Today’s Reading: 2 Chronicles 28 – 30
Today’s Reflection: 2 Chronicles 28:9-11
9) But a prophet of the LORD was there, whose name was Oded, and he went out to meet the army that came to Samaria and said to them, “Behold, because the LORD, the God of your fathers, was angry with Judah, he gave them into your hand, but you have killed them in a rage that has reached up to heaven. 10) And now you intend to subjugate the people of Judah and Jerusalem, male and female, as your slaves. Have you not sins of your own against the LORD your God? 11) Now hear me, and send back the captives from your relatives whom you have taken, for the fierce wrath of the LORD is upon you.”
Because of the sins of the idol-worshiping King Ahaz (2 Chronicles 28:1-4) God allowed Judah to be defeated by Syria and Israel. Israel was particularly brutal, killing thousands and taking thousands more captive, as well as looting the country of its wealth. It was at this point the prophet of the Lord Oded intervened to chasten the leaders of Israel.
This episode highlights a critical distinction that we as humans tend to have difficulty in making, the distinction between judgment and condemnation. Judgment is an evaluation of a person (or a nation) based on their actions. Condemnation is the declaration that the judgment arrived at is a permanent and unchangeable state. If a person is judged to be a liar, condemnation would say that person will always be a liar. If a nation is judged to be blasphemous towards God, condemnation would say that nation will always be blasphemous towards God.
God had judged Judah for its sins against Him, and allowed Syria and Israel to defeat them. Israel took this judgment as condemnation and justification for ultimate punishment, slaughtering 120,000 warriors of Judah and taking 200,000 women and children captive. Their reasoning? Judah had forsaken the Lord, God of their fathers (2 Chronicles 28:6). Though this was true, the proclamation of the prophet Oded made it clear God had judged, but not condemned Judah. And now Israel’s brutality made them liable to be on the receiving end of God’s wrath as well.
So if God’s judgment was not for the purpose of condemnation and destruction, what was it for? The gap between judgment and condemnation offers the judged an opportunity to consider and change their ways. God delivering Judah into Israel’s hands was not meant for their destruction, but rather for their redemption and return to Him. If Judah could see their idols offered no protection against the God of Israel (also the God of their fathers) perhaps they would return to worship of the true Lord. But if the actions of the followers of the true God were so brutal their thoughts were turned towards revenge against their oppressors rather than to the worship of the true God, then maybe not.
So it is with us today. We who serve God will find ourselves in situations where those who do not are ‘delivered into our hands’, in a manner of speaking. Many of these situations will involve people who have poorly treated us in the past. The question becomes how will we treat them now? In a way that will make them marvel at our mercy and wonder where it comes from, or in a way that will make us feel good for punishing their ‘worldly ways’ but do nothing to open a window of God’s goodness into their lives? By no means should we overlook wrongdoing because we serve a just God, but by showing mercy to the wrongdoer we can give them hope and point them to a God who would rather forgive and restore than condemn and destroy.
Ezekiel 33:11 – Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?