2 Chronicles 33-34
I have two dramatically different directions I’d like to go with today’s reading, and decided I’d share them both.
In 2 Chronicles 33:1-2, 6, we find, “Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, following the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites. … He sacrificed his sons in the fire in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, practiced sorcery, divination, and witchcraft, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the Lord, provoking him to anger.”
Did you catch that, he sacrificed his sons in the fire. As repulsive as everything else is that he did, in my mind, nothing can compare with that. That sounds horrible, and in my mind, he deserved a horrible punishment.
2 Kings 24: 1-4 tells the end of that story. It goes like this, “During Jehoiakim’s reign, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon invaded the land, and Jehoiakim became his vassal for three years. But then he turned against Nebuchadnezzar and rebelled. The Lord sent Babylonian, Aramean, Moabite and Ammonite raiders against him to destroy Judah, in accordance with the word of the Lord proclaimed by his servants the prophets. Surely these things happened to Judah according to the Lord’s command, in order to remove them from his presence because of the sins of Manasseh and all he had done, including the shedding of innocent blood. For he had filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and the Lord was not willing to forgive.”
God annihilated the nation of Judah because of all the innocent blood Manasseh had shed. God wasn’t willing to forgive. As I read this, I have to agree that God was right in his judgement against Judah. They deserved everything they got.
But this makes me wonder, how are we different from Judah? We may not sacrifice our children in the fire, but we do have rampant abortion in our nation. I wonder, in God’s eyes, how do those two ways of shedding innocent blood differ? Which makes me wonder how much we are provoking God to anger, and what will be the end of our story as a nation. I see parallels, and they concern me.
The second thing that jumps out at me from today’s reading is that Manasseh was born during the additional 15 years that God had extended Hezekiah’s life. If Hezekiah had died when he was originally very sick, Manasseh would not have been born, and someone else would have been king. It may have been that Judah would have existed as a nation far longer. In this case, I think we can agree that for the greater good, it probably would have been better if Hezekiah had died young, so Manasseh would not have been born.
I know probably more than most, how we long to have life extended, and how we may plead with God to spare life. But I’m reminded of Isaiah 57:1-2, “The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart, devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.”
We don’t often think that sometimes the righteous die, basically for their own good. We view death as the enemy, and rightly so, but this life isn’t our final reward. This life is the test to see which eternal reward we will receive, life or death. It’s easy to say, but hard to put into practice that we should live so sold out for God, that we shouldn’t be concerned about our life or our death. We need to seek first God’s kingdom, and God will take care of everything else.