I have been meditating on the wonder of God’s grace in the life of Israel and in particular, King Manasseh. This meditation has stimulated a desire to preach one day on God’s amazing grace in Manasseh’s life. I am not sure when the message will be preached, but I am convinced that it will be an important one. It is always important to have the Word that we share with others, first pass through our souls, before it does its sovereign work in the lives of those fortunate enough to hear it. What I write now, is not a sermon or a pre-manuscript, but reflections on a thought that one day may become one. Actually, it is better to say that my reflections are not preparations for a sermon or even the final product of this devotion, but another stop in a life journey.
Whatever you may read from me in the future at Glory Books will be more than just a contribution to a blog–it will also be a part of my personal journey of faith. It is a journey every believer travels–one of recognizing, accepting, and then striving in the grace of God. Had I never thought of a future sermon, or had the opportunity to write for Glory Books, I would still be on this journey that takes me to many glorious stops on the tracks of God’s amazing grace.
As we consider another of the infinite examples of His grace, I hope these brief words will inspire you to reflect more on the Savior’s merciful actions in your life and those around you.
When one thinks of Manasseh, one’s immediate thoughts are not of grace, but of Manasseh’s unrighteous and sinful leadership–and rightfully so, in view of the clear testimony of the evil he committed before the Lord and his people. He committed these sins against the Lord who should have been the object of his affection and service and against a people whom he should have led in worshiping the Sovereign. Yet, they were misled (2 Chronicles 33:9), and Yahweh was replaced with the impotent and debauched gods of the lands (v.3). It is said of Manasseh that he sinned like no other King of Judah. And, if one only read the account in 2 Kings, that would be the only impression left to envision. But then came the invasion of God’s grace in his life, and in turn, the life of Israel. God’s patience reached a point where judgment was the only correct response. The Assyrians led him away in a most humiliating manner (v.11). Manasseh’s humiliation was an act of grace because it led to him humbling himself and reforming his ways (v.12).
God often uses humiliation to bring us to humility. History is full of stories of men and women whose pride was broken by the humbling hand of God. Sadly, it also includes many who hardened their hearts instead of allowing God to break their inclination for human self-sufficiency. A person will either be a Pharaoh or a John Newton (former slave trader who was redeemed and later authored the hymn “Amazing Grace”). Grace resisted leads to destruction, while grace received opens the floodgates of mercy. Manasseh was broken by grace, and it becomes evident as the verbal line is followed through the passage—distress, entreated, humbled, prayed, knew, built, removed, set, and ordered (v.12-16).
The authenticity of His faith is seen in his actions for the Lord he had for so long forsaken. There is a final verbal idea that helps tell the story of his life—he slept (v.20). Life comes to end for all, and nothing can go with us. Our legacy should be one that allows others to see the grace of God evidenced in us. Manasseh, for all the evil he committed, slept, not in the wake of his atrocities, but having discovered the knowledge and grace of God. This is what we must all desire in life–we want to be remembered as men and women who knew the Lord and were channels of His marvelous grace.
Several principles can be drawn from this episode in man’s journey with God that are relevant for your life and mine:
- God’s grace will never be overshadowed by man’s sin. Paul reminds us that where sin increased, grace abounded all the more (Romans 5:20). This should be of particular comfort as you remember a loved one that doesn’t know the Lord or a believer caught in sin. God’s grace is sufficient to overcome any pattern of sinful behavior. There are no limits to the sovereign effect of His grace.
- God’s grace does not always remove the consequences of sin. The years of sinful patterns under Manasseh left a lingering stain. The people still sacrificed on the high places, although only to the Lord their God (2 Chronicles 33:17). We should always consider the impact our actions may have on others. Even when we make a genuine change in direction, others may still linger behind or never find the right path because of our previous choices. This is a sobering reality that requires much thought and grace to remove any guilty feelings from a former life.
- Be bold in your proclamation of the gospel, knowing that it will accomplish its purpose in the hearts of those chosen to hear. Initially, God sent messengers to Israel and their message was resisted (v.10). But in the end, God brought about the result He always desires–for men to know and worship Him (brought them again to Jerusalem…knew the Lord was God).
- Like Manasseh, God may be using the time of humiliation to create a humble heart in someone you know. Pray diligently that they would hear the truths, which in most cases have already been spoken many times. God knows the right amount of pain needed to bring change in the lives of those on whom He has set His affection and purpose.
- Look back and thank the Lord for the moments that He used pain to draw you closer to Him. Is it not curious how God uses pain to accomplish His goals in the righteous (Psalm 119:67,71,75) and the unrighteous? Accept it as an act of the loving God who wants you to be an instrument of His glory (2 Corinthians 12:9,10).
- If there is one lesson to learn from this episode, it is this: bask in the amazing grace of God! In whatever manner you best express your gratitude to the Savior, do so. Bask in the reality that the God of infinite holiness is both able and willing to pour His grace on the most horrific of sinners and sins. Bask in the reality that you are forgiven and God’s grace keeps you secure in Him despite your failures (1 John 1:9). Bask in the Savior who would suffer so deeply to provide the grace that meets our needs so completely (Ephesians 3:14-19).