Holy Chutzpah – Oded

Holy Chutzpah – Oded

Holy Chutzpah – Oded.

“The Israelites captured 200,000 men, women, and children, besides huge cartloads of plunder that they took to Samaria. But God’s prophet Oded was in the neighborhood. He met the army when it entered Samaria and said, ‘Stop right where you are and listen! God, the God of your ancestors, was angry with Judah and used you to punish them; but you took things into your own hands and used your anger, uncalled for and irrational, to turn your brothers and sisters from Judah and Jerusalem into slaves. Don’t you see that this is a terrible sin against your God? Careful now; do exactly what I say – return these captives, every last one of them. If you don’t, you’ll find out how real anger, God’s anger, works!” (2 Chronicles 28:9-11).

Chutzpah (hoots-pah) is a Yiddish word that long ago entered English usage. It is from the Hebrew word, “hutspah,” which means insolent or audacious. Chutzpah is a neutral word that can be either positive or negative. Chutzpah can be righteous or unrighteous, holy or unholy. It is an idea difficult to define, so there are a lot of synonyms for it, especially in the biblical sense: spiritual audacity; brazen gall; tenacious stubbornness; headstrong persistence; outrageous guts; shameless nerve; feisty assertiveness; brazen impudence; unyielding boldness; courageous spine; expectant defiance. The Holy Scriptures, both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, are overflowing with examples of holy chutzpah. One wonders not only if it’s a job requirement for saints and prophets, but also a faith requirement for all believers. In fact, God seems to love chutzpah in us when it is based on our ultimate trust in Him and His character, our unselfish motives, our yearning for justice and mercy. Chutzpah in front of others becomes holy when it is done in obedience to the Lord and is an outworking of our faith in Him. As Rabbi Schulweiss once said, “Spiritual audacity toward God finds a place of honor in Jewish religious thought.” The rabbis of old have always insisted that chutzpah is a valid expression of faith. Just a quick glimpse at the Gospels reveals that Jesus and His followers fully embraced the ancient Jewish ethic of holy chutzpah. When Jesus saw chutzpah in action, He usually said things like, “Great is your faith!” Maybe Christian scholar Dr. Brad Young said it best. “True faith requires bold perseverance. Sometimes it is expressed by brazen impudence. Faith can be defined as chutzpah. Persevere with unyielding tenacity.” (Brad Young, Jesus the Jewish Theologian).

Ahaz was a particularly evil king of Judah who led a steep moral decline in the Judean society. He committed child sacrifice with his own children (!), developed a widespread worship of Baal, and “offered sacrifices and burned incense at the high places, on the hilltops, and under every spreading tree.” (2 Chron. 28:4). These detestable abominations stunk to high heaven, of course, and Yahweh could not bear with these evil sins in His chosen people. So God subjected the people of Judah to the punishment of an assault by their neighbors in the north, Israel. Heavy casualties were inflicted on the Judean army. In fact, in one day 120,000 of Judah’s soldiers were slain. After those mass casualties and the expected plunder from the attack, the Israelites took 200,000 mothers and children as captives with the idea that they would be slaves in Israel.

Oded. While on their way back to their homes in Israel, the victorious army passed by Samaria. And the hero of the hour, full of holy chutzpah, takes center stage. There was a Samaritan prophet named Oded, a true spokesman for Yahweh, who stood in the middle of the road to greet the Israelite army as they marched with their captives. Oded audaciously stopped the Israelites in their tracks, and he boldly confronted them, saying… Yes, I know, the Lord was angry with Judah and gave them into your hands. But you have slain them in a sinful rage. You took things into your own hands and your violence was uncalled for. You committed a great sin against the Lord. Your slaughter of them has reached to heaven. And now you want to add to your sin by taking as captives all these innocent wives and children? Do you think you have a righteous leg to stand on that gives you the right to do this? Don’t you realize that you also are guilty of sins against Yahweh? Now listen to me! Release these prisoners and send them back to their home country, for Yahweh’s fierce anger rests on you! (2 Chron. 28:9-11).

Oded spoke with God’s authority and persuaded the Israelite army to release their captives before returning to Israel. At this point some specially chosen righteous Samaritans took some of the plunder and clothed the naked prisoners. They gave them food and drink and anointed their wounds with healing oils. Then these compassionate Samaritans put the feeble and weak prisoners on donkeys, and took them back to their families in Jericho.

Oded was stubborn and defiant as he fleshed out many gospel values: caring for the weak and vulnerable; ministering to the least of these; loving your neighbor; loving your enemies; exhibiting mercy and justice to those who need it. Despite his heroics, Oded seemed to slip through the cracks of history, one of the unsung heroes of Scripture. The kindness, courage and wisdom of Oded and his Samaritan helpers literally calls to mind Jesus’ central parable of the Good Samaritan. Could Jesus have had this event in mind when he told that parable? Oded did what Jesus would have done, and he demonstrated the way of life that Jesus called for. Oded let his little light shine, and in the process anticipated the gospel values that Jesus emphasized. Jesus  duplicated Oded’s kindness by talking about releasing the captives, setting the captives free. The story of Oded is full of the gospel, and he anticipated the Good News of Christ’s compassion.