One of the biggest hindrances to receiving God’s mercy is the belief that we are beyond forgiveness. In our limited knowledge, we assume that our deeds are so dark, so ugly and unspeakable, that God would never forgive us.
I have some good news for you.
God loves you.
God is also full of mercy and compassion.
We don’t deserve mercy and forgiveness, yet He freely offers it to us through Jesus.
This morning I was listening to the Daily Audio Bible, a wonderful app I have on my phone. I listen to it almost everyday. It helps keep God’s word in the forefront of my thoughts, and is a valuable supplement to my private study time.
At this point in the DAB journey, we are at 2 Chronicles 32:1 – 33:13. 1st and 2nd Kings, as well as 1st and 2nd Chronicles, recount the history of Israel’s kings and it’s people, once they had entered and been established in the Promised Land. It’s a fascinating look into redemption & deliverance, holiness & apostasy, righteous leadership vs unrighteous leadership, and the consequences Israel suffered by turning their backs on God. The lessons are applicable to us today, so I encourage you to read it for yourself. Or get the DAB app…it’s great!
Anyway, back to dark deeds and forgiveness…
At the end of 2 Chronicles 32, Hezekiah, King of Judah, dies. He has been a righteous king, governing over the portion of the split kingdom that is based in Jerusalem. Because of Israel’s sin, the country is divided between Israel (northern kingdom) and Judah (southern kingdom), each with it’s own history and rulers. But as noted, Hezekiah “…did right in the sight of the Lord…” (2 Chronicles 29:2). He ascended the throne when he was 25 years old and reigned for 29 years.
When he died, his son Manasseh became Judah’s new king. He was only 12 years old and reigned 55 years. 2 Chronicles 33:2 states, “He did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, following the detestable practices of the pagan nations that the Lord had driven from the land ahead of the Israelites.” (New Living Translation)
What are the detestable practices, or abominations, credited to Manasseh?
~ He rebuilt the shrines to pagan Gods, which his father Hezekiah had torn down.
~ He built altars for the idol worship of Baal.
~ He set up Asherah poles, cult objects used in the worship of the fertility goddess (either a tree or carved pole where practitioners engaged in sexual acts)
~ To make matters worse, he also built altars to these pagan gods within the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, defiling the sanctuary. Manasseh bowed before them and worshiped them, instead of the One True God.
~ He practiced sorcery, divination, and witchcraft, and he consulted with mediums and psychics, which is strictly forbidden by God. (Isaiah 8:19, Isaiah 47:12-14, Micah 5:12, Micah 3:7, Galatians 5:19-21)
~ And for me, the most unfathomable atrocity Manasseh committed was sacrificing his own sons in the practice of idol-worship. (2 Chronicles 33:6)
I think we can all agree that this was one messed up king. And through all this, God spoke to Manasseh and the people of Israel, reminding them of the consequences for their sins:
“If the Israelites will be careful to obey my commands—all the laws, decrees, and regulations given through Moses—I will not send them into exile from this land that I set aside for your ancestors.” But Manasseh led the people of Judah and Jerusalem to do even more evil than the pagan nations that the Lord had destroyed when the people of Israel entered the land. (2 Chronicles 33:8)
That’s quite an accomplishment, to actually be worse than the evil nations your ancestors displaced!
Yet neither Manasseh nor the people repented, so punishment was forthcoming. God sent the commanders of the Assyrian army to capture Manasseh, who was bound in chains, had a ring put through his nose and was then led captive to Babylon.
The story could end right there. Most of us would say, “Good riddance! He got what he deserved!” and we would be correct. Manasseh did receive what he deserved. I mean, the man had his own sons burned on a pagan alter!
But the story does not end there.
While in captivity, Manasseh was in distress. He was in chains in a foreign land, being mistreated, suffering a righteous punishment that he brought upon himself. Yet in his distress he prayed to God. Not Baal, not Asherah, not some other false deity, but to the God of His father- Jehovah.
The word notes that, “…he entreated the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers.” (2 Chronicles 33:12)
In his humility (and humiliation), Manasseh cried out to God and God heard him. Not only did God hear him, but God was moved by Manasseh’s plea and returned him to Jerusalem!
“He prayed to him, and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom.” (2 Chronicles 33:13)
You might be saying, “whoa, whoa, whoa! That’s not right!”
I get it. How can God forgive someone who has sinned so obviously and to such a dark degree? Because God is full of mercy and loving-kindness!
The righteous result of God’s forgiveness is found at the end of the verse above: “Then Manasseh finally realized that the Lord alone is God!”
As for the proof of Manasseh’s repentance, the scripture goes on to reveal that Manasseh:
“…rebuilt the outer wall of the City of David, from west of the Gihon Spring in the Kidron Valley to the Fish Gate, and continuing around the hill of Ophel. He built the wall very high. And he stationed his military officers in all of the fortified towns of Judah. Manasseh also removed the foreign gods and the idol from the Lord’s Temple. He tore down all the altars he had built on the hill where the Temple stood and all the altars that were in Jerusalem, and he dumped them outside the city. Then he restored the altar of the Lord and sacrificed peace offerings and thanksgiving offerings on it. He also encouraged the people of Judah to worship the Lord, the God of Israel.” 2 Chronicles 33:14-16
God has always forgiven sinful people who genuinely seek Him for mercy. None of us can ever be good enough in and of ourselves to receive God’s forgiveness. We get that backwards. We don’t clean our act up and come to God. We come to God and He cleans us up! The penalty, the punishment for sin has been put upon Jesus at the cross. When He suffered and died, He received the punishment that we all so richly deserve. That is one of the primary reasons, or THE primary reason Jesus came to earth: to be the propitiation for our sin!
If you need and want mercy, humbly go to God and ask Him for it. He will not turn you away!
“Come, lets talk this over! says the Lord; no matter how deep the stain of your sins, I can take it out and make you as clean as freshly fallen snow. Even if you are stained as red as crimson, I can make you as white as wool.” Isaiah 1:18 The Book, Living Bible
Praying that whoever needs this will experience the peace that comes from God alone. You are accepted in the Beloved.