This is God's summary of king Manasseh's reign prior to His bringing on him and his people horrendous judgment for their sins:
"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." (2 Chronicles 33:9)
What had Manasseh done to earn this condemnation?
1. He decentralized the worship of God by rebuilding the high places of heathen worship and man-devised religion which his father, Hezekiah, had destroyed.
2. He reintroduced Baal worship.
3. He introduced a "new cult," an "astrological" or occultist religion that worshipped the stars.
4. He created a pantheon, i.e., a place where multiple gods were worshipped, in the temple of the Lord, building there many altars to many heathen gods.
5. He sacrificed his sons in the fire.
6. He practiced the occult (including sorcery, divination and witchcraft).
7. He sought counsel from mediums and spiritists.
8. Finally, he placed a carved image of Yahweh in the temple in direct defiance of the 2nd commandment given to Moses in the mount.
That's quite a list of sins, an undeniable testimony to utter rebellion against God's authority, indisputable evidence of a totally depraved heart. So what did our holy, righteous and just God do?
First, He gave Manasseh and the people opportunity to repent.
"The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention." (2 Chronicles 33:10)
Then, since "God is not mocked" (Galatians 6:7), He properly judged them for their willful, sinful rebellion against His holy reign.
"Therefore the LORD brought the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria against them, and they captured Manasseh with hooks, bound him with bronze chains and took him to Babylon." (2 Chronicles 33:11)
Then God did something entirely unexpected, yet something wholly consistent with His mercy and grace: He forgave and transformed Manasseh from the most rebellious king that had ever ruled over God's people, to a repentant reformer of his own sinful deeds!
"When [Manasseh] was in distress, he entreated the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. When he prayed to Him, He was moved by his entreaty and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God." (2 Chronicles 33:12-13)
Upon his conversion, Manasseh did what all truly regenerated believers do: he confessed his submission to the LORD with the fruit, i.e., the actions (behavior), of his life. He tore down the altars he had erected. He ordered all heathen worship to cease. And he repaired the altar of the Lord and reinstituted proper worship according to the commandments of the LORD (see 2 Chronicles 33:14-16). In short, he manifested by the fruit of his life that he had, indeed, become a believer in the God of Israel. His behavior was perfectly consistent with the New Testament example given to us in Paul's recounting of the repentance manifested by those Corinthians who responded positively to his very specific and direct rebukes of their personal sins against the God of all grace and goodness.
"Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, [what] clearing of yourselves, yea, [what] indignation, yea, [what] fear, yea, [what] vehement desire, yea, [what] zeal, yea, [what] revenge! In all [things] ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter." (2 Corinthians 7:9-11 KJV)
Truly, Manasseh, like these Corinthian saints, was "a new creature; the old things passed away" (2 Corinthians 5:17a). His life was observably different than it was before the Lord transformed him into an obedient and faithful servant.
But what about the people who had participated in his sins? Manasseh was obviously a changed man. Surely they were impressed, changed themselves. Not so much. While the people submitted to his new rule(s) externally, their hearts were not changed. The Spirit's inspired words describe them after Manasseh's conversion this way:
"Nevertheless the people still sacrificed in the high places, although only to the LORD their God." (2 Chronicles 33:17)
In other words, they were outwardly compliant in that they now "only" worshipped the true God (at least in name, in form). But their worship was insincere and, in that, unacceptable to God, for they worshiped not as God had commanded, but "in the high places" they had built for themselves. In other words, they worshiped as it was convenient for them, in the place of their choosing, according to the religion of their own devising. In fact, the only thing they had in common with the true believer(s) of their day was their appropriation of the name of God into their self-determined, self-centered, self-directed worship.
How does this apply to us today? The apostle Paul told the young minister Timothy
"This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy... lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof [i.e., the power of true salvation to deliver the true believer from the bondage, the control of sin, and to produce in him God-honoring godliness]: from such turn away." (2Timothy 3:1-2, 4-5 KJV)
The Holy Spirit's exhortation to us all through Paul's inspired letter to Timothy should not surprise us. The Lord Himself declared a truth that the modern professing neo-evangelical church does not comprehend even today:
"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." (Matthew 7:21-23 KJV)
Friends, we are in "perilous times." And it is time to "make your calling and election sure" (2 Peter 1:10). So I exhort you as Paul exhorted the Corinthians,
"Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you - unless indeed you fail the test?" (2Corinthnians 13:5)
Let me provide some guidance for you as you submit to this holy exhortation (if you will, indeed, submit):
As the Lord's teaching in Matthew 7 makes plain, simply "taking the name of Jesus Christ," i.e., declaring Him "Lord" with the lips, does not save. Nor is a mere profession of having "received Christ" evidence of salvation. And certainly forming in one's own mind a god who is compatible with one's personal view of what God should "look like" or "act like" then believing in that god does not save one from the judgment of the one true God who is changeless and, therefore, does not "adjust" Himself to each new generation's self-determined values or cultural mores.
Let me be more direct. Manasseh's people served God in form. But, in truth, they served themselves, as they always had. What about you?
Do you serve God acceptably according to His clearly communicated commands, or do you serve Him as it is convenient for you?
"Make me to walk in the path of Your commandments, For I delight in it." (Psalm 119:35)
Are His commandments a burden or a blessing to you?
"For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome." (1 John 5:3 KJV)
What is more attractive to you, the world and its temporal baubles, or the unsearchable and eternal riches of Christ and the true glory of heaven?
"Love not the world, neither the things [that are] in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." (1John 2:15 KJV)
Where are your affections truly placed? What governs your decisions, occupies your thoughts: the things of this life or the things of heaven?
"Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth." (Colossians 3:1-2)
In short, are you one of this generation's version of "Manasseh's people," claiming the name of Christ but serving a god of your own invention, or are you a true child of God, a truly regenerated believer whose greatest desire is to please your heavenly Father?
"He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me." (John 14:21-24 KJV)
(Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from the NASB)
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