part of our lives, they cannot be our yardstick. They need to be evaluated. And the same experience can be interpreted differently by different people. We need a standard that allows us some kind of objective evaluation. We believe this standard is the Word of God, the Bible.
We rely on God’s Word. If experiences challenge our practice and beliefs and this is supported by Scripture, we must change our thinking and lifestyle. If experiences challenge our practice and beliefs and this is not supported by Scripture, we must follow the Bible.
Jesus was clear on this issue: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17, ESV). The Lord comes first—always—as does His Word.
Let us remember Asa who removed Maacah, his mother, from being queen mother because she served other gods. Let us be courageous and stand for what is true, even with family members. Let us not condone evil, but still love the persons involved in it and respect those with whom we must disagree on clear teachings of Scripture.
1 Or grandmother, 1 Kings 15:2.
Ekkehardt Mueller, ThD, DMin, is a retired associate director of the Biblical Research Institute at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, MD, USA.