surprising repentance

A Surprising Repentance

Now the rest of the acts of Manasseh— all that he did, and the sin that he committed— are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? So Manasseh rested with his fathers, and was buried in the garden of his own house, in the garden of Uzza. Then his son Amon reigned in his place. (2 Kings 21:17-18)

Clearly, Manasseh was one of the worst rulers over the kingdom of Judah. In the verses in front of us, it mentions all that he did, and the sin that he committed. These great sins were the terrible legacy of Manasseh, who was the son of one of the better kings of Judah (Hezekiah).

surprising repentance

Yet, there is an interesting clue to the rest of Manasseh’s story in the words, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? 2 Chronicles 33:11-19 describes a remarkable repentance on the part of this sinful king.

Because Manasseh and the people of Judah would not listen to the warnings of God, the LORD allowed the Babylonians to bind the king and take him as a captive to Babylon. That is where the story takes an unexpected turn.

In Babylon, when he was in affliction, he implored the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers (2 Chronicles 33:12) and God answered his prayer and restored him to the throne. In a way he had never before known, Manasseh came to know the Lord.

Manasseh went on to prove that his repentance was genuine by taking away the idols and the foreign gods from Jerusalem, and he commanded Judah to serve the LORD God of Israel (2 Chronicles 33:16).

This is a wonderful example of the principle, train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6). Manasseh was raised by a godly father, yet he lived in defiance of his father’s faith for most of his life. Nevertheless, at the end of his days he truly repented and served God. In this way, we can say that it was very true that Manasseh rested with his fathers.

Yet, his repentance was too late to change the nation. It seems that the people were hardened in their ways, and as a whole they did not follow Manasseh’s example of repentance. As far the effect on the people was concerned, the evil Manasseh did had more of an impact than his late-in-life repentance.

What was worse, Manasseh’s repentance was too late to change the destiny of the kingdom. Years later, when Jerusalem finally fell to the Babylonians, 2 Kings 24:34 puts the blame on Manasseh and his sins.

It’s wonderful when people are moved to repentance late in life. Yet, the longer we live in disobedience, the more consequences for sin we are likely to face. It’s another reason to repent sooner rather than later.

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 21

 

Progression of Persecution

The Progression of Persecution

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Moreover Manasseh shed very much innocent blood, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another, besides his sin by which he made Judah sin, in doing evil in the sight of the LORD. (2 Kings 21:16)

Manasseh was one of the worst kings in the Bible, and his evil reign made judgment upon God’s people certain. Here in 2 Kings 21:16 we read of one of his worst sins – he persecuted the godly people of Judah.

Progression of Persecution

The description, Manasseh shed very much innocent blood puts Manasseh in the same spiritual family as Ahab, king of Israel. Under both of these kings the people of God were persecuted by the false religion of state-sponsored idolatry. The extent of it was so great that it could be metaphorically said, he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another with the blood of his victims.

We see the tragic progression in Manasseh’s sin.

First, idolatry is tolerated among God’s people. 2 Kings 21 tells us the people of God didn’t care about Manasseh’s wickedness and they were seduced by him.

Then idolatry is promoted. Manasseh did that by allowing forbidden altars and places of worship to the idol gods of the neighboring people.

Then idolatry is supported and funded. Manasseh paid for those forbidden altars and even honored pagan gods at the Lord’s temple.

Then the worship of the true God is undermined. When the leaders of a culture reject and replace the worship of the true God, most people follow their example. Faithfulness to the Lord becomes unpopular.

Then the worshippers of the true God are persecuted and murdered. Their godliness and faithfulness are offensive to those who have rejected God. Many in the culture find even the presence of godly people to be unbearable.

Finally, the judgment of God soon comes. God answers from heaven, zealously guarding His glory and avenging the blood of His martyred people. All the evil Manasseh did, he did it in the sight of the LORD. God saw it all and He would not forget.

It’s true – Manasseh did much evil in the sight of the LORD. By tradition, one of the evils done by Manasseh was the murder of Isaiah the prophet. Many people think that Hebrews 11:37 (they were sawn in two) is a reference to the martyrdom of Isaiah.

Reading how bad it was in the days of Manasseh makes us think of our persecuted brothers and sisters all around the world who face terrible persecution. It seems that there is not a week that goes by without reading about believers being murdered just because they were Christians. In the western world, we are grateful that we don’t face the same – but we recognize that it could come.

Today, remember to pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters all around the world. Remember that whatever evil is done to the people of God is done in the sight of the LORD – it doesn’t escape His view.

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 21

 

salt and light

They Paid No Attention

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So Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD which you have spoken is good!” For he said, “Will there not be peace and truth at least in my days?” Now the rest of the acts of Hezekiah— all his might, and how he made a pool and a tunnel and brought water into the city— are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? So Hezekiah rested with his fathers. Then Manasseh his son reigned in his place. (2 Kings 20:19-21)

Through the prophet Isaiah, God warned King Hezekiah that judgment was coming upon his descendants. Hezekiah had a strange reaction, saying the word of the LORD which you have spoken is good. This was a sad state of heart in the king of Judah. God announced coming judgment, and all he could respond with was relief that it would not happen in his lifetime.

salt and light

Manasseh also raised up altars for Baal, and made a wooden image (2 Kings 21:3). Instead of imitating his godly father, Manasseh imitated one of the very worst kings of Israel: Ahab. He set up the same kind of state-sponsored idolatry.

Even worse, Manasseh worshiped all the host of heaven and served them (2 Kings 21:5). He brought in new forms of idolatry. He also corrupted the true worship of God at the temple when he built altars in the house of the LORD (2 Kings 21:5). It is horrible to even think of it, but Manasseh also sacrificed his own son to the Canaanite god Molech, who was worshipped with the burning of children (2 Kings 21:6).

Manasseh directly invited Satanic influence when he also practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft, and consulted spiritists and mediums (2 Kings 21:6). Manasseh made the temple into an idolatrous brothel, dedicated to the goddess Asherah (2 Kings 21:7).

When all these terrible things happened, where were the people of God? 2 Kings 21:9 tells the terrible truth: they paid no attention, and Manasseh seduced them to do more evil. This described the basic attitude of the people of Judah during the 55-year reign of Manasseh. They paid no attention to the generous promises of God, promising protection to His obedient people. In addition, they were willingly seduced by Manasseh’s wickedness and were attracted to do more evil.

Manasseh was indeed a wicked king, but perhaps the greater sin was on the part of the people who accepted this seduction willingly. 2 Chronicles 33:10 says, And the LORD spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they would not listen. God spoke to both the people and the leader, but they rejected His word.

The culture changed from something generally God-honoring to something that glorified idolatry and immorality. In general, we can say this happened because the people wanted it to happen. They didn’t care about the direction of their culture.

May God help you to be salt and light wherever He has placed you. With the love and grace of Jesus Christ, we need to preserve like salt does, and shine like light does. Let it never be said of us, “they paid no attention.”

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 21

Hezekiah's Tunnel

A Sad End to a Good Life

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So Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD which you have spoken is good!” For he said, “Will there not be peace and truth at least in my days?” Now the rest of the acts of Hezekiah— all his might, and how he made a pool and a tunnel and brought water into the city— are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? So Hezekiah rested with his fathers. Then Manasseh his son reigned in his place. (2 Kings 20:19-21)

Through the prophet Isaiah, God warned King Hezekiah that judgment was coming upon his descendants. Hezekiah had a strange reaction, saying the word of the LORD which you have spoken is good. This was a sad state of heart in the king of Judah. God announced coming judgment, and all he could respond with was relief that it would not happen in his lifetime.

Hezekiah's Tunnel

In this, Hezekiah showed himself to be almost the exact opposite of an “others-centered” person. He was almost totally self-centered. All he cared about was his own personal comfort and success. Hezekiah didn’t care if His sins helped to bring judgment upon his descendants, just so long as it spared him.

Yet, these verses also tell us of something good Hezekiah did. He made a pool and a tunnel and brought water into the city of Jerusalem. This was an amazing engineering feat. Hezekiah directed the building of an aqueduct to bring fresh water inside the city walls even when an army surrounded the city. It was more than 650 yards long (643 meters) through solid rock, begun on each end and meeting in the middle. It can still be seen today, and it empties into the pool of Siloam. If you have never walked through Hezekiah’s tunnel, it’s a lot of fun – just remember you’ll walk through the water that still flows in the tunnel and it’s really dark.

At the end of it all, Hezekiah rested with his fathers. There is no doubt that Hezekiah started out as a godly king, and overall his reign was one of outstanding godliness (2 Kings 18:3-7). Yet his beginning was much better than his end; Hezekiah did not finish well. God gave Hezekiah the gift of 15 more years of life, but the added years did not make him a better or a godlier man.

Time or age doesn’t necessarily make us any better. Consider that time does nothing but pass by, hour by hour and day by day.

We sometimes say, “Time will tell,” “Time will heal,” or “Time will bring out the potential in me.” But time won’t do any of these things. Time will only come and go. It is only how we use time that matters. Hezekiah didn’t make good use of the extra time the Lord gave him. God helping us, in Jesus we can make better choices, and finish strong in our latter years.

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 20

trap of success

The Trap of Success

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At that time Berodach-Baladan the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that Hezekiah had been sick. And Hezekiah was attentive to them, and showed them all the house of his treasures— the silver and gold, the spices and precious ointment, and all his armory— all that was found among his treasures. There was nothing in his house or in all his dominion that Hezekiah did not show them. (2 Kings 20:12-13)

God was so good to King Hezekiah that he gave him 15 years more of life. But it was up to Hezekiah if those years would be lived out in wisdom, and to the glory of God. This was a challenge that Hezekiah did not meet very well.

trap of success

After his recovery, the king of Babylon sent letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that he had been sick and had recovered. Apparently, this was a gesture of kindness from the king of Babylon, showing concern to Hezekiah as fellow royalty.

Hezekiah was pleased with these gifts. We can imagine that this was flattering for King Hezekiah. After all, Judah was a lowly nation with little power, and Babylon was a junior superpower. To receive attention and recognition from the king of Babylon must have really made Hezekiah feel he was important.

So, Hezekiah showed them the house of his treasures. Hezekiah probably wanted to please these envoys from Babylon and wanted to show them that they should be impressed. So, he did everything he could to impress them, and showed them the very best riches of the royal household – and he showed them everything (There was nothing in his house or in all his dominion that Hezekiah did not show them).

As the coming rebuke from Isaiah will demonstrate, this was nothing but proud foolishness on Hezekiah’s part. He was in the dangerous place of wanting to please and impress men, especially ungodly men.

Hezekiah faced – and failed under – a temptation common to many, especially those in ministry: the temptation of success. Many men who stand strong against the temptations of failure and weakness fail under the temptations of success and strength.

We might say success led Hezekiah to sin in at least five ways:

Pride, in that he was proud of the honors the Babylonians brought.
Ingratitude, in that he took honor to himself that really belonged to God.
– Abusing the gifts given to him, where he took the gifts and favors to his own honor and gratification of his lusts (2 Chronicles 32:25-26).
Carnal confidence, in that he trusted in the coalition he had made with the king of Babylon.
Missing opportunity, in that he had a great opportunity to testify to the Babylonian envoys about the greatness of God and the LORD’s blessing on Judah. Instead, he glorified himself.

As God gives you success, be grateful – but also be careful. Watch out for the trap of success.

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 20

the wrong way sundial

The Wrong-Way Sundial

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And Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “What is the sign that the LORD will heal me, and that I shall go up to the house of the LORD the third day?” Then Isaiah said, “This is the sign to you from the LORD, that the LORD will do the thing which He has spoken: shall the shadow go forward ten degrees or go backward ten degrees?” And Hezekiah answered, “It is an easy thing for the shadow to go down ten degrees; no, but let the shadow go backward ten degrees.” So Isaiah the prophet cried out to the LORD, and He brought the shadow ten degrees backward, by which it had gone down on the sundial of Ahaz. (2 Kings 20:8-11)

2 Kings 20 begins with Hezekiah, king of Judah, as sick with a serious illness. Then Isaiah the prophet brought him a startling announcement: God told King Hezekiah that he would soon die, and he needed to set his house in order. Hezekiah prayed, begging God to spare his life.

the wrong way sundial

God answered Hezekiah’s prayer, and told him he would have fifteen more years to live. Yet for some reason, the king wanted more than a word from the prophet. He asked for a miraculous sign, and he asked, what is the sign that the LORD will heal me?

God showed even more mercy to Hezekiah. God was under no obligation to give this sign. In fact, God would have been justified in saying, “I said it and you believe it. How dare you not take My word as true?” But in real love, God gave Hezekiah more than he needed or deserved.

God shows the same mercy to us. It should be enough for God to simply say to us, “I love you.” But God did so much to demonstrate His love to us (John 3:16, Romans 5:8).

Curiously, God promised to do something completely miraculous for the confirming sign. He promised to make the shadow on the sundial move backward instead of forward. This sign fit perfectly for Hezekiah.

By having the shadow of the sundial move backward, it gave more time in a day – just as God gave Hezekiah more time. We don’t know how God did this miracle, but He did. Just like a clockmaker can turn back the hands of a clock he makes, so God turned back time – or the appearance of time – for Hezekiah. He had 15 more years.

No matter how the miracle happened, 2 Chronicles 32:25 tells us that Hezekiah did not respond rightly to this gift of healing: But Hezekiah did not repay according to the favor shown him, for his heart was lifted up; therefore wrath was looming over him and over Judah and Jerusalem.

Has God given you more time? Don’t be proud; be humble and honor God. God has shown us so much favor in Jesus Christ! May we always respond to God’s gifts with humility, and never with a heart lifted up in pride.

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 20

empty tomb

Firstfruits of the Resurrection

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Click here for today’s video devotional.

But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. (1 Corinthians 15:20-23)

In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul explained the truth of the resurrection, starting with Jesus. He then explained how the resurrection of Jesus directly connects to us – that Jesus has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

empty tomb

Firstfruits translates the ancient Greek word aparche. In connection with the Old Testament, this word was used for the sacrificial offering of firstfruits. In daily life it was also used for an entrance fee.

Jesus was the firstfruits of our resurrection in both ways. In the Old Testament, the offering of firstfruits brought one bundle of grain to represent and to anticipate the entire of the harvest (Leviticus 23:9-14). The resurrection of Jesus represents our resurrection, because if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection (Romans 6:5). The resurrection of Jesus anticipates our resurrection, because we will be raised with a body like His.

The resurrection of Jesus is also the firstfruits of our resurrection in the sense that He is our “entrance fee” to resurrection. Jesus paid our admission to the resurrection!

Paul continued, “By man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead.” The idea is that Adam (by man) is one “head” of the human race, and all mankind was brought under death by Adam. The second Adam, Jesus Christ (by Man) is the other head of the human race, and Jesus brings resurrection to all that are “under” His headship.

It all happens, “Each one in his own order.” It would be strange, and inappropriate, for us to receive resurrection before Jesus. So, He receives resurrection first as the firstfruits, and then we receive it “afterward . . . at His coming.”

Jesus is the firstfruits of our resurrection; yet He was not the first one raised from the dead. We read of the widow’s son in the days of Elijah (1 Kings 17:17-24) and Lazarus (John 11:38-44) and Eutychus (Acts 20:7-12), among others. Each of these was resuscitated from death, but none of them were resurrected. Each of them was raised in the same body they died in and they eventually died again.

Resurrection isn’t just living again; it is living again in a new body. The new body is based on our old body, but is perfectly suited for life in eternity. Jesus was not the first one brought back from the dead, but He was the first one resurrected.

When we trust in Jesus, His resurrection becomes the promise of our own.

Click here for David’s commentary on 1 Corinthians 15

for God's own sake

For God’s Own Sake

Special Note: During this season of the Coronavirus, I’m doing a special daily devotional on YouTube.
Click here for today’s video devotional.

“Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the king of Assyria:

‘He shall not come into this city,
Nor shoot an arrow there,
Nor come before it with shield,
Nor build a siege mound against it.
By the way that he came,
By the same shall he return;
And he shall not come into this city,’
Says the LORD.
‘For I will defend this city, to save it
For My own sake and for My servant David’s sake.’”
(2 Kings 19:32-34)

After all the threats from the enemy and prayers to the LORD, God finally brought His answer to King Hezekiah. Through the prophet Isaiah, God assured the king: He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there… for I will defend this city, to save it. With this word, God plainly and clearly drew a line. Although the Assyrian military machine was ready to begin a siege against Jerusalem and ultimately crush them, they would not. The king of Assyria would not come into this city because God promised to defend it.

for God's own sake

It is hard for modern people to understand the horror of an ancient siege, when a city was surrounded by a hostile army and trapped into a slow, suffering starvation. King Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem lived under the shadow of this threat, but God’s promise through Isaiah assured them that Sennacherib and the Assyrian army would not only fail to capture the city but would not even shoot an arrow or build a siege mound against Jerusalem. God promised that they wouldn’t even begin a siege.

Why? Why would God defend Jerusalem in such an amazing way? God said He would do it for My own sake and for My servant David’s sake. God would defend His own glory. Often, we unnecessarily think that we must defend the glory of the LORD. But that isn’t really the case. God is more than able to defend His own glory.

Yet notice that God also did it for My servant David’s sake. King David had died almost 300 years before this, but God still honored His promise to David (2 Samuel 7:10-17). God defended Jerusalem, not for the city’s sake at all – Jerusalem deserved judgment! But He did it for His own sake and for the David’s sake.

This principle applies to everyone who has put their faith in Jesus Christ. In the same way, God the Father defends and blesses us, not for our own sake – we deserve His judgment – but He does it for His own sake, and for the sake of Jesus. We don’t have to come to God on the basis of what we have earned or what we deserve. Instead, in Jesus Christ, we come to God on the basis of who Jesus is and what He has done.

The Father will save and rescue the believer – for His own sake, and for the sake of Jesus Christ, the Son of David.

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 19

because you prayed

Because You Prayed

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Click here for today’s video devotional.

Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘Because you have prayed to Me against Sennacherib king of Assyria, I have heard.’ This is the word which the LORD has spoken concerning him:

‘The virgin, the daughter of Zion,
Has despised you, laughed you to scorn;
The daughter of Jerusalem
Has shaken her head behind your back!
(2 Kings 19:20-21)

A mighty army surrounded Jerusalem, and the Kingdom of Judah was a small step from total defeat. The enemy of Israel – the general of the Assyrian army – has spoken, speaking against God and His people. The king of Israel – Hezekiah – has spoken, pouring out his heart to God in prayer.

because you prayed

Now, it was time for God to speak. The LORD spoke these words through the prophet Isaiah, beginning with these important words: Because you have prayed to Me. God had a glorious answer to Hezekiah’s prayer, but God said that the answer came because you have prayed to Me.

So, imagine for a moment: What if Hezekiah had not prayed? We are then to assume that no answer would have come, and Jerusalem would have been conquered. Think about it: the course of history was changed because God answered the prayers of one man. Hezekiah’s prayer really mattered.

Please understand: your prayers matter. I can’t tell you exactly how our prayers and God’s eternal plan mesh together. There is definite, glorious mystery at work there. But I can tell you this: prayer is much more than a self-improvement exercise. It is true that prayer does make me a better person; but it also moves the hand of God.

Prayer will never make God do something against His will and purpose, but there are things within the plan and purpose of God that He deliberately withholds until His people start praying.

We should ask: How many blessings, how many victories, how many souls saved for Jesus’ glory, lie unclaimed in heaven until the LORD can say to each one of us, “because you have prayed to Me”?

The deliverance would be so complete and wonderful for Jerusalem that God said to the Assyrians, the virgin, the daughter of Zion, has despised you, laughed you to scorn. The idea was that the Assyrians had come to ravish the daughter of Zion, the city of Jerusalem, but God would not allow it.

Instead of being a frightened victim of the Assyrians, the people of Jerusalem would despise the mighty Assyrians and would end up laughing them to scorn. God would give Judah and Jerusalem such a complete victory that God’s people would shake their head at the Assyrians. This all happened because God answered the prayers of one man.

No one can say why some prayers seem to be answered soon and why some take so long. Yet we know this: God wants us to know that our prayers matter – and that He will do great things because you have prayed.

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 19

praying to the God you know

Praying to the God You Know

Then Hezekiah prayed before the LORD, and said: “O LORD God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Incline Your ear, O LORD, and hear; open Your eyes, O LORD, and see…. Now therefore, O LORD our God, I pray, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the LORD God, You alone.” (2 Kings 19:15-19)

Hezekiah, King of Judah, was faced with the worst crisis of his reign. The mighty Assyrian army had already conquered the northern kingdom of Israel and many others and was now circled outside the walls of Jerusalem.

Yet in his response, Hezekiah spoke to God in the manner of a true believer, in the way someone who really knows God prays. Look at the many ways Hezekiah referred to God in this prayer.

praying to the God you know

God of Israel: This title for God reminded Hezekiah – and the LORD also, in our human way of understanding – that the LORD God was the covenant God of Israel, and that He should not forsake His people.

The One who dwells between the cherubim: Hezekiah saw the great heavenly majesty of God. Surely, the One who dwells between the cherubim would never allow the blasphemies of the Assyrians to go unpunished.

You are God, You alone: God is a simple title for our LORD, but perhaps the most powerful. If He is God, then what can He not do? If He is God, then what is beyond His control? Hezekiah realized the fundamental fact of all theology: God is God, and we are not! God is God, and the Assyrians were not!

You who made heaven and earth: In recognizing the LORD God as Creator, Hezekiah saw that the LORD had all power and all rights over every created thing. We can almost feel Hezekiah’s faith rising as he prayed this!

Remember that Hezekiah had the scrolls of Scripture existing at that time, and the word of the LORD through Isaiah the prophet and others. It was through this word that Hezekiah really knew who God was, and was able to call upon the God he knew in a time of crisis. It is important for us to know God and understand Him through the Bible, so that when crisis comes we really know the God we cry out to. It made a difference for Hezekiah and it will make a difference for us.

At the end of it all, Hezekiah’s prayer was gloriously answered. In a turning point of history, the armies of Assyria surrounding Jerusalem were almost completely destroyed in one night by an angel from God. Hezekiah’s prayer was answered, and it was largely answered because he knew who God was, and it was seen in the way he spoke to God in his prayer.

How well do you know Him?

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 18