Manasseh and the Early Days of Josiah
(2 Kings 20-21, 2 Chronicles 33-34)
Introduction: Have you ever read a novel which jumps all over the place? Each chapter leaps to a different person instead of telling the story in order? Our lessons have been like that. So, let's get our bearings. Israel(the ten tribes in the North)is dead. Judah (the Southern Kingdom) is staggering towards destruction. Our lessons this week and next give us the final chapters in the history of Judah. The last time we studied Judah it was doing well under King Hezekiah. Remember (2 Kings 19) King Sennacherib of Assyria marched on Judah with an army of over 185,000 men. Hezekiah turned to God and God sent an angel that destroyed Sennecherib's army. Let's pick up our study from there!
- Hezekiah's Last Days
- Read 2 Kings 20:1-3. Have you ever heard those words from a doctor? Have you ever scared yourself into thinking (wrongly, it turned out) that you were dying?
- How did you react to thoughts of your own death?
- Were your reactions like those of Hezekiah?
- Read 2 Kings 20:4-6. Now, tell me how you feel if you are Hezekiah?
- What does this little story say about our God?
- God knew Hezekiah's good (and bad) works before this. How could Hezekiah change God's mind in the space of a few minutes?
- Read 2 Kings 20:7. We now find out Isaiah is a medical doctor! Why did Isaiah have to treat Hezekiah with a poultice if God said he was going to live another 15 years?
- Is there a lesson for us today when we are faced with terrible illness? (Faith in God and medical treatment seem to be God's formula for healing.)
- The Bible goes on to tell us that God gave Hezekiah a sign that He would heal him. That sign was that the shadow the sun cast would go backwards instead of forwards (2 Kings 20:8-11). The son of the King of Babylon heard of Hezekiah's illness and healing, and the "scientists" of Babylon apparently observed the sun changing directions (2 Chronicles 32:31), so Babylon sent some messengers with a gift and the instructions to find out what was going on with Hezekiah and his God. Hezekiah was feeling so good about his recovery and the interest of the Babylonians that he decided to show these messengers all the wealth of his country. Let's read 2 Kings 20:15-18. Was Hezekiah's "show and tell" a big mistake?
- Read 2 Kings 20:19. What kind of guy is Hezekiah? This certainly gives us a window into his character!
- Read 2 Kings 21:1-3. Manasseh is 12 years old when he assumes the throne after his father's (Hezekiah's) death. Was he born before or after Hezekiah's terrible illness? (After.)
- Let's consider this a minute. Hezekiah is going to die. He pleads with God, who, within just a few minutes, seems to change His mind and gives Hezekiah 15 more years. During these extra 15 years the seeds for the ultimate destruction of Judah are planted and Hezekiah's evil successor is born. Should God have taken a few more minutes to consider Hezekiah's plea? (No, we are not going to assume that "reflection" improves God's thinking.)
- If we do not assume God could have benefitted from further reflection, what is there to conclude? (The powerful message that I find is that God listens to us, that He cares for us, and that He is merciful to us.)
- Can you find any other lesson here? (Don't beg God to change His mind!)
- There has always been a great tension in my mind on the issue of asking God for a miracle and God's will. Sometimes I fear that saying "Your will be done" reflects a lack of faith that God will do it. How could you ever "test" your faith or your God if you are willing to accept any result? Why even ask God if He is going to do His will anyway? On the other hand, if your faith and your request can change the course of history, is it a smart idea to ask God for a "course correction?" (This story shows two things. First, that our faith can cause God to change the course of history. On the other hand, if we really have faith in God's judgment, we are only going to ask "in His will.")
- Let's switch over the account in 2 Chronicles. Read 2 Chronicles 33:6-7, 9. Just how bad a King was Manasseh? (God prominently mentions his sin of child sacrifice, his spiritualism and his desecration of the temple. Verse 9 ends with the note of irony that "God's people" were worse than "the world." )
- Is it important to be ( 1 Peter 2:9 KJV) a "peculiar people?" (When I was a kid, this "peculiar people" statement was often made to me. When I was a teen, I generally agreed that some of my fellow believers were, indeed, "peculiar." I was generally given the "peculiar people" admonition when it came to dressing like "the world." The heart of this message, as shown by the condition of Judah, is not an "external" matter, but a matter of the heart. Worshiping God only, obeying His commands, not sacrificing our children to "other gods," these are at the heart of being a "people belonging to God"( 1 Peter 2:9 NIV).)
- Read 2 Chronicles 33:10-11. First God spoke to His people about their sin. They were too dumb (or arrogant) to pay attention to the word of God, so then they got the "hook in the nose" treatment. What lesson is here for us today?
- Have you personally been to the "hook in the nose" school of education?
- Read 2 Chronicles 33:12-13. Does God put a hook in our nose because He wants to hurt us?
- What lesson do we learn, again, about God's mercy?
- Read 2 Chronicles 33:15-16. How did the "hook in the nose" episode turn out for Manasseh? (Although this was painful and humiliating, it changed the course of his life. It appears that his life from that point on exhibited a good relationship with God. I say "appears" because the account in 2 Kings 21 does not mention Manasseh's rehabilitation.)
- Have you noticed that the evil in a person's life generally overshadows the good? (When I was young, my parents spoke of a minister who, after leading a church for 20 years, ran off with "another woman." All of his years of ministry were wiped away in this one misdeed. That may account for 2 Kings not mentioning the good end to Manasseh's life.)
- Manasseh had an evil son, King Amon, who was killed in a palace coup after only two years in office. Then a counter-coup put Josiah, King Amon's son on the throne. Let's read about Josiah in 2 Chronicles 34:1-2. I certainly believe in not turning "left," why not turn "right?"
- Is "middle of the road" a Biblical concept? Or, is that the problem that plagued the kings of Israel - they took the compromising "middle road" that worshiped the true God and other gods together? (I am not certain what is meant here in this text, but I have observed over the years a tendency for "new converts" to go to extremes. I have a good friend who was out of the church for years. Now he is a church leader, but he is caught up in elevating "extra-Biblical," writings over the Bible. I think there is danger in this.)
- In 2 Chronicles 34:3-7 we find that Josiah, when he turned 16 years old, began to destroy all the Baals and the other idols and even ground them to powder. Read 2 Chronicles 34:8. We have previously discussed that sin is progressive in nature. What do you think about righteousness - is it also progressive in nature? (Josiah is on a roll to turn his nation back to God! I think that righteousness, like sin, is progressive. We are either walking towards or away from God every day.)
- The work on repairing the temple continued. The money for paying the workers was kept in the temple. Let's read 2 Chronicles 34:14-15 to find out what remarkable thing happened when the High Priest went into the temple to get money to pay the workers. What was found? (The Book of the Law. Wycliffe suggests this was probably the official scroll of the Pentateuch, which was usually kept by the side of the ark. See Deuteronomy 31:24-26. Moses' writings, the first five books of the Old Testament, are referred to as the "Pentateuch.")
- How do you think it got lost? (I think it was hidden by a priest because he feared one of the evil kings of the past would destroy the Bible if he found it.)
- Is there a principle of spiritual life reflected in this find? (Yes, as we do God's will and seek to walk more closely with Him, He will give us a greater revelation of His will.)
- Friend, our God cares about us and wants us to draw closer to Him. Are you willing to trust God and walk with Him?
- Next Week: The Curtain Falls on the Southern Kingdom.