9th Sunday After Pentecost August 6, 2017


Great Sin and God’s Greater Grace

2 Chronicles 33:9-16

Scripture Readings

Psalm 130
1 Timothy 1:8-17
Luke 15:11-32


32, 342, Worship Supplement 777 (alt. TLH 374), 371:1,5-7

Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted

Prayer of the Day (Collect): Almighty, everlasting God, for our many sins we justly deserve eternal condemnation. In Your mercy You sent Your dear Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who won for us the forgiveness of sins and everlasting salvation. Grant us a true confession that, dead to sin, we may be raised up by Your life-giving absolution. Grant us Your Holy Spirit that we may ever be watchful and live true and godly lives in Your service; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

In the name of Christ Jesus, who came to save sinners, grace and peace be with you all, dear fellow redeemed,

Bill’s pastor was surprised. It had been a great many weeks since Bill had been in church. His pastor was concerned, so he stopped by the house to make sure everything was okay. When asked how things were going and why this regular church-goer hadn’t been to church in while, the pastor was surprised at Bill’s response. Bill didn’t think he belonged at church. A few weeks ago, Bill had been arrested for a DUI just outside of very un-Christian establishment. He knew his drunkenness was a sin. He knew the place he had visited was a sin against the 6th Commandment. Bill knew he had committed some great sins, sins which he did not want to commit again. Because of the sins he had committed, Bill didn’t think he belonged at church.

While his pastor was surprised, it wasn’t the sin that surprised him. Instead, Bill’s pastor was surprised that Bill thought his sins were too great to come to church. Bill felt like church and Christ was for the “least of sinners” not the “chief of sinners,” like himself. Have you ever talked to someone like Bill? Have you ever felt like Bill?

We often talk about the grace and forgiveness of God, but rarely do we have concrete, real examples of the greatness of God’s grace. Today, we find those concrete examples. Whether or not you feel like Bill, the account of God’s undeserved love for King Manasseh speak to you. As you hear of King Manasseh’s great sins, marvel that God’s grace for Manasseh and for you is even greater. Hear now the Word of the Lord recorded in 2 Chronicles 33, verses 9 through 16.

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.

After this he built a wall outside the City of David on the west side of Gihon, in the valley, as far as the entrance of the Fish Gate; and it enclosed Ophel, and he raised it to a very great height. Then he put military captains in all the fortified cities of Judah. He took away the foreign gods and the idol from 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 he cast them out of the city. 16 He also repaired the altar of the LORD, sacrificed peace offerings and thank offerings on it, and commanded Judah to serve the LORD God of Israel. (NKJV)

So far the Word of God. Even so we pray with the young prophet Samuel, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” Amen.

King Manasseh lived about 700 years before Jesus was born. He was a direct descendant of kings David and Solomon. Manasseh was the son of godly King Hezekiah. During his reign Hezekiah had enacted some godly reforms in Judah. He tore down the altars of false gods and organized the priests for their duties in the Temple. King Hezekiah was a believer who obeyed the commands of God.

But when godly King Hezekiah died, his 12 year-old son, Manasseh, began reigning in Judah. Manasseh was not like his father. The Bible compares Manasseh to the heathen nations that God had driven out of Canaan. Manasseh rebuilt the altars his father had torn down. He worshiped the sun, moon, and stars. He offered his son as a burnt offering to false gods. He placed altars to false gods and even an idol in the Temple of the LORD. Think of that. Imagine going to church and the first thing you smell is not coffee, but incense being offered to the many Hindu gods. Imagine seeing a statue of Bhudda set up next to the cross on the altar and hearing sections of the Muslim bible, the Koran, being read from this pulpit. Manasseh was a wicked and idolatrous king.

And as the king went, so went the people. The first verse of our text speaks of the spiritual impact wicked King Manasseh had on the people of Judah and Jerusalem. Verse 9 states that Manasseh “seduced” the people to do more evil than all the heathen nations before them. Literally, it means to stumble around like a drunkard. That’s what Manasseh was doing himself and causing the people to do. They were spiritually stumbling around like a drunkard, going from one god to another.

The LORD tried to warn this wicked king. He sent His messengers with His Word to warn Manasseh about his sin. But he and the people would not listen. So the LORD punished Manasseh. A hook was put through his nose like an animal, he was chained with bronze shackles, and Manasseh was lead away to Babylon.

King Manasseh was indeed a great sinner. He brought idol worship into the church. He caused the people under his spiritual care to worship false gods with him. He ignored God’s Word when God reached out to him.

But if we only see Manasseh’s great sins in this text, we are not looking close enough. Do you see yourself? If I look hard enough, I see myself.

Manasseh’s chief sins were against the First Commandment. The First Commandment isn’t that difficult to understand. It’s something we learned in Sunday School. You shall have no other gods, the LORD says. Jesus says, You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. (Matthew 22:37-38) Do this and you will live, Jesus says (Luke 10:28).

But do we? Is ALL of our heart, ALL of our soul, and ALL of our mind committed to the LORD our God ALL of the time? Maybe our idolatry isn’t as open and obvious as Manasseh’s. Maybe it’s that secret idolatry of the heart, where we put someone or something ahead of God in our hearts. Maybe our family or our job is more important than God and His Word. Maybe it’s our free time or entertainment that becomes more important than God and His Word. What about the sports fan who said if their favorite team was playing at the time of the worship service, they would be in front of the TV rather than in front of Jesus to hear His word.

Our idolatry may not be as open and obvious as Manasseh bowing down to statues, but our sin is just as great. For such sins, a hook should be put in our nose and we should be lead away in chains to the eternal darkness in hell.

My father served as a perish minister for 27 years and then as a seminary professor for 22 years. During those 49 years, he spent a lot of time studying and teaching from the Old Testament. He talks about how for the longest time he was unaware of this account of Manasseh in 2 Chronicles 33. He was familiar with Manasseh from 2 Kings 21, where the holy writer only recounts the evil that Manasseh had done. But when pieced 2 Kings 21 together with 2 Chronicles 33, he says he was moved to tears and continues to be.

As we read on, we can see why. While chained in Babylon like an animal, King Manasseh became like the prodigal son. He humbled himself greatly and ran to the heavenly Father in repentant prayer.

Now, there is no reason why God should hear the prayer of this man. God had given Manasseh his chance. He had a Christian father, but Manasseh reversed all the godly reforms his father had made. God reached out to Manasseh with His Word, warning him of his sins, but Manasseh would not listen. Finally, God had Manasseh hauled away from Jerusalem like an animal in chains. NOW, when Manasseh had nothing, God was supposed to listen to his prayer?

No, God did not need to. Justice required that this wicked king be rightly punished for his wickedness. Yet, God does hear Manasseh’s prayer. He received his entreaty, heard his supplication, and brought him back to Jerusalem into his kingdom. God heard and answered the prayer of this great sinner and restored him.

Why? Why would God do this for such a great sinner? God did it because His grace, His undeserved love for sinners, was even greater than Manasseh’s sins. The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 5:20 that where sin abounded, grace abounded much more. The Apostle Paul personally knew about great sin and greater grace. He calls himself “the chief of sinners.” He was formerly a persecutor of Christians. He went into the homes of Christians and hauled mothers and fathers off to jail for worshiping Jesus.

Yet on the road to Damascus, the great undeserved love of God shined down on Paul from heaven. From the family line of wicked King Manasseh, a child had been born. In the little town of Bethlehem, a virgin girl from the house and lineage of Manasseh gave birth to the great grace of God. God became man. God became man, not because HE needed to, but because WE needed Him to. Jesus is the great Savior that Manasseh, Paul, and we needed.

Jesus was born from Manasseh’s lineage to be Manasseh’s sin bearer. He took all of Manasseh’s vile wickedness on Himself and on the cross suffered a punishment worse than a hook through the nose as nails were driven through His holy hands and feet. And by the wounds of holy Jesus, Manasseh was healed. Though Easter was more than 700 years after Manasseh, the certainty of Christ’s resurrection from the dead meant that God would accept the perfect sacrifice of the perfect Son of Manasseh and Manasseh would be forgiven. Through faith in the grace of God, Manasseh was restored not just as king of Judah, but he was restored as God’s child. The grace of God is indeed greater than Manasseh’s great sins.

This great grace of God for this great sinner, changed Manasseh. We read in our text that Manasseh fortified the city of Jerusalem and tore down the altars he had built in Jerusalem and in the Temple. He commanded the people to serve the LORD God of Israel. This great sinner who was redeemed, restored, and forgiven by Jesus blood, bore fruits of repentance.

This is good news. This is GREAT news. No matter the sin, no matter how great, the sinless Son of Manasseh came into the world to save sinners just like Manasseh, just like Paul, just like me, and just like you. Rejoice that God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor 5:21). Rejoice, dear repentant sinners, that the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost. Christ came to save you because you could not save yourself. Rejoice that God’s grace is greater than you greatest sin.

Forgiven and restored to a right relationship with God, the Holy Spirit now wants to cleanse the temple of your heart. With Manasseh, cast out those idols from your temple. Don’t run back to those sins but run away from them. If it causes you to sin, Jesus says to cut it off. Daily crucify your old man with his sinful desires through repentance, confessing your sins. Run again and again to the great grace of God, and in the Son of Manasseh find perfect forgiveness and restoration.

Redeemed, restored, forgiven, through Jesus’ precious blood
Heirs of His home in heaven, Oh, praise our pardoning God!
Praise Him in tuneful measures Who gave His Son to die;
Praise Him whose sev’nfold treasures Enrich and sanctify.

Amen. (TLH #32:1)

—Pastor Nathan Pfeiffer

Trinity Ev. Lutheran Church
Spokane, WA

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