Oded was a prophet in Samaria, the capital of the Northern portion of the divided Jewish nation, at a time when the Southern Kingdom of Judah was receiving due retribution for its idolatrous ways under King Ahaz and others before him. A culmination of their punishment was when the Northern Kingdom (Israel) invaded Judah and inflicted heavy casualties on him (Ahaz).
‘In one day Pekah son of Remaliah killed a hundred and twenty thousand soldiers in Judah–because Judah had forsaken the LORD, the God of their ancestors. Zikri, an Ephraimite warrior, killed Maaseiah the king’s son, Azrikam the officer in charge of the palace, and Elkanah, second to the king. The men of Israel took captive from their fellow Israelites who were from Judah two hundred thousand wives, sons and daughters. They also took a great deal of plunder, which they carried back to Samaria.’ 2 Chronicles 28:6-8.
In inflicting judgment upon Judah the army of Israel showed no mercy. To cap it all, they took 200,000 of their fellow Israelites captive, intending to make them slaves. In triumphant jubilation they returned to Samaria, dragging their heavy plunder, and courting a dire abomination against God.
But a prophet of the Lord was there: Oded.
‘And he went out to meet the army when it returned to Samaria. He said to them, “Because the LORD, the God of your ancestors, was angry with Judah, he gave them into your hand. But you have slaughtered them in a rage that reaches to heaven. Now listen to me! Send back your fellow Israelites you have taken as prisoners, for the LORD’s fierce anger rests on you.” 2 Chronicles 28:9,11.
Obed was not some big and famous General Overseer, I’m sure. He did not have millions of followers who called him Daddy and reverently drank from the well of his insight and revelation every week. But he was a prophet of the Lord who saw that an evil was about to be committed, and went out to do something about it. He did not stay in his closet to pray and fast.
He went out to meet the army.
Oded was not armed; he needed no arms. He was a messenger of God, and like a true General, he carried authority! He did not go out there to plead with the soldiers; he told them what they must do right away!
Prophet Oded’s action emboldened other leaders of Israel. They obviously had needed someone, just someone, to step out and confront this evil. Oded was the one, and they promptly rallied behind him. Read:
‘Then some of the leaders in Ephraim – Azariah son of Jehohanan, Berekiah son of Meshillemoth, Jehizkiah son of Shallum, and Amasa son of Hadlai – confronted those who were arriving from the war. “You must not bring those prisoners here,” they said, “or we will be guilty before the LORD. Do you intend to add to our sin and guilt? For our guilt is already great, and his fierce anger rests on Israel.”’ Verses 12 & 13.
Oded and these leaders of Israel wielded no weapons. As they stood face to face with these warriors all they had was boldness resting upon truth. And the soldiers had to yield.
‘So the soldiers gave up the prisoners and plunder in the presence of the officials and all the assembly.’
There was no tumult in the city; no demonstration by the masses was necessary, because the leaders stood up to confront the soldiers.
How we waste appellations and titles! We call them God’s Generals who continue to fail to live up to that title at critical times when boldness and commitment to truth are urgently required of them! We call them Fathers who sit at home and mutter lame prayers while their daughter Leah Sharibu is still held captive only God knows where. We call them General Overseers who seem not to realize they would soon become experts at overseeing mass burials for their members – if they themselves survive what is coming!
Nigerians, particularly Nigerian Christians, would not need to think about rising to defend themselves if only they had Generals like Oded the Prophet of the Lord. No, we do not need guns and swords. But we do need Fathers who would not love their lives and piety so much as to tamely watch their ‘children’ butchered like helpless sheep; Fathers who would squarely look wicked leaders in the face and insist they must respect the constitution and the law, and do what is right!