Saturday Evening Meditations – Manasseh

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.

One of the Lacish Letters describing the account of the Assyrian invasion

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.

the gospel

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.

Manasseh’s Prayer
O Lord, Almighty God of our fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and of their righteous seed; who hast made heaven and earth, with all the ornament thereof; 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; whom all men fear, and tremble before thy power; for the majesty of thy glory cannot be borne, and thine angry threatening toward sinners is importable: but thy merciful promise is unmeasurable and unsearchable; 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. 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: 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.  

Saturday Evening Meditations – Esther

During the Second Temple period Queen Esther was the prized beauty of King Ahasuerus. This book is infamously known as the only book of the Bible that does not mention God a single time. So where can we see the Gospel presented? Join us for this week’s Saturday Evening Meditations.

The Story of Esther

Timeline of Esther

The book of Esther is the story of God’s providential protection of His people. God’s people have been exiled into a foreign land for their persistent rebellion against Him. The land of Persia is strange, their language strange, and their customs vile and ungodly. Yet it is the will of God for them to stay there awhile.

Oddly enough Yahweh or any other variant name of God is found nowhere in the book. But when we read Esther we clearly see He is not absent but working through Esther’s uncle, Mordecai. The book opens as king Ahasuerus throws the feasts of feasts for his statesmen. He gives them permission of no limits in getting drunk and carousing. Over the course of the seven-day feast, Ahasuerus gets pretty drunk and orders his Queen, Vashti, to appear before him. His intention is to show her off and to please his guests. Vashti refuses to be his play toy and rebels against her king. He consults his administrators and they advise him that in order to save face he must dump Vashti and find a more obedient queen (1:10-22).

Of course, after the national wide beauty contest, Esther wins hands down and is chosen by the king as the new queen. She isn’t happy. Her uncle Mordecai, who has raised her tells her to take her place for now. And then the trouble begins…enter Haman. (3:1)

Haman receives a huge promotion from the king and demands that as he passes by that all should bow down to hm. Mordecai refuses—several times. Eventually, Haman decides on a plan. Instead of killing just Mordecai he will wipe out the entire jewish race (3:6). Eventually, he connives the king into making a decree, which was something that could not be overturned by even the king once it was law (3:12-13, 8:8). Of course the king has no idea that his beloved queen is a Jew. And when Mordecai discovers the king’s edict he pleads with Esther to go before the king and plead their case.

Esther pleads before the king

Esther is afraid. And with good cause. Anyone who enters the king’s presence without prior authorization will be put to death. Unless…

There is one chance. If the king is pleased with the person he may extend his golden scepter (4:11). The person who takes hold of the scepter will have the king’s ear. Of course, we know that this is what happened. Esther fasts and prays and invites Haman and the king for a feast. She persuades the king to establish a new decree that the Jews be allowed to defend themselves. The Jews are victorious, Haman is hanged on the very gallows he built for Mordecai, and the Feast of Purim is established for the Jewish nation.

It is exciting reading the book of Esther and seeing God’s hand throughout. Scripture testifies to God’s goodness but more importantly, it attests to the central figure, Jesus Christ. So, where can we find the gospel in Esther? And how can we apply the story of Esther to ourselves?

The Gospel in Esther

Just as Esther interceded for her own people before the king, so also Jesus intercedes for us. Without Christ’s intercession, we are damned to be destroyed by Satan, who, just like Haman has built his hellish gallows that he might doom us. Yet the Father in His goodness has allowed Jesus to enter into His throne room to plead our case before the Father. Ahasuerus’ edict could not be undone. There is nothing that could have reversed the death penalty for the Jews. In the same way, the Law had condemned us to die. It cannot be undone. It has been established by God Himself and He will not overturn it.

But praise be to God! He has given us an intercessor in Jesus Christ, who lives to make intercession for us (Romans 8:34, Hebrews 7:25). Because of Christ’s redemptive work the Father issued a new decree. That whoever looks to the Son and believes in Him shall escape the penalty of the Law (John 3:16-18). What a wonderful thought that we have One who intercedes and protects us with His own blood.

Personal Application

God is holy and transcendent. As natural men, we cannot enter into His presence standing upon our own merit. We will surely die if we do. God has a right to consume us with His wrath because of our sinfulness. Yet in His mercy, His Golden Scepter of Righteousness, Jesus Christ, is our only plea (Psalm 45:6). God freely extends this Scepter to all who will reach out and grasp Him. Then, and only then, may we boldly approach the Throne of Grace to make our petitions before the Father (Hebrews 4:16). Let us thank the Father, Son, and Spirit for their goodness towards us and may we ever be grateful and joyful in His presence.

Saturday Evening Meditations – Jacob & Esau

Recently, I was reading the passage of Jacob and Esau. If you’re familiar with the story, you may remember that Jacob, at the prodding of his mother, tricked his father, Isaac into blessing himself rather than Esau, who was the elder.

As the story goes, Isaac was old and blind, and near death and asked Esau to hunt and cook him some game in order to bless him before his passing. Rebekkah hears this and instructs Jacob to put on some of Esau’s garments and take some game into him which she would prepare. In this way, Jacob would receive the blessing.

Expectedly, Jacob complies and follows through with it. Isaac is confused at first because he “feels” Esau’s hairy hands (the sheep’s skin) but hears Jacob’s voice. But when he catches a whiff of Esau’s clothes he is convinced that it is his elder son and goes through with the blessing.

In time Esau returns and discovers he has been swindled–again! He vows to kill his twin and Rebekkah, fearing for her son, sends him away under the guise of marrying one of her kinsman rather than the native Caananites.

This is where it gets interesting: Jacob leaves his home and stops for the night in Bethel (at the time it was called Luz). He has his famous dream of the angels ascending and descending from Heaven on a ladder. In the dream God comes to him and makes him this promise:

I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac…Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (Gen 28:13, 15). 

Here is where the meditation comes in. God introduces Himself by declaring that He was the God of his fathers. He then follows that up with a covenant. He promises to be with Jacob and fulfill His covenant with him and his offspring.

Think about that for a minute. Jacob had just cheated his brother and yet God was honoring Jacob. Not that God approved of his cheating. But God had intended Jacob to be the heir of promise. He was still honoring that despite Jacob’s past sins. The promise wasn’t conditioned on Jacob’s behavior. No! It was conditioned on God Himself.

Let’s bring that principle home: I am an idolatrous, image-making, God-blaspheming, Sabbath breaking, parent dishonoring, murdering, adulterous, thieving, lying, covetous man.

Yet, God has a covenant with me. His Word has assured me that if I repent of my sins and in faith trust the finished work and Person of Christ for salvation then He, like Jacob, would “be with me and bring me again into [His] land”. He has promised me that His Son has gone to prepare a place for me (John 14:3) and that He will continue to abide with me (John 14: 15-17).

But I fail daily! I sin, I miss the mark, and I defame His Holy Name. Yet, He has even promised that all I must do is to confess and forsake my sin (1John 1:9).

Why does He continue to be good to me? Because it is not up to me or my faithfulness which God basis His promises on. It is upon His own Name and the covenant which He made with His people from eternity past.

Friend, if you are struggling with doubt and fear, and if you have truly trusted in Christ alone for salvation, know that God will lead you to your eternal inheritance. And this is not contingent upon your own faithfulness but in God’s covenant-keeping Name!

Below, you will find a PDF of a brief Text Flow I did of this passage.

Here is the PDF for viewing