A lesson from the past, part 2.

January 14, 2014.

Yesterday we examined a lesson from history as we saw great kings of Judah rise and fall, beginning their reign with a good relationship with the Almighty, yet ending it by forsaking the Lord. Today we will look at one story in II Chronicles that does the exact opposite in effort to pull some application of humility, repentance and forgiveness.

“Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. And he 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. For he rebuilt the high placesthat his father Hezekiah had broken down, and he erected altars to the Baals, and madeAsheroth, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them.”
(II Chron. 33:1-3)

As we begin the chapter, it seems to be another “Oh no, the king has left God again, turning away from all the good his father had done. Did Hezekiah not teach him anything? Judah is doomed.” Manasseh clearly starts out his reign on bad footing. I’m not sure why the gods of the people surrounding Israel and Judah were so attractive to them (I assume it had something to do with the lustful experiences that commonly accompanied pagan rituals), but they sure had a handle on God’s people. However, God was about to teach Manasseh a lesson.

“The Lord spoke to Manasseh and to his people, but they paid no attention. Therefore the Lordbrought 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. 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, and 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.”
(II Chron. 33:10-13)

This is so striking to me. It always is when I read about how God treated those who humbled themselves before him and called on him for help. It’s truly amazing. This is not the first time that the Lord had listened to the prayers of a wicked king. We see this pattern emerge time and again. Perhaps one of the most notable is that of King Ahab of Isreal. Ahab was an evil, evil man. His wife, Jezebel, was even more wicked in my estimation. In I Kings 21, you will find a story of Jezebel killing a man for his vineyard that Ahab wanted. The Lord sent Elijah the prophet to him and told him of the destruction that the Lord would bring upon his house because of his wicked deeds. Ahab tore his clothes and humbled himself before God, and this is what God told the Elijah:

“And when Ahab heard those words, he tore his clothes and put sackcloth on his flesh andfasted and lay in sackcloth and went about dejectedly. And the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, “Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the disaster in his days; but in his son’s days I will bring the disaster upon his house.”
(I Kings 21:27-29)

The lesson that I believe we can take from these stories is how overwhelmingly willing God is to forgive his people (and even those who are not necessarily his chosen people at times, such as was the case in the story of Jonah). I know that often when I sin, I feel so dirty that God would never want me back. I am not worthy to be called a child of God any longer. This feeling has kept me from praying, trying and even repenting before. “I’m too far in now, there’s no turning back.” I believe this is one of the most common lies of the devil amongst Christians. We can see from the stories above that God is so willing to forgive, even when it comes to very evil people, if we just come back and humble ourselves before him. The book of Hosea, of which several of the suggested daily reading passages for today are taken, is a phenomenal example of God’s love for his people and his willingness to forgive them of their transgressions. We are God’s people today- I believe this concept still applies. The Lord is the same yesterday, today and forever. In the words of Paul:

“I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful,appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying istrustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”
(I Timothy 1:12-17)

May we all come humbly before the throne of God when we fall short, knowing that his tender mercy exceeds all sin.

Suggested Daily Reading: II Chronicles 33, Jonah 3-4, Hosea 3, 6, 11.

The Lord grant us all forgiveness when we stray.

-Walter

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