Ahaz and Judah are FAR from God right now. He will not ignore this. His judgment comes in the form of defeat by their enemies.
WOW! Right off the bat I am grabbed by this first verse. Not the whole thing because I saw Ahaz’s judgment coming, but the words “the Lord his God” (verse 5a) slapped me upside the head. Ahaz may not have been claiming God as his own but God was STILL claiming Ahaz, even with all his sins. God NEVER turns loose of His children! “Those whom I love, I rebuke and discipline” (Hebrews 12:6a).
That knowledge is the only thing between the enslavement of the people of Judah by their brothers of Israel. I honestly didn’t read past the first verse before sharing the ‘Wow’ with you. I had no idea the depth that was coming next. Can we say another WOW to how God continues to care for His children, even when they are unfaithful? I know it is on my lips!
Judah was in deep trouble with God. ALL Israel was His but His promise was going to come through the line of Judah. He worked extra hard to keep them in line. He wasn’t ignoring the rest of Israel but He wasn’t actively disciplining them either at this time. But He WOULD if they took advantage of their brother’s predicament.
God used Syria, Philistia, Israel, and Assyria as His instruments of correction against Judah. Israel is the only one where God steps in to mitigate the damage done. Syria carries off people and spoil to Damascus. The Philistines conquer and occupy a significant number of towns. And Assyria reneges on their promise to help after payment was made. God doesn’t call these nations to account for their treatment of Judah.
He calls Israel to account though. They are not chastised for the number of men they killed in battle. We are told that number was 120,000 IN ONE DAY! Who knows how many died all together in the fighting. What they are called to account for is how they treat their “brothers” afterwards. I have no doubt that the Philistines, Syrians and Assyrians all took captives and made slaves of them. But they were not their “brothers.” Israel was.
Not only did Israel see their brothers naked, hungry, thirsty, sick, in a strange land, and in bondage but they put them in this position. “As you do it to one of the least of these my brothers, you do it to Me” (Matthew 25:40a) is what Jesus said. He was speaking of turning a blind eye to this distress, not personally causing it. I would say that this was even worse! God would not stand by and watch this treatment, especially from one who had enough of their own sins to atone for. Judah was being punished for their sins but woe to the hand that enjoyed being the rod of correction.
Fortunately for Israel, God still had men who spoke for Him and leaders who listened. These men KNEW the ‘thin ice’ they were walking on. And if there was any doubt, God told them directly through His prophet. These men stood in the gap for the captive people of Judah; all 200,000 of them.
Not only did the leaders demand the people be freed but they tended to ALL of their needs. They did so with the spoils the military forces abandoned with their captives. “With the spoil they clothed ALL who were naked among them. They clothed them and gave them sandals, provided them with food and drink, and anointed them, and carrying ALL the feeble among them on donkeys, they brought them to their kinfolk at Jericho, the city of palm trees. THEN they returned to Samaria” (verse 15b, emphasis added by me).
They didn’t say, “Go in peace and be well.” They didn’t leave them in the state they found them. They didn’t treat them with contempt or as prisoners. They treated them as beloved family. They extended every kindness available to every man, woman and child until they saw them safely in the hands of their true families. Only then did they return home to their own rest. These men were the perfect example of the good servants. They lived the motto; “I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do everything; but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do” Edward Everett Hale. They were not able to restore the people Syria, Philistia, or even Assyria stole but they could restore these people to their homes.
I have no doubt that their kindness cost them something. But what they gained was far more valuable. They gained freedom from further sin. They gained favor in the eyes of the Lord. And I’m CERTAIN that this day will be held up before each of them as an example on judgment day. They heard the heart of God and responded to it. For even when His children are drowning in their own sin, He calls out to them in love.
He STILL calls out to us to show love to His children. Even those we aren’t certain if THEY have accepted His offer of adoption. He calls us to love even our enemies. “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). And by doing this You are being His hands and feet to the world.
Father God, it is not easy to love those who hate you. But You never said it would be easy, You only said to do it. Sometimes it’s not even easy to love those who claim to love me. But You said to do that too. It is as much for my heart as it is for those I’m sharing love with. It brings about a change in me that opens my heart to Your hands too. I still am only one person but I resolve (again) to do the things You set before me that benefit those around me and those in need. I want to be Your hands and feet. Give me the courage to step out where and when You want me to.