Today we continue with the imperfect family of Jesus ~ character studies from Jesus’ family tree in Matthew 1. Today King Manasseh. Manasseh is the son of Hezekiah, the King Chad preached about last Sunday. Manasseh was king for 55 years. As we study Manasseh there is a wrinkle that is hard to reconcile. He is considered to be one of the most evil of all kings, yet towards the end of his life he gives his heart to God. The story of Manasseh is a story of messy forgiveness. What I mean by that is that the forgiveness and transformation is real ~ Manasseh really does become a God follower, but on earth the damage is so profound of the sinful life that the damage cannot be undone. Messy forgiveness is when God forgives you, but the consequences of the sinful life is so profound it’s hard for the living to let the past go. Messy forgiveness takes place when you desperately want to forgive somebody, but the person who has hurt you wants nothing to do with you. A disconnect. Or maybe it’s the parent that abused the child and the parent has now died. Messy forgiveness is when you want to forgive the other person but they are not cooperating.
Too many books and articles talk about forgiveness in a perfect world ~ one person hurts another, the awareness of sin impacts the person, forgiveness is sought, the person changes, the two people are restored and live happily ever after….
Let’s look at King Manasseh. The books of 1 & 2 Kings and the books of 1 & 2 Chronicles both tell the stories of the kings of Judah and Israel. I’m a Chronicles sort of guy because what the writer of Chronicles tends to do is put a positive spin on the Kings of Judah as a way to emphasize a later generation as they looked back that if you follow in obedience to God then good will come of it. Chronicles leaves out a lot of the negative and emphasizes the positive. If all we had was the Kings version of Manasseh, he was pure evil. 2 Kings 21 describes King Manasseh as doing everything he can to undo the reforms of his amazing father King Hezekiah…. I don’t know why he took such a different path from his father, only God knows the heart….
Manasseh came to the throne at 12 years of age, when his father, the good King Hezekiah, died. Manasseh made it his mission to undo reforms instituted by his father. Hezekiah had destroyed shrines of pagan worship throughout the land; Manasseh rebuilt them, adding also shrines to even more gods. He desecrated the temple by putting altars for idol worship in it. He sacrificed his own sons, burning them to death in worship of the idol Molech. Manasseh murdered so many people that 2 Kings 21:16 says “Manasseh also shed so much innocent blood that he filled Jerusalem end to end.” He was a tyrant!
Tradition, as written in the Jewish Talmud, is that Manasseh murdered the great prophet Isaiah by sawing him in two. That’s Manasseh: pure evil. It would be easier if 2 Kings is the only story we had, for we could easily conclude judgment on earth and judgment of God would be the same ~ an evil man would deserve the fate of eternal damnation. But forgiveness is often messy. Sometimes the damage is so great on earth, in a relationship, that we have a hard time forgiving or even wanting God to forgive. If there is a message in the extreme evilness of a king like Manasseh, pray for his soul anyway! Pray for the nasty, the unjust, pray for those you hate!. We are told in Romans 3:16 that all deserve death for any sin, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Who are we to rank sin and determine some are of less consequence than others? The impact may be greater on earth, but only God knows the heart. The sinner, no matter how extreme, can be set free. Can God save the extremely evil person? YES! That means he can save me… If someone has sinned and seems unrepentant, pray for their soul.
25 years ago I heard a chaplain speak that saw a prisoner every month by the name of Mark David Chapman (who is he?). [killed John Lennon in Dec. 1980] Read the story of Chapman and he is pure evil when he murdered John Lennon. He contemplated killing many more well known people. The chaplain described a man that was changed in prison. At that time I don’t think he’d been up for parole a single time, since then he’s had ten parole hearings. The Chaplain predicted he’d never be set free, but yet he saw in this man a changed life through Jesus Christ. He went into detail about Chapman’s devotion to the Lord. It’s messy because some people may choose not to believe Chapman. Forgiveness can be messy. Maybe the Chaplain is gullible, after all Mark David Chapman acted like a good guy up to the murder of John Lennon… It’s messy because even if he is fully repented of his sins he may still belong in prison, earthy justice and God’s justice may not be exactly the same. I read that at his 2014 parole hearing Chapman said, "I am sorry for being such an idiot and choosing the wrong way for glory...I found my peace in Jesus. I know him. He loves me. He has forgiven me. He has helped in my life like you wouldn't believe." (Wikipedia). It’s messy because maybe we’d rather see Chapman suffer and be rejected even by God.
Manasseh is messy. Maybe it would be easier if we didn’t know about his 11th hour conversion. Several generations after Manasseh, Judah was defeated by the Babylonians, and in several places the reason given is the sins of Manasseh. READ 2 Kings 23:26-27. If only we could close the book on Manasseh at this time. If only Mark David Chapman would remain an unchanged evil man that might make life easier, because then we could pronounce him lost for eternity, earthly and heavenly judgment in agreement. Maybe that was some of the appeal of Charles Manson and his cult following: he forever stayed in his role as pure evil…Forgiveness is messy at times…
Chronicles adds to the story of Manassah ~~ an 11th hour conversion to God almighty. The first 9 verses of 2 Chron. 33 are in agreement with the way 2 Kings 21 tells the story: an evil King. 2 Chron. 33:9 is a sad summary READ. Can’t we just curse the man and move on! No. God can redeem the most hardened heart. The consequences of sin may remain, but the grace of God is beyond anything anybody deserves.
Manasseh is tested. He hits the bottom. It’s sad that it took so much personal loss to get his attention. One lesson may be that some people are hard headed and it takes a lot for God to get their attention. The lesson is that our journey to the Lord is different for each of us ~~ it took Manasseh having a hook put in his nose and carted off 1000 miles as a prisoner to Assyria for God to finally get his attention. I see so many people who fall further and further away from God and I can’t believe they still have not hit the bottom. Here is the way the Bible describes Manasseh’s fall and rise: READ 2 Chron. 33:10-19 (with commentary)…
Forgiveness can be messy. The great King David murdered the husband of his lover ~~ he asked for forgiveness, and in his case he was also restored to the community who accepted him as a humble man that sought after God. Saul/Paul in the N.T. killed Christians before his conversion. When he finally gave his life to Christ it took years for the Christian community to trust him, which is completely understandable, but he became a much admired missionary and preacher of the truth of Christ. For David and Paul they were both restored to the community of faith. But it doesn’t always work out that way. At times forgiveness is messy. Manasseh gave his life to God but the damage was so profound the nation never recovered.
- If you are in a broken relationship that is messy, you need to leave it in God’s hands. What we want is restoration between people, but it doesn’t always happen that way. What we want is for God to make everything all right again on earth, but sometimes the other person doesn’t cooperate.
- Earthly justice and heavenly justice are not always in agreement. Always seek heavenly peace for your heart as a priority and pray for heavenly peace for others. Peace with God is more important than peace with others. True? That does not mean reconciliation with others is not important… we can’t control others. We know God’s character; he will always receive those who seek him.
- God is the ultimate judge, not me. It’s hard to see much of anything redemptive in Manasseh till the end. But if God wants to receive him to himself, then that is God’s judgment. Doesn’t it say in one place in the N.T. that we may be surprised as to who is in heaven?
- Never give up on others. If all we had was the 2 Kings account of Manasseh, we’d surely conclude he is hopeless. But 2 Chron. tells us “Manasseh knew that the Lord is God.” He not only sought God but his life was changed so that he tried to undo some of the damage he caused. Never give up on others. I believe in deathbed conversions….story of the funeral, the son and daughter…. As long as there is breath, pray for those that God places on your heart. It doesn’t matter how insane they appear on earth, pray for them. Never give up…
- God will never give up on you, so don’t give up on yourself. No matter the life you have led, the decisions you’ve made, the depth of your sin, the crazy things you’ve done, God will forgive you when you are ready to be forgiven. You just might be a harsher judge than God! Let yourself hit the bottom so you can rise again… I pray the bottom for you is not having a hook put in your nose and being dragged off to prison 1000 miles away.
Forgiveness is not always clean with a happy ending for both sides. Perhaps one of the greatest miracles is that God can bring you peace in your heart anyway. The Spirit is more important than the flesh. Heaven is greater than earth. This earth is temporary, but heaven is eternal. If you are one that is struggling to make sense of a crazy making world, may you find an incredible peace and assurance through Jesus Christ. Amen.