Saturday, June 4, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 115. Manasseh King Of Judah, Part 1

Prophets And Kings
Day 115
Manasseh King Of Judah
Part 1

Today we begin our look at Manasseh, son of Hezekiah, the son him fathered in the fifteen extra years the Lord gave him.

2 KINGS 21:1-9
"Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years. His mother's name was Hephzibah." (2 Kings 21:1) Manasseh must have been Hezekiah's only son, or at least his only living son at the time of his death. We learned earlier in the week that Hezekiah didn't walk as closely with the Lord during his last fifteen years and those years were crucial to Manasseh's character. It would appear Hezekiah didn't set a godly enough example for his son to follow. Had Manasseh seen the power of the Lord in his father's life, I think he might have felt inspired to follow the same God, but instead he rejects the God of his father and brings back the former idols.

"He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, following the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites. He rebuilt the high places his father Hezekiah had destroyed; he also erected altars to Baal and made an Asherah pole, as Ahab king of Israel had done. He bowed down to all the starry hosts and worshiped them. He built altars in the temple of the Lord, of which the Lord had said, 'In Jerusalem I will put My name.' In the two courts of the temple of the Lord, he built altars to all the starry hosts." (2 Kings 21:2-5) Manasseh brings back Baal worship, the god of the Sidonians, a practice first introduced to Israel by King Ahab and his pagan wife Jezebel. He brings back the fertility goddess Asherah, the sex cult of the Canaanites. In addition he adds the occult practice of astrology which he adopts from the Babylonians. It seems Manasseh wants to worship anybody but the living God. Since the beginning of time, Satan has offered us everything but the Lord. In our own times he offers us anything but Jesus. If Satan cannot entice us to worship him, he doesn't care who we worship as long as it isn't the one and only God. 

We find that Manasseh also worshiped the Canaanite god Molech and practiced child sacrifice, "He sacrificed his own son in the fire, practiced divination, sought omens, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the Lord, arousing His anger." (2 Kings 21:6) The author of 2nd Chronicles adds these details, "He sacrificed his children in the fire in the Valley of Ben Hinnom." (2 Chronicles 6a) The author of 2nd Kings mentions only a son who was sacrificed, but the Canaanite followers of Molech tended to sacrifice both sons and daughters, so it could be that Manasseh sacrificed one son (as we find in  Kings) and possibly one or more daughters (because 2nd Chronicles uses the plural word "children"). This is the highest form of abomination, to place no value on human life. It should be a natural human desire to protect our offspring, to be willing to give our own lives to save our offspring. But Manasseh lacked this human compassion. His desire for power from his gods of choice outweighed any pity he might have felt for the lives of his children.

It's interesting that the word the Lord Jesus used for hell, gehenna, is derived from the name of the Valley of Ben Hinnom. This is the valley where child sacrifice was practiced. This is the valley that was used in previous times to cast the dead bodies of enemies. This is the valley that later became something like a landfill or dump. The valley was considered unclean and cursed, a place of destruction and decay, a place of despair. When the Lord used the word gehenna He intended to paint a graphic picture in the minds of His listeners. The crowds knew exactly what He meant when He compared hell to the Valley of Ben Hinnom. He wanted them to understand just how desperate their situation was if they didn't know the one and only God. He wanted them to realize what a place of despair and horror hell would be, a place without the light of the Lord, a place without hope, a place without the help of the Holy Spirit, a place without natural compassion and human kindness. Gehenna, as He called it, will be full of those who committed the most abominable sins, people who brought pain and misery on others, people who caused death and destruction. Who would want to spend eternity with the likes of these? No one Jesus was speaking to would want to live in the Valley of Ben Hinnom; they wouldn't even want to spend one night there. How much more should they strive to keep from spending eternity in hell?

Manasseh desecrates the temple of the Lord. "He took the carved Asherah pole he had made and put it in the temple, of which the Lord had said to David and to his son Solomon, 'In this temple and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put My name forever. I will not again make the feet of the Israelites wander from the land I gave their ancestors, if only they will be careful to do everything I commanded them and will keep the whole Law that My servant Moses gave them.' But the people did not listen. Manasseh led them astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed before the Israelites." (2 Kings 21:7-9) The worship of Asherah included orgies and the use of temple prostitutes, so we see just how little Manasseh thinks of the temple of the Lord. By setting the pole up in the temple he is turning it into a house of ill repute. 

We could find excuses to make for Manasseh's waywardness in that he was only twelve when he became king, immature and easily influenced, and that he probably lacked proper spiritual guidance from his father whose own relationship with the Lord had slipped. But it's harder to make excuses for the people of Judah who had experienced such a great revival during the reign of Hezekiah. They had seen how Hezekiah cast all the idols out of the land and how the Lord blessed the nation for this. They had seen how the Lord miraculously delivered them from the king of Assyria. They had seen how the Lord miraculously healed their king from a terminal illness. What made them turn so quickly from the Lord? Did they fear their neighboring nations now that a boy-king sat on the throne, so much so that they joined in with the religious practices of their allies? Whatever their motivation, it indicates they feared someone or something far more than they feared God. They must have seen some advantage in adopting the gods of the nations, perhaps trusting in their allies instead of trusting in the Lord, the Lord who (without the help of any allies) delivered them from Assyria.

The Lord is going to have to bring Manasseh to rock bottom before he will look up and call out for Him. In tomorrow's study we find that Manasseh ignores the word of the Lord for so long, and the people ignore the word of the Lord for so long, that nothing short of disaster is able to show them the error of their ways. Our Father in heaven doesn't enjoy disciplining us any more than we enjoy disciplining our children. Just like an earthly parent, He scolds us through His word usually a number of times before He applies any discipline. Human parents tend to scold a child verbally at least once before giving a time-out or a spanking. The Lord is the same way. Human parents will usually resort to discipline only after their words fail to have any effect. The Lord is the same way. He speaks to Manasseh and the people of Judah for a long time through the prophets and His words are repeatedly rejected. The king and the people stop their ears to His voice and close the doors of their hearts to the ministry of the Holy Spirit. So God is going to have to give Manasseh a time out. And as Manasseh sits miserably as a prisoner in a foreign land he will remember the God of his father and will cry out to Him.

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