The Truth about Guilt Meditations: 15. Receiving Grace (2)
2 Chron 33:1,2,9 Manasseh … did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel….. Manasseh led Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem astray, to do more evil than the nations whom the Lord destroyed before the people of Israel.
Recap: We are considering two cases where men were the recipient of God’s grace, mercy, forgiveness, and restoration – men who were guilty of sin, very guilty! We have considered Hezekiah who did so well but ended up in pride. How success can be such a means of bringing down even the righteous, and in days of such abundance as we have in the West today, it is a temptation just waiting for the unwary. But the second example we are now going to consider, of Manasseh, Hezekiah’s son, makes Hezekiah look a mere beginner.
Manasseh’s Folly: “Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years.” (2 Chron 33:1) So young to come to the throne and amazing how long he reigned. In a nation where Moses had gone to such lengths to warn against idolatry and to hold firm to the one true God, we read of Manasseh, “He rebuilt the high places his father Hezekiah had demolished; he also erected altars to the Baals and made Asherah poles. He bowed down to all the starry hosts and worshiped them.” (v.3) Unbelievable! But it gets worse: “In both courts of the temple of the Lord, he built altars to all the starry hosts. He sacrificed his children in the fire in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, practiced divination and witchcraft, sought omens, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the Lord, arousing his anger.” (v.5,6) Why doesn’t God just strike him down? This is about as bad as it can get.
God’s Activity: What does God do? “The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people.” (v.10) What good with that do? “but they paid no attention.” Didn’t we say! “Therefore the Lord brought upon them the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria, who captured Manasseh with hooks and bound him with chains of bronze and brought him to Babylon.” (v.11) About time! And what good will that do with a man like this who must be so hardened by occult activity? “And when he was in distress, he entreated the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. He prayed to him.” (v.12,13a) He repents???? This sin-hardened, occult driven, self-centred man repents??? So did God ignore him and say, ‘It’s too late, you brought all this on yourself!’ Er…no…. “God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God.” Oh my goodness!!! Who would have thought such a thing was possible. Yes, but what sort of man was it who returned to Jerusalem?
Manasseh, Part 2: “He got rid of the foreign gods and removed the image from the temple of the Lord, as well as all the altars he had built on the temple hill and in Jerusalem; and he threw them out of the city. Then he restored the altar of the Lord and sacrificed fellowship offerings and thank offerings on it, and told Judah to serve the Lord, the God of Israel.” (v.15,16) He does a clean-up and sweeps away all the signs of idolatry and the occult that he had installed in Jerusalem. He HAS repented and is bearing the fruit of it. He is a changed man.
And Yet? Yet we read, “The people, however, continued to sacrifice at the high places, but only to the Lord their God.” (v.17) A distinct improvement but not perfect; they should only be worshiping the Lord in the Temple. But then there is a terrible postscript to all this that comes by the mouth of Jeremiah years later: “I will send four kinds of destroyers against them,” declares the Lord, “the sword to kill and the dogs to drag away and the birds and the wild animals to devour and destroy. I will make them abhorrent to all the kingdoms of the earth because of what Manasseh son of Hezekiah king of Judah did in Jerusalem.” (Jer 15:3,4) Manasseh may have repented and been restored but the truth was that Jerusalem was so blighted spiritually – and no subsequent king sacrificed and pleaded on its behalf – that with the ongoing sin of its kings and people, the only answer was to purge is by fire and total destruction at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar’s army.
A Strong Lesson: There is a multi-sided lesson here. First, it doesn’t matter how terrible the sin (and Manasseh demonstrates to worst possible leadership into occult evil), when genuine repentance is forthcoming God will ALWAYS forgive and restore. (And if we sometimes wonder why God isn’t dealing with an obviously sinful person, perhaps it is that He knows He can yet redeem them. All the while He waits, He is watching for repentance – 2 Pet 3:9). However, second, the effects of the prior sin can be of such a nature that just saying sorry and even putting things back in order afterwards, is not sufficient to deal with the spiritual repercussions. Sometimes trust has to be regained, and people restored but, even more a seeking God for cleansing that goes deep into both the people involved and the ongoing circumstances. Perhaps we need to consider some more of the ongoing-ness of guilt sometimes and see what we can learn from it. That we will seek to do in the following studies.