2 Chronicles 28:14
A very striking and a most unusual incident is here related; it has very few parallels in the page of ancient history. The hand that struck down the enemy very rarely failed to strike him when he was down. Here we have a refreshing picture of human relenting; of men who had just presented the cup of woe putting to the lips of the suffering a cup of mercy. But first we have a picture of -

I. DIVINE PITY IN THE MIDST OF DIVINE PENALTY. It is clear that the people of Judah owed their defeat entirely to the fact that they had grievously sinned against the Lord (see ver. 9). But there was a point beyond which justice did not demand that penalty should go. And at that point Divine pity might appear. There it did appear, and it arrested the hand of the cruel smiter. God sends judgment, but in wrath he "remembers mercy" (Habakkuk 3:2). He sends the serious sickness which brings pain and weakness, but at a certain point he sends the remedy and restoration. He brings down upon the guilty the strong indignation of their kind, but he raises up the compassionate and the considerate who visit the prisoner or the lonely with words of friendly sympathy and cheer. He brings the strong but rebellious kingdom to defeat and humiliation, but he causes it to grow up again to competence and power. He bruises, but he does not shatter; he lays low, but he raises up.

II. OFFICIAL FAITHFULNESS. Oded had a difficult and dangerous part to play on this occasion, but he bore himself right nobly (vers. 9-11). He did not flinch from words of energetic condemnation (vers. 9, 10), or from words of unpalatable advice (ver. 11). If God puts us into any responsible position, whether in the family, or in the Church, or in the city, or in the councils of the nation, we are most sacredly bound to play our part courageously. No man is fitted to occupy a post of trust and honour unless he is prepared, at times, to say and do that which is likely to be resented. Though we may not be called upon to face a triumphant army with words of remonstrance and command, as Oded did now, yet we are sure to be under obligation to say that which is unacceptable and to confront the dislike and disapproval of men. If we are not prepared to do that, we had better stand down at once, and take a lower place. Certainly we are not qualified to speak for God.

III. HUMAN INFLUENCE. We have two instances of human influence being exercised with remarkable success. The outspoken prophet persuades the princes, and they in their turn persuade the soldiers to release the captives and to abandon the spoil which they had taken. This was a truly remarkable success. To induce men who are flushed with victory to forego the advantages they have won with the sword is to accomplish a great feat. It shows what man can do with man; what influence a strong voice can exert upon the human heart.

1. It is always well worth while to interpose between men and the wrong they are meditating; we may save them from great guilt and others from great suffering.

2. We must be in downright earnest, and speak with entire fearlessness and frankness, as both prophet and princes did now, or we shall not succeed. We must speak as those who are perfectly convinced, as those who know what is right, and have no hesitation at all as to the course which should be taken.

IV. HUMAN PITY. Instead of slaughtering their prisoners, which in that age might have been done without pity or remorse, we have these soldiers of Israel showing all possible kindness to them (ver. 15). It is a common thing now for men to show a magnanimous kindness to their fallen enemy even on the battle-field. But the teaching of the Lord of love has done its work to some considerable extent, and has mercifully modified the cruelties of war. The scene of the text was something of an anticipation of the injunction, "If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink." It is for us to illustrate the spirit then shown, on every opportunity. We should spare those who are in our power; it may be in the domain of business; it may be in the social circle; it may be round the domestic table; it may be in something so simple as a debate, so common as an ordinary argument. But wherever or whatever it be, to spare our opponent when he is down, to save him from the miseries Of defeat, to put him in the way of return to self-respect and honour, to "take back our captives to Jericho," is to do no more than these Israelites did on this particular occasion; it is to do no less than our Master requires of us at all times and under every circumstance (Matthew 5:43-48). - C.

Ahaz was twenty years old when he began to reign.
The growth of humanity is not after a horticultural manner. We cannot say that a good tree will have good off-shoots, if we are speaking of humanity. The holiest father may have a murderer for his son. The sweetest mother may die of a broken heart. Only a foolish criticism is reckless in fixing definite responsibilities in this matter of the nurture and culture of children. The Lord rebukes us when we say that because the father was good the son must be good; or because the father was evil the son must be evil. The Lord permits men to come in between who are bad, or who are good, that all our little speculation about heredity, and all our arrangements for moral progress, may be thrown back and lost in confusion. Herein is the working of that mysterious law which is often misunderstood when denominated the law of election. We cannot tell what God is doing. Your son ought to have been good, for where is there a braver soul than yourself? The boy ought to have been chivalrous, for he never knew you do a mean deed or give lodgment to an ungenerous thought. In a way, too, he was proud of his father; yet there was no devil's work he would not stoop to do. He did not get the bad blood from his mother, for gentler, sweeter soul never sang God's psalms in God's house. Yet there is the mystery, and it is not for a reckless criticism to define the origin and the issue of this mysterious phenomenon in human development.

(J. Parker, D.D.)

It is very noticeable that those who, in their early days, have resisted holy influences generally turn out the most wicked of men. This, indeed, is a fundamental law of character. Just as a good man, who is good notwithstanding a very bad up-bringing, and despite the most pernicious examples around him, is not infrequently one of the best of men, so a youth who has come from a godly home, and turns out evil himself, is one of the worst characters you can meet with.

I. IT IS A SORROWFUL FACT THAT GOOD MEN ARE SOMETIMES THE FATHERS OF BAD SONS. "Like father, like son," we have often heard men say. But this is not always so. Alas! we know but too well that piety, virtue, goodness do not always run in the blood. You may pass on the crown, the throne, the kingdom, but the high moral and religious qualities which make a man a king among men do not always go with the crown and sceptre.

II. THE BAD SONS OF GOOD FATHERS ARE OFTEN RUINED BY THE SINS THEY ALLOW TO DECEIVE THEM. Read the twenty-third verse of this chapter. It is very instructive. Ahaz, weakened by his questionable ways, and not supported by the power of the God whose worship he had forsaken, fell into the hands of the foreigner. Conquered by the superior forces and better trained men of Damascus, he fondly imagined that they won because their gods, their idols, helped them in battle. Deceived, deluded, blinded by all this, he determined to follow their bad example. Others are involved in his fall. "They were the ruin of him and of all Israel." It would be sad enough if he were the only one blinded and deluded by sin. But unfortunately its victims are all about us.

III. This chapter teaches THAT GOD OFTEN CHASTENS THE SONS OF GODLY PARENTS WHO FALL INTO SIN, AND SEEKS TO WIN THEM BACK TO HIMSELF. God did not leave Ahaz without warning, reproof, and trouble. Through his long night of sin God often spake to him. God made this man understand that the way of the transgressor is hard. It is a mercy that God does not allow the sinner to go to hell without warning.

(C. Leach, D.D.)

Every young man enters, like Ahaz, upon a royal inheritance; character and career are as all-important to peasant or a shopgirl as they are to an emperor or a queen. When a girl of seventeen or a youth of twenty succeeds to some historic throne we are moved to think of the heavy burden of responsibility laid upon unexperienced shoulders and of the grave issues that must be determined during the swiftly passing years of the early manhood or womanhood. Alas! this heavy burden and these grave issues are but the common lot. His lot is only the common lot set upon a hill, in the full sunlight, to illustrate, interpret, and influence lower and obscurer lives.

(W. H. Bennett, M.A.)

Men should all be educated to reign, to respect themselves and to appreciate their opportunities. We do in some measure adopt this principle with promising lads and gifted girls. We need to apply the principle more consistently and to recognise the royal dignity of the average life and of those whom the superior person is pleased to call commonplace people. It may then be possible to induce the ordinary young men to take a serious interest in his own future.

(W. H. Bennett, M.A.)

The fortunes of millions may depend upon the will of some young Czar or Kaiser; the happiness of a hundred tenants or of a thousand workmen may rest on the disposition of the youthful inheritor of a wide estate or a huge factory; but none the less in the poorest cottage mother and father and friends wait with trembling anxiety to see how the boy or girl will "turn out" when they take their destinies into their own hands and begin to reign.

(W. H. Bennett, M.A.)

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