Our gracious actions towards others are a reflection of the graciousness which has been extended to us by God.
When Yeshua taught his disciples to be forgiving, it was not some new principle that they had never been aware of before. It was something that he emphasized was important for them to practice, since their Father in heaven practiced it. If they were to be considered his children, they should likewise exhibit his characteristics.
We would be hard pressed to find a more stark example of this forgiving nature of God than to review the life of one of the most notorious kings of Judah: Manasseh.
2 Chronicles 33:1-2, 9 – Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. He did what was evil in Yahweh’s sight, imitating the detestable practices of the nations that Yahweh had dispossessed before the Israelites. … So Manasseh caused Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to stray so that they did worse evil than the nations Yahweh had destroyed before the Israelites.
Manasseh was so enamored with idolatry that the text says he caused the inhabitants of Jerusalem to commit greater abominations than even the original Canaanites whom God had Israel conquer because of the horrific nature of their detestable practices. You may recall that when Moses was preparing the Israelites to take the land, he reminded them at that time why God was doing this.
Deuteronomy 9:4 – “When Yahweh your God drives them out before you, do not say to yourself, ‘Yahweh brought me in to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.’ Instead, Yahweh will drive out these nations before you because of their wickedness.
God had used Israel as a cleansing, purifying force to clean the land of the impurities of the wicked practices of the Canaanites. Here in the Chronicles, it is recorded that Manasseh was so idolatrous it was worse than the original idolatry that caused God to raise up the army of the Israelites in the first place. So, as it turns out, God had to resort to a similar strategy to once again demonstrate justice against a nation of rebellious idolaters.
2 Chronicles 33:10-13 – Yahweh spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they didn’t listen. So he brought against them the military commanders of the king of Assyria. They captured Manasseh with hooks, bound him with bronze shackles, and took him to Babylon. When he was in distress, he sought the favor of Yahweh his God and earnestly humbled himself before the God of his ancestors. He prayed to him, and Yahweh was receptive to his prayer. He granted his request and brought him back to Jerusalem, to his kingdom. So Manasseh came to know that Yahweh is God.
Even though Manasseh had become so depraved, he finally came to his senses, but only after God had raised up the Assyrians to come against them for their rebellious idolatry. But even so, it appears to have been a sincere repentance, and we know this because of the actions that Manasseh demonstrated after coming to truly realize that Yahweh is God when he was restored to Jerusalem.
2 Chronicles 33:15-16 – He removed the foreign gods and the idol from Yahweh’s temple, along with all the altars that he had built on the mountain of Yahweh’s temple and in Jerusalem, and he threw them outside the city. He built the altar of Yahweh and offered fellowship and thank offerings on it. Then he told Judah to serve Yahweh, the God of Israel.
There is great comfort in knowing that even in the depths of some of the most heinous idolatry, God honors those who repent and turn to him. Manasseh’s repentant spirit provided him the opportunity to make amends and to do his best in correcting the wrongs that he had committed. Not everyone gets that opportunity. Sometimes the people we have wronged have moved on or have died, and we have no physical way to reconcile with them. At other times our situation may have changed so dramatically that it we cannot correct the wrongs that have occurred.
But the example of Manasseh should teach us at least one most important principle: God is willing to forgive when we are sincerely repentant of the errors of our ways. It is then that we can learn obedience to do whatever we can to make amends to those who may have been hurt by us, but also to maintain a sense of forgiveness that we have received toward those who would seek the same from us. Experiencing this depth of true forgiveness from God allows us to extend that same type of forgiveness to others.
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