What is it with Wicked Kings and God's Mercy?
What is it with wicked kings and God's mercy?
I was struck again this morning about the incredible mercy of God. I was reading about Manasseh in 2 Chronicles 33, who was one of the kings of Israel that you’d consider “bad.” He built altars to Baal, despicable Asherah poles, and enticed the people of Judah to worship false gods. He bowed down to the “starry host” and even erected altars inside BOTH courts of the temple. (Yikes!) He sacrificed his sons in the fire and consulted mediums and spiritists. The list of his flagrant public sins goes on and on.
Plus, even with the prophets having warned of coming judgment, he was not swayed to live or govern righteously.
Judgment came swiftly. A hook was placed in King Manasseh’s nose by the king of Assyria, who bound him with bronze shackles and transported him as a prisoner to Babylon.
In this place of horror and physical and mental degradation, Manasseh cried out to the God of his fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He humbled himself and sought the favor of the Lord.
Here’s the plot twist - - - > God answered!
You may be reading this and thinking, “Of course He’d answer. He’s God. He answers prayer.”
BUT MANASSEH WAS WICKED. Like really bad - one of the worst in Judah’s history. He used his royal influence to turn his nation away from God. He even sacrificed his sons to fire and built demonic altars in the inner court of the temple!
Yet, in that dank, lonely prison cell, Manasseh’s humility and entreaties moved God. MOVED God.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Ps. 51:17
God was so moved, that He brought Manasseh back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. To me, mercy would be freeing Manasseh and bringing him back home. But God also brought him back to his kingdom. In fact, Manasseh was restored to his kingship.
“Then Manasseh knew that God was the Lord.”
It wasn’t just the judgment that opened Manasseh’s eyes, it was also his incomprehensible, unearned restoration. Mercy. Favor. Restoration. God’s kindness led him to repentance.
Manasseh was changed. After his return, Manasseh led the people of Judah back into right relationship with God. He deposed altars, removed graven images from the temple, and told the people of Judah to worship God. If this happened in 2023, we’d call him a revivalist and a reformer and he’d probably be featured on the cover of a Christian magazine.
The son who followed him (Amon) was evil and only ruled for two years before he was assassinated by his own officials. But it was his grandson Josiah who became one of the most famous, righteous kings in all of Judah’s history, eradicating pagan worship in Judah and reinstating tabernacle worship.
Here’s what I am more and more convinced about - our prayers move God, whether it be prayers of repentance, petitions offered in humility or intercession offered in faith. We move God. The One who created the heavens and the earth is moved by…..us.
Imagine the conquered Manasseh, with a literal hook in his nose and bronze shackles around his hands and feet, humiliated, broken, painfully awakened to the fact that the God he had despised and ignored was his only hope. Perhaps it was his own father’s history* of answered prayer that he remembered in that prison cell. He didn’t know how God would respond, but he knew that Yahweh was his only hope.
If God moved in mercy for a freshly broken and contrite Manasseh, how much more will He answer the prayers of His children, who have been made righteous through the blood of Jesus. Be encouraged, my friends. God is moving on your behalf even now. His goodness and mercy are following you. His love is inescapable. His shalom? Incomprehensible. His joy? Completely glorious and inexpressible.
*Hezekiah became deathly ill and petitioned God to heal him. God had mercy on Hezekiah, healed him, and then granted him 15 more years of life.