Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years. 2 He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, following the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites. 3 He rebuilt the high places his father Hezekiah had demolished; he also erected altars to the Baals and made Asherah poles. He bowed down to all the starry hosts and worshiped them. 4 He built altars in the temple of the Lord, of which the Lord had said, “My Name will remain in Jerusalem forever.” 5 In both courts of the temple of the Lord, he built altars to all the starry hosts. 6 He sacrificed his children in the fire in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, practiced divination and witchcraft, sought omens, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the Lord, arousing his anger.
7 He took the image he had made and put it in God’s temple, of which God had said to David and to his son Solomon, “In this temple and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my Name forever. 8 I will not again make the feet of the Israelites leave the land I assigned to your ancestors, if only they will be careful to do everything I commanded them concerning all the laws, decrees and regulations given through Moses.” 9 But Manasseh led Judah and the people of Jerusalem astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed before the Israelites.
10 The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention. 11 So the Lord brought against them the army commanders of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh prisoner, put a hook in his nose, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon. 12 In his distress he sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his ancestors. 13 And when he prayed to him, the Lord was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so he brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord is God.
14 Afterward he rebuilt the outer wall of the City of David, west of the Gihon spring in the valley, as far as the entrance of the Fish Gate and encircling the hill of Ophel; he also made it much higher. He stationed military commanders in all the fortified cities in Judah.
15 He got rid of the foreign gods and removed the image from the temple of the Lord, as well as all the altars he had built on the temple hill and in Jerusalem; and he threw them out of the city. 16 Then he restored the altar of the Lord and sacrificed fellowship offerings and thank offerings on it, and told Judah to serve the Lord, the God of Israel. 17 The people, however, continued to sacrifice at the high places, but only to the Lord their God.
18 The other events of Manasseh’s reign, including his prayer to his God and the words the seers spoke to him in the name of the Lord, the God of Israel, are written in the annals of the kings of Israel.
2 Chronicles 33:1-18
“The most effective way to destroy a people is to deny and obliterate their understanding of history.” This is a quote from the English writer George Orwell, an odd source to quote from just after celebrating our nation’s independence from Britain, but he makes a good point. In our reading today from 2 Chronicles 33, King Manasseh of Judah was brought to the brink of destruction by God for his rejection of the history of God and his people. Destruction also waits for you if you forget the history of God and his people by forgetting to turn to God even at your worst for forgiveness!
Manasseh faced destruction because he turned away from God to pursue the worst kinds of evil. Manasseh’s father was Hezekiah, one of the only faithful kings in the history of Israel’s southern kingdom of Judah. Hezekiah trusted in God meaning that even when he fell into sin, he repented, calling out to God for rescue and forgiveness. Unfortunately, his son Manasseh did not follow in his father’s footsteps. Manasseh worked hard to undo any good his father had done for Judah. His most blatant refusal to serve Judah as a good king was recorded in 2 Chronicles 33:4, He built altars in the temple of the Lord, of which the Lord had said, “My Name will remain in Jerusalem forever.” The temple was the place where God came and spoke to his people. There they heard his will for them, his laws, his plans to make them a great people and the place where they learned about sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. Manasseh rejected all of that by building altars in God’s temple to idols, the powerless false gods of the unbelieving nations Israel had defeated with the true God fighting for them.
The problem Manasseh faced was that his knowledge of God was not also faith in God. Faith in God leads a person to fear God, turn to him for forgiveness, ask him for help to avoid sin and do good. Manasseh did not do any of these things. Instead, we read 9 But Manasseh led Judah and the people of Jerusalem astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed before the Israelites. A person who only has knowledge of God looks at him only as a concept or an occasional convenience. It does not have true fear of God’s anger toward sin or trust in his undeserved grace. Without faith, Manasseh pursued the heathen gods of his time, the Baals and Asherah, because they allowed him to indulge his perverse pleasures and selfish pursuits seemingly without consequence. For those who rejected the one true God, the Baals represented power, wealth and war, while Asherah was about fertility of man, beasts and fields. God wanted Manasseh to be free from his unbelief and denial that there are not consequences for sinning against the one true God, so 10 The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention. 11 So the Lord brought against them the army commanders of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh prisoner, put a hook in his nose, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon. Manasseh refused to repent, so God punished him.
We don’t always see a direct punishment when we fall into sin unlike what Manasseh experienced. Like Manasseh, all of us are guilty of indulging in perverse pleasures and selfish pursuits, but we are good at avoiding consequences and the world around us helps us avoid feeling guilty. We cannot understand the true consequences of our sin by looking at the world or our experiences, we need God to show us our sins and show us our savior. In our reading from 1 Corinthians 6, Paul said, 9 “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God?” God made it clear that those who love what is wrong will not be allowed into his heaven. Paul continued by giving examples of sinful wrongdoing in case there was any confusion or someone who did not realize they were sinful. Finally, he concluded with these words, 11 “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” All of us needed God to save us from our sins, otherwise we would not have eternal life with God in heaven.
If we continue in our sins, then we will be lost outside the kingdom of God and condemned to hell. Since Manasseh did not stop sinning when God called out to him, he was punished. Does that mean we will face God’s punishment if we cannot stop sinning too? The answer to this question defines Christianity. We are free from God’s punishment for sin, not because we stop sinning, but because Jesus was punished for all our sins. In other words, we are not saved because we live better lives, but because Jesus lived a completely sinless life and gave us the credit. We are not able to completely stop sinning, but through faith in Jesus, we are perfect and forgiven for our sins. With faith in Jesus our lives are characterized by repentance, which recognizes our sin, is sorry for it, asks God for forgiveness and then lives at peace with God confident that we are forgiven through Jesus.
The false gods Manasseh gave his life over to did not save him from punishment. Manasseh’s worship was described as this, 3…He bowed down to all the starry hosts and worshiped them. 6 He sacrificed his children in the fire in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, practiced divination and witchcraft, sought omens, and consulted mediums and spiritists. All of the faithfulness to and worship of the false gods did Manasseh no good when God came to punish him. Finally, when he was at his worst, 12 In his distress he sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his ancestors. 13 And when he prayed to him, the Lord was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so he brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord is God. Manasseh was held captive by sin and the only way to escape was to repent, calling out to God for forgiveness.
Even when we are at our worst, God wants us to repent. When we are caught in our worst sins and suffering or afraid of the consequences, God does not want us to turn away from him, but to him. In our gospel reading from Luke 7, there was a woman who could have easily avoided Jesus for fear he would reject her for her sins. Jesus was having dinner in the house of a Pharisee named Simon. Simon was on the high end of society and enjoyed an elevated opinion of himself, and while the dinner party was happening a woman from the town known only as a ‘sinful woman,’ came and stood behind Jesus. The sinful woman had brought a jar of perfume to pour on Jesus’ feet as her way of showing her faith in him as her Lord and Savior. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. Simon could not believe Jesus allowed this, but Jesus used a parable to show Simon that this sinful woman was exactly the kind of person he came to forgive. Simon the Pharisee saw no need for Jesus’ forgiveness because he believed he did not need it. On the other hand, the sinful woman was repentant and trusted she needed Jesus’ forgiveness. When the sinful woman had finished with her expression of faith and after telling the parable, 48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” 50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Even when we are at our worst, the same words Jesus spoke to the sinful woman are for us too.
Each time you fall into sin, God wants you to turn to him so that he can remind you of your forgiveness in Jesus. Manasseh was at his worst after turning from God, worshipping idols, sacrificing his children, giving into orgies, following witchcraft, being chained up and being deported to a foreign kingdom, but God still restored him when he turned to him. And in response for God’s mercy, Manasseh got rid of the foreign gods. 16 Then he restored the altar of the Lord and sacrificed fellowship offerings and thank offerings on it, and told Judah to serve the Lord, the God of Israel. Manasseh is a real-life example of what happens when God turns someone to faith. George Orwell once said, “The most effective way to destroy a people is to deny and obliterate their understanding of history.” Manasseh and the sinful woman are real people from history who turned to God and were forgiven. You and I face the threat of destruction if we deny and forget what Jesus has done to save us.
Another quote from George Orwell goes like this, “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” This quote deals with wars between nations or peoples, but we can take it and understand it through the eyes of Scripture. You and I are able to sleep at peace every night because violence was done to Jesus on our behalf. The war we face is comfort in our sins like Manasseh and a false belief that there is no punishment for them. The truth is there is punishment for sin, but Jesus was punished for us. We must remain in God’s Word for the reminder of our sins and what was done to take them away. We know that the Lord is God like Manasseh said and that he forgives the sins of all who repent. Confident of what Jesus has done we will turn to God even at our worst for Forgiveness! Amen.