Last week as I was working on my family history, I ran into a name that made me wish the man wasn’t one of my ancestors because the whole world knows him as a very bad king – Manasseh, 13th King of Judah. At that moment I became even more thankful that my standing in the sight of God is not dependent upon who my ancestors were!
On the other hand, I am happy to claim Manasseh’s father, King Hezekiah, since his reputation as a great and pious king, is much easier to be proud of. 2 Kings 18:5 declares this extraordinary praise of him, "He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel; so that after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor among those who were before him." (NASB). Regardless of whether or not Manasseh turns out to really be my 90th great grandfather when I have finished verifying the facts, there is a lesson to be learned from him.
Manasseh’s story is told in two Old Testament books. 2 Kings 21:1-18 is a scathing account of Manasseh’s many trespasses written by the prophet Jeremiah. His story is also written in
2 Chronicles 33:1-20 thought to have been written by the prophet Ezra. Both agree that he became king at the age of 12, son of Hepzibah and Hezikiah, and reigned the longest and was the worst Judean king. They also agree about the evil he did during his fifty-five year reign: he rebuilt the “high places” used for pagan worship which Hezekiah had torn down and had altars to Baal constructed, and even set up a carved idol in the temple of YHWH, just to name a few of his many very serious transgressions. He even had his maternal grandfather, Isaiah the Prophet, sawed in half according to the Talmud. Both writers make us aware of the rebuke of the Lord toward Manasseh, but the passage in 2 Chronicles is much more definitive.
“10 The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention. 11 Therefore the Lord brought the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria against them, and they captured Manasseh with hooks (thongs put through the nose), bound him with bronze chains and took him to Babylon.” 2 Chronicles 33:10-11 (NASB)
That is as far as Jeremiah went as he wrote 2 Kings but Ezra, or whoever The Chronicler was, had more to say and that’s where the lesson begins to show up. “12 When he was in distress, he entreated the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. 13 When he prayed to Him, He was moved by his entreaty and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God.
18 Now the rest of the acts of Manasseh even his prayer to his God, and the words of the seers who spoke to him in the name of the Lord God of Israel, behold, they are among the records of the kings of Israel. 19 His prayer also and how God was entreated by him, and all his sin, his unfaithfulness, and the sites on which he built high places and erected the Asherim and the carved images, before he humbled himself, behold, they are written in the records of the Hozai (Gr reads seers). 20 So Manasseh slept with his fathers, and they buried him in his own house. And Amon his son became king in his place.” 2 Chronicles 33:12-18 (NASB)
Manasseh humbled himself and repented of the evil he had done. God heard his prayer and forgave him. But the people continued to sacrifice in the high places and claimed to be worshiping YHWH. (That raised a question in my mind about modern worship – do we do the same thing today in some way or another?)
Now, back to the lesson. It isn’t a favorite of many people these days nonetheless, it is from God’s instruction book to us, so I had to take note. Sin has consequences. Even forgiven sin can have consequences that cause a devastating aftermath. Confession and repentance do not necessarily cancel the results of our bad behavior. Manasseh repented and did good works afterward, but his sin was extremely serious, and much devastating damage was done that could not be erased simply because he repented.
We may not be kings, but our witness falls into a similar role as Manasseh. There are lots of ways we can do much damage by our mistakes, and many times the damage done is not fixable. As an example, let’s say I went out and committed the sin of drunkenness. It was just a mistake, maybe having a good time with an old friend I hadn’t seen in years. And say I made another mistake of driving after this really fun evening, and I crash the car. Hopefully I would have sense enough to confess to God my mistake and even repent of ever doing that again, but my car is still wrecked. And my witness took a nosedive too. And worse yet, suppose someone else got seriously hurt or killed - no “fix” to that. The damage is done. As the saying goes, “you can’t un-ring the bell”.