“Then Manasseh knew that the Lord he was God.”
Sinner — Saint!
Not in the long list of those who are called the great heroes of faith does his name belong. There is such a list recorded in the Holy Scriptures, you know. The writer to the Hebrews records their names, beginning with Abel, the first martyr. Carefully and unerringly he follows down the list, marking for us who they were, what they believed, and how they demonstrated their faith. But you look in vain in this long list for the name of Manasseh.
Rather, his fame, or shall we say, his notoriety is to be pointed out in another direction. He belongs to the list of those who had greatly sinned, but who in the eleventh hour of their lives are brought to a most wonderful conversion through the mercy of God. He fits well in the list of those who were guilty of terrible sins, but who later found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Like Paul, for instance, who was guilty of persecuting the church of Christ, who himself confessed that he was the chief of sinners, but who was converted on the way to Damascus and became the greatest of all the apostles. Or, like the woman who was guilty of being a harlot, who had fallen into the sin of adultery, but who later is found washing the feet of the Saviour with her tears and wiping them with the hairs of her head. Or, like the thief on the cross, who all his life time indulged in all the sins of his time, but in the last moments of his life was forgiven and given the promise of Paradise. So was Manasseh! Who shed much innocent blood, and not withstanding was pardoned, finding mercy with God!
Then Manasseh knew that the Lord he was God!
A small text, but set in a large historical context! Not only is this history recorded in II Chronicles 33, but also in II Kings 21. The latter passage records practically the same facts as the former, with this difference, that the former only informs us of his conversion. From both of these passages it becomes clear that the intention of the Word of God is to show that the realization of the kingdom of heaven is not dependent on the inherent goodness of man, but solely on the sovereign and eternal mercy of the living God.
Manasseh, the son of Hezekiah!
Son of a God-fearing king of Judah!
And this cannot mean that his father was without sin. For what man is perfect in all his ways? Hezekiah, like all of us, will have to say: “All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags in Thy sight, O God!” Of one particular sin the Scriptures inform us that Hezekiah was guilty. He had entertained a delegation from the wicked king of Babylon, and had showed them all the riches of his house. For this the prophet Isaiah in the name of the Lord had rebuked him, informing him that all those things would one day be brought into Babylon; Hezekiah realized his sin and confessed it. And the Lord promised not to bring judgment in his lifetime. (Isaiah 39).
But of Hezekiah we read: “He did right in the sight of the Lord.” II Chronicles 29:2. He restored the true worship of Jehovah, just the opposite of his father Ahaz, who had done so wickedly. Hezekiah opened the doors of the house of the Lord and repaired them. He brought in the priests and the Levites once more into the sanctuary and made them sanctify themselves for the true worship of God. He instituted a great revival in Jerusalem. Gathered the rulers and the people together and proclaimed a solemn Passover, while all the instruments of idolatry were destroyed. God blessed Hezekiah and prospered him greatly. He became exceeding rich, and his kingdom increased.
Manasseh, was the son of Hezekiah’s old age!
Hezekiah, you will remember had been sick unto death. We are not told the nature of his illness, but the prophet had informed him that it was fatal. And Hezekiah had prayed that his life be spared. Many reasons have been given to explain this prayer, but only one of them satisfies us. He had no son, who could take his place, and for this he really prayed. None there was who could follow him to the throne of Judah who was of the royal line of David. And God had promised this as one of the sure mercies of David. For the fulfillment of the promise Hezekiah evidently prayed. And his prayer was answered three years later when Manasseh was born. We read in verse 1 that Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, which reign must have begun immediately upon the death of his father, to whose life had been added fifteen years.
So we conclude that at least for the first twelve years of his life Manasseh had a covenant training. And this is no small matter! To be brought up in a home where the fear of God dwells, to be trained with a Christian education, that is never a small and insignificant matter! Such without mistake was the training Manasseh received. He was schooled in the law of Jehovah. He was instructed in the same religious principles that moved his father.
Moreover, Manasseh was a royal son of David! His name appears in the genealogies of Christ. (Matthew 1:10). This means that Manasseh was in the generations of the royal elect line. The very generations that must bring forth the Christ. Now we can understand why Hezekiah prayed so earnestly when he was sick. He knew he was of the seed of David, and should he die leaving no seed, the Christ could not come. In Manasseh, therefore, he found the answer to his prayer.
Let us not fail to notice how important this truth is as a background for the study of Manasseh! When we see how wicked this man became, we must see it on the background of God’s sovereign election and the counsel of His covenant. This is, indeed, the high point in our meditation regarding Manasseh!
Manasseh, the sinner!
How wonderfully the Scriptures reveal and do not spare even the children of God when it comes to revealing their sins! Fact is, when we read the account of the sins of Manasseh, it appears none committed more sin and fell so deeply as he. Moreover, if the same Scripture did not tell us that he was a child of God you would conclude he was a reprobate of the worse sort.
He sinned, first of all, against his religious training! To repudiate that is a heinous thing! To all his father told him of God, His promises, His covenant, His law and service, he turned his back. The stories his father told him while he sat on his knee concerning Jehovah’s power to deliver His people and His great love for the kingdom of David, he now laughed to scorn.
His departure from all the principles of his religious training was accompanied by his embracing all the abominations of the heathen whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel. He built again the high places his father had broken down, and he reared up altars for Baalim…and worshipped all the host of heaven and served them.
Very bold he was in his wickedness! He even went into the house of the Lord to build there altars for all the host of heaven. Thus with his kingly power and influence he made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to err.
And if that was not bad enough, he even caused his children to pass through the fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom!
Manasseh, the unbeliever!
Who when he and his people were rebuked by the Lord for their sin, would not hearken! His devilish pride, and his love for sin, moved him to misuse his power and to corrupt his way and to lead Judah astray! Verily, to look at him, he appeared no different than the most ungodly of the heathen.
Manasseh, nevertheless, the saint!
And God’s saints cannot perish! The mercy of God is His constant desire and unchangeable will to reach down to the sinner in his deepest misery, not only to deliver him, but to make him blessed as God is blessed! And that mercy in its operation first makes the sinner most miserable that he may know his sin and guilt.
Thus Manasseh was brought in irons to Babylon. There in captivity he was sorely afflicted. So great was his affliction that all his sinful pride was humbled, and all his arrogance broken. O, how wonderfully the Lord knows how to bring His beloved to despair, so that they cry out after Him!
When Manasseh was in affliction, he besought the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. And as he prayed for forgiveness, God heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom.
Then Manasseh knew that the Lord He was God!
There was another king who had exalted himself over against the King of heaven and earth, whom God had humbled, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. So deeply had the Lord humbled him that he ate grass as the oxen. And at the end of his humiliation his kingdom was restored to him, and his honor and brightness returned to him. Then opened he his mouth and blessed the Most High, and he praised and honored Him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation. He, too, knew that God is God, but with a knowledge that was so different. It was the knowledge that is impressed upon the wicked, and a confession that is forced out of him.
How different is the knowledge of the child of God! Of the sinner who is saved by grace!
Manasseh knew that Jehovah was his God!
The God of his salvation!
The God, Who, for His covenant’s sake cannot allow one of His Own to perish! Though his sin be even greater than that of Babel’s king, so great is His mercy that it must deliver from the greatest misery, unto the highest good!
And what is the highest good?
That they, sinners great though they be, lost and undone in themselves, may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom Thou hast sent! To know Him is eternal life. To know Him is to dwell in His fellowship, to be taken up into the friendship of His covenant.
Then Manasseh knew that Jehovah He is the God, and all the rest are idols in whose service is the bondage of sin!
O, indeed, the realization of the kingdom of heaven, does not depend on the inherent goodness, nor is it frustrated by the inherent badness of men, but it depends solely on the sovereign, elective, and eternal mercy of the God Who worketh all things after the counsel of His immutable will!