Ahaz was twenty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. And he did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord, as his father David had done, but he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel.
Therefore the Lord his God gave him into the hand of the king of Syria, who defeated him and took captive a great number of his people and brought them to Damascus. He was also given into the hand of the king of Israel, who struck him with great force.
The men of Israel took captive 200,000 of their relatives, women, sons, and daughters. They also took much spoil from them and brought the spoil to Samaria. 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. 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? 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.” II Chronicles 28:1-2a, 5, 8-11 ESV
Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us,
for we have had more than enough of contempt.
Our soul has had more than enough
of the scorn of those who are at ease,
of the contempt of the proud. Psalm 123:3-4 ESV
In England in the last half of the 1800s, there were many prisons that were called debtor’s prisons. These were jails where people who owed money and couldn’t pay it back were taken. They weren’t allowed out of the jail until they could pay back their debts. The prisons were full of rats, lice, and fleas. The prisoners sometimes didn’t have enough food or water or clothes. About a quarter of the people in jail died there, and many people stayed in prison for 30 years or more. It was a terrible system. Getting into debt was a bad thing for a person to do, but debtor’s prisons showed no mercy to these people, and the punishment they suffered was much worse than any wrong they had done.
Syria and Israel came against Judah and King Ahaz in battle as they had been planning. God had promised Ahaz that he wouldn’t be completely conquered, but he punished Ahaz for his evil by letting him be attacked and defeated. The army of Israel showed no mercy to the people of Judah. They took 200,000 people captive into their own country and planned to make them slaves, even though they were their relatives and part of the same people of God. This was a terribly wicked thing to do, and a prophet named Oded met the army with a warning from God. He told them that the Lord had allowed them to win so that the people of Judah would be punished for their sins, but that Israel also had many sins, and if they did this terrible thing and didn’t show mercy to their own relatives, the anger of God would turn against Israel too.
Our God is a God of both justice and mercy. He punishes sins, but he also shows mercy to people who sin. He gives us love and care all the time far beyond what we could ever deserve. Most of all, he sent Jesus to take our sins away. Jesus took all the punishment for our sins on the cross, and because of what Jesus did, God forgives our sins every day. No matter how bad our sin is, we can always go to our Heavenly Father for mercy and forgiveness and know that he will give them to us for Jesus’ sake.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for giving us all of your mercy through Jesus. In His Name, Amen.