Monday, March 7, 2011

God can't help Himself...it's how you finish

My last post profiled a couple of kings of Judah; two men who started well...really well, but finished poorly. Today I want to look at a man who did the opposite...started bad...really bad, but finished well.

It's another king of Judah; Manasseh. He took over after one of the "good kings," Hezekiah, but unfortunately for him and the people of Judah, he did not follow in the footsteps of his father. He did evil in the eyes of God. He basically un-did all the good his father had done; rebuilding the high places, erecting altars to the Baals, made Asherah poles, and even sacrificed his own sons. To sum up his evil;

"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." (2 Chronicles 33:9).

God rescued Israel from slavery and used them to drive out many evil nations from the promised land...and yet here they are, His people, now guilty of more evil than all the nations whom they had driven out. And the ring-leader of this rebellion? Manasseh. As the leader goes, so goes the people. You might guess what happened next; God brings punishment and rebuke. Manasseh loses it all and is summarily escorted (quite rudely) out of his kingdom to Babylon, where he was prisoner of the Assyrians. It's what happens after this that is quite shocking, on at least two levels...

12 In his distress he sought the favor of the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. 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. (2 Chronicles 33:12-13)

First, it is shocking that we actually have a man who responds in humility to God's discipline. I can think of a lot more people that did evil and DIDN'T respond; Saul, Jezebel, almost all the kings of Israel, just to name a few...and yet, here we have a man who arguably did more evil than all of them, and he chooses to respond to God's rebuke in humility.

Second it is shocking that God would forgive Him. I mean, I know intellectually that God always forgives...but Manasseh is no light-weight sinner. He not only was a "sinner of sinners," but he led the entire nation of Judah into rebellion; he even murdered his own sons. Yet God's grace even covered those sins.

This kind of love is not earthly. And it is shocking. Some might even be mad at God for forgiving Manasseh...he deserves death for all he did. The point? I think I have three points to make here;

1. Humility is something that God can't resist. He takes great pleasure in honoring and glorifying those who have a humble heart and spirit. God can't help Himself.

2. There is no depth of sin that is not so great that God's grace cannot cover it. Nobody is ever beyond the grasp of the love and grace of God.

3. It's never too late...it's not how you start, but how you finish. As long as you have breath in your lungs, you have a chance to enter through the narrow door of Jesus Christ, into His glorious kingdom.

Heaven will be filled with folks like Manasseh; people who were evil, vile, criminals, murderers, child molesters, rapists, and worse. Heaven is not for religious people or for those who lived good lives. Heaven is for one group of people and one group only; those who know Christ.

"That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, 'Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.' For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him,  for, 'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.' ” (Romans 10:9-13)

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