Sharing from the Passion Translation Team:
Sharing from the Passion Translation Team:
This post is a continuation of the last one titled Let Him Be Lord
The theme threading through both posts is humility before God, or the act of humbling oneself:
“But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6 ESV
: freedom from pride or arrogance : the quality or state of being humble : i.e. …accepted the honor with humility; The ordeal taught her humility.
We are going to go through times and seasons of pruning, spiritually speaking. We all have things that need to be trimmed back, shaped and tended in our lives, so the fruit of God will be evident for all to see.
Pruning is a good thing…really. Have you ever driven past someone’s house with a untended yard or overgrown trees? Weeds are everywhere, the grass hasn’t been mowed in months and little creatures are beginning to take up residence. It’s not pretty. But when you see a home with healthy green grass, beautifully shaped trees and artfully planted flowers, you admire the view, knowing that the homeowner has invested time & effort into their landscape.
For us as Christians, as children of God, the pruning process begins with forgiveness, and forgiveness is rooted in humility. Instead of looking at the people around us and judging their lives harshly, we should always look to our own, knowing that without God’s mercy and grace we would be lost:
“He (Jesus) also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14 ESV
God will forgive you. Humble yourself before Him and He will lift you back up, stronger, healthier and more beautiful than you were before.
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.
I’m so grateful for the mercy & love God showers on me everyday…how then can I hold anything against anyone? By His grace I am able to forgive and let go:
October 11, 2015
“I have decreed a release of debt and bondage in this Jubilee season. However, in order to reap the harvest of liberty, you must sow seeds of liberty in others. Now is the time to grant a release to those you are holding in bondage. These are bound with ties of unreasonable expectations, ties of control and fear, and ties of unforgiveness and offense. Be sensitive as My Spirit reveals the ways you have others bound. Deliberately choose to set them free. Sow generously, and you will reap an abundant harvest that will release you into My flow. Yield to My anointing, and choose liberty.”
2 Corinthians 9:10-11 Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” Matthew 5:7
I confess that I love God’s mercy! And not only do I love it, I need His mercy everyday.
If I receive His mercy, then I need to extend that same generousity and grace to others. I love this description of mercy from Merriam-Webster:
~ kind or forgiving treatment of someone who could be treated harshly
~ kindness or help given to people who are in a very bad or desperate situation
~ compassion or forbearance shown, especially to an offender or to one subject to one’s power; also : lenient or compassionate treatment
~ compassionate treatment of those in distress
I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love it when someone is gentle with me when I’m having a hard time. And I’m astounded and humbled when someone graciously and patiently responds to me when I have been less than gracious and patient with them!
Mercy and forgiveness can be demonstrated in so many ways:
* Offer a word of encouragement to a busy cashier. I can guarantee they have heard and felt the pressure of other people’s irritation. We can be the bright spot in their day.
* Let someone steal the parking space you were waiting for. Take a deep breath and find another one. While annoying, it’s not worth the drama. Ask God to bless them with peace in their day, too.
* When your spouse comes home and fills you in on their bad day– just listen. Ask God for the ability to nurture and love them even though you are tired too. Hug them and tell them you love them. God will return the favor to you.
I think the reason some people have such a hard time with this is because they have never experienced true mercy. Or they do not see or acknowledge their own weaknesses, and are therefore harsh with others. This is particularly hard for people who are “strong” and/or gifted in their life.
I put strong in quotation marks for a reason. Strength is an illusion. If you ever find yourself in a position of weakness for any reason, you will know what I mean. True strength is manifested through faith in God and His ability to work through us and on our behalf. We are never told to be strong in ourselves, but in Christ:
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.” Ephesians 6:10
And as far as being gifted, well– it’s a gift. We are simply the recipient, not the originator of the ability or talent…so we need to recognize it as such.
I wish I could tell you that I have learned to be merciful because I read it once in the bible, understood it, then went off with flowers in hand and love in my heart, blessing everyone I met…but that is not the case. I have come face-to-face with my own weaknesses, short-comings and failures. I have been humbled by the love and compassion God has shown me throughout my life. I have received forgiveness when I didn’t deserve it, kindness when I could have been rejected or rebuked and help when I was emotionally overwhelmed or physically unable. God has sent people to encourage me when I have been stressed out and afraid, to help me when I was sick and others to gently teach me when I didn’t understand. I am so grateful for all the love and mercy He has shown me, how can I not turn around and show others the same?