This week's sermon begins the series, Bad Boys of the Bible. I'll be preaching two sermons, Chris Kuntz will do the other one. My first sermon will explore the life of Bad Boy Manasseh, a King of Judah. His life would be characterized as Bad for a Season, but Not Forever.
Manasseh was the worst king of Judah in terms of moral, spiritual and Godly authority. He became king at age 12, and reigned for 55 years - the longest reign of any king of Judah. His father was Hezekiah, a Godly king who ruled for 29 years. Hezekiah's life includes a famous and interesting story: When Hezekiah was 39 he became deathly ill. He prayed to God for help, and God healed him and gave him a promise: you will live another 15 years. Three years later he had born to him his first son, Manasseh.
One wonders about the kind of relationship that Hezekiah and Manasseh had, since Manasseh went in the total opposite direction of his father politically, spiritually, morally. Some people are just born bad, rebellious against God and the good. Was that the case with Mannasseh? Maybe, but there may be more to it.
Think about Hezekiah for a moment: he knew that he would die in fifteen years...what would it be like to know that you have an appointed time to die, and that you know the appointed time. That would mess with a man's approach to life, including fatherhood. Think about it from Manasseh's point of view: he knew his father would die at the age of 54. What was it like around their house? Did they savor life, the good royal life that being king brings? Or was it morbid? Did they keep a calendar, counting down the years, months, days till the big funeral? What's it like for an eight year old kid to know that his father is going to die in four years, that as a young man he will become king before he is ready, before he is grown up, while he is still so young. Did Manasseh grow bitter against his father, and his God? Hezekiah initially understood the extra fifteen years as a promise, did Manasseh experience them as a curse? Hezekiah was grateful to God, and Manasseh became hateful.
And so on the heels of his father's royal funeral, full of national honor and celebration and glory, Manasseh prepares for his ultimate rejection and desecration of a father and God whom he harbored secret hate and rebellion. Manasseh inflicted and encouraged moral rebellion, religious degradation, spiritual darkness into Judah, the Scriptures cite the state of affairs as worse than the Amorites, the nation of people that God judged and removed from the land of Canaan through the arrival of Joshua and the nation of Israel. Manasseh's nation of Judah was politically tied to the nation of Assyria, a powerful nation in decline. Hezekiah kept his political distance from Assyria, no treaties, no alliances, no tributes. Manassah tied his fortunes to Assyria and their political leaders, their vile culture and idolatrous religion. Manasseh set up idols and altars all over the country, the capital city, and the God's temple. He desecrated all that was holy, he undid all the political work his father created, he rejected the spiritual heritage of his ancestors, he favored the vile practices of the ancient pagans.
In 2Chronicles 3:10 says that the LORD spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention to Him. They heard him, and they rejected his word through the prophets and writings. We must remember that the nation was a special nation, created and sustained by God, not by the king. The LORD was not going to let his plan for Israel and Judah be ultimately thwarted by a human king. Manasseh ignored the words of God, and it was easy to do when he was surrounded by his friends, his wealth, his power, his gods, his plans. But then the nation of Assyria charged in, took Manasseh captive and threw him into a dungeon. When all was quiet, when all was gone, when Manasseh was left with his dark soul in the dank cell, he remembered the words of the LORD. And he repented.
And he repented. No one's heart is so hard that God can't break it, no one's heart is so cold that God can't warm it, no one's heart is so dark that he can't light it.
Manasseh was proud, he was ambitious, he was bitter. God was patient, forceful, forgiving.
Manasseh's actions produced horrific consequences for his family, his friends, his nation. God's forgiveness couldn't erase the tragedies all ready set in motion. But God's forgiveness opens up the opportunities for Him to be acknowledged, worshipped, listened to, obeyed, honored, followed. God stayed after Mannesah, and Mannesah finally repented.
This gives us hope, that no matter how hard, cold, or dark our own heart becomes, God does not become impatient, passive or bitter towards us. Same goes for our family and friends.