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Being under the power of Satan can lead you to do some horrible things.
I knew this intimately before I was born-again because I did horrible things myself, and now, since my rebirth, I see those horrible things being done by others.
But some take the horror to extremes, like Manasseh, King of Judah.
We know from scripture that Manasseh was the son of Hezekiah. He co-reigned with his dad from the age of 12, and then became king upon Hezekiah’s death. We also know from scripture that Hezekiah did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, but that Manasseh did that which was evil, overturning, for a time, all of Hezekiah’s reforms.
If you don’t know the story of King Hezekiah and his son Manasseh, please take a few moments to read through 2 Chronicles 29-33:20.
God is patient. Even in the face of extreme evil, God gives people time to repent of the horror they inflict on others. God has also promised to look after the children and children’s children and children’s children’s children of those who love him and keep his Commandments.
The prophet Isaiah was related to Manasseh on his mother’s side. Some sources claim that Isaiah was Manasseh’s maternal grandfather. Isaiah was a very great prophet in the eyes of the Lord and also greatly beloved by Jesus. In fact, Jesus quoted a passage from Isaiah when he publicly came out as the Messiah in his home synagogue in Nazareth. Isaiah’s prophecies speak intimately and personally of Jesus.
And yet Manasseh, while under the spell of evil, had the prophet Isaiah, his grandfather, sawed in half with a wood saw.
Let that sink in for a moment.
God is patient. He was with me and still is with me. But God was also patient with Manasseh, even despite all the horror he unleashed on his people, including his grandfather. As a reward for his evil, Manasseh was captured by the Assyrians and imprisoned.
While in prison, weighed down by heavy chains and the full horror of his sins, Manasseh cried out to God, and God heard him. Manasseh then repented of his evil, and God forgave him.
As a token of his forgiveness, God released Manasseh from the Assyrian prison and reinstated him as King of Judah. Manasseh then spent the remainder of his reign undoing all the evil he had done, faithfully keeping his promise to God and showing the sincerity of his repentance.
The story of King Manasseh is intertwined with the story of the prophet Isaiah, his grandfather, and the story of King Hezekiah, his father. It starts out as a horror story, but then turns into a love story showing God’s great mercy and forgiveness. We don’t hear much about Manasseh’s conversion from evil to good, but we should. It’s a reminder that God looks after the children and children’s children and children’s children’s children, and so on, of those who do God’s will and die in God’s grace. It is also a reminder of God’s great mercy even to those who do profound evil to those who die in God’s grace.
As a final gesture of humility, King Manasseh requested that he be buried in the grounds of his own house rather than in the City of David, where kings traditionally were buried.
I know that if I make it home to Heaven, I will find Manasseh there among the living, and that all the horror he did before his conversion will have been forgotten by everyone there, including God, just as what I did will be forgotten. Here on Earth, we still read about the horrors inflicted by Manasseh before his conversion because we need to learn from his mistakes, just as we need to learn from the mistakes of others and (hopefully) from our own. At the same time, we need to take hope in how Manasseh found forgiveness through sincere repentance, and how he made good on that repentance for the rest of his life.
Manasseh’s is a horror story that turned into a love story with a happily-ever-after ending. I pray that our stories – however they started out – will end the same.
A few years back, I dropped in on a church service in suburban Toronto. The “church” was a small dilapidated building (a converted cottage, I think) and only a few people were in attendance. The service was short, but at the end of the official proceedings, the minister asked if anyone had any prayer petitions they’d like to present. There was an awkward silence, and then a middle-aged woman sitting a few rows behind me slowly got to her feet. She nervously cleared her throat, cupped her hands palms upward in classic Muslim prayer style, and started to recite a litany of words. (more…)
There are lots of things I like about how Jesus carried out his ministry 2000 years ago, but one of my favourites is how he kept it real.
He wasn’t trying to be something he wasn’t, and he wasn’t trying not to be something he was.
Take, for instance, how he dealt with the Pharisees. They invited him to dinner on occasion because they had a morbid curiosity about him, but they certainly didn’t like him. Nor did Jesus like them, and he didn’t pretend to. Even as he sat eating their food and drinking their wine, he told them exactly what he thought of them. (more…)