There are many fascinating stories of prodigals in the Bible, but the story we find in 2 Chronicles is especially fascinating. Why? Because this prodigal is a King. What made him run away? Find out now.
“NOTHING LIKE HIS FATHER!”
(2 Kings 21; 2 Chronicles 33)
This past week I was over at the Clarks' home to pick up my new glasses - Dr. Clark marvels that I can read my Bible and preach without wearing them - while I was there I had an opportunity to hold their newborn son Gabriel - handsome boy (whichever service he’s in - have him stand - that boy has your good looks - cause DeeDee still has hers) - although I was a little jealous - that kid had more hair than I do.
There’s something about a newborn baby in a home.
Made me think of our littlest - although Charity was born on Halloween; she’s been anything but a little monster; the child we didn’t plan nor were we all that happy upon discovering that our fourth was on the way has lived up to her name - love.
Charity’s now 2 1/2 and we were sitting this past week on our bed - she’d brought me two books to read to her - and so she sat down on a pillow beside me, looked up at me and said, “You’re my best fwiend.” Now I have to admit she’s said the same thing to her mother - although I don’t believe she means it as much as when she says it to me.
A couple of days ago she told her mother, “I want to go see my fwiend named Daddy.”
You can just imagine how I’m really working hard to keep my wife from spoiling her; I’m doing my best.
A NEWBORN SON . . . CHERISHED HOPES.
Hezekiah was the great King of Judah - so powerful was the revival under his reign that he was compared to King David.
We’ve studied the life-threatening illness that overwhelmed him - and his prayer for healing. God granted that healing and gave Hezekiah a promise - the promise that he would live for 15 more years.
It was during that period of time that Hezekiah became the proud father of a newborn son.
He named his son Manasseh. The name means, “God causes me to forget”. It’s as if Hezekiah and his wife were rejoicing over the fact that finally had a child - their son’s birth erased the agony of wanting and waiting and hoping. I’ve forgotten all that now - this boy has erased the pain.
You can only imagine the hopes Hezekiah had for his son, the heir to the throne.
It was during this period of time that Hezekiah seemed to coast - we talked in our last discussion about the fact that Hezekiah becmae proud of his accomlishments and showed off his strength to Babylon. He also seemed uncaring of future judgment that Isaiah promised would come.
I have also discovered something that may indicate Hezekiah’s worship of the Lord remained strong.
Proverbs 25:1 refers to the scribes of Hezekiah who busily copied OT Scriptures. You can find the Nebrew letters “H Z K” at the end of many OT books in the Hebrew manuscripts. In fact, I’ve discovered that many Hebrew scholars believe that “The Songs of Degrees” (Psalms 120-134) were actually put together to commemorate Hezekiah’s sickness and recovery. When you put these rare clues together, it seems that in the last 15 years of Hezekiah’s life, knowing that judgment was coming, he set about to protect the OT Scriptures for the sake of the people.
So Manasseh grew, in his early years, the joy and pride of his father, a young boy who must have observed his fathers pride and on the other hand, his father’s diligent love and protection over the sacred writings of scripture.
It is a tragic thing to read then, in the book of 2 Chronicles that Manasseh would become the most wicked king in Judah’s history. Manasseh would reign the longest of any king, and become the downfall of his nation.
His father Hezekiah was compared to King David; Manasseh, the king of the south, will be comapred to Ahab, the vilest king of the north.
Before we go too much further I want to insert two things that a passage like this should do:
First, it should remove presumption from the heart of a parent whose child is following after the Lord.
Don’t become presumptous - don’t become an expert on child-rearing - someone says, “My your children have turned out so spiritual” - don’t respond with self-appreciating answers like, “Well, we never missed devotions - we always took ‘em to church - yep, that’s what did it.” “We never let ‘em watch T.V. or drink Coke - that’s what did it.”
Beware of a program or a book or an author who teaches his or her methods with the subtle implication that if you do A B C D Z you will spit out a godly child.
How wise and blessed you are to rear your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord - that is the only foundation upon which to rear young lives, but if and when they choose to follow after God, and they will thank you for your example and commitment to them, you and I will have nothing more to say other than “Thank you God.”
It is the grace of God and His miracle of grace that brings about an awakened conscience in the child - yes, do all you can do as a parent, but let it never lead to presumption and pride. It is the result of grace - that is how we pray!
Second, this passage should produce hope in the heart of a parent whose child is not following after the Lord.
The miracle child of Hezekiah and Hephziba was surrounded by blessing - he was influenced by a Daddy who evidently revered the scriptures - and he turned his back on it all when he reached the age of 12.
You did all you could do in giving your children roots, and then you gave them wings and to the breaking of your heart they chose to fly toward sin.
This is the story of the Kings prodigal son - for as soon as he mounted the throne of Judah, it was clear - he would be nothing like his father.
May this passage give you hope.
You ought to circle the progression of Manasseh’s evil - in 2 Chron. 33:2 you read, “And he did evil... in verse 6 you read, He did much evil in the sight of the Lord.” Then in verse 9, Manasseh misled Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to do more evil . . .” 2 And he did evil in the sight of the Lord according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord dispossessed before the sons of Israel.
Ezra will now catalogue his wicked ways for us - 3 For he rebuilt the high places which Hezekiah his father had broken down; he also erected altars for the Baals and made Asherim, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them. (the host of heaven is a reference to the Zodiak - when it says “he served them” that simpy means he ordered his days after the movements of the planets and the stars - like people today who read their horoscope - it’s nothing new; Manasseh certainly won’t be the last political power to follow the calculations of the astrologers - to serve the host of heaven)
How amazing it was to discover that the White House, according to former white house Chief of Staff, Donald Reagan, that a semi-resident astrologer was influential in determining major presidential trips and times of events.
Welcome to the practice of Manasseh, who followed the same self-destructive source of wisdom in his day.
Listen to the 1956 entry on astrology from the Encyclopedia Americana and it will show you how far we’ve come: “In the 17th century, when scientists finally realized that the earth was not the center of the solar system, astrology fell into disrepute. It still flourishes however in Asia and Africa, is a means of livelihood to many charlatans who prey upon the ignorant classes in all countries.”
What does that say about us - from the white house to the track house?!
Today, one out of 3 newspaper subscribers follow the horoscope. Nearly 40% in another poll thought astrology was scientific. New York telephone handles more than a million calls a month on its dial-a-horoscope lines.
“It flourishes as charlatans prey upon the ignorant classes of people.”
Notice v. 4 And he built altars in the house of the Lord of which the Lord had said, “My name shall be in Jerusalem forever.” 5 For he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the Lord. In other words, now you can have your fortune told and your horoscope read by a priest - in the temple lobby while you wait for the next service to start.
It gets worse - 6. And he made his sons pass through the fire in the valley of Ben-hinnom (he, the only son of his parents, cruely sacrifices his own children to Molech) and he practiced witchcraft, used divination, practiced sorcery (that word, by the way, in the septuagint gives us the word pharmacy - it means to cut up; denoting someone who cut up herbs and brews them for medicinal purposes. Sorcery was the black side of pharmacy however, because it used drugs to create religious trances and hypnosis. For all we know, Manasseh, with all his other problems was addicted to drugs
now read on - and dealt with mediums and spiritists (these were individuals who were supposedly able to contact the dead on behalf of the living. The syriac word for medium is ghost. Mennasah was having conversations with dead people - like Eleanor Roosevelt?
Evidently, Jean Houston, this White House spiritist who has the White House on her resume’ - she says she has actually met Eleanor 6 different times - she’s also talked with Helen Keller. Newsweek magazine quoted Houston and she said that when she talked to Helen Keller she asked her “Why are you so happy?” If I were Helen Keller, I would have said, “Because I don’t talk to dead people!”
The word translated “Spiritist” comes from the verb “Yada” to know. This person basically consulted the spirit world as a channel.
It should come as no surprise that Ezra records
He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking Him to anger. 7 Then he put the carved image of the idol which he had made in the house of God, of which God had said to David and to Solomon his son, “In this house and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen from all the tribes of Israel, I will put My name forever; 8 and I will not again remove the foot of Israel from the land which I have appointed for your fathers, if only they will observe to do all that I have commanded them according to all the law, the statutes, and the ordinances given through Moses.” 9 Thus Manasseh misled Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to do more evil than the nations whom the Lord destroyed before the sons of Israel. NOW NOTICE T HIS - 10 And the Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention.
Confirmed in idolatry; his wickedness was set in concrete!
Manasseh was hopeless!
There’s one more thing to add - you might wonder where Isaiah was all this time - well, he was boldly prophecying against Manasseh - in the Book of Isaiah, Isaiah declares, “When they say to you, “Consult the mediums and the spiritis who whisper and mutter, should not a people consult their God? Should they consult the dead on behalf of the living. To the law and the to the testimony. If they do not speak according to this word, it is becuase they have no light. And they will pass through the land hard-pressed and famished, and it will turn out tha twhen they are hungry, they will be enraged and curse their king and their god as they face upward.”
Strong words - what did Manasseh do? According to the same account in 2 Kings, the Bible tells us that the prophets were killed.
According to Josephus, the first century Jewish historian, Isaiah himself was one of the prophets killed - it was Manasseh who executed Isaiah by having him sawn in two.
He killed the prophet. Century old tradition informs us that he had Isaiah placed in a hollow log and then sawn in two.
What makes the act even more treacherous is that, according to the same oral traditions, Manasseh’s mother, Hephzibah was Isaiah’s daughter.
That’s right - Isaiah was Manasseh’s grandfather.
It’s at this point that God moves against he nation Judah and its King!
11 Therefore the Lord brought the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria against them, and they captured Manasseh with hooks, bound him with bronze chains, and took him to Babylon.
Get the picture in your mind - proud Manasseh. Rebeller against God; slayer of prophets, expert at black magic, cannot protect himself against the power of Babylon.
The verse informs us that he was taken with hooks - in Assyrian fashion, the defeated monarch had a brass ring driven through his nostrils and a leather thong attached - as if they were leading a mule or an oxen.
It was a metaphor of capture, submission and defeat.
Where was Manazzeh going? He was heading for the pig pen - that’s the place where prodigals can come to their senses.
There wasn’t any doubt that all the God fearing in Judah had long given up on Manasseh - he’s hopeles - he’s incorrigible - he’ll never follow God!
Maybe you know someone like that - you’ve all but given up hope.
Can you imagine Hephzibah - if she were still alive - the tears she must have shed over her wayward son. Would God ever answer her prayers?!
Notice v. 12 And when he was in distress, he entreated the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. 13 When he prayed to Him, He was moved by his entreaty and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God. (isn’t that great - he knew his father had known it - but now, he knew it for himself!) 14 Now after this he built the outer wall of the city of David on the west side of Gihon, in the valley, even to the entrance of the Fish Gate; and he encircled the Ophel with it and made it very high. Then he put army commanders in all the fortified cities of Judah. 15 He also removed the foreign gods and the idol from the house of the Lord, as well as all the altars which he had built on the mountain of the house of the Lord and in Jerusalem, and he threw them outside the city. 16 And he set up the altar of the Lord and sacrificed peace offerings and thank offerings on it; and he ordered Judah to serve the Lord God of Israel.
By the way, there is a warning to prodigals here - if you’ve identified with Hezekiah as a prodigal and you’re saying, “Okay, everything turned out alright - I’ll continue in my sin - what’s the harm?”
The warning is this: Even when your sins are forgiven, your sinful influence may live on.
Pehaps you noticed in verse 17 that the people never returned to worship in Jerusalem, at the house of the Lord! 17 Nevertheless the people still sacrificed in the high places, although only to the Lord their God. They followed half-heartedly - the worship of Yahweh just wasn’t as sensational or fleshly or exciting as witchcraft and sorcery and - Hezekiah’s people did not return as he did.
-Hezekiah’s son, Amon - a boy named after an Egyptian deity, put his Father’s idols back into circulation as soon as dear old day passed away.
The last phrase of verse 23 says it all - “but Amon multiplied guilt.”
He would reign for two brief years before his servants, not wanting another 50 year reign out of the same kind of monarch - assisinated him in his own house.
Amon’s son will reign - would you believe it - his son will be godly. We’ll begin our study of his life next Lord’s day.
Two More Lessons From Manasseh’s Life:
1) No failure should be considered final.
If you’ve read the biographies of the Bible, you’ve discovered the wonderful truth that He is faithful to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness . . . no failure is final.
Look at verse 19. His prayer also and how God was entreated by him, and all his sin, his unfaithfulness, and the sites on which he built high places and erected the Asherim and the carved images, before he humbled himself, behold, they are written in the records of the Hozai.
It’s all recorded - as wayward as Hezekiah had been - as immoral and idolatrous - the grace of God accepted his prayer of confession.
2) No unbeilever should be considered unreachable.
A young man was born in London in 1725. His father was a sea captain. His mother was a committed Christian. Knowing that her illness would take her life within a short time after her sons’ birth, she taught her son the word of God with great diligence. When the boy was seven years old, his mother died. He became a cabin boy and his years aboard a sailing ship were dangerous and exciting. Eventually he joined the crew of a slave ship and eventually became its Captain. During all of this, John drifted far from his mother’s God and her Bible. He would later write, “I often saw the necessity of being a Christian as a means of escaping hell, but I loved sin and was unwiling to forsake it.” Each year, he sank lower and lower into the pit of sin until even his crew despised him. On one occasion, when he was drunk, he fell overboard - but the men did not even want to make the effort to drop a boat over the side to rescue him. The simply took a whaling harpoon and threw it at him. It caught him in his hip and the crew hauled him aboard like they would a large fish. He would limp for the rest of his life.
It was during a slave run from Africa to England in 1748 that his ship encountered such a fierce storm that John thought they would all lose their lives. Under great conviction and guilt John remembered the God of his mother, the only true God of the Bible and he gave his heart to Jesus Christ.
Years later, having pastored churches in England, this converted slave trader would reflect on his life’s testimony and pen the words to, perhaps, the most popular hymn of modern time:
Amazing Grace how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.
Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed.
Close to his death at 82 years of age, in one of the final sermons John Newton preached, he said, “Two things are clear to me: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.”
I am a great sinner; Christ is a great Savior.
PRAY - sing Amazing Grace