There were a few GOOD kings in the old history of Israel (more in the Northern kingdom of Judah than the Southern kingdom of Israel), but mostly both kingdoms had wicked kings. And of all the wicked kings in either kingdom, we’re scraping the barrel when we get to a man called Manasseh. He was about as evil as they got. Think Hitler, Idi Amin and Saddam Hussein all rolled into one.
We read his story in 2 Chronicles 33:1-11.
The background: Manasseh was the son of King Hezekiah. Hezekiah had been a good king … one of the few. He had made a number of great reforms – leading the people away from previous idolatry, and reestablishing the priesthood of the Lord and the house of God. He had prayed to God side by side with the prophet Isaiah, and God had supernaturally intervened and saved the nation out of the hands of the attacking Assyrians.
It wasn’t a perfect reign, because Hezekiah then went through a period when he became lifted up with pride. (That’s always the pitfall when a man is used by God, and people begin to admire them.) But he did then humble himself in the end, and God helped the nation in his days.
That was Manasseh’s father. Hezekiah died, and the throne passed to Manasseh when he was just 12 years old.
One has to wonder what kind of advisors then came around him to guide him, because the direction Manasseh went in was horrific.
Here are a few of the “lowlights” of Manasseh’s career as king …
- He reversed all his father’s godly reforms, taking the nation back to the depths of idolatry.
- He went so far as to desecrate the Temple – the very house of God – with false idols.
- He practiced occultic child sacrifice – sacrificing his own sons, burning them alive in the fire to the god Moloch.
- He practiced witchcraft and consulted mediums.
- Verse 9 says that “he seduced the nation of Judah and the city of Jerusalem to do more evil than the pagan nations around them”. What a thing!
- And finally, when God sent his prophets to warn Manasseh, he held them in contempt and ignored them.
THEREFORE: The Lord delivered king Manasseh into the hands of their dreaded enemy, the Assyrians. The same army that God had saved his father from. Manasseh was not only defeated, he was completely humiliated and carried off into captivity. The Assyrians took him bound in bronze chains, and pulled along by hooks in his nose. A spectacle like a captured animal.
Oh, how the mighty are fallen.
NOW ARE YOU READY FOR THIS?
When I read it again recently it took my breath away!
Verses 12-13 …
“Now when he was in affliction, he implored the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed to Him; and He received his entreaty, heard his supplication, and brought him back to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God.”
Think of it! Not only that God forgave this wicked king. That itself is stunning – when you think of the lives this man was responsible for destroying, and how he had spent a lifetime shaking his rebellious fist at God. But God didn’t ONLY forgive him … He actually had Manasseh RESTORED to his throne as King again. He gave it all back to Manasseh!
(There’s an echo of the prodigal son here, isn’t there. The moment of repentance when absolutely humiliated. “Father I’m not worthy to be called your son, but just let me live as your servant … NO! Bring the best robe, shoes, the ring of authority.” The amazing grace of God!)
A few lessons that present themselves to us in this incredible story:
1. The depths of God’s LONGSUFFERING mercy, and His willingness to forgive repentant sinners.
“For we will surely die and become like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. Yet God does not take away a life; but He devises means, so that His banished ones are not expelled from Him.” 2 Samuel 14:14
2. In prosperity, men easily forget God, but in adversity they can find no other refuge.
Blessed affliction! it is that brings a person to their knees. And when they do come to their knees, the Divine mercy far exceeds the terrible Divine vengeance.
3. BUT repentance is not always the outcome of affliction.
BY CONTRAST look at another king of Israel … “Now in the time of his distress King Ahaz became increasingly unfaithful to the LORD.” 2 Chronicles 28:22
Here’s the lesson …
OUR RESPONSE in affliction will determine the measure of mercy we may receive.
James 4:6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “GOD RESISTS THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.”
1Peter 5:5 Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “GOD RESISTS THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.”
4. “then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God”. Just as it is God’s kindness that leads to repentance, so the experience of His mercy CONVINCES of His reality and greatness.
5. True repentance is always accompanied by “works meet for repentance”.
When Manasseh was (incredibly) restored to his throne, HE UNDID HIS PREVIOUS IDOLATRY.
Compiling his account from Jewish oral tradition, the historian Josephus records that for the remainder of his life, Manasseh lived “as a very happy man”. There’s no joy like the joy of the forgiven! Those who have been forgiven much LOVE MUCH.
This Amazing Grace Story …
(1) Assures us of God’s willingness to forgive us – “if we confess out sins … He is faithful and just!”
(2) AND assures us that there’s NO-ONE that is beyond the reach of God’s mercy if they will repent. Therefore there’s no-one that should be beyond us in prayer. Manasseh is another in the line of God’s “trophies of grace”.