The high places were not taken away out of Israel; nevertheless, Asa’s heart was perfect all his days.
~2 Chronicles 15:17
God’s not a legalist. Other kings were commended for getting rid of their high places, but Asa didn’t do it. Nevertheless, Asa’s heart was perfect, says the Holy Spirit through the Scriptures.
If you’ve read the Gospels, you may have noticed that Jesus wasn’t very fond of the Pharisees. What you may not know is that the Pharisees are the descendants of the Maccabees, of whom God was very fond. The Maccabees fought for Israel, defended the temple, defended the Law and the traditions of Israel, and they trained the people to reject idols and obtain the blessing of God. They were great men of God. If you’re a Protestant who hasn’t read Maccabees because it’s in the “Catholic” Bible, you’re missing out. It’s not as exciting as watching a modern movie, of course, but there’s a lot to be learned in it.
Think of the Maccabees as being like the church of Ephesus before it lost its first love and the Pharisees as being like the Ephesians after they lost their first love. Judas Maccabeus and his brothers and descendants had their eyes on God and on the people of Israel. The Pharisees had their eyes on rules. The latter made Jesus mad, real mad. Read Matthew 23 some day. He didn’t like the doctrine of the Pharisees.
Today there are all sorts of movements insisting that some little particular is required in order to please God. The Sacred Name movement, for example, insists that you have to use Jesus’ Hebrew name (Yeshua, Yehoshua, Y’shua, Yahshua or some other version they’ve made up) if you want to be saved. Other denominations insist on some other thing.
Years ago I met a man from the Church of Christ who told me I was the only other man who would talk with him about God. No one at his church, he said, was much interested in such conversation. He was delighted to have met me. The third or fourth time we got together, however, he found out that my water baptism, years earlier, had not been for the purpose of the forgiveness of my sins. I told him, “I understand Scripturally why you would want that to be so, but it’s impossible. By the time I went to be baptized, my sins were already forgiven. I can’t change that, and I wouldn’t want to.”
That man cut off fellowship with me from that moment. I was awestruck by his legalism. He was bent on literally interpreting Acts 2:38 and 22:16, but he seemed to have no regard for Matthew 7:20, literally or figuratively. It meant nothing to him at all that his doctrine was producing no interest in God at his church so that I was the only one who would converse with him about God. His doctrine was his doctrine, and it just didn’t matter what the fruit of it was.
Let’s not be like him. Let’s be like God. God had fellowship with people like Sampson, and he believed that people like Asa could be perfect. Samuel the prophet was one of his favorite people, and he not only didn’t tear down high places, he regularly sacrificed at them, as well as anywhere else he wanted to, thus breaking the Law of Moses. Nonetheless, the Scriptures testify that God let none of his words fall to the ground. It can be very important to recognize God’s prophets, as God tends to back up their words. You won’t recognize them by some minute rule you want to enforce. You’ll recognize them by their fruit.
Don’t forget, the Pharisees were unable to recognize God himself when he walked among them.