2 Kings 21:1-22:2; Acts 21:27-36; Psalms 1:1-5; Proverbs 1:1-6
OT: “Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Hephzibah. He did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, imitating the detestable practices of the nations that the Lord had dispossessed before the Israelites. He rebuilt the high places that his father Hezekiah had destroyed and reestablished the altars for Baal. He made an Asherah, as King Ahab of Israel had done; he also bowed in worship to all the stars in the sky and served them. He built altars in the Lord’s temple, where the Lord had said, “Jerusalem is where I will put my name.” He built altars to all the stars in the sky in both courtyards of the Lord’s temple. He sacrificed his son in the fire, practiced witchcraft and divination, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did a huge amount of evil in the Lord’s sight, angering him… Manasseh also shed so much innocent blood that he filled Jerusalem with it from one end to another. This was in addition to his sin that he caused Judah to commit, so that they did what was evil in the Lord’s sight… Amon was twenty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned two years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Meshullemeth daughter of Haruz; she was from Jotbah. He did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, just as his father Manasseh had done. He walked in all the ways his father had walked; he served the idols his father had served, and he bowed in worship to them. He abandoned the Lord God of his ancestors and did not walk in the ways of the Lord. Amon’s servants conspired against him and put the king to death in his own house… Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jedidah the daughter of Adaiah; she was from Bozkath. He did what was right in the Lord’s sight and walked in all the ways of his ancestor David; he did not turn to the right or the left.” (2 Kings 21:1-6, 16, 19-23; 22:1-2 CSB)
It is disconcerting that a righteous and reformative king like Hezekiah could have a son as wicked and dark as Manasseh. No king, in Judah or in Israel, was as evil and godless as Manasseh. Not only did he reverse all the reforms of his father Hezekiah, he desecrated the temple of God by erecting in it multiple altars to the gods and idols of the land – relegating the One True God to a “god” among many. He even engaged in child sacrifice. To add insult to injury, not only was Manasseh the most wicked king in Israel’s or Judah’s history, his reign was also the longest. Manasseh’s son Amon wasn’t any better. He continued in his father’s evil ways until he was assassinated by his own servants. For fifty-seven years, Judah, who was to be a light to the nations, descended into a cesspool of evil and darkness. Then, after over a half-century of darkness and degradation, a little eight-year old boy became king of the land. Instead of following in the footsteps of his father and grand father, he (like Hezekiah) looked back to King David as an example. For many in the world, 2020 was a very dark year, where everything that could go wrong went wrong. That was only one year. Imagine fifty-seven years of complete darkness and godlessness. Many hoped, because of its homophonic similarities with 20/20 vision, that 2020 would be a year of clarity and vision… and in a way it was. Many things were exposed in 2020. Weaknesses in our national infrastructure were exposed… Vulnerabilities in our healthcare systems were exposed… Political corruption at all levels was exposed… Racism was exposed… it goes on and on. Hopefully we learned some important things about ourselves, who we can lean on, and who we can trust. But the darkness of 2020 doesn’t just go away with the flip of a calendar page. If we don’t learn the lessons that 2020 was meant to teach us… if we don’t repent of our evil and turn to the light… the darkness of 2020 will continue. And the longer we look to ourselves, to government, to political parties, etc. to turn the tide, the darker things will become. Fifty-seven years went by in Judah until a king was finally willing to walk in the ways of the Lord and lead them out of darkness. I pray that it doesn’t take us fifty-seven years to humble ourselves, pray, and seek God’s face once again. We can take encouragement in this: no matter how dark it gets and no matter how long the darkness lasts, there is always hope in the Lord and in His faithfulness.
Psalms: “How happy is the one who does not walk in the advice of the wicked or stand in the pathway with sinners or sit in the company of mockers! Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night. He is like a tree planted beside flowing streams that bears its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. The wicked are not like this; instead, they are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand up in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.” (Psalms 1:1-5 CSB)
How happy! How blessed is the one who does not walk in the ways of the prevailing culture, but instead, [chephets] makes his one desire and primary pursuit the word, will, and ways of the Lord. No matter the darkness, wickedness, or even death that may surround us; if we make following the Lord our primary passion, we will be full of light, life, and fruitfulness. Imagine how difficult it was for young King Josiah to reject the advice and ways of the prevailing culture of his day to pursue the ways of the Lord… but God blessed Him and strengthened him in his resolve. To this day, parents name their sons after Josiah because his life of righteousness that brought life and fruitfulness to a nation. No one names their sons Manasseh or Amon. Their lives were like chaff. Even though Manasseh had the longest reign of all the kings of Israel, he would have been completely forgotten, were it not for the pages of scripture that used his name as an example of how not to live. As we begin a new year, let us resolve, by the grace of God, to follow Jesus fully and make the word, will, and ways of God our primary pursuit. If we do that, 2021 will be so much brighter, and blessed we will be.