If you want to see the plan of God’s redemption played out just read the story of Manasseh in 2 Chronicles 33. Here is the story of a King, “who did evil in the sight of the Lord,” and led the entire nation of Judah into rebellion and sin against God. He ended up in chains being led into captivity by the conquering Assyrian Empire. It was then and only then that Manasseh came to his senses, humbled himself and called out to God to deliver him. God heard his heartfelt prayers of repentance and restored him to Jerusalem where he became king once again.
Manasseh was not a get me out of trouble and then I will forget about you kind of guy. He was transformed spiritually by what God had done for him and tried to repair the damage he had done to the fabric of his people. “He also restored the altar of the Lord and offered upon it sacrifices of peace offerings and of thanksgiving and he commanded Judah to serve the Lord the God of Israel. Nevertheless the people still sacrificed at the high places, but only to the Lord their God.” 2 Chron. 33:16, 17
I find these two verses intriguing. Manasseh reinstitutes the sacrificial system and calls the people back to worship the true God and the people respond but they keep to the traditions of their pagan past in their worship of God. This co-mingling of worshiping God in the context of their paganism would haunt Judah and eventually when Manasseh’s son Amon takes the throne paganism wins out over God.
Think about this for a moment. Amon as Manasseh’s son must have heard the stories of how God delivered his father out of captivity and restored him to the kingship of Judah. Manasseh must have recounted over and over how he had sinned against God by sacrificing Amon’s brothers to the false gods and how he had led all of Judah into destruction by his “evil” choices. Yet, as soon as Amon becomes king, “he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, as Manasseh his father had done.” 2 Chron. 33:22
Amon never learned a thing from his father’s past experiences. The writer of Chronicles, I believe, makes it very clear why Amon didn’t follow in his father’s footsteps and become a follower of God. “He did not humble himself before the Lord, as Manasseh his father had humbled himself but this Amon incurred guilt more and more.” 2 Chron. 33:23 Manasseh had considered himself God but in captivity he realized he was a long ways from it and became greatly humbled before God.
The humility to realize that God is God and we are not Him is more than many people can bear. Every day we read in the newspaper or see on television about the messed up life of some sports figure or pop star. Too much money, too soon combined with millions of adoring fans all saying how amazing the person is goes to their head and they become proud and arrogant. At twenty-two Amon was not mature enough to rule a nation like Judah that was still trying to find its way back to God after years of worshipping the pagan gods of the nations that surrounded them.
Remember what Moses told Pharaoh when demanding that he let the children of Israel go free? “Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let my people go, that they may serve me.’” Exodus 10:3 All the plagues that fell on Egypt could have been avoided if Pharaoh, like Manasseh, had humbled himself before God and listened to His request.
Amon’s grandfather Hezekiah had been sick to the point where he thought he was going to die and he prayed that God would extend his life and God did. But Hezekiah didn’t appreciate the restoration God bestowed upon him. In fact in 2 Chronicles we read, “his heart became proud. Therefore wrath came upon him and Judah and Jerusalem. But Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the Lord did not come upon them in the days of Hezekiah.” 2 Chronicles 32:25b, 26
Here is the great conflict within the Christian’s heart – pride and humility. When we allow pride to rule the heart we must always make God a lesser force in our life. When we look around us like Hezekiah, Manasseh and Amon and see all the blessings we have and yet somehow attribute them to our own making, we cast aside the guiding hand of God. We begin to think “I did all this” and things that are the leading of God we attribute to good luck or coincidence.
Humility, on the other hand, is simply acknowledging that God is bigger than us, holier than us and guides us on our spiritual journey. Humility is saying “God you know best and I am willing to listen to you and follow you”. David tells us, “For you do deliver a humble people; but the haughty eyes thou does bring down.” Psalm 18:27 Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” In fact, if you take a few minutes to contemplate the nine blessings in Matthew 5 they all involve a form of humility.
What amazes me about Amon and his rejection of all that his father Manasseh taught him, was that upon his death his son Josiah became king and brought revival to the country. Manasseh’s son Amon failed Judah but his grandson Josiah listened when God said, “because your heart was penitent you humbled yourself before God when you heard his words against this place and its inhabitants, and you have humbled yourself before me, and have rent your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, says the Lord.” 2 Chronicles 34:27
In our prayers maybe we should be praying that God will not only humble our own hearts towards Him, but that He will humble the hearts of those people we pray for. “Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from Him a straight way for ourselves, our children, and all our goods.” Ezra 8:21