Voted for Hezekiah, But Got Manasseh? Who Is It All About?
Notice, we are not asking “what” is it all about. So, as we are heading into election week, what if it is not all about America, COVID-19, climate change or the global economy? In my book, polarizing politics and frenzied Facebook posts are not necessarily addressing that most important WHO question. This came home to me while reading two recent October devotions in the book, Songs in the Night, and one of the best and one of the worst kings of Judah got into my head and wouldn’t leave.
Please allow me to briefly bring our esteemed pastor into the discussion, in order to remove the pained or puzzled look from our faces. Some years back he pointed out a vital hallmark of Hebrew Scripture, namely that it is ultimately always about God, not the players on the shifting world stage. The story of Noah served as the perfect illustration. Say the name and you automatically think of the ark, the animals, and the flood. From the classic Hebrew perspective, the story is about God’s broken heart over the ruin of His beloved creation, terminally infested with the violence spawned by rebellion.
2 Kings 18:5-6 states this: “Hezekiah trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. He held fast to the LORD and did not cease to follow Him; he kept the commands the LORD had given Moses.” Early in his reign the radical reformer smashed a historical “monument” that had become a snare to his people. It concerned Nehushtan, the bronze snake that Moses had cast and set on a pole, as God’s healing prescription recorded in Numbers 21:8-9. Hundreds of years later, it had become an idol that was worshiped. Hezekiah hated that people loved burning incense to it, and ordered Nehushtan’s destruction. Ironically, that name meant “a mere piece of bronze.”
After Hezekiah had fallen mortally ill and begged God to heal him, Isaiah returned to the palace to confirm His change of mind in the matter. After his recovery, two significant events took place. Babylon sent envoys to congratulate the king, and much to the prophet’s dismay, he had shown the spies his treasure house. That meant easy pickings when their invasion took place and they knew where to look for the loot. Hezekiah also fathered sons and his oldest, Manasseh, became the longest ruling king – 55 years – over Judah. He threw out all his father’s reforms; vigorously promoted Baal worship; dealt with mediums and wizards, and burned his son as an offering. Manasseh seduced the nation “to do more evil than the nations had done whom the LORD destroyed before the people of Israel” (2 Kings 20:1-21:9). Eventually, the fed-up Assyrian king had Manasseh brought to Babylon and jailed him. There he humbled himself, confessed his sins, and received God’s pardon. Returned to Jerusalem, he excelled as king and reformer, as modeled by his illustrious father (2 Chronicles 33:13).
WHO then is this all about? GOD, naturally, our most trusted and beloved Sovereign! “Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end” (Isaiah 9:7).