If you take a peek at the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1, you might find a curious name. Buried in a list that includes renowned figures such as Abraham, David, and Ruth, is a king named Manasseh. He was a particularly horrible ruler. The accounts of him in 2 Chronicles 33 and 2 Kings 21 seemingly paint a picture of a man completely lacking a conscience. He acted in utter defiance of all that God stood for. He built altars and artifacts for other gods, going so far as to put them in the temple where God said He would dwell. 2 Kings 21:16 says, “Moreover, Manasseh also shed so much innocent blood that he filled Jerusalem from end to end — besides the sin that he had caused Judah to commit, so that they did evil in the eyes of the Lord.”
Manasseh’s own children were not harbored from violence, as 2 Chronicles 33:6 accounts. “He sacrificed his children in the fire in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, practiced divination and witchcraft, sought omens, and consulted mediums and spiritists.” The people of Judah had plenty of history and many accounts of God’s love and power, “But Manasseh led Judah and the people of Jerusalem astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed before the Israelites” (2 Chronicles 33:9).
Manasseh had entirely turned his back on God and was responsible for evil that would make us wince, today. Yet, something intriguing happened toward the end of this story. God continued to try to speak to the people, but they ignored Him. Then, Assyria arrived with their armies and captured Manasseh. The man who was once a powerful king was now bound by chains, with a hook placed in his nose.
In this degraded state, Manasseh’s eyes began to open. He began to understand his need for God and the weight of his deeds. In 2 Chronicles 33:12-13, we are treated to several amazing verses: “In his distress he sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his ancestors. And when he prayed to him, the Lord was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so he brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord is God.” The rest of the story tells of Manasseh working to undo the damage that his reign had done. With a realization of his infirmities and one cry of mercy, his life was forever changed.
In this degraded state, Manasseh’s eyes began to open. He began to understand his need for God and the weight of his deeds.
This may appear to be an extreme story, but, in more ways than one, I have been like Manasseh. Now, if I told you that in person, I would probably get one of two responses: You might say that I was making a little bit of a stretch, or you might slowly back away. However, I cannot ignore the comparison. Just as Manasseh polluted God’s temple with idols, so have I entertained impure thoughts and unrighteous actions that have polluted my body. “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own” (1 Corinthians 6:19). I may not have looked for mediums as Manasseh did, but in the same spirit I have looked to the world for wisdom, value, and acceptance. I certainly have not slain anyone in person. Yet, my sin necessitated the sacrifice of the only innocent Man to ever walk the earth — the very Son of God.
“Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25). Despite everything I have done, God has not counted me for lost. I do not have to run and hide in a bush like Adam did. God’s grace is sufficient for me. I have not been cast aside, but have been endowed with riches that no moth or vermin can destroy. “Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits — who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagles” (Psalm 103:2-5).
Despite everything I have done, God has not counted me for lost.
God loves us because of who we are to Him — His children — not because of what we have done. He came and died for you and me before we ever knew or accepted Him. If we humble ourselves and realize how much we need Him, the Bible is full of promises of blessing.
Manasseh’s story is really just another testimony to what Paul pens in Romans 8:38-39, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”