I’ve Tried Everything: Comfort to the Enemy
2 Chronicles 28:9-15
9 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 fathers, was angry with Judah, he gave them into your hand. But you have slaughtered them in a rage that reaches to heaven. 10 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? 11 Now listen to me! Send back your fellow countrymen you have taken as prisoners, for the LORD's fierce anger rests on you." 12 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. 13 "You must not bring those 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." 14 So the soldiers gave up the prisoners and plunder in the presence of the officials and all the assembly. 15 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 countrymen at Jericho, the City of Palms, and returned to Samaria.
The warriors from the northern kingdom, after defeating Judah in battle, brought back 200,000 women and children as slaves. Though the northern kingdom had not had even one godly king since the division of the land almost 200 years earlier, God did not leave Himself without a voice in the north.
For example, the prophet Oded speaks for God to the army. Oded is a true prophet whose ministry is centered in Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom. Oded is not mentioned anywhere else in the Old Testament.
Oded goes out and tells them to send their captives back home. Israel had overstepped its bounds in their excessive zeal in the vicious slaughter of the Judahites. They went even further by enslaving their fellow Hebrews, which was forbidden by law of Moses. Thus, Israel adds to its guilt and risks God’s wrath.
Unlike King Ahaz and their Judean relatives, the leadership of Israel responds to the word of God through the prophet Oded and repents of their actions. The response of the Ephraimite leaders in releasing the prisoners of war to return to Judah and restoring the booty plundered in battle is tantamount to an admission of being guilty . . . against the LORD."
The Chronicler's positive portrayal of the northern kingdom is noteworthy, as he links both Israel and Judah to the same God and identifies the citizens of each as “fellow countrymen." Ironically, the ungodly northern kingdom turned away from their sin and obeyed God, while the southern kingdom did not. They showed true repentance.
The care given to the former prisoners of war in providing food, clothing, and medical aid is reminiscent of the command to “love your neighbor as yourself." It has also been suggested that this story is the source for Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan.
Repentance means listening to the Word of God. The only way we know right from wrong is the Bible. God’s Word reveals His righteous moral standards. These men heard God’s Word through Oded. Ahaz had heard God’s Word through Isaiah. We now have it in written form. The Bible, and only the Bible, is our standard for right and wrong. Repentance involves listening to God’s Word.
Repentance means acknowledging our own sin, not comparing ourselves with others. Do you not have transgressions of your own against the Lord your God? These warriors from the north had just been used to execute God’s judgment on their sinful brothers in the south. They could have been pretty arrogant about themselves compared with their brothers. But the prophet calls them to face their own sin. Repentance always means acknowledging your own sin, not comparing yourself with others who may be more sinful. If we always think that others need repentance, there’s a problem.
Repentance means turning from sin and doing what is right in the Lord’s sight. Lip service isn’t enough. God requires us to perform “deeds appropriate to repentance.” A lot of people supposedly receive Christ, but there is no repentance. They don’t turn from their sin and begin to obey the Lord. Repentance means that we begin to obey God, and when we do sin, we come back to Him again for cleansing and restoration. Christians are not sinless, but we should sin less as we grow in our walk with God.
When we feel like we tried everything and don’t know where to turn. God’s solution is turn to obedience and repentance.