Everyone has failed in life. Everyone has failed God. It is true that some people have failed more than others, no person alive has perfectly lived up to God’s standard of righteousness.
In some ways it is encouraging to think about people who have blown it worse than we have. The wrong kind of encouragement happens when we see someone worse than ourselves and begin to pat ourselves on the back. But a good kind of encouragement happens when we see someone very bad return to the Lord. If God can save a person that bad, there is still hope for me.
Manasseh was the badest of the bad kings in the southern kingdom of Israel. He didn’t just break bad, he broke the bad mold. He was so wicked that God determined to wipe him out, wipe Jerusalem out, including the temple and many of the citizens, and allow the survivors to be taken into captivity by the horrendous Babylonian Empire.
In the Bible’s historical timeline, this happened 650 years before Jesus was born. Kings David and Solomon have come and gone, and the northern kingdom of Israel has already been scattered by the Assyrians. Manasseh followed his father, godly King Hezekiah, to the throne, but not in his father’s godly ways.
Manasseh practiced idolatry, he sacrificed his sons in fire to false gods, he set up idols in God’s very temple, and he led God’s people to do the same kinds of evil things. Although God is patient, in his holiness God had had enough. He pronounced massive judgment upon Manasseh and his people. Manasseh was captured and deported on hooks some 700 miles to Babylon.
The remarkable part of Manasseh’s story, however, is that while in Babylon, Manasseh repented. God forgave him. God restored him to his throne in Jerusalem. Manasseh then sought to undo the wicked damage that he had done. Manasseh was a true believer in God. Manasseh is in heaven right now.
The reason God could forgive Manasseh is that God would punish Jesus in the place of Manasseh six and a half centuries later. Because God is holy and just, someone has to pay for each sin committed. That is the wonder of the cross. God punished Jesus in the place of sinners, so that he can offer free forgiveness and pardon to those who believe in him. God raise Jesus from the dead, proving it was all legitimate.
Let’s look at the story of Manasseh’s turn around in the Bible, and then let’s respond to God’s amazing grace in a prayer.
2 Chronicles 33:10-13; 18-20
The Lord spoke to Manasseh and to his people, but they paid no attention. Therefore the Lord brought 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. . . .
Now the rest of the acts of Manasseh, and his prayer to his God, and the words of the seers who spoke to him in the name of the Lord, the God of Israel, behold, they are in the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel. And his prayer, and how God was moved by his entreaty, and all his sin and his faithlessness, and the sites on which he built high places and set up the Asherim and the images, before he humbled himself, behold, they are written in the Chronicles of the Seers. So Manasseh slept with his fathers, and they buried him in his house, and Amon his son reigned in his place.
A Prayer of Grace
O God, it doesn’t seem fair that you could forgive such a wicked man as Manasseh. He had been so wicked for so long, and he brought your very people into his despicable ways. After your repeated warnings went unheeded, you took him in hooks and chains to Babylon.
He repented. You forgave.
As I struggle to see justice, I must to look to the cross. I think what Jesus Christ accomplished there was more magnificent than I have realized. His death was of infinite worth. Your eternal wrath was poured all over Jesus on the cross. There you crushed your beloved son.
You did it all so that you could forgive completely unworthy wretches like Manasseh. But dear Lord, you did it so that you could forgive completely unworthy wretches like me.
After you restored Manasseh to his throne in Jerusalem, he sought to live for you. He couldn’t repay your love, but O how he overflowed with gratitude for your grace. I’m thankful for your grace as well. Thank you a thousand times for the cross of Christ, and what it means to me. Help me live like I believe it all. Help me to live out of the overflow of gratitude for your great grace.
In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.