Old Testament lectionary reading for Morning Prayer today: 2 Chronicles 28.
This is a stunning chapter, the sorry record of the reign of king Ahaz in Jerusalem. Ahaz so fully rejects Yahweh as his god and covenant partner that Yahweh hands him over to the gods of the surrounding nations, who looked to overwhelm Jerusalem. Even then, Ahaz looks to enter into contract with the gods who have defeated him, rather than return to Yahweh and be rescued.
Yahweh also hands Judah, the territory over which Ahaz reigned, to northern neighbour Israel. Israel and Judah are sisters, both in covenant with Yahweh, both at times faithful and unfaithful (and Israel on the whole even more unfaithful than Judah). Israel inflicts a heavy defeat upon Judah, and carries off both captives and plunder.
But then something significant happens. Wise voices speak out against this course of action, identify it as going too far—as being guilty of the very lack of restraint by which Ahaz has shown himself to be such a bad ruler. And these voices are listened to. The captives are freed, and taken part of the way home, to a city of shelter, an oasis; those left naked, clothed from the plunder; and those left weak, carried on donkeys.
Restraint is a virtue in short supply today; as are compassion, and restitution for those who have suffered injustice. All too easily, we find ourselves, in our moment of triumph, to be the ones who have been carried away, captive to some destructive power.
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