Ahaz Succeeds Jotham in Judah
28 Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem; and he did not do right in the sight of the Lord as David his father had done. 2 But he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel; he also made molten images for the Baals. 3 Moreover, he burned incense in the valley of Ben-hinnom and burned his sons in fire, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord had driven out before the sons of Israel. 4 He sacrificed and burned incense on the high places, on the hills and under every green tree.
Judah Is Invaded
5 Wherefore, the Lord his God delivered him into the hand of the king of Aram; and they [a]defeated him and carried away from him a great number of captives and brought them to Damascus. And he was also delivered into the hand of the king of Israel, who [b]inflicted him with heavy casualties. 6 For Pekah the son of Remaliah slew in Judah 120,000 in one day, all valiant men, because they had forsaken the Lord God of their fathers. 7 And Zichri, a mighty man of Ephraim, slew Maaseiah the king’s son and Azrikam the ruler of the house and Elkanah the second to the king.
8 The sons of Israel carried away captive of their brethren 200,000 women, sons and daughters; and they [c]took also a great deal of spoil from them, and brought the spoil to Samaria. 9 But a prophet of the Lord was there, whose name was Oded; and he went out to meet the army which came to Samaria and said to them, “Behold, because the Lord, the God of your fathers, was angry with Judah, He has delivered them into your hand, and you have slain them in a rage which has even reached heaven. 10 Now you are proposing to subjugate for yourselves the people of Judah and Jerusalem for male and female slaves. Surely, do you not have transgressions of your own against the Lord your God? 11 Now therefore, listen to me and return the captives whom you captured from your brothers, for the burning anger of the Lord is against you.” 12 Then some of the heads of the sons of Ephraim—Azariah the son of Johanan, Berechiah the son of Meshillemoth, Jehizkiah the son of Shallum, and Amasa the son of Hadlai—arose against those who were coming from the battle, 13 and said to them, “You must not bring the captives in here, for you are proposing to bring upon us guilt against the Lord adding to our sins and our guilt; for our guilt is great so that His burning anger is against Israel.” 14 So the armed men left the captives and the spoil before the officers and all the assembly. 15 Then the men who were designated by name arose, took the captives, and they clothed all their naked ones from the spoil; and they gave them clothes and sandals, fed them and gave them drink, anointed them with oil, led all their feeble ones on donkeys, and brought them to Jericho, the city of palm trees, to their brothers; then they returned to Samaria.
It must have been sobering for the men of Ephraim to hear the words of the prophet. It was a reminder that they weren’t serving God any better than Judah, but God was using them to punish Judah. Yet even so, they were to show mercy and not decimate Judah by taking all their women and children.
They could have chosen to take credit for the victory themselves, and denied the prophet’s call to return the captives. But as much as they were distanced from God, they still knew his voice, and they obeyed.
As I’m listening to a song that talks about God as a father, it makes me think of the prodigal son. The Ephraimites were lost just like the prodigal, they had turned from God, but no matter where we are in our lives, it is never too late to turn back. It is never too late to repent and embrace God’s love and mercy. For as soon as we do, He runs to us and takes us back in his arms of love.
There is no scorn in repentance, there is no chastisement or guilt left when we come back to God. His love is poured out unabashedly, and the past is wiped clean, because he already paid the price. God is waiting for the prodigals to return, He is working everything He can to that end. Listen, hear His voice, find His heart, and give up the squalor of rebellion.