But the high places were not removed from Israel; nevertheless Asa’s heart was blameless all his days.
2 Chronicles 15:17
As believers, we are wont to think that to be blameless means to be without sin. We confuse sinless with blameless and cause ourselves all sorts of grief.
This verse, in context, comes after Judah’s King Asa had relied on God for a stellar victory against overwhelming odds and returned home to rededicate the kingdom to the pursuit of God. All of this is awesome and precisely what God wants. There’s a problem: Asa’s dedication was not complete. The high places were not removed which means that there was still worship happening outside God’s prescribed method. The high places may not have been for idol worship — it’s difficult to say since Solomon worshiped God at a high place — but the point isn’t whether or not they’re for idolatry but whether or not they constitute worshiping God in the way He directed, which they did not. Later, Asa would bribe an enemy king instead of praying for God’s help, imprison a prophet, oppress some of Judah, and suffer a disease in his feet which was intended to drive him to God for help but he went to the doctors instead and never did ask for God’s help.
So what does it mean to be blameless if not to be without sin? Obviously, Asa was not without sin. There’s a brief listing of the sins 2 Chronicles records above. All of those sins, however, are things for which no one would have blamed him. Bribing an enemy to turn against a different enemy? Happens all the time. Imprisoning someone who criticizes your reign? Monarchs did it for centuries. Oppressing some of the people? Some rulers oppress them all, so only oppressing some seems tame. Going to the doctors for a disease? Totally normal. None of these things is, in and of themselves, blameworthy. We can look at the circumstances and understand why he would do those things. Maybe the bribe was to avoid having to take the army to war and risk their lives. Good motive. Then some guy comes along and criticizes that well-intentioned decision. Heck with him. Toss him in a cell and let him think about it for a while, he’ll come around.
I had to bust out the concordance and have a look at what blameless is in the original and it could also be rendered “complete, safe, peaceful, perfect, whole, full, at peace.” Was Asa’s heart completely devoted to God? He had lapses, but the majority of his life was spent in pursuit of and trusting in God. Was his heart peaceful? Largely. He bribed an enemy, presumably so he didn’t have to go to war. Was his heart whole? I don’t see his heart being divided on anything in any of the accounts of him, so probably. Here’s the meaning that I think is most likely: safe.
The Bible says, in multiple places, that God keeps what is His. If we have given ourselves to Him, then we are now His and He keeps what He has. If Asa had given his heart to God, and the text implies that this is so, then Asa’s heart was safe in God’s keeping. It does not mean that Asa would be perfect or without sin. It does mean that his heart and his life were secure in the hands of God. Had he called on God instead of bribing the enemy, it is entirely possible he wouldn’t have had to go to war anyway, God has won battles without an army plenty of times. Had he called on God when he contracted the illness in his feet, it’s possible that he wouldn’t have had to see any doctors at all. And, considering the state of medicine in the ancient world, calling them doctors is, by modern standards, being overly generous.
How does this apply to me today? There’s a different question that answers that one: What do I want to keep safe? Whatever I give to God is safe in His hands. I need to put the things that are precious to me into His hands. Is my life precious to me? Then I must give it to Him for safekeeping. My wife? My daughter? I must trust God with them. There are plenty of hours and minutes in every day wherein I am in no position to do anything to keep either of them safe. God is not thus constrained. If I would be safe (translated as blameless, up above), I must place all that is precious to me in the hands of God.