Those who ignore the Bible warnings about sin are bound to repeat the same mistakes1
Introduction: Manasseh was the beginning of the final seven rulers of Judah. His reign and the reign of his son Amon precipitated the end of Judah. They engaged in evil acts that exceeded any prior king of Northern Israel or Judah. Their evil acts even exceeded the Canaanite nations that God had previously judged. Although Manasseh’s grandson Josiah would bring about a revival, his reforms could not undo the evil that Manasseh and Amon inflicted. Even though Manasseh repented of his evil ways at the end of his life, his repentance came too late to influence either his son Amon or the people. When King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon later invaded Judah and exiled its people into captivity, the Bible makes clear that it was because of the actions of Manasseh (2 Kgs. 24:3-4). One of the many things that makes these events so hard to believe is that they followed immediately after the reign of Hezekiah, the most faithful king since David. How could the kings of Judah and its people backslide so quickly into darkness? From the mistakes of Manasseh, Amon, and the people of Judah, God reveals seven lessons on how to break the cycle of sin. This includes: (1) vigilance, (2) obedience; (3) repentance, (4) gratitude; (5) fearing God, (6) being a holy example, and (7) accountability.
First, because the priesthood was not vigilant, Manasseh was able to undo all of Hezekiah’s reforms and adopt practices that were even worse than the Canaanites. From the failures of the priesthood, God warns that you must be vigilant about sin or Satan will undo your spiritual growth. Second, through His prophets, God warned both Manasseh and the people to repent of their ways. Yet, they did not listen to God’s Word or His prophets. If you are not obedient to God’s Word you will never break the cycle of sin in your life. Third, because Manasseh would not repent, God allowed the Assyrians to capture and imprison him. In his sorrow, Manasseh repented and cried out to God for help. God also wants you to repent of your sins. Without a genuine repentance, you will return to your sins. Fourth, God responded to Manasseh’s prayers by freeing him. Out of gratitude, Manasseh ripped down the pagan altars, ordered the people to worship Yahweh and made sacrifices out of gratitude. To break the cycle of sin in your life, God also wants you to reform your actions and show gratitude for your deliverance. Fifth, although Manasseh repented and changed his ways, the people would not change their ways. God then used His prophets to warn that He would judge Judah, just as He did with Northern Israel. Yet, the people did not believe these warnings because they did not fear God. Through their mistake, God warns that if you fail to fear Him by hating evil you will not break the cycle of sin in your life. Sixth, Manasseh failed to live as a holy example for his son Amon. Thus, Amon embraced evil. From Manasseh’s mistake, God warns that failing to live a holy life can lead others astray. Finally, because Manasseh killed off God’s prophets, neither Manasseh nor Amon were accountable to Spirit-led counsel. This led to Manasseh’s captivity and Amon’s murder. From their mistakes, God warns that you should be accountable to Spirit-led counsel to avoid evil.
Manasseh fails to follow his father’s example and does evil in God’s eyes. While Hezekiah was the most faithful and obedient King of Judah since David, his son Manasseh was tragically Judah’s most wicked king: “1 Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. 2 He did evil in the sight of the Lord according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord dispossessed before the sons of Israel. 3 For he rebuilt the high places which Hezekiah his father had broken down; he also erected altars for the Baals and made Asherim, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them. 4 He built altars in the house of the Lord of which the Lord had said, ‘My name shall be in Jerusalem forever.’ 5 For he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the Lord. 6 He made his sons pass through the fire in the valley of Ben-hinnom; and he practiced witchcraft, used divination, practiced sorcery and dealt with mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking Him to anger. 7 Then he put the carved image of the idol which he had made in the house of God, of which God had said to David and to Solomon his son, ‘In this house and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen from all the tribes of Israel, I will put My name forever; 8 and I will not again remove the foot of Israel from the land which I have appointed for your fathers, if only they will observe to do all that I have commanded them according to all the law, the statutes and the ordinances given through Moses.’ 9 Thus Manasseh misled Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to do more evil than the nations whom the Lord destroyed before the sons of Israel.” (2 Chr. 33:1-9; 2 Kgs. 21:1-7). Manasseh did whatever felt right in his own eyes. Instead of following his father’s example, he followed after the evil practices of the Canaanite nations. His sins were even worse than those of the kings of Northern Israel.
Manasseh’s seven deadly sins. Manasseh engaged in at least seven deadly sins. First, he reinstituted Ahab’s practices of Baal and Asherah worship (2 Chr. 33:3; 2 Kgs. 21:3). This violated God’s First Commandment against worshipping other gods (Ex. 20:3; Dt. 5:7). Because Asherah worship involved ritual sex, he turned the Temple into a brothel. Second, he rebuilt the pagan altars that Hezekiah faithfully destroyed (2 Chr. 33:3; 2 Kgs. 21:3). God ordered the Jews to destroy these altars (Dt. 12:2-3; Jer. 2:20). This also violated God’s Second Commandment against idolatry (Ex. 20:4-6; Dt. 5:8-10). Third, he went beyond Ahab’s idolatry by following Babylonian worship of the sun, moon, and stars through astrology (2 Chr. 33:3; 2 Kgs. 21:3). In addition to again violating the First Commandment, God separately prohibited astrology because of the demonic influences that it involved: “And beware not to lift up your eyes to heaven and see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, and be drawn away and worship them and serve them, those which the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven.” (Dt. 4:19; 17:2-5). Fourth, he desecrated God’s Temple with pagan altars (2 Chr. 33:4; 2 Kgs. 21:4, 7). God “put [His] name forever in the Temple (1 Kgs. 8:29; 9:3; 21:7). Thus, his actions also blasphemed God’s holy name. This in turn violated the Third Commandment (Ex. 20:7; Dt. 5:11). Fifth, he practiced witchcraft and divination, and he dealt with mediums and spiritists (2 Chr. 33:6; 2 Kgs. 21:6). This was also expressly prohibited under God’s law (Lev. 19:31; Dt. 18:9-12). This placed him in direct communion with demonic forces. Indeed, God condemned Saul to death for speaking with a medium (1 Sam. 28:16-19). Sixth, he sacrificed his own son through fire to the pagan god Molech (2 Chr. 33:6; 2 Kgs. 21:6). This also directly violated God’s law: “You shall not give any of your offspring to offer them to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your God; I am the LORD.” (Lev. 18:21; Dt. 18:10-12). Ahaz was the only other king in Judah to do this (2 Kgs. 16:3) This practice was so offensive to God that it was a reason for His judgment on the Ammonites (Gen. 15:16; Dt. 20:17). Finally, he murdered God’s prophets and people (2 Kgs. 21:16). This violated the Sixth Commandment against murder (Ex. 20:13; Dt. 5:17). It was only out of mercy, grace, and God’s covenant with David that he did not die (2 Sam. 7:11-13).
Asherah sexual worship polls that Manasseh installed in God’s Temple2
Small example of a Baal idol that Manasseh installed in God’s Temple3
Without vigilance, reform can easily be undone. Manasseh was able to instantly undo decades of reforms. Decades earlier, Jehu killed the Baal priests in Northern Israel and turned the largest Baal temple into a latrine (2 Kgs. 10:21-27). After making a covenant with God, King Jehoiada then destroyed the Baal worship centers in Judah that his evil mother Athaliah tried to preserve (2 Kgs. 11:18). Hezekiah then went further than any king since David in complying with God’s laws by destroying all of the pagan altars of worship in Judah (2 Kgs. 18:3-4). Sennacherib, the King of Assyria, then tried to turn the Jews against Hezekiah because he destroyed the pagan altars: “But if you say to me, ‘We trust in the LORD our God,’ is it not He whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah has taken away and has said to Judah and to Jerusalem, ‘You shall worship before this altar’?” (Is. 36:7). In a relatively short period of time, Manasseh restored the pagan temples that Hezekiah courageously removed. He then restored the Baal temples that Jehoiada destroyed. He then adopted evil pagan religious practices that no king of Israel or Judah ever followed. Jehoiada’s reforms in destroying the Baal altars would have felt permanent at the time. Likewise, Hezekiah’s reforms in demolishing the pagan altars might have also felt permanent at the time of his reign. Yet, Manasseh demonstrated how quickly spiritual reforms can be undone. Thus, you should never allow your spiritual progress and successes to allow you to become complacent in your walk. If you do, Satan will try to take advantage of you. “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. 10 After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” (1 Pet. 5:8-10). When you accomplish good things for God, do you let your guard down?
Manasseh took for granted God’s many blessings in his life. Manasseh would never have been born without God’s miraculous intervention in Hezekiah’s life. Hezekiah was mortally ill. Isaiah told him to prepare for his death. Yet, Hezekiah cried out in faith for God to heal him. Because Hezekiah had been Judah’s most faithful and obedient king since David, God supernaturally gave Hezekiah a 15-year extension on his life (2 Kgs. 20:6). Three years into this extended period of life, Hezekiah’s wife Hephzibah gave birth to Manasseh. As a young boy, Manasseh would have learned of God’s miracle. He also would have also witnessed God’s angel supernaturally kill 185,000 Assyrian soldiers after they had defeated Northern Israel and had surrounded Jerusalem (2 Kgs. 19:35). In addition to being blessed with a life and a kingdom that should have ended before he was born, God blessed him with the longest reign of any king of either Judah or Northern Israel. Including a possible time when he served as a co-regent, he reigned from age 12 to 67, a total of 55 years, from 695-642 B.C. (2 Chr. 33:1-20). Yet, despite these many blessings, Manasseh holds the dubious distinction as the most evil King of Judah (2 Chr. 33:1-9). He rejected the reforms that his father Hezekiah had instituted. Instead, in the beginning, he emulated his evil grandfather Ahaz. He then engaged in evil acts that exceeded King Ahab. This included the adoption of all the detestable practices of the condemned Canaanites and the now extinct nation of Northern Israel (2 Kgs. 16:3; 21:2; Dt. 18:9-12). Following these practices expressly violated God’s law (Dt. 12:29-31).
Without Spirit-led oversight, leaders will do what feels right to them. God warns that without leaders who will teach and administer God’s law, people will embrace their own morality: “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Jdgs. 21:25; 17:6). Manasseh did not think highly of God’s laws. Thus, he did what seemed right in his own eyes, and he embraced evil. “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.” (Prov. 12:15). If you elect leaders who reject God’s law, they will also do what feels right in their own eyes.
The Church must be the salt and light of society. The sad story of Manasseh’s decline is notable for what it fails to mention. In the beginning, there is no mention of the priesthood resisting his actions. There is no mention of the people rising up against him either. The Church was either too weak or too corrupt to speak out. Later, some members did speak out, and Manasseh executed them (2 Kgs. 21:16). Yet, by that time, Manasseh’s evil ways had infected the people. Even when he eventually repented, his son and the people would not follow in his example in repenting (2 Chron. 33:17). These events carry an important lesson for the Church. The Church was meant to be God’s salt and light (Matt. 5:14-17). Yet, if the Church loses its ability to sting in the wound of sin like salt it becomes worthless: “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.” (Matt. 5:13). Thus, the Church must be vigilant and speak out when either leaders or society embraces what the Bible calls evil.
Manasseh and his people refuse to listen to God. God warned Manasseh and the people to repent and turn back to Him. But they would not listen: “10 The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention.” (2 Chr. 33:10; 2 Kgs. 21:8). They had become numb to their sins and spiritually blind to God’s warnings to them.
Leaders who reject the authority of God’s Word will stumble a nation. Manasseh set the tone for the people. They followed his wicked ways: “If a ruler pays attention to falsehood, all his ministers become wicked.” (Prov. 29:12). “Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good.” (Ecc. 9:18). Thus, the Church should never accept the claim that it should stay out of politics. When it stays out of politics, Satan has a free hand to select ungodly leaders who will bring down a nation.
Both Manasseh and the people ignored God’s warnings. God most likely used prophets to warn Manasseh and the people (2 Chr. 33:10). Through His prophets, God warned both Northern Israel and Judah before sending them into exile: “Yet the LORD warned Israel and Judah through all His prophets and every seer, saying, ‘Turn from your evil ways and keep My commandments, My statutes according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you through My servants the prophets.”’ (2 Kgs. 17:13). The people, however, would not listen to God’s prophets because they were stiff necked and unwilling to listen: “But they, our fathers, acted arrogantly; they became stubborn and would not listen to Your commandments. . . . And admonished them in order to turn them back to Your law. Yet they acted arrogantly and did not listen to Your commandments but sinned against Your ordinances, by which if a man observes them he shall live. And they turned a stubborn shoulder and stiffened their neck, and would not listen.” (Neh. 9:16, 29). “So now then, speak to the men of Judah and against the inhabitants of Jerusalem saying, ‘Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I am fashioning calamity against you and devising a plan against you. Oh turn back, each of you from his evil way, and reform your ways and your deeds.’’ But they will say, ‘It's hopeless! For we are going to follow our own plans, and each of us will act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart.’” (Jer. 18:11). “So I will choose their punishments and will bring on them what they dread. Because I called, but no one answered; I spoke, but they did not listen. And they did evil in My sight and chose that in which I did not delight.” (Is. 66:4). Because God is just, He gives many warnings to sinners before He is forced to judge unrepentant sin. Thus, you should never treat His warnings lightly.
A hardened heart will keep you from listening to the Holy Spirit. Because the people’s hearts were hard, they disregarded the warnings of God’s prophets. “It shall be when he hears the words of this curse, that he will boast, saying, ‘I have peace though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart in order to destroy the watered land with the dry.”’ (Dt. 29:19). Today, the Holy Spirit is the one who speaks to you to correct you when you sin. He does this by causing you to remember Jesus’ Word: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” (Jo. 14:26). “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me,” (Jo. 15:26). Yet, if you don’t know God’s Word, you have not given the Holy Spirit much to “remind” you concerning His Word. This can lead to a hardened heart. When the Holy Spirit speaks to you, you may not understand His voice.
Manasseh caused the entire nation to stumble. Because the people took God’s promises for granted, Manasseh was able to seduce them with his evil practices: “8 And I will not make the feet of Israel wander anymore from the land which I gave their fathers, if only they will observe to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the law that My servant Moses commanded them. 9 But they did not listen, and Manasseh seduced them to do evil more than the nations whom the Lord destroyed before the sons of Israel.” (2 Kgs. 21:8-9). As part of God’s Covenant with David, He promised to provide a home for His people: “I will also appoint a place for My people Israel and will plant them, that they may live in their own place and not be disturbed again, nor will the wicked afflict them any more as formerly,” (2 Sam. 7:10). Yet, the people took God’s blessings for granted. Thus, they no longer feared Him. Nor did they feel the need to follow His law. For this reason, Manasseh was able to seduce them. He might have started off by calling for greater “tolerance” of the Canaanite religions. This might have included calls to celebrate the diversity of the Canaanite religions. Those who advocated strict adherence to the laws of the Torah might have been branded as intolerant bigots. But soon the idolatry of the Jews exceeded the Canaanites. Thus, it is not hard to imagine how the people reached this dark place.
Manasseh persecuted and murdered those who opposed him. When God’s prophets and some courageous people objected to Manasseh’s sins, Manasseh responded by persecuting and murdering God’s people: “16 Moreover, Manasseh shed very much innocent blood until he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another; besides his sin with which he made Judah sin, in doing evil in the sight of the Lord.” (2 Kgs. 21:16). Manasseh’s descent into evil was gradual. Manasseh at first preached tolerance and acceptance of all pagan religions. But he could not tolerate those who advocated that the Jews follow God’s Word because God did not tolerate other pagan religions. Thus, he persecuted Yahweh’s followers for not adopting his beliefs.
Manasseh most likely murdered Isaiah. By both Jewish and Christian tradition, Manasseh was the one who placed Isaiah into an empty log and sawed him into two: “They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated” (Heb. 11:37). God also warned that His people would be persecuted during the end times. Today, most leaders in power do not have a real walk with Jesus. Many mock Christians when they try to follow God’s Word. Some believers are even fined, fired, or sued for following God’s Word. Thus, in many ways, we live in a time like Manasseh.
Let God’s Word guide your footsteps. If you read God’s Word, the Holy Spirit will guide your path: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Ps. 119:105). When you memorize God’s Word, you also make it easier for the Holy Spirit to convict you and redirect you from sin: “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.” (Ps. 119:11). How much of God’s Word have you memorized?
Obey God’s Word, and He will bless you. God expects you to obey His Word. Obedience is not a test for salvation. Yet, for those who obey God’s Word, He promises many kinds of blessings: “So be careful to do what the Lord your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. Walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.” (Dt. 5:32-33). “O Israel, you should listen and be careful to do it, that it may be well with you and that you may multiply greatly, just as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Dt. 6:3). “But if you truly obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.” (Ex. 23:22). Throughout the Bible, God reminds His people that vows of obedience must be followed by action: “And the LORD said to me, ‘Proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, saying, Hear the words of this covenant and do them.’” (Jer. 11:6). Because Manasseh failed to obey God’s Word, he could not benefit from all of God’s blessings.
Manasseh repented after he experienced the captivity that he inflicted upon God’s people. God removed from Manasseh everything that he valued until he repented in his distress: “11 Therefore the Lord brought the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria against them, and they captured Manasseh with hooks, bound him with bronze chains and took him to Babylon. 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.” (2 Chr. 33:11-13). Many believe that King Ashurbanipal brought Manasseh to Babylon (648-647 B.C.). Manasseh’s physical imprisonment and bondage was the outward manifestation of what he had done to both himself and the nation spiritually. He enslaved both himself and the nation to the bondage of idolatry and sin. In his distress, Manasseh prayed and repented. Without this repentance, God would have likely struck him down.
God showed Manasseh mercy and grace by giving him the chance to repent4
Manasseh ignored God’s warning to Solomon. Dating back to Solomon, God warned that open disobedience would bring His judgment: ‘“6 But if you or your sons indeed turn away from following Me, and do not keep My commandments and My statutes which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, 7 then I will cut off Israel from the land which I have given them, and the house which I have consecrated for My name, I will cast out of My sight. So Israel will become a proverb and a byword among all peoples. 8 And this house will become a heap of ruins; everyone who passes by will be astonished and hiss and say, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this land and to this house?’ 9 And they will say, ‘Because they forsook the Lord their God, who brought their fathers out of the land of Egypt, and adopted other gods and worshiped them and served them, therefore the Lord has brought all this adversity on them.’” (1 Kgs. 9:6-9). God was faithful to keep His Word in disciplining Manasseh.
God can temporarily forsake an unrepentant sinner. Manasseh may have believed that God forsook him during his captivity and torture. But God only forsook him on a temporary basis. The people most likely knew God’s promise that He would never leave nor forsake His people (Dt. 31:6). Yet, in the same chapter of Deuteronomy where God gave this promise to Moses, He also warned that He would temporarily forsake His people when they forsook Him: “Then My anger will be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them and hide My face from them, and they will be consumed, and many evils and troubles will come upon them; so that they will say in that day, ‘Is it not because our God is not among us that these evils have come upon us?”’ (Dt. 31:17). Through His prophets, God repeated this warning to Manasseh: “14 I will abandon the remnant of My inheritance and deliver them into the hand of their enemies,” (2 Kgs. 21:14). These warnings are also recorded in the books of the prophets: “I have forsaken My house, I have abandoned My inheritance; I have given the beloved of My soul Into the hand of her enemies.” (Jer. 12:7). “Then they will cry out to the LORD, but He will not answer them. Instead, He will hide His face from them at that time Because they have practiced evil deeds.” (Micah 3:4). “For You have abandoned Your people, the house of Jacob, because they are filled with influences from the east, and they are soothsayers like the Philistines, and they strike bargains with the children of foreigners.” (Is. 2:6). God also gives warnings of judgment in the book of Revelation. It is only out of the hardness of our hearts that we ignore them.
Breaking the cycle of sins requires repentance. In preparation for Jesus, John the Baptist called all sinners to repent. ‘“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”’ (Matt. 3:2). Jesus also began His ministry with a call to repentance: “From that time Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”’ (Matt. 4:17; Lk. 18:13.) If you say that you are without sin, the truth is not in you (1 Jo. 1:8). Yet, if you confess your sins, Jesus will forgive you: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jo. 1:9). Is there any unconfessed sin in your life that you need to repent of?
God disciplines sinners like Manasseh out of love. Although Manasseh would not have understood at the time of his captivity, God’s discipline was a sign of His love for him: “For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son who He receives. It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?” (Heb. 12:6-7). “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.” (Rev. 3:19). “For whom the LORD loves He reproves, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights . . . He who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.” (Prov. 3:12, 24). “It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?” (Heb. 12:7). “Thus you are to know in your heart that the LORD your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son.” (Dt. 8:5; Eph. 6:4). You can also draw comfort when you receive God’s discipline because it shows that He is trying to mold your behavior out of love for you to conform to His will: “I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” (Ps. 23:4). Are you accepting God’s correction in your life?
Out of gratitude, Manasseh tore down idols in the Temple. After God released him from prison, Manasseh showed his gratitude by removing the pagan altars and offering peace and thank offerings: “14 Now after this he built the outer wall of the city of David on the west side of Gihon, in the valley, even to the entrance of the Fish Gate; and he encircled the Ophel with it and made it very high. Then he put army commanders in all the fortified cities of Judah. 15 He also removed the foreign gods and the idol from the house of the Lord, as well as all the altars which he had built on the mountain of the house of the Lord and in Jerusalem, and he threw them outside the city. 16 He set up the altar of the Lord and sacrificed peace offerings and thank offerings on it; and he ordered Judah to serve the Lord God of Israel.” (2 Chr. 33:14-16). Manasseh knew the value of God’s mercy and grace. He was more deserving of death than any king to ever rule Judah. He tried to undo the sins that he had inflicted upon Judah. While his actions came in time to bring salvation to himself, he unleashed sins that would trigger the death of the nation.
Manasseh showed true repentance by destroyed idols that he helped to install5
Breaking the cycle of sins also requires a change of behavior. Manasseh demonstrated that his repentance was genuine by instituting reforms. Confessing your sins without a change in your behavior will not break the cycle of sin. Without a change in your behavior, you will return to your sins: “Like a dog that returns to its vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.” (Prov. 26:11; 2 Pet. 2:21). When God at one point relented in His punishment of Pharaoh, Pharaoh only hardened his heart: “But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and did not listen to them, as the LORD had said.” (Ex. 8:15). The same was true of the people of Judah. God removed the oppression of the Assyrians. But the people took this for granted and returned to their sins. If you have repented of a sin, take concrete steps to prevent yourself from returning to your old sins.
Manasseh was the Old Testament prodigal son. Hezekiah’s righteousness did not automatically make Manasseh a God-fearing king. Like Hezekiah, David also had evil children. Despite David’s great faith, his son Amnon was so wicked that he raped his half-sister Tamar (2 Sam 13:1-14). Another son named Absalom then murdered Amnon to avenge Tamar (2 Sam. 13:28-39). Absalom then staged a coup against David (2 Sam. 13:1-16). He then slept with his father’s concubines (2 Sam. 13:20-23). Just before David’s death and with his health failing, another son named Adonijah tried to seize the throne to prevent Solomon from becoming king (1 Kgs. 1:1-6). God commands of all parents: “You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” (Dt. 6:7). “You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up.” (Dt. 11:19; 31:12-13). If you train up your children in the Lord, your investment will never be wasted: “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Prov. 22:6; Ps. 78:4-6). Although Manasseh turned from God for most of his life, he ultimately returned from captivity as the prodigal son. “In his sermon, The Old Testament “Prodigal,” Spurgeon imagined what it would be like for the remnant of believers in Jerusalem to hear that Manasseh was returning from Babylon. They had a brief pause in the persecution they had suffered from the evil king, and at least a slow-down in the official promotion of idolatry. Now to hear he was coming back must have drove them to their knees, asking God to have mercy on them once again. Imagine their surprise when they found that King Manasseh returned a repentant, converted man!” (David Guzik of 2 Chr. 33).6 Manasseh brought down the entire nation with his horrific sins. But God still celebrated the belated return of this prodigal son: “ I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (Lk. 15:7).
Be filled with joyful praise for God’s mercy and grace in your life. Manasseh offered sacrifices of thanksgiving because he knew the true value of God’s mercy and grace. When God shows mercy and grace in your life, you should also give Him praise: “To you I shall offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and call upon the name of the Lord, I shall pay my vows to the Lord.” (Ps. 116:1, 17-18). “ . . . I will render thank offerings to You. For you have delivered my soul from death.” (Ps. 56:12-13; 116:8). “. . .Let them also offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of His works with joyful singing.” (Ps. 107:1, 2, 22). “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess. 5:18). “always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;” (Eph. 5:20). “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.” (Heb. 13:15). Are you giving God praise for His deliverance? Without praise for God’s mercy and grace, you are again likely to return to your old sins.
The people refused to let go of their idols. Despite Manasseh’s order for the people to serve Yahweh, the people refused to do so: “17 Nevertheless the people still sacrificed in the high places, although only to the Lord their 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. 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 Chr. 33:17-20). Even though God spared his life, his reforms came too late to influence either his son Amon or the people of Judah. They instead clung to the idolatry that he had reintroduced to Judah. Although Manasseh ruled longer than any other king, the Jews eventually realized the evil he inflicted. Thus, they denied him the honor of being buried in the caves with King David.
The people ignored God’s warning of judgment on all of Judah. Because the people might listen to God’s prophets and change their ways, God sent His prophets to warn that God would judge all of Judah by sending them into exile: “10 Now the Lord spoke through His servants the prophets, saying, 11 ‘Because Manasseh king of Judah has done these abominations, having done wickedly more than all the Amorites did who were before him, and has also made Judah sin with his idols; 12 therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Behold, I am bringing such calamity on Jerusalem and Judah, that whoever hears of it, both his ears will tingle. 13 I will stretch over Jerusalem the line of Samaria and the plummet of the house of Ahab, and I will wipe Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down. 14 I will abandon the remnant of My inheritance and deliver them into the hand of their enemies, and they will become as plunder and spoil to all their enemies; 15 because they have done evil in My sight, and have been provoking Me to anger since the day their fathers came from Egypt, even to this day.’” (2 Kgs. 21:10-15). The people in Manasseh’s day imagined that God would not judge sin. Yet, because God is just, He must judge unrepentant sin. He promised to “wipe” Jerusalem clean of its inhabitants as He did to Northern Israel (2 Kgs. 21:13). “I will make them an object of horror among all the kingdoms of the earth because of Manasseh, the son of Hezekiah, the king of Judah, for what he did in Jerusalem.” (Jer. 15:4). God, however, delayed this judgment to allow His people time to repent.
Fear God by hating evil to avoid his discipline and rebuke. The people did not listen to the prophets because they no longer feared God. The fear of the Lord would have brought them wisdom. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Prov. 9:10). “And to man He said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.”’ (Job 28:28). The fear of the Lord is defined as hating evil. “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; . . .” (Prov. 8:13). If society embraces what the Bible calls evil, it no longer fears God. God is then forced to resort to judgment to bring His people back to Him.
Amon becomes king and follows Manasseh’s evil example as king. Manasseh’s late repentance in life was not only too late for his people to emulate, it was also too late for his son Amon. Amon followed after the evil practices that his father followed before his captivity: “21 Amon was twenty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned two years in Jerusalem. 22 He did evil in the sight of the Lord as Manasseh his father had done, and Amon sacrificed to all the carved images which his father Manasseh had made, and he served them. 23 Moreover, he did not humble himself before the Lord as his father Manasseh had done, but Amon multiplied guilt.” (2 Chr. 33:21-23; 2 Kgs. 21:19-21). Amon refused to learn from his father’s mistakes and instead followed every one of his evil practices. Thus, God limited Amon to a two-year reign, from 642 to 640 B.C.
A leader should pursue God’s righteousness as an example for others to follow. As an example to his son, God required Manasseh to pursue: “Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, that you may live and possess the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” (Dt. 16:20). God appointed all kings to “do justice and righteousness.” (1 Kgs. 10:9). A king is also supposed to sit “on the throne of justice.” (Prov. 20:8). This means that a Spirit-led leader must care about addressing wrongs and the plight of those in need: “The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.” (Prov. 31:9). “Vindicate the weak and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and destitute.” (Ps. 82:3). “He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing.” (Dt. 10:18). Manasseh failed to pursue the mantle of justice that God called him to pursue. Instead, he pursued after evil things. Without the right example to follow, Amon followed down his father’s dark path.
Amon refused to learn from his father’s repentance. Amon observed his father repent and institute reforms after being released from captivity. Yet, Amon did not find his father’s repentance to be something worthy of emulating. Instead, he saw it as a sign of weakness. Thus, Amon refused to repent. Even worse, he exceeded his father’s sins: “Moreover, he did not humble himself before the LORD as his father Manasseh had done, but Amon multiplied guilt.” (2 Chr. 33:23). Like his father, he worshiped pagan idols including Baal, Asherah, Ashtoreth, and Moloch. The Bible does not say what additional sins he engaged in. Whatever they were, nothing was hidden from God. Thus, he shared with his father in being one of the two worst kings to rule over Judah.
Amon’s servants conspire against him and murder him. Amon did not seek out God-fearing servants to guide him. Thus, he embraced evil, and his disgruntled servants rose up against him to kill him: “24 Finally his servants conspired against him and put him to death in his own house. 25 But the people of the land killed all the conspirators against King Amon, and the people of the land made Josiah his son king in his place.” (2 Chr. 33:24-25; 2 Kgs. 21:23-26). Amon embraced evil in every form. This no doubt led him to be a cruel master over those who served him. Because he only reigned for two years, he was most likely cruel to the people who served him from the moment he began to reign. It did not take long before the victims of his cruelty rose up to depose him as king. Some speculate that the coup may have been related to a power struggle between those who wanted to be free from Babylon’s influence and those who wanted to follow Amon in living as a servant state of Babylon. But there was no evidence of that. The better comparison is to Northern Israel. When the kings of Northern Israel tried to live without God, they regularly suffered coup attempts. Manasseh also died without the honor of being buried with King David. He was instead buried with his father in a field.
Amon’s servants conspire against him and murder him7
God later fulfilled His promise to judge Judah for Manasseh and Amon’s sins. Because the people did not follow Manasseh’s example in repenting and because Manasseh did not atone for murdering God’s people, God sent the Jews into exile: “However, the LORD did not turn from the fierceness of His great wrath with which His anger burned against Judah, because of all the provocations with which Manasseh had provoked Him.” (2 Kgs. 23:26). “Surely at the command of the LORD it came upon Judah, to remove them from His sight because of the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he had done, and also for the innocent blood which he shed, for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood; and the LORD would not forgive.” (2 Kgs. 24:3-4). In the end times, God will again judge the nations. Believers ignore God’s warning of judgment at their own peril.
Be accountable to others to stay on your walk. Amon did not have Spirit-led counsel to guide him as king. Near the end of his reign, Manasseh killed God’s prophets and most likely the priests who spoke out against him. Neither Manasseh nor Amon were accountable to any godly influence. They did not pray or consult God through His prophets, priests, or His Word. This led to Manasseh’s captivity and Amon’s murder at the hands of his servants. God wants you to be accountable to keep you from backsliding in your walk. Whenever two or more are gathered in His name, Jesus is present to guide you (Matt. 18:20). To keep His disciples accountable, Jesus also sent them out in twos (Mk. 6:7; Lk. 10:1). Other believers can help you to renew your mind and stay pure when you fail (Ro. 12:1-2; Jam. 1:27). Thus, believers are urged not to forsake the fellowship and growth that comes from being accountable to other believers (Heb. 10:25). Are you accountable to others in your walk?
God’s mercy and grace in giving Josiah to Judah as their next king. After the coup plotters were killed, the national leaders made Amon’s then 8-year-old son Josiah king. This was through God’s providence to honor His promise to maintain His Covenant with David (2 Sam. 7:12-13). It was also out of God’s mercy and grace to Judah. Josiah would be one of the two greatest kings along with Hezekiah to rule after David’s death.
Be an intercessor to help to break the nation’s cycle of sin. If you feel helpless in stopping your nation’s cycle of sin, you have the power of intercessory prayer. For example, Abraham used his faith to plead with God as an intercessor to spare the innocent in Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 18:23). God also spared the Jewish nation in response to Moses’ faithful prayers after they made the golden calf (Ex. 32:11-14). He again spared the Jews in response to Moses’ prayers after they rebelled at the edge of the Promised Land (Nu. 14:18-22). God again spared the Jews in response to the prayers of Moses and Aaron after Korah, 250 men of renown, and then the 14,700 rebelled (Nu. 16:21-24). As an intercessor, Samuel promised to continue to pray for the people’s sins (1 Sam. 12:23). David also prayed as an intercessor for God to spare the Jews after 70,000 men across all of Israel died in a plague that came about because of David’s sins (2 Sam. 24:17). Elijah also cried out to God in faith for God to raise a widow’s son from the dead (1 Kgs. 17:21-22.) Jonah also made a plea as an intercessor when his disobedience caused the men in his boat to suffer (Jo. 1:12). The apostles also continually prayed for others (2 Tim. 1:3; Col. 1:9; Eph. 1:16; 1 Thess. 3:10). You are part of Jesus’ holy priesthood (1 Pet. 2:5, 9). As His appointed priest, you too have the power of intercessory prayer. Are you praying as an intercessor for those in need?
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