April 6, 2014
“All have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God.”
The New American Bible
“How God Treats Sinners Who Knew Him But Chose to Leave Him.”
“Hezekiah slept with his fathers. Manasseh his son reigned in his stead. Manasseh was twelve years old when he began his 55-year wicked reign.”
II Kings 20: 21, 21: 1
The Amplified Bible
“Among the attributes of God, although they are equal, mercy shines with even more brilliance than justice.”
Miguel de Cervantes
“Let the wicked forsake (their) way and the unrighteous (their) thoughts, and let (them) return to the Lord, and He will have love, pity, and mercy for (them), and to our God, for He will multiply to (them) His abundant pardon.”
Isaiah 55: 7
The record of his life isn’t just painful-- it is disastrous, even evil. His name was Manasseh. And he was the son of Hezekiah who is referred to in Scripture as, “good King Hezekiah.” Manasseh certainly had the opportunity to see God in action in the life of his dad. But somewhere along the way, this young man, with so much potential ahead of him, made the choice to squander his God-given talents and opportunities and not only go his own way, but rebel in such a horrendous fashion it is hard to read about him.
What’s more, this evil man ruled over his kingdom for fifty-five long, terrible years. Just imagine if you were a God-fearing person living under the tyranny of this despot. I know if I had lived at that time, I would have repeatedly asked, “Where is God? Why doesn’t He do something?”
Here are just a few of the terrible acts of Manasseh chronicled in Scripture:
1.) He made his own son pass through fire and burned him as an offering to the heathen god Molech. (II Kings 21:6)
2.) He practiced soothsaying, and dealt with mediums and wizards. (II Kings 21:6).
3.) He made a graven image of the goddess Asherah and set it right inside the house of God. (II Kings 21:7).
4.) He seduced the people under his rule to do more evil than the surrounding heathen nations God had destroyed. (II Kings 21:9).
Enough you say! Well, here’s the topper. After burning his children; desecrating the house of God; and leading his people into more evil than was going on in the surrounding nations; he took the prophet of God, Isaiah, put him in a hollowed log and sawed him in half.
I don’t know about you, but if I had been God, I would have said, “This guy has gone too far. He’s crossed the line. Enough is enough! Mercy is great – but my mercy has limits! And Manasseh you have pushed the limit too far. There’s no mercy for you!!”
But this isn’t what God did. Ernest Ligon notes that “mercy does not always express itself by withholding punishment.” In the case of Manasseh, God did not withhold His displeasure at such willfully, wicked behavior. Having walked away from the protection of God, Manasseh was left to the punishing hand of the King of Assyria, a vile man himself whom the Bible says, “took Manasseh with hooks and fetters and brought him to Babylon” (II Chronicles 33:11, Amplified).
Down in a prison cell, in a foreign country, awaiting what he probably believed would be a torturous death, and I might add one he deserved, Manasseh got to thinking about the God his own life had mocked. Here’s how beautifully the Bible records what happened: “When (Manasseh) was in affliction, he besought the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. He prayed to Him, and God, entreated by him, heard his supplication and brought him again to Jerusalem to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord is God” (II Chronicles 33: 12, 13, Amplified).
It’s hard for me to understand this kind of mercy. This kind of grace. This kind of love. But it’s the kind of love God gives us, even when we act like Manasseh.
However, I want to point out, Manasseh’s behavior had consequences even God could not change because of the evil choices this man made:
First: Manasseh wasted years of his rule doing evil. He could not relive those years.
Second: Manasseh could not bring back the children he killed or the prophet Isaiah, whom he murdered. He had to live with that fact.
Third: Manasseh changed and came back to God, but years of evil influence took a toll on the people in his nation and many were led astray who never returned to God.
Fourth: Manasseh’s behavior was such a lousy example in his own home that he could not save his son Amon who at 22 years-of–age began to reign in Jerusalem and was so evil that after just two years his own servants conspired against him and killed him in his house.
God’s mercy was wide and deep enough to include Manasseh, but the consequences of his evil ways were his to live with.
What a story. And what a lesson for you and me. How does God treat sinners who knew Him then chose to leave Him? With a mercy as wide as the ocean! With a love as deep as the sea! With a forgiveness that blots out my transgressions like a thick cloud! That’s how God treats us.
However, the life of Manasseh should serve as a lesson to us that when we have the opportunity and the heavenly gift to choose to follow God’s way, let us use our power of choice to never leave God’s side, for the consequences of our own willful way will be painful to live with.
“Two works of mercy set a (woman) free: forgive and you will be forgiven, and give and you will receive.”
“I sharpened my two-edged sword
Of justice and truth
And took it to the altar
To be blessed by God.
‘Why thank you, Ellen,
Another pruning hook.’
Knowing that God was not the blind one,
And realizing once more,
That if God has enough mercy
To forgive me,
God has enough mercy to forgive
E. Ellen Adams
Dorothy Valcarcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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