Vol. X — No. 26 June 29, 1969
2 Chronicles 33:9-16
So Manasseh made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to err, and to do worse than the heathen, whom the Lord had destroyed before the children of Israel. And the Lord spake to Manasseh, and to his people: but they would not hearken. Wherefore the Lord brought upon them the captains of the host of the king of Assyria, which took Manasseh among the thorns, and bound him with fetters, and carried him to Babylon. And when he was in affliction, he besought the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. And prayed unto him: and he was intreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord he was God. Now after this he built a wall without the city of David, on the west side of Gihon, in the valley, even to the entering in at the fish gate, and compassed about Ophel, and raised it up a very great height, and put captains of war in all the fenced cities of Judah. And he took away the strange gods, and the idol out of the house of the Lord, and all the altars that he had built in the mount of the house of the Lord, and in Jerusalem, and cast them out of the city. And he repaired the altar of the Lord, and sacrificed thereon peace offerings and thank offerings, and commanded Judah to serve the Lord God of Israel.
Righteous and merciful heavenly Father: remove that blindness from our eyes whereby we are unable to see the destructive power of sin and disobedience to Thee, stop us from living selfishly to ourselves and separate from Thee, and shock us into an understanding of what will be the eternal doom if we live according to our own wisdoms but open our eyes to the blessedness that comes of serving Thee, of putting Thee first in our lives, and give us that wisdom whereby we will obey Thee all the days of our life; above all teach us to trust that salvation which Thou hast provided in Christ Jesus our Savior. Amen.
Beloved in the Lord: History means little or nothing to him who does not look beneath the surface of it, and, with his eyes opened by the Word of God, sees the two main factors in all the world: SIN and GRACE. History has no real lesson except the one which teaches the sinfulness of man and the grace of God.
Today most men know something of history. They know how things have gone with nations in the past. But they cannot understand why nations should be so stupid as to repeat the same errors. Then why do men continue to reap the consequences of their sin, to reap an ever more frequent and as ever more terrible harvest? The answer is: Because they do not know the grace of God. We might add that they don’t want to know it.
Those who listened to the healing grace of God have never been in the majority,—they were not that in Noah’s time, they were not that in Israel’s time, nor have they ever been in the majority at any time. It is not just poetry when we sing: “How blessed is the little flock, whom Jesus calls His own!” But, pray, tell me: When did the righteousness of a cause depend upon the number of those who supported it? So few were those who remained with Jesus one time that He wondered if even the disciples would go away! But that did not change the fact, did it, that Jesus was the Son of God and the Savior of the world?
So whether the world as such rejects this lesson, and even if multitudes of those who should know better forget it, the truth still stands that the main factors in the whole world are these MAN’S SIN and GOD’S GRACE. We shall learn again how this is true in that section of sacred history which we have read this morning; we shall make it—
The father of Manasseh was the good king Hezekiah, ruler of the southern kingdom, Judah. “Hezekiah had exceeding much riches and honour, and he made himself treasuries for silver, and for gold, and for precious stones, and for spices, and for shields, and for all manner of pleasant jewels; storehouses also for the increase of corn, and wine, and oil; and stalls for all manner of beasts, and cotes for flocks. Moreover he provided him cities, and possessions of flocks and herds in abundance; for God had given him substance very much.”
Manasseh proceeded to spend the money after his father’s death. He became king when but twelve years old, most likely under regents who filled his young mind with the most extravagant notions. He really started the public works projects. Wherever there was a hilltop, there were building operations; large areas of ground were bought and huge groves were built for the people’s entertainment and for the worship of the idols of the heathen. Everybody must have had work, the times must have been good, and everybody must have been earning much money. There was ample employment, not only for builders and other laborers, but even for the arts, for we read that carved images were set up and altars were built.What was the motive for all this prosperity? Will you be surprised when I tell you that it was one thing, SIN? Manasseh had had a good home, no doubt, but the guiding hand of his father was gone. Manasseh had too much money—a lesson again to you father or mother, if you are one who is striving to leave your children property and money, that money is the worst thing that you can give them. Invest your money in persons, not in things. Don’t think you are doing a person a favor by making it easy for him; to make things easy for children is the surest way to rob them of character, and to make them worthless sons, men who are not even able to manage that which has been given to them. Such a son was Manasseh. Not only did he become a sinful and spendthrifty Israelite, but he went further, he copied the abominations of the heathens, of whom we heard last Sunday that God had commanded Israel to exterminate them and tear down their altars. He built again the high places where altars were built to the heathen idols. Worse than that, he imported the idolatry from the East which worshiped the sun and the moon and the planets and the stars. Worse than that, he built heathen altars in the very courts of the Lord. And still worse, he put a carved idol in the very house of God. Yes, we read in Second Kings that king Manasseh “seduced them to do more evil than did the nations whom the Lord destroyed before the children of Israel.”—Did we not hear last Sunday that if you refuse to obey the truth, you will be given over to believe a lie? Have you seen sinners worse debauched than those who were originally looked upon as believers, but who then went wrong? Yes, Manasseh went from one extreme to the other; and what was the motive behind it? One word, that short, shameful, and damning three-letter word, SIN.
Has the world changed? Is not history full of parallels? Men are proud, they want to do great things, especially things for the satisfaction of the flesh. Customs and opinions may change; ideas and ways of doing things may change; but the motive power remains the same, SIN. What was the motive when men began to build that famous tower, whose top was to reach into heaven, around which glorious monument people were to rally, and not scatter, become strong and do as they pleased,—what was behind it all? SIN! Pride. The desire for fame. A great name. They would devise a means by which they would get to heaven by themselves. They would provide their own happiness. They needed no God, no Savior!
What were the people in the Roman Empire craving for, yes, demanding of their government, just before it crashed and fell in pieces like a rotten apple? “Panem and circenses,” was the cry. “Bread and the circus.” “Food and amusement.” The government must give them food and it must provide the public theaters. SIN, selfishness, carnal enjoyment, ease, and a guarantee that the stomach be filled. That was all men wanted.
Does it not remind you of the reckless spending and wastefulness and the idolatry of Manasseh? It was sin in the case of Manasseh, it has been sin both before and after.
Have you closely examined the motive behind the great progress in our age, the last few years, much of it within the memory of men still living? Is not the progress of science motivated by the glorification of man? It is not many years ago that a representative of science said that the time is soon coming when we will not stand for a drought, we will control the rain and the wind. Even the greatest churches that are built today,—they are built to further the teachings of a man-made religion, which in the end is paganism. Great schools and universities are established, yes, but how generally is not their purpose to create an anti-Christian philosophy! Business and prosperity is at its greatest height in history, but what is the excuse for it,—the shedding of blood upon the fields of battle, and the blasting of non-combatants into the rubble of their houses.—Men have never had more wealth, more machines, more conveniences, more things to enjoy what is the motive?—for good of self; what isthe ruination of it all if it is not SIN. Why cannot men use the gifts of invention which God has permitted us to find out, for the happiness and blessing of man? The only answer is in the word, S I N! Men are still building the tower of Babel to get themselves a name. It appears that God is permitting them to make the fullest, and most desperate, use of their last chance.
What is the motive of our own life? Is the motive to serve God and our neighbor, or is it to serve ourselves,—ourselves first, last, and all the time? Why are we working so hard? What are we here in this life for? How much does our activity have to do with God? Are we farming or doing our business solely to pay expenses along the way of life and to use the proceeds to do as much good as we possibly can?—God grant that SIN, selfish gain and pride and pleasure, is not the driving force which make us work so hard.
Now with regard to Manasseh and Judah there was another powerful force at work. It was the influence which sent Esarhaddon, king of Assyria, upon Jerusalem with terrific force. It captured Mansseh and took him into Babylonia bound in chains, his throne gone and his riches dissipated. This same influence led him to review his past life, now that calamity had befallen him; he had time to think about the manner in which he had desecrated the Temple, the house in which God said that his name was to dwell forever. The miserable Manasseh must have had a most agonizing repentance. He humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and he prayed. The Great Force brought him back again. It called to the sinner, and it won him back to God.— What was the influence? It was the GRACE of God.
God could have sent fire and brimstone. He could have sent final destruction and annihilation. If anyone ever deserved immediate rejection, it was Manasseh. But the purpose of God is to win, not to cast off.
“God moves in mysterious ways, his wonders to perform.” On the surface this is not seen. On the surface these activities regarding Jerusalem and its king look like details in more important movements among the nations. The king of Assyria apparently was merely busy repairing his empire. He was apparently just reestablishing his power over the nations west of the Euphrates. He had already overrun Palestine, and the ten tribes of Israel were mopped up. Then he sent his chief general, Tartan, against Judah also. And they reduced Judah easily. Then, after about two years, the king of Assyria replaced Manasseh upon his throne,—the historian would say, to provide a buffer state between his empire and the rival power of Egypt. Thus it appears in history. But you cannot understand history unless you interpret it in the light of the two greatest forces in the world, SIN and GRACE. From the Christian standpoint, history is full of lessons. Standing by itself, history only raises a host of questions, why, why, WHY? Christianity has the answer, SIN and GRACE!
Sin is the destruction and downfall of any people; but “the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance.” Rom. 2:4. “Thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and for bearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” Rom. 2:3f.
God’s one purpose is to lead men to repentance. He threatened the world with destruction in the days before the Flood; but why?—that men should repent at the preaching of Noah. He ground Israel as between two millstones in the wilderness; but why?—that they should see their need and rely upon God and accept salvation from him. He sent Manasseh to Babylon in chains under the king of Assyria; but why?—that he might repent and turn from his horrible sins. He sends trouble and trial and affliction upon men to the right and to the left; but why?—to rouse them from their indifference, that perhaps they might listen to His voice and turn from their sins and repent toward God. That is why a Christian will pray with Moses in Psalm 90: “Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us, and the years wherein we have seen evil.” God is shaking the nations with a rough hand today, but why?—in order that they might turn from their SIN. It is the hand of love that treats us roughly today, just as it is the hand of love that cuts an infection out of the body with the sharp surgeon’s knife, “In the furnace God may prove thee,” but why?—“thence to bring thee forth more bright,” Men have fallen deeply into sin; that is why God is treating men severely, in order that they might hearken to his grace, that they might be saved from death ere it is too late.
Manasseh proved the sincerity of his repentance. He came back to Jerusalem, he tore down the altars and the places of idol-worship and resurrected the worship of God. If we mean a thing by our repentance, we, too, will consecrate, ourselves to the worship of God, to our presence before His altar, and for a godly life that will show forth the praises of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvellous light. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.