Once he had put behind him his God respecting father, he was able to embark on a disastrous, debauched, reign of his own.
He began by celebrating religious diversity. Leaving behind the God of his Fathers, he promoted any and all kinds of cult – the more perverted the better.
Baal, or “The Master”, a storm god, and his consort Asherah were favourites – and depraved in the extreme. Asherah , – a female mother deity – was worshipped with ritual prostitution, famous for phallic “Asherah poles”. Sex as worship soon became very popular and he led his nation into an enthusiastic celebration of immorality.
In the temple, built for the one true Creator God, he placed altars for stars and planets, angels and demons. As bad became worse he introduced a cult to honour Moloch, involving the horrific ritual sacrifice of children to the fire.
He replaced his cabinet with witches, mediums and spiritualists resulting in civic chaos; a corrupt government filled the capital with innocent blood.
Perhaps, at some point, his conscience was pricked but he learned that, with constant practice, he could ignore it and that, eventually, it even seemed to go away.
Those challenging him were silenced. One brave prophet gave him two words… One was a simple picture of a builders plumb line; “what isn’t built straight, God will flatten”. The other, “like a dirty bowl, I will clear you out, and turn you upside down”.
When the end came it was dramatic. Brought down by a foreign power, Manasseh was led around with a hook through his nose, like a prize bull. Having been ritually humiliated, he was then exiled and imprisoned in what is now Iraq.
Hooray!! The prophet killing, child murdering, despotic, satanic, God rejecting, sex addicted tyrant was history! … Except, before we all cheer, he wasn’t!
This atrocious, obnoxious man turned to an amazingly gracious God. In some “god forsaken” dungeon he prays and finds he is not, after all, God forsaken. He vomits up the deep truths about himself – and God forgives him. Whilst I might have given him a million years solitary confinement, and then the same on probation, God even restores him to his throne!
Grace is truly outrageous!
God loves to respond to “gut prayers” and he alone sees what is going on in our hearts. Genuine repentance irresistibly releases God’s mercy. This was not a token gesture kind of “sorry”, but a genuine remorse. – “I wish I’d never done this, I wish I could undo it, I am ashamed before God and want to renounce it all” kind of praying.
The reinstated King then removes all the idols and altars, rebuilds the neglected capital city and its defences and reinstates the worship of Creator God.
This king, Manasseh, illustrates a wonderful Bible phrase – “their sins … I will remember no more” This is “grace” – a totally undeserved “forgettery” in which go all our demerits. No atrocious sinner is beyond the grasp of an amazingly gracious God.
Perhaps our temptation is to identify ourselves too much with our past sins, and mistakes, when the truth is that “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our sins from us”
Paul once wrote to a people trapped by their past and reminded them “this is what you were”. The Christian can grasp hold of a whole new identity – “I was this but now …”
• “You have been washed” – the work of Jesus totally cleanses you from sin and shame
• “You are sanctified” – the Holy Spirit has set you apart and gifted you with a new identity
• You’ve been justified – The Father himself has declared His verdict “not guilty”.
This is outrageous – and wonderful.
(The bones of this story are in the Bible – 2 Kings 21 and 2 Chronicles 33 v 10ff. Other useful verses, for the curious, are Psalm 103 v 10-12, Heb 10v17, 1 John 1 v 9 and 1 Corinthians 6 v 9-11)