Third Sunday After Trinity July 9, 2000
2 Chronicles 33:9-13
277, 318, 384, 467
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
So Manasseh seduced Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to do more evil than the nations whom the LORD had destroyed before the children of Israel. And the LORD spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they would not listen. Therefore the LORD brought upon them the captains of the army of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh with hooks, bound him with bronze fetters, and carried him off to Babylon. Now when he was in affliction, he implored the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed to Him; and He received his entreaty, heard his supplication, and brought him back to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God. This is the Word of God.
In Christ Jesus, Who came to call sinners to repentance, Dear Fellow Redeemed,
Ever seen a bull with a ring in his nose?—They’re not too common around here. But back in dairy country, where I grew up, just about every bull has a nose ring. The idea is this: when a bull is young, you pierce his nose with a big brass ring. It’s a very sensitive spot, naturally, and when the animal starts getting out of hand, one yank on the ring will usually quiet him down. After that happens a few times, the bull learns that it’s less painful to just behave in the first place. It’s a lesson they don’t forget, and the constant presence of the ring reminds the bull that misbehavior has it’s consequences.
How do you imagine it would feel to have a ring in your nose? Makes you cringe just to think about it, doesn’t it? In today’s text we meet a man named Manasseh who went through that experience. Manasseh was getting out of hand. He was deliberately ignoring God’s Word in his life, so the Lord literally put a ring in his nose, and gave it a yank! As Christians, we need to know that our Lord is going to do whatever it takes to correct us when we stray from His paths. And the more stubborn we are about it, the more painful that correction is likely to be. In fact, as our theme for this morning puts it—
Our text takes place during the Old Testament period of the Divided Kingdom. This is the era after David and Solomon, but before the Babylonian Captivity. Northern Israel was ruled by one king from Samaria, while the land of Judah was ruled by another king from Jerusalem. Manasseh, the son of Hezekiah, came to the throne of Judah when he was twelve years old. For 55 years he ruled in Jerusalem, and for most of that time he was a rank unbeliever, practicing and promoting the very worst forms of idolatry.
Our text says, “So Manasseh seduced Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to do more evil than the nations whom the LORD had destroyed before the children of Israel.” Manasseh served all the false gods of the heathen. In fact, he outdid them! He built altars for Baal all over Judah. He was the first of the Kings of Judah to institute astrology—the occult worship of the stars and constellations. Manasseh even sacrificed his own son, by fire, to the god Molech. He didn’t keep his idolatry to himself, either; he led the whole people of Judah into this worst of all sins! “And the LORD spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they would not listen.”
We sometimes skip over idolatry as though it were an ancient sin that poses no danger for us modern Christians. And it’s true that we’re not very likely to be found bowing down to some brass Buddha in the privacy of our living rooms. But there’s more to the sin of idolatry than that. The First Commandment says, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” What does this mean? We should fear, love and trust in God ABOVE ALL THINGS. God says, “I am the LORD, that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another, nor My praise to graven images.”—Isa 42:8. If there’s anything you’re more devoted to than God and His Word, you’ve broken the First Commandment. If you love money, or power, or pleasure more than you love the Lord, you’re an idolater. If you place more trust in your bank account, or in your insurance policies than you do in the Lord, you’re guilty of the sin of Manasseh. And in that case, don’t be surprised if, like Manasseh, you begin to feel a slight stinging in the nasal area!
As it turns out, the Lord had to literally lead Manasseh by the nose to get him to repent of his sin! “The LORD brought upon them the captains of the army of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh with hooks, bound him with bronze fetters, and carried him off to Babylon.” The “hook” referred to in that passage was actually a nose ring. The practice was widespread among the nations of that region where a person who had been captured in battle would have his nose pierced with a ring. A thong would be tied to it, and the captive would be led along the road in this manner. That’s what they did to Manasseh. Or rather, that’s what the Lord did, because the text reveals to us that this painful ordeal was part of God’s plan to lead Manasseh to repentance.
And repent he did, finally. After the awful pain and humiliation of being captured and dragged along the road like a common slave, after lying in chains in Babylon for who knows how many dark days, Manasseh woke up. It took a hook in his nose to do it, but he finally turned back to the Lord. “Now when he was in affliction, he implored the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed to Him.”
Has an illness or an injury entered your life recently? Have you suffered family problems, or a financial reversal? Then think carefully about whether or not the Lord may be applying His loving discipline in your life. Have you strayed from the Lord’s paths? Have you pushed His Word aside, or neglected it in some way? God may use painful means, not to punish you for your sin, but to get your attention and save you from weakening your faith further, or losing it altogether. God’s discipline is never pleasant when you’re going through it, but it’s a lot better than losing our eternal souls! As the Bible says, “No chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”—Heb 12:11.
When Manasseh was led by the nose, he finally acknowledged and repented of his sin. But that’s really only half the story. Because that painful experience led him to something far greater, far more wonderful than simply a realization of his sinfulness. It led him straight to God’s grace and forgiveness. Perhaps the Lord has laid some painful chastening on your life recently. It will comfort you to know that God’s discipline, painful as it may be, is intended to lead you to that same beautiful place. Sometimes the Lord has to lead us by the nose—to experience His grace.
The devil has a favorite trick he likes to pull on Christians. He’ll concede that God does forgive sins—that is, as long as he can convince you that your sins, in particular, are too great to be forgiven. My fellow Christians, don’t fall for that old trick! Yes, your sins are very great. So are mine. And often you’re going to feel just like the Apostle Paul did when he said in this morning’s Epistle Lesson: “I am the chief of sinners.” But remember what else he said in that passage: “Christ Jesus came into the world to SAVE sinners, of whom I am chief!” So if you feel like you’re the chief of sinners, that’s good—because you’re the exact person Jesus came to save!
Don’t tell me your sins are too great to be forgiven—look at Saul! He started out persecuting Christians, hunting them down and throwing them in jail. The Lord Jesus had to lead him by the nose, as well, to see the error of his ways—he literally knocked him off his horse on the way to Damascus and said, “Saul, Saul; why are you persecuting Me?” But the Lord forgave him. He got a taste of God’s grace in Jesus Christ. And that’s all it took: as the Apostle Paul he became the greatest Christian missionary there ever was.
And what about Manasseh? Along with Ahab, he’s still remembered as one of the most wicked and corrupt kings in the history of God’s people. But when he humbled himself in repentance before the Lord, the Lord forgave him. Our text says that when Manasseh prayed to the Lord, “…He received his entreaty, and heard his supplication.” In the original Hebrew, the words indicate that God received his prayer with favor. He listened to what this humble sinner—lying in chains in a foreign country—had to say. The Lord paid attention to Manasseh’s request—and granted it.
What a marvelous example of grace! Why did God forgive Manasseh? Because he deserved it? Certainly not! In fact the opposite was true: if anyone deserved to be destroyed, it was Manasseh. But after all, that’s what grace is: undeserved love. Manasseh deserved to suffer, but in His grace the Lord relieved his suffering. Manasseh deserved condemnation, but in his grace the Lord gave him forgiveness. Manasseh deserved hell, but in his grace the Lord opened to him the way to heaven.
We’ve all witnessed the scene in the grocery store where a little kid is bugging his mom for a toy, or a candy bar. “Why should I give you that?” says the mom, and the child replies, “Because I want it!” Well, no kid ever won an argument like that. But you know, Christians get away with it all the time! “Forgive my sin,” the Christian prays. “Why should I grant you forgiveness?” asks God. “Because I want it,” says the believer. And God says, “Ok! You’re forgiven. For the sake of the atoning work my Son carried out for you on the cross, you may go free.” You see, unlike that lady in the grocery store, God is very indulgent to His children. He absolute “spoils” us with His grace and mercy! In Christ, full and free forgiveness is ours whenever we want it!—That’s a promise, guaranteed in God’s Word. Isaiah says, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.”—Isa 55:7.
“So the Lord received his entreaty, heard his supplication, and brought him back to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God.” Manasseh finally got to where he could experience the heavenly peace of God’s grace and forgiveness. The Lord had to lead him there with a ring in his nose, but he got there! And when the ring and the bronze shackles had served their purpose, the Lord removed them. And now that God had put Manasseh’s feet back on the right path, he showed his gratitude by serving the Lord in his life. The rest of this chapter details how he got rid of all the idols in Jerusalem and commanded the people to worship only the Lord.
If the Lord has sent chastening into your life to correct you and lead you to repentance, then rejoice—it means you really are God’s beloved child. “For whom the LORD loves He chastens,” the Bible tells us, “and scourges every son whom He receives.”—Heb 12:6. So submit with patience to the Lord’s discipline, knowing that its outcome will be to the eternal benefit of your soul.
You may remember the account in 1 Kings chapter nineteen, where God spoke to the prophet Elijah in “a still, small voice.” Pastor Jim Albrecht, currently in Sister Lakes MI, used to say: “If you miss the still, small voice of God in your life, don’t worry—He has a louder one!” In other words, if we stray from the path of righteousness, the Lord is going to do whatever it takes to bring us back to Him. Sometimes it takes a lot. Sometimes the Lord has to lead us by the nose! God grant that we each of us may daily repent of ALL our sins, so that we may daily experience the wonders of His grace. AMEN.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.