Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Be Careful What You Wish For

You may have never heard of Manasseh. No, not the half-tribe ... Manasseh, the king of Judah. Manasseh was among the very last kings of Judah. Manasseh was the son of Hezekiah, one of the good kings of Judah. In fact, he was among the very best. In 2 Kings 24 we read, "The LORD sent against [Jehoiakim] bands of the Chaldeans and bands of the Syrians and bands of the Moabites and bands of the Ammonites, and sent them against Judah to destroy it, according to the word of the LORD that He spoke by His servants the prophets. Surely this came upon Judah at the command of the LORD, to remove them out of His sight, for the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he had done, and also for the innocent blood that he had shed. For he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and the LORD would not pardon" (2 Kings 24:2-4). Get that? According to the Bible, the final reason that God sent Judah off into exile was the sins of Manasseh. That's a pretty heavy burden there.

So who was Manasseh? Well, you may remember the stories of Hezekiah. One is famous because it's odd. In 2 Kings 20 he became sick "at the point of death". God told Isaiah to tell him he was about to die. Hezekiah, receiving the news, prayed that God would remember his faithfulness. God did. So God added 15 years to Hezekiah's life and signified it by having the shadow on the stairs move back ten steps. Odd story. Fine. But Hezekiah didn't care. He got 15 more years. Then we read "And Hezekiah slept with his fathers, and Manasseh his son reigned in his place. Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign" (2 Kings 20:21-21:1). Got the time frame in mind? Manasseh was 12 when he took office. Manasseh hadn't been born when Hezekiah almost died. And how did Manasseh do? "He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to the despicable practices of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel" (2 Kings 21:2). The text goes on to list a litany of horrendous practices as if he was trying to live to the lowest he could live. He mimicked Ahab (who was the primary downfall of Israel) and worse. He built altars to gods in the Temple. He burned his son as an offering. He put an Asherah idol in the Temple. The Bible says, "Manasseh led them astray to do more evil than the nations had done whom the LORD destroyed before the people of Israel" (2 Kings 21:9). And it doesn't mean that in a good way.

I have to wonder, "What happened?" I wonder what Hezekiah did with his 12 years with this son. This apple fell very far from its tree. Did Hezekiah not pass on the depth of his devotion to the Lord? I wonder what pushed Manasseh to the limits like this. Sin? Yeah, that's understandable. But so deep! He didn't mess around. He didn't, say, worship God but keep the high places like so many others. Oh, no, he pushed Judah to new lows, worse than the pagans whom the Lord destroyed. Where did that come from? But here's the real question. What happened with God? God told Hezekiah he had three days to live. At that point in time, there was no Manasseh at all. No evil son. No fatherly mistakes. No Manasseh to influence the wrong way. No such thing. End of story. But God, knowing what Manasseh would do and knowing that it would result in the exile of Judah, approved Hezekiah's request for mercy. The result of Hezekiah's prayer was the annihilation of Judah. That's what God ordained.

Now here's what you have to ask yourself. Is God good? You may think that carting the last of the Israelites off to captivity is bad, and it certainly looks that way, but God ordained that it would happen and God put that king in place. It wasn't a surprise to Him. So is God good? You see, if you agree that God was good when He approved Hezekiah's prayer which resulted in the worst sin the land had seen which finally brought about the banishment of Judah entirely, then you have your answer about what happened with Manasseh and God. God did good. Beyond that, however, you will have to ask yourself about your situation. We seek for what we think is good and hope for it. Hezekiah did. It had an unpleasant result. But you've just decided that God is good, so the unpleasant result was good. Hezekiah did what was right and God did what was right and the unpleasant outcome was right. Then you have to ask about, for instance, the upcoming election. Will you do what's right and anticipate that God will do what's good even if it's unpleasant, or will you compromise what's right in order to get a "pleasant outcome" even it if's not a good outcome? The elections, by the way, are just an example. Feel free to come up with some of your own. You need to decide in all cases, "Is God good?" It will change your perspective in all cases.

No comments: