The Editor’s Desk by Shawn McMullen
Manasseh was perhaps the worst king Judah had ever known. From the time he took the throne at the age of 12, “He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, following the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites” (2 Chronicles 33:2). Undoing all the good his father Hezekiah had done in Jerusalem, Manasseh rebuilt the high places of pagan worship, erected altars to false deities, built Asherah poles to honor a pagan goddess, worshiped the planets and stars, sacrificed his children in the fire, and engaged in all manner of occult practices (vv. 3-6). He even desecrated God’s holy temple by placing a carved idol inside it.
More than any other wicked king, God held Manasseh responsible for the punishment brought to bear on the kingdom. Although he sent his prophets to urge Manasseh and the people of Judah to repent (see 2 Kings 21:10-15), they ignored God’s warnings (2 Chronicles 33:10). So God declared, “I will make them abhorrent to all the kingdoms of the earth because of what Manasseh son of Hezekiah king of Judah did in Jerusalem” (Jeremiah 15:4).
Their punishment came through the king of Assyria who conquered Jerusalem and took Manasseh prisoner. The once powerful king of Judah was humiliated in his captivity, taken to Babylon bound in bronze shackles with a hook in his nose as if he were common livestock.
But somewhere in his shame and humiliation, Manasseh had a change of heart. “In his distress he sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers” (2 Chronicles 33:12).
And true to form, “when he prayed to him, the Lord was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so he brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord is God” (v. 13).
Manasseh spent the rest of his life righting his earlier wrongs. He destroyed the pagan idols he had erected, tore down the altars he had built, restored the Lord’s altar, “and told Judah to serve the Lord, the God of Israel” (vv. 15, 16).
The change that took place in this once wicked king underscores the power of confession and God’s eagerness to accept genuine repentance. Centuries later the apostle Paul provided his own version of the Manasseh turnabout. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:15, 16).
In both the old covenant and the new, God demonstrates his mercy and grace by hearing the confessions of repentant sinners and restoring them to him. As the apostle John reminds us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all righteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Heartfelt confession works—even for the worst of us.