Collateral Damage of Obedience

Okay, if I’m doing the math correctly, with today’s price for silver the gig paid each “mighty man of valor” from Israel about 27 bucks. I don’t know if that’s a “fair wage” for a mercenary or not, but I’m guessing that the real profit in selling yourself as a soldier in those days wasn’t in the base wage but in getting a slice of the pie from the spoils of defeating your enemy. That’s where the big payoff was, I’m thinking.

So, when the 100,000 fighting men of Israel were told by Amaziah, king of Judah, that he had changed his mind and they could go home and keep the 27 bucks it might not be surprising that they were angry. But I’m wondering if the king wasn’t surprised that they extracted their lost “potential income” the way they did.

Then Amaziah discharged the army that had come to him from Ephraim to go home again. And they became very angry with Judah and returned home in fierce anger. . . the men of the army whom Amaziah sent back, not letting them go with him to battle, raided the cities of Judah, from Samaria to Beth-horon, and struck down 3,000 people in them and took much spoil.

(2Chronicles 25:10, 13 ESV)

This morning I’m chewing on the collateral damage of obedience.

You read the story and Amaziah clearly jumps the gun in hiring fighting men from Israel to supplement his army before going out against the army from Seir. He’s confronted by a prophet who tells him not to do it for “the LORD is not with Israel, with all these Ephraimites.” The man of God counsels the king to “go, act, be strong for battle” believing that God is for Judah and “has power to help.” Amaziah hesitates, “But what about the 100 talents I’ve already paid?” To which the man of God answers, “The LORD is able to give you much more than this” (25:7-9). And so, the king heeds, obeys, and sends away the army-for-hire, ready to proceed in faith. Good on him, right?

But here’s the thing that sticks a bit. While the king is successful against the army from Seir (25:11-12), what about the raided cities of Judah and the 3,000 who lost their lives and the “much spoil” that was taken by the angry mercenaries on their way home? Somehow, in my default way of thinking, you obey you should be blessed — on ALL fronts. The same God who won the main battle for Amaziah could have covered the rear flank of the cities left unprotected in Judah and were easy prey for the angry horde of shunned soldiers of Israel. But He didn’t.

Sure, you could make the argument that they suffered the “consequences” of Amaziah’s sin, the foolishness of trusting in hired help in the first place, but couldn’t you also argue that they were the collateral damage of Amaziah’s obedience to the LORD? Hmm . . .

The ways of man would say, “You obey? You’ll be blessed.” Do God’s good work and it all works out good. But we know that’s not always the case, don’t we? Sometimes we obey and know the blessing. But other times we can obey and only see things partially play out as we had hoped. And, who hasn’t known a situation, or two, where we believe and obey our way into troubles we hadn’t even foreseen?

A reminder that it’s not the expectation of a quid pro quo that should compel us to obey — not I do so God will do. But that the prize of obedience is obedience. The prize of believing God is believing. That the fruit is faith. For without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6) — even if that step of faith only puts you into a situation where you may need to trust God even more.

We shouldn’t be surprised when our belief and obedience sometimes results in unanticipated collateral damage. God’s ways are not our ways, His thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Isa. 55:8-9). We obey but only He knows the whole plan. Thus, we continue to trust in the Lord with all our heart, leaning not to our own understanding. Believing that if we acknowledge Him in all our ways, He will direct our paths (Prov. 3:5-6). Even through collateral damage.

According to His abundant grace. Always for His all-deserving glory.

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