Sunday, May 15, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 98. Ahaz King Of Judah, Part 2

Prophets And Kings
Day 98
Ahaz King Of Judah
Part 2

We learned yesterday what a wicked man King Ahaz is, an idolater who even sacrificed hims son to a Canaanite god. Because of hims sins the Lord allows trouble to come upon him. But the instrument of the trouble, the nation of Israel, goes far and beyond what is reasonable or even humane, and so the Lord steps in to rescue Judah.

2 KINGS 16:5-16, 2 CHRONICLES 28:5-15
"Then Rezin king of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel marched up to fight against Jerusalem and besieged Ahaz, but they could not overpower him." (2 Kings 16:5) The king of Aram and the king of Israel ally themselves to conquer Judah but are not able to take Jerusalem. The prophet Isaiah said, "When Ahaz son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, was king of Judah, King Rezin of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel marched up to fight against Jerusalem, but they could not overpower it." (Isaiah 7:1) The Lord, speaking through Isaiah, said that Rezin and Pekah intended to tear Judah apart and split the territory up, with Israel taking half and Aram taking half. Then they intended to place a man of their choosing in charge of what was formerly Judah. But the Lord said through the prophet Isaiah that He would not allow these plans to be successful. He made a promise to David to preserve Judah and to preserve its royal line and God does not break promises.

Pekah and Rezin were not able to take Jerusalem and wipe out the royal family, but, "At that time, Rezin king of Aram recovered Elath for Aram by driving out the people of Judah. Edomites then moved into Elath and have lived there to this day." (2 Kings 16:6) The Arameans do succeed in driving the people of Judah out of Elath with the Edomites, the descendants of Esau, moving in. 

The author of 2nd Chronicles records a defeat of Judah at the hands of Aram and I was not able to find out for certain whether this battle was the battle for Elath or the battle to defend Jerusalem. But the defeat is directly tied with the idolatry of King Ahaz because the author has just finished telling us of the king's abominable idolatry and then says, "Therefore the Lord his God delivered him into the hands of the king of Aram. The Arameans defeated him and took many of his people as prisoners and brought them to Damascus. He was also given into the hands of the king of Israel, who inflicted heavy casualties on him." (2 Chronicles 28:5) 

Although Jerusalem is not captured, Israel and Aram are able to do much damage to Judah. "In one day Pekah son of Remaliah killed a hundred and twenty thousand soldiers in Judah---because Judah had forsaken the Lord, the God of their ancestors. Zikri, an Ephraimite warrior, killed Maaseaih the king's son, Azrikam the officer in charge of the palace, and Elkanah, second to the king. The men of Israel took captive from their fellow Israelites who were from Judah two hundred thousand wives, sons and daughters. They also took a great deal of plunder, which they carried back to Samaria." (2 Chronicles 28:6-8) What a dreadful day for Judah! Only by the grace of the Lord is she spared from being completely eradicated. The men of Judah suffer their wives and children being captured and carried back to Samaria. You may recall how much David and his men wept at Ziklag when they came home to find that the Philistines had carried off their wives and children. They wept until they had no strength left to weep. Multiply the cries of those men by thousands and you can imagine the wail that rose up out of Judah when Israel took their wives and children captive. But because the Lord will not break His promise about Judah, the cries of these men come straight to His ears. Just as the Lord recovered the wives and children of David and his men, He will recover the wives and children of the men of Judah.

As we have learned in our study of the kings, no matter how far the nations fall into apostasy, God still has His people who are faithful to Him. He still has those who are courageous enough to stand up and call evil what it is. Right will always be right and wrong will always be wrong, no matter how long the world stands, because God's word stands from everlasting to everlasting. When the Israelites return to Samaria with their captives, a faithful prophet of God goes out to meet them and call them out on their sins. "But a prophet of the Lord named Oded was there, and he went out to meet the army when it returned to Samaria. He said to them, 'Because the Lord, the God of your ancestors, was angry with Judah, He gave them into your hand. But you have slaughtered them in a rage that reaches to heaven. And now you intend to make the men and women of Judah and Jerusalem your slaves. But aren't you also guilty of sins against the Lord your God? Now listen to me! Send back your fellow Israelites you have taken as prisoners, for the Lord's fierce anger rests on you.'" (2 Chronicles 28:9-11) The Israelites have committed genocide. Their nation and the nation of Judah all sprang from Jacob. They have slaughtered their brothers and sisters. They intend to make slaves of their brothers and sisters. Oded is brave enough to point out that Israel is no more righteous than Judah. God has brought trouble on Judah for her sins but Israel is equally sinful. God did not intend this genocide or forced slavery. He did not command Israel to commit the acts they have committed. Was He willing to allow Israel and Aram to be a constant threat and oppressive worry to Judah? It would appear so, at least for a time, but this wholesale slaughter, this gleeful shedding of blood, this deliberate humiliation of a nation that is a sister to Israel was not God's will. 

Oded cautions Israel not to think for one minute that she is one bit more righteous than Judah or that God will not judge her. The stink of Israel's sins has come into the very nostrils of God and He is enraged. Thankfully, there are reasonable men in Israel willing to hear and obey the words of the prophet. "Then some of the leaders in Ephraim---Azariah son of Jehohanan, Berekiah son of Meshillemoth, Jehizkiah son of Shallum, and Amasa son of Hadlai---confronted those who were arriving from the war. 'You must not bring these prisoners here,' they said, 'or we will be guilty before the Lord. Do you intend to add to our sin and guilt? For our guilt is already great, and His fierce anger rests on Israel.'" (2 Chronicles 28:12-13) These men acknowledge their personal sins and they acknowledge the national sins of Israel. This is a step in the right direction. We cannot receive spiritual healing from the Lord until we acknowledge we have sinned against Him. 

"So the soldiers gave up the prisoners and plunder in the presence of the officials and all the assembly. The men designated by name took the prisoners, and from the plunder they clothed all who were naked. They provided them with clothes and sandals, food and drink, and healing balm. All those who were weak they put on donkeys. So they took them back to their fellow Israelites at Jericho, the City of Palms, and returned to Samaria." (2 Chronicles 28:14-15) Because one man was willing to stand up and proclaim the truth, an injustice is corrected. Because four men heard the prophet's words and were quick to repent, they influence the whole army of Israel. The people from Judah have been force-marched to Judah, some without proper clothing or even shoes on their feet. They are hungry and thirsty because their basic needs were not met on the march. Their feet are blistered and in need of healing balm. Some are too weak to walk back to Judah and are placed on donkeys. These people are restored to their families in Judah because the Lord spoke and a prophet listened, because the Lord spoke and four good men listened, because the Lord spoke and an army listened. Had they stopped their ears to the voice of God, I think a destruction would have fallen on Israel.

We often think we are incapable of having much impact for the Lord. We think of ourselves as only one person. But if God is with us, what more do we need? Oded spoke and the people listened. Who knows what influence each of our lives may have on others? When those around us observe how we live for Christ, how we conduct ourselves ethically, how we treat others as Jesus would have us treat them, that is a testimony in itself. We are to be a testimony to Christ in both words and actions, as the four men who took to heart the words of Oded were a testimony in both words and actions. They admitted their sins and proved their repentance by doing what was right. They treated their fellow human beings with dignity and compassion. They sent them home to their families where they belonged. The actions of the one prophet and the actions of these four men influenced a mighty army to do what was right. If we are willing to be used of God, He is able to use us. One life can influence many lives. As the saying goes, "Little is much when God is in it." 

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