Beyond Redemption?

The Lord spoke to Manasseh and to his people, but they paid no attention. Therefore the Lord brought upon them the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria, who captured Manasseh with hooks and bound him with chains of bronze and brought him to Babylon. And when he was in distress, he entreated the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. He prayed to him, and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God.[…] And he took away the foreign gods and the idol from the house of the Lord, and all the altars that he had built on the mountain of the house of the Lord and in Jerusalem, and he threw them outside of the city. He also restored the altar of the Lord and offered on it sacrifices of peace offerings and of thanksgiving, and he commanded Judah to serve the Lord, the God of Israel.” (2 Chronicles 33:10-16)

The story of Manasseh is one of the most interesting one to be found in the book of Chronicles, for in this text we see a more complete picture of the work of God in bringing salvation to sinners. Manasseh is one of the worst and most wicked of kings in the history of Israel. He is known for having murdered his own children, offered sacrifices to pagan deities and removed the true worship of God from Israel. He was a man filled with his own self-worth and truly existed in his own self-importance. He may not have been the worst of sinners in the world or the most tyrannical of rulers, but he is pretty darn close. In the line of David, it is hard to find one as evil ruling in Judah. He is the furthest thing from a man after God’s own heart

Now why do I bring us to this text today. Why focus on this specific man to bring us to see the fullness of the wonder of salvation?

First, because he is a man who we would say is the furthest from God. Unlike Paul who wrapped himself in religiosity and found himself outside of the truth, this King rejected the faith of his fathers and openly pursued wickedness. Manasseh is the proof that with God nothing is impossible, and no man is too far beyond the salvific work of our Lord. Just let it sink in for a moment. This king is far worse than the worst dictators in our current world, and yet the Lord transformed his heart. The Lord transformed a man who wanted nothing to do with Him into a man of repentance and faithfulness. Manasseh doesn’t simply give lip service in repentance, his life is transformed. He undoes the worst of his blasphemies against the Lord and makes every effort to return the people to the worship of God. In this we see the beauty that no one is too beyond the salvation of God.

Second, it shows us that God can uses many different means to bring the lost to Him. In the case of this king in Judah he uses a military defeat and capture. Manasseh finds himself in a distant land defeated and ruined, he is the prisoner of a foreign king with no hope of salvation. However, in the midst of defeat he finds the truly and lasting hope in God. He turns in this pit of destruction and there is the Lord God. God rescues him, transforms him, and brings him back to the land. The text is clear that all these events happened by the hand of God; from ruin to restoration God was at work bringing Manasseh to Himself. Breaking him of his wickedness and self-importance that he might see the true strength of his reign in the hand of God.

For many God has used the darkest days to shine brightly. He has used our sinfulness to show us His grace unending, His mercy that sustains us, and his strong hands which hold us firm. The wonder of this text is that Manasseh was actively running from God, but that never stopped God from working to bring Manasseh to himself. If you are in Christ, you know this reality to be true. God pursued us and won us. He broke down the dividing wall that stood between us and wooed us by his mercy, grace and love. He broke down our sins and gave us life. Through the storm of our sins, He brought life and hope. His divine power overcame us.

When we think of the life of Manasseh, King in Judah, we should be immediately struck by the reality of God’s work in saving sinners, and how that work shapes everything about our lives. While we may not be as bad as Manasseh, we were apart from Christ and as bad off as Manasseh. We didn’t have God, rather we openly accepted the world in whatever form brought us the most pleasure. We found satisfaction and worth in our jobs, religion, social circles, hobbies, lusts, physical pleasure, and material wealth, all of which left us empty and searching for more. We were all as bad off as Manasseh apart from God’s intervening work, and what a marvelous work it was. We must never forget the saving work of Christ, from His work on the cross to His intervention in our lives through the Holy Spirit we have been blessed beyond measure.

Therefore, let us life out the faith in earnestness as Manasseh did, let us reflect the great salvation we have received and call others to receive the same wonderful grace of our God.

“Starting Over” – Encouragement from John Piper for 2013

A refreshing New Year encouragement from John Piper:

Treat this year-end like the end of your life. Then be ecstatic that you get to start a new life tomorrow.

For some of us, not only is the year ending, but so is a life-ministry. When the clock tolls midnight I will hand off the senior leadership of Bethlehem to Jason Meyer (with overwhelming gratefulness for God’s goodness). I’ll be on staff until March 31, 2013, but effectively, this season of leadership is over.

So not only do I get to start a new life tomorrow (as it were), I get to start a new era of life (as it is).

Here is what I am preaching to myself, and to you too, if you want to listen in: Long, effective ministries and lives can end very badly. Don’t let it happen. Finish in faith.

I am considering only one example, Asa, the king of Judah, who reigned from 911 to 870 B.C. He started so well. He continued well. And he ended in foolish unbelief. It happens. The story is told in 2 Chronicles 14–16. Covenant with me, by grace, not to let it happen.

King Asa began well.

“Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God.” (14:2)
“He took away the foreign altars and the high places.” (14:3)
“Even his mother, King Asa removed from being queen mother because she had made a detestable image for Asherah.” (15:16)
“He commanded Judah to seek the Lord.” (14:4)
“He had no war in those years, for the Lord gave him peace.” (14:6)
“So they built and prospered.” (14:7)
He continued well, and trusted the Lord.

“Asa had an army of 300,000 from Judah, and 280,000 men from Benjamin.” (14:8)
“But Zerah the Ethiopian came out against them with an army of a million men and 300 chariots.” (14:9)
“Asa cried to the Lord his God, “O Lord, there is none like you . . . Help us, O Lord our God, for we rely on you . . . O Lord, you are our God; let not man prevail against you.” (14:11)
“So the Lord defeated the Ethiopians before Asa.” (14:12)
“The heart of Asa was wholly true all his days. . . And there was no more war until the thirty-fifth year of the reign of Asa.” (15:17, 19)
The terrible turn in the heart of Asa:

“In the thirty-sixth year of the reign of Asa, Baasha king of Israel went up against [Asa, and besieged Judah] that no one might go out or come in to Asa king of Judah.” (16:1)
“Then Asa took silver and gold from the treasures of the house of the Lord . . . and sent them to Ben-hadad king of Syria, . . . saying, . . . Go, break your covenant with Baasha king of Israel, that he may withdraw from me.” (16:2-3)
“And Ben-hadad listened to King Asa and sent the commanders of his armies against the cities of Israel.” (16:4)
“And when Baasha heard of it, he [withdrew].” (16:5)
“But Hanani the seer came to Asa and said to him, ‘Because you relied on the king of Syria, and did not rely on the Lord your God, the army of the king of Syria has escaped you.’” (16:7)
“You have done foolishly.” (16:9)
“Then Asa was angry with the seer and put him in the stocks in prison.” (16:10)
“In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was diseased in his feet, and his disease became severe. Yet even in his disease he did not seek the Lord.” (16:12)
That was the end of a great king’s life. Tragic. It happens.

But tomorrow is a new year. A new life. Even if you are in the middle of an Asa-like infidelity, God is giving you another chance. If you will repent, he will forgive and renew. “Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (Acts 10:43).

Whether you are 17 or 66, you can start over. Zacchaeus started over (Luke 19:8). Peter started over (Luke 22:32, 62). Paul started over (Acts 9:21). Lydia started over (Acts 16:14, 40). If you are alive in the morning, you can start over.

Join with me in a fresh covenant with our God: In the name of Jesus and by his blood-bought grace, I will finish in faith. Say that (with me) from your heart.