2Kings 21 and 2Chronicles 33 records the accounts of Manasseh the king who reigned after his father, Hezekiah. Both accounts relay that he was one of the most wicked kings Jerusalem had ever had, all the way to filling Jerusalem from one end to the other with innocent blood (2Kings 22:16). Manasseh as king was to lead his people in the worship of Yahweh. But he went after other gods and as the accounts tell us he sacrificed his own children to the detestable god, Molech, who required child sacrifices for appeasement.
But God being merciful sent His prophets to warn the king. They implored the king to turn away from wickedness and turn to Yahweh once again. Manasseh failed to repent and God sent the Assyrians to bring Manasseh into captivity.
The Assyrians ship Manasseh off to Babylon. The Bible describes it this way:
Therefore the Lord brought upon them the captains of the army of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh with hooks, bound him with bronze fetters, and carried him off to Babylon (2Chronicles 33:11).
The NIV translates this portion as putting “hooks in his nose.” This is not necessarily a bad translation as it seemed to be a custom of ancient people to humiliate their captives in the most possible way. Whatever the case, it is clear that God’s intention was to humble Manasseh. And it worked. The next two verses records Manasseh’s response to God and God’s restoration of Manasseh.
Now when he was in affliction, he implored the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed to Him; and He received his entreaty, heard his supplication, and brought him back to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God (2Chronicles 33:12-13 emphasis mine).
The rest of Manasseh’s life is spent reforming the things he has done. He tears down the idols that he once worshiped. He removes the detestable Gods from the house of the Lord. And most importantly, he leads Israel to serve and sacrifice only to Yahweh. The end of verse 13 tells us what what in Manasseh’s heart. The writer informs us that he knew that the LORD was God. In other words, not only did Manasseh understand God had the ultimate power to build up and tear down, but he finally understood that true joy came in serving the Living God rather than dead idols.
What a beautiful picture of repentance and God’s mercy of His willingness to listen to those who have sinned against Him, even to the point of shedding innocent blood. The Gospel is not hard to see in Manasseh’s story. Yet it is something that rings true of every single person who is justified before God. We have sinned greatly against our Creator. Our sin has caused us to be bound in fetters and bronze shackles. And in our moment of humility we cry out to God for mercy, asking God to remove the fetters of sin that enslave us. And like Manasseh, God is moved by our penitent entreaty as we look to the Son, Jesus Christ, and realize that He alone frees us with His blood. It is at this point that we are reconciled to God through His Son. It is then that God “brings us back to Jerusalem,” figuratively speaking.
There is one more thing I would like to leave you with this Saturday evening; something to meditate on and prepare your heart for worship tomorrow on the Lord’s Day. At the close of Manasseh’s account we are told that his prayer was recorded in the Annals of the Kings. This prayer can be found in the Apocryphal writings. Below, you will find Manasseh’s beautiful prayer of repentance. May we all be like Manasseh and understand and know that the LORD is God.
1 O Lord, Almighty God of our fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and of their righteous seed; 2 who hast made heaven and earth, with all the ornament thereof; 3 who hast bound the sea by the word of thy commandment; who hast shut up the deep, and sealed it by thy terrible and glorious name; 4 whom all men fear, and tremble before thy power; 5 for the majesty of thy glory cannot be borne, and thine angry threatening toward sinners is importable: 6 but thy merciful promise is unmeasurable and unsearchable; 7 for thou art the most high Lord, of great compassion, longsuffering, very merciful, and repentest of the evils of men. Thou, O Lord, according to thy great goodness hast promised repentance and forgiveness to them that have sinned against thee: and of thine infinite mercies hast appointed repentance unto sinners, that they may be saved. 8 Thou therefore, O Lord, that art the God of the just, hast not appointed repentance to the just, as to Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, which have not sinned against thee; but thou hast appointed repentance unto me that am a sinner: 9 for I have sinned above the number of the sands of the sea. My transgressions, O Lord, are multiplied: my transgressions are multiplied, and I am not worthy to behold and see the height of heaven for the multitude of mine iniquities. 10 I am bowed down with many iron bands, that I cannot lift up mine head, neither have any release: for I have provoked thy wrath, and done evil before thee: I did not thy will, neither kept I thy commandments: I have set up abominations, and have multiplied offences. 11 Now therefore I bow the knee of mine heart, beseeching thee of grace. 12 I have sinned, O Lord, I have sinned, and I acknowledge mine iniquities: 13 wherefore, I humbly beseech thee, forgive me, O Lord, forgive me, and destroy me not with mine iniquites. Be not angry with me for ever, by reserving evil for me; neither condemn me to the lower parts of the earth. For thou art the God, even the God of them that repent; 14 and in me thou wilt shew all thy goodness: for thou wilt save me, that am unworthy, according to thy great mercy. 15 Therefore I will praise thee for ever all the days of my life: for all the powers of the heavens do praise thee, and thine is the glory for ever and ever. Amen.