One of the most amazing stories in Scripture is the story of king Manasseh. He was the son of Hezekiah, the king of Judah who was a righteous king. He led the nation in many reforms designed to root out the idolatry that had taken hold everywhere.
Hezekiah died when Manasseh was only 12, which means Manasseh became king before he was even a teenager. Imagine having such power and authority at any age, let alone during your teen years! Manasseh did not follow in his father’s footsteps: he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord (2 Kings 21:2). The author of 2 Kings explains how Manasseh undid his father’s reforms, reintroducing pagan worship into the land. He even built altars to false gods in the temple that Solomon had built years before. The author explains his wickedness even further:
And he burned his son as an offering and used fortune-telling and omens and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger.2 Kings 21:6 ESV
Manasseh reigned over Judah for 55 long years. The author cannot find enough words to describe the wickedness of his reign. He wrote that Manasseh had “filled Jerusalem from one end to another” with innocent blood. The cruelty and depravity and wickedness is simply stunning. It is even more stunning to consider his father’s work at restoring righteousness to the land of Judah.
In response to Manasseh’s evil and the peoples’ ready embrace of it, God pronounced judgment against Judah. It was too late for the nation at that point. The author simply records that Manasseh dies and his son Amon reigns in his place, but that’s not the end of the story. The author ends there because he was writing to explain the eventual destruction of Jerusalem and of Judah and the exile to Babylon, but the author of 2 Chronicles writes with a slightly different purpose.
In 2 Chronicles 33:9 we read,
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.2 Chronicles 33:9 ESV
The author also records something the author of 2 Kings did not: Manasseh was later captured by the king of Assyria and taken to Babylon in chains. While there, God was working in him.
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.2 Chronicles 33:12–13 ESV
God used the capture and imprisonment of Manasseh to humble him and to bring him to repentance. Manasseh was able to return to Jerusalem (did he escape or was he set free?), where he demonstrated his newfound faith in the God of Israel and performed acts of repentance. The author says he removed the foreign gods and idols from the temple and destroyed the altars he built for them. He restored the true altar in the temple and offered sacrifices on it to the God of Israel on it.
Reading this story reminds us that our parents do not determine our legacy. A righteous father is no guarantee that a son will be righteous, and an evil father is no barrier to a son worshiping the one true God. It also reminds us that we should not give up hope for wayward children who do not follow the Lord. For most of Manasseh’s life he committed great evil, yet God in his kindness saved him and rescued him from that evil.
New City, the story of Manasseh ought to compel us to faithfulness to the gospel of Jesus. God can rescue a man as evil as Manasseh, a man who should have known better yet who did “more evil than the nations whom the Lord destroyed before the people of Israel.” He can use difficult circumstances to bring about faith and repentance in people, whether that is capture by a foreign enemy or a pandemic like this coronavirus.
Today, let us pray for our church, that we may remain faithful to proclaim the message of God’s victory over sin and death, of his willingness to grant forgiveness and grace and mercy to any who will come to him. Let us pray for our missionaries, for Jonathan and Noella in Italy and for Kizombo and Wababili in Congo. Pray for their faithfulness to the gospel. As we pray, let’s pray for a legacy to be left—a legacy of faithfulness. I don’t mean a legacy that you and I leave behind. I mean a legacy of the faithfulness of God. That legacy grows as men and women turn from their sins to follow him. Let’s pray for a rich legacy of God’s greatness in our community.