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For the earlier parts of this historical coverage, see
DEDICATION, DESPERATION AND DECISION
We have been following salient
aspects of the history of
This, it is verificatory in stability, in unspirituality, and indeed, in the spirituality which came to those who sought and waited on the Lord, similar in their day as in ours; for while we have more light, and the Saviour has now paid for the redemption, it was long forecast, and in its terms (Romans 4), those of former days long acted (cf. Psalm 32).
Meanwhile, before we should launch into the period from Hezekiah to Manasseh, kings of Judah, in turn at once so outstanding for good and for evil, the latter leading on to the disasters soon to strike Judah, just as during the day of Hezekiah of Judah, total calamity broke the forever idolatrous Israel: there is a little further overview to seek.
Thus look back to Solomon, the son of David. Seeking for practical wisdom in his youth (II Chronicles 1:7-12), he obtained it in commerce, in war and in judgment in the nation, and in his time a massive and remarkable temple was built, using many of the prescriptions of Moses, but he indulged in the status symbol of many wives, and of these many came from foreign nations. Let us pause here. BEING FOREIGN is no sin, but BEING WRONG is one.
In Israel, the Lord had brought them from Egypt with many massive miracles, in the Exodus, and with Joshua He judged the Amorites and Canaanites in the Promised Land, having waited hundreds of years before taking this final step (cf. Genesis 15:15-16). His plan was for them to be a nation showing truth, praise of God and the way of life, and LIVING it!
In some ways they did this. Joshua was immensely helped and the people often did well; but they grew sloppy and began to grow into the evil, harsh and idolatrous customs of the land, such as are shown in the archeological information of Ras Shamra. These included throwing children into the fire in terms of worshipping idols (cf. the works of Ahaz, whom we studied last Sunday, in II Kings 16:3ff.). This type of spirit, conduct and mad worship was PRECISELY what God had forbidden, and instead of this, He had brought Israel into the land to remove such things, so that through their being pure and upright, all might see the wonderful way of the Lord (cf. Isaiah 43:21 – “this people I have formed for Myself. They shall declare My praise.”)
Solomon, however, despite many marvellous years, came to be misled by the foreign religions of his wives, and grew increasingly slack and lax in his old age (I Kings 11:26-40), and God called a person called Jeroboam to become king of the 10 tribes, other than Judah and Benjamin – but not until after Solomon’s death.
In fact, Solomon even sought to kill this man, showing you the futility of trying to handle God’s affairs yourself! but Jeroboam escaped, so that when Rehoboam, Solomon’s son became king, the foolish harshness of the young man led directly to the split in the kingdom, so that “Israel” now became the name of the 10 tribes which were in the North, who then with Jeroboam set up a golden calf for worship, thus tauntingly disregarding the call of God to purity, and worshipping like the empty heathen around them. However, God is not mocked!
Thus, several minor kings with murders and disorder followed in that land, until the day of the hauntingly wicked Ahab, whose efforts we have traced in terms of the work of Elijah, noting things like Mt Carmel and the legally clear cut result, the killing of the false prophets (Deuteronomy 18:20, I Kings 17-18), and the word of Elijah to Ahab, whose blood the dogs did indeed lick as predicted.
When Ahab died (and you may recall
the famous arrow shot into the air by one soldier, without specific target,
which in God’s providence ended by killing treacherous Ahab), his son Ahijah
soon also died, this time of sickness, and a line of evil and disorder
followed, eventually coming to abrupt change, after the violent death of King
Jehoram of Israel. This was a time not only of death for him, but for his royal
counterpart in Judah, Ahaziah. By an arrow, Jehu killed him in a sudden
surprise attack, following a joint battle of this king and King Ahaziah of
Four generations were promised Jehu (and each duly reigned), who however despite some reforms, himself lapsed into idolatry, till at the end of Israel, the northern sector bearing that name, was destroyed at the hand of the King of Assyria. On the way to this devastation, Jeroboam II had a long reign, but things deteriorated rapidly, the North being like an infested house, crawling with rats, sure to fall; and it fell. You see the picture of the principle here, in Amos 7:1-9).
Hosea, Amos and Micah were amongst those who prophesied in this time, warning, appealing, but the nation did not hear.
We followed this line of events to Isaiah and his dealings with Ahaz of Judah, a king who scorned with subtle talk*1, the great offer God made to him (Isaiah 7, II Chronicles 27:5-16), and so found real trouble even in the last days of Israel to the North, being humiliated by a massive attack killing some 120,000, leading to the capture of many of the people of Judah: and this, even through the ebbing power of that dying Northern kingdom!
How low can you fall, when even that which is dying defeats you! *1
However, after this defeat of
Now we are ready for our main
features today, dealing with Hezekiah and preparing for King Manasseh. This son
of the great King Hezekiah was one of the worst ever to be found: for it was
his works which moved
First however, before Manasseh came on the scene, note from all this, and from the deliverance we have already seen for Hezekiah (II Kings 32, Isaiah 36-37), as from the steps in Hezekiah’s life, a vital lesson on consecration, dedication, devotion to God and doing what Paul says in Romans 12:1:
“I beseech you
therefore brethren, by the mercies of God,
that you present your bodies a living sacrifice,
holy acceptable to God,
which is your reasonable service,
and do not be conformed to the world,
but be transformed by the renewing of you mind,
so that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
Do not fool with your body, your mind or your spirit, but yield them to God for His service.
This Hezekiah did, and you see in successive chapters (in II Chronicles 29-31) what he did.
1) In II Chronicles 29, you observe
his ZEAL, his CLEANSING of what was corrupt, his INSISTENCE on justice and
truth, his provision of music for joyous praise of God, covenanting with God.
You note in II Kings 18:5, that HE TRUSTED in the Lord (faith without works
is DEAD as James declares in 2:17, so that A LOT happened as he trusted in
God!). He HELD FAST TO THE LORD (II Kings 18:6). In 18:9ff. you see that it was
in his time, that
2) In II Chronicles 30 you find the
enormous Passover work, so that all the evil of Ahaz, his father was being
successively undone, the bastions of folly excavated and shattered. In II
Chronicles 30:10, you find Hezekiah appealing to the residue of
When indeed some technical fault arose in the sacrificing, he sought the mercy of God and the completion of things in a sound spirit, II Chronicles 30:16-19):
“May the good Lord provide atonement for everyone who prepares his heart to seek God, the LORD God of his fathers, though he is not prepared according to the purification of the sanctuary, “ he prayed. “And the LORD listened to Hezekiah and healed the people,” it continues. God wants people to worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4).
3) In II Chronicles 31, we find Hezekiah ORGANISING temple worship, ensuring diligence and conformity to the will of God in all the religious areas, cleansing, correcting, providing, and it ends with this, “… in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, in the law and in the commandment, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart. So he prospered.”
So we have had reform, purging, purification, construction, organisation, sincerity and zeal. Now comes
We have seen principles of purity, consecration and sincerity, and the practice of abiding in the word of God. Now we come to the STRENGTH UNDER TEST. Who is strong but the Lord, and when you are near Him, there is the strength (Psalm 57:2, 62:11, Isaiah 66:1-2 – verses worthy of careful reading and thought!).
Thus we arrive at the magnificent results. Hezekiah had PREPARED his life, his nation, the temple life, and been KEEN on the correct paths of righteousness, justice and faith, and we read that with “all his heart” he had followed the Lord, doing what was needed in his nation.
Suddenly, the King of Assyria, so
foolishly made a place of help, of appeal, by Ahaz (though in the end there was
no help), became aroused. This appears to have been some 8 years after the fall
of Samaria, capital city of the now devastated northern kingdom of
Don’t play with the world and its ways – James 4:4 confirms this pithily:
“Whoever wants to be a friend of the world, makes himself an enemy of God.”
Now again we have steps, this time four of them.
The boast is continued all the more when Rabshakeh of Assyria finds that other kings are now warring against his master! (II Kings 18:9-10). Time for a quickly snatched victory in the face of this new onset against Assyria sets its propaganda machine in full motion, it seems! How cunningly does this emissary make his case to tempt Israel to submit! (II Kings 18:22ff.). Confusing the CLEANSING of forbidden places of worship, and fallen ways, with a DIMINUTION of service to the Lord, rather than a purification according to His own commandments, Rabshakek tries to make the people feel that it is hopeless to trust in the Lord.
The opposite was in fact the case, but fear can so freeze the mind, and distance from the Lord, the heart, that the devil or his ambassadors can make relatively easy work when there is in fact no scope at all: so be warned, and be valiant in life, against all his temptations, reconfigurations and boisterous pretence. In particular know the word of God.
Indeed, the specific thrust that the other gods of other cities could not and did not deliver their peoples was fatal: this was a direct tilt at the objective reality of God (( Chronicles 32:17), in relation to His people, when the nation had not only purged the evils vigorously (cf. II Chronicles 31:2), and shown pity for the desolated people of Israel (II Chronicles 30:8ff., but made, under God, useful preparations (II Chron. 32:3ff.). In these however Hezekiah showed NO signs of trusting. The LORD ONLY was His court of appeal, and to Him he intimated his need.
The RESPONSE of the King followed. He was neither confused, intimidated nor careless. II Kings 18:36-19:19 now supplies us with the details of HOW Hezekiah responded to the challenge! To the temple he went. In prayer, in application to the prophet, in wise procedure (), in supplication to the Lord, and REASONING WITH the Lord, of righteous things (-19).
The WORD OF GOD through
the prophet is the next step.
Isaiah replied to those sent to him by the king: 19:21-34.
“The virgin, the daughter of Israel, has despised you,
laughed you to scorn.
“Whom have you reproached and blasphemed ?
Against whom have you raised your voice,
And lifted up your eyes
on high ?
Against the Holy One of
By your messengers you have reproached the Lord,
And said, ‘By the multitude of my chariots,
I have come up to the height of the mountains,
To the limits of
Read the message in II Kings 19:20-31. It is vastly stirring.
4) The prediction of the Lord is then followed by its performance.
This time the CASE is immediate, the FAITH is acute, the THREAT is total and the ANSWER matches the word of the LORD. Sennacherib of Assyria is subjected to slaughter – meteorological, supernatural, we do not know; but the result we know. 180,000 troops died. Corpses, not Army corps remained! Sennacherib went back in disgrace to Nineveh, the capital, and there in due time his sons killed him WHILE he was engaging in idol worship (II Kings 19:35-37).
You see this also in Isaiah 36-38. You would do well to read it there, so increasing your familiarity with the words of this major prophet.
The interested student should continue with Hezekiah, and then on to Manasseh. There is much drama, and here we see that one must not only do all that Hezekiah did, but ALSO BE CAREFUL not to stray, or to be lifted up in success. The King lasted, first being delivered from the threat of death by sickness (II Kings 20), and continued well, except for one act of vast imprudence (Isaiah 39), unwise and worldly on one occasion; but it was his son, Manasseh, who like the grandfather Ahaz, yet if possible more so, did evil as if it were good. Evil he did, with both hands and vastly! This sealed the fate of Judah, though “only” for 70 years in exile in Babylon.
What is the portent of such things ?
Therefore be STRONG, COURAGEOUS, SINCERE but also BE CAREFUL NOT to slip in spirit, even in heart, and in not hearing that ‘still, small voice’ (I Kings 19:12), for you must be aware that there are diseases of the spirit as well as of the mind and the body. Remember therefore Romans 12:1-2 as noted above, and make it your practice to “die daily” (I Corinthians 15:31), giving yourself in joy of heart and happiness of spirit to the Lord, for His service, which is your reasonable action as Christians. If anyone this morning is not a Christian, be sure your sin will find you out; instead, let the LORD FIND YOU OUT, live within (Colossians 1:27), and clean you out, so that your life is His, covered by His death for you as Isaiah describes so carefully, inspired by the Lord, in Ch. 53.
The inherently unbelieving may not wish to die daily, to live continually in and for, through and by Christ ? So be it. He however is the way, and the pursuit of any other, being nothing of Christ, is nothing of Christianity. Have not kings, indeed, as we have just been seeing, done just that, and appeared as exponents of hell rather than heaven ? and did not Christ Himself speak in just such terms even of time-serving prelates or religionists (one might say times-serving, for cultural addicts, following always the latest and dullest of anti-biblical leers as if it belonged to church people, in some unhappy cases) ?
Christ’s words on this are to be found in Matthew 23:15,
“and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves!”
*1 In fact, of course, AHAZ had FAILED to accept the offer through Isaiah, “make it high, going upwards, make it low, going below”, and hence to gain any benefit from the enormous offer God then made, even that majestic in scope, to match the heights, lowly in coverage, to match the depths, astounding, monumental and more, the very sublime action of deity.
THAT is what Ahaz ignored; THAT is the scope and coverage of what God provided, though to the sinuously rebellious and unbelieving king, in his own boisterous day, He provided the King of Assyria in rebuke for his pains (Isaiah 7:17ff.).
FOR those whom it WOULD concern, in that generation when the Christ WOULD and did come (as specified in Daniel 9 cf. More Marvels… Ch. 4), however, the Lord was careful to provide from His vast reservoir of grace. NOT ONLY was there to come, as it HAS come, this astounding phenomenon, the virgin birth “the virgin shall conceive”, or as Young translates Studies in Isaiah, “Behold the virgin, child-bearing”, a complete effrontery to the normalcy of nature; but far, far more. The PRODUCT of this child-bearing would be one to be called, GOD WITH US. Untouched by man, she would therefore not be unmoved by God Himself (as in Luke 1:35, when the predicted event was unrolled into history).
Without a father from among the sinners of mankind, the child would be the direct presencing of God, “Immanuel”. BECAUSE the son of a virgin, the ascription of deity’s criteria to Him in 9:6-7, is not only not surprising; it is essential to coherence. As always, the Bible is long on coherence, for always all of it coheres, as is the way with truth. (Cf. SMR pp. 770ff..)
Thus, as confirmed in Isaiah 9, where is to be found the prince whose kingdom never ceases in peace and prevailing (9:7), the son of David, as promised from of old, there are other names accorded to this being. Yes in one who is God Himself, we find He is also NAMED “THE MIGHTY GOD,” “WONDERFUL,” the “EVERLASTING FATHER.” After all, when GOD represents God (as in Psalm 45, Zechariah 2:8, 12:10, Isaiah 48:16, Micah 5:1-3, Psalm 2), the Father is exposed THROUGH the Son.
As Jesus this same Christ put it, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father,” a blasphemy as childish as monumental if He were NOT God on earth (cf. John 5:19-23, Colossians 1:19ff.), and a necessity as clear as Isaiah himself, for the Messiah, since this was and remains His status in service! In the Christ is all the fullness of the Godhead, both in time, increate, in power, “all power” (Matthew 28:19-20) and in performance, neither sickness nor death, even His own, being barriers to His action, or limits to His dynamic.
Dallying with Destiny
Today, we concentrate on the days of Hezekiah following his massive deliverance from Sennacherib of Assyria, his further deliverance followed by an amazingly insensitive error; and then move to Manasseh, his extraordinarily depraved son, who for all that gained no small mercy from the Lord. From his day, Northern Israel being already in ruin since early in Hezekiah’s reign, the South, Judah, itself became a scene in some ways like the last days of Israel, if in some ways less spectacular in its evil.
Thus in Judah, Amon,
Manasseh’s son, Hezekiah’s grandson, followed evil as though it were his
football team, but the whole decline was suddenly interrupted by Josiah, a king
of valour and industry, sensitivity and compassion, zeal and action, who
prolonged the peace of the corrupted nation for some time, though he died early
in opposing the King Necho of Egypt, hurrying to battle, indeed to that battle
of Carchemish in which at 605 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar defeated Egypt. It was this
which extended its power and was a prelude to the taking of
After Josiah, in
With this disgrace, there came a short further period before Jerusalem’s destruction. In this, Nebuchadnezzar made Jehoiakin’s uncle to be king, calling him Zedekiah, and a more equivocating and contrary king it might hard to find. We read of him in Jeremiah, of his weakness in allowing offended princes to put Jeremiah into a pit where he could have suffocated, in allowing a palace eunuch who pitied him, to rescue him, and in seeking a secret meeting with the prophet, seeking what he should do (Jeremiah 38:14ff.).
It was Jehoiakin’s father Jehoiakim who had burned the prophetic scroll of Jeremiah in his winter’s fire, receiving but disgrace and ignominy for it; and now his uncle, Zedekiah could be seen in similar follies. Jeremiah warned him NOT to fight the Babylonians, and advised that the Lord could and would deliver the city, if he took care and surrendered. However King Zedekiah seemed to fear ridicule at the hands of others who had already surrendered or been taken, and rejected the advice.
In fact, the poor deluded man tried at length to escape with an army, but being overtaken by Nebuchadnezzar as they were fleeing, he suffered the sight of his sons being killed before his eyes, and the affliction of his eyes which had seen these things, then being put out by the hostile and merciless king, against whom this Zedekiah had rebelled.
So fell Judah and Jerusalem, to be under Babylon, just as Jeremiah had predicted, for 70 years (Jeremiah 25). What God had told Zedekiah and others before him, quietly took place, and all the follies and efforts were not merely spectacularly foolish. They added suffering. From this we learn to take by faith what God gives, not trying to alter the controls. At times He gives challenge for courage, and at other times, requirement for quietness. We have to follow His word, and not become ‘long-headed’, working out our own wisdom, as if it could replace the word of God! “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 110:10); and while there is more, without a beginning, there can be no end!
It was Ezra and Nehemiah whose
amazingly disciplined and adventurous works, blessed by God WHEN THE TIME CAME,
after the 70 years, were to result in the rebuilding of the city and the
renewal of the region for
So did Jehoiakim, Jehoiakin and Zedekiah dally with destiny, for none had been righteous. So did Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggia, Zechariah deal with wisdom.
In mercy, God allowed liberty to Jehoiakin in Babylon, after some 37 years as a captive, for Evil-Merodach of Babylon gave him prominence after so long. Starting to do evil, as all of these kings did, led to evil in that young man’s life. Sow the wind, reap the whirl-wind, morally, mentally, socially, financially perhaps, but certainly spiritually, and God has His own ways of rebuke; for the decline from the end of Josiah’s reign onwards was horrendous, until the end came in 586 B.C.. Read Lamentations and savour it! Jews did not have to wait till Auschwitz to find the tender mercies of men!
Now that we have reviewed the last phases of Judah, to its captivity, and considered the restoration, slow and painful but steadfast and sure, 70 years later, it is time to reflect that Jeremiah, who suffered under king Zedekiah, had also predicted the coming of Christ (Jeremiah 23:5-7), just as Daniel had predicted (himself one of those earlier deported to Babylon as a youngster for training) the death date of Christ (Daniel 9:24-27). It is this which in all accuracy astounds the mind, but after all, God has invented time, and to see its end is nothing to Him, just as it is a small thing for you and for me to look in SPACE, far off, and see the distant mountains (cf. Isaiah 46:10).
Thus these prophets, and Zechariah especially, joined Isaiah from the days of Ahaz and Hezekiah, in mighty prediction of the work and meaning of the coming of the Messiah. Here as One not only to stand fast, but to pay the price for sin for all who received Him (Isaiah 53, I Peter 2).
With this background in place, allowing that sober knowledge which assists understanding, which is one of the great and sharpest instruments of Christian Apologetics, since data in this as in science, need to be known in order to be applied, we now move to consider the four chief features which we have been holding back for careful thought.
His slackness with the ambassadors from Babylon (not to be trifled with, as one can now see, having looked at the END of the matter down to poor Zedekiah, whose eyes were lost).
Manasseh’s reign of terror, not in imposing evil merely, but sharing it out, as if the governor gave machine guns to the city, but these, they were guns of assault on God, idolatry and burning of children.
Josiah’s marvellous reign of recovery, reformation and restoration, before that final splash of folly to follow his reign, this young monarch being the last good king before the end!
Following the defeat of
Sennacherib of Assyria, Hezekiah was given much for the praise of God. Had not the
Lord just sent away the pride of the earth, in cruel
This teaches us to watch in triumph, for Hezekiah became so sick, that death threatened. His song of woe is striking, his heart all but broken (Isaiah 38:10-20 records this). It may seem amazing, but when he was so very sick, soon after the victory, Isaiah went to his bedside and called on him to PUT HIS HOUSE IN ORDER!
How often can ‘success’ make us neglectful, self-assured! God heard Hezekiah’s prayer, so that what was threatening his early death, was removed. Isaiah gave him a simple remedy which blessed by God, led to recovery. “I have added fifteen years to your life,” the Lord declared.
AFTER this prophecy, and BEFORE the recovery, Hezekiah, being greatly stirred, wanted confirmation from God that he would indeed recover.
What, asked Isaiah the prophet, do you want ? the shadow on the sun-dial to go backwards or to go forwards, ten degrees ? (II Kings 20:9ff.). Backwards! exclaimed Hezekiah, for it was easier, he felt, to advance time, or rather its measurement by sun-dial, than to make it actually go backwards. Backwards it went, in a fascinating astronomical action, one possible cause of which could have been an alteration of the angle of axis, a near approach of a planet or large body; and this has been examined by various parties. Whatever the means God chose, however, the result, as in the resurrection of Christ, is what counts!
2 HEZEKIAH’s ERROR
Now that good King Hezekiah was
better, however, in II Kings 20:12ff., we read of him receiving ambassadors,
In fact, Hezekiah not only received them but showed them EVERYTHING, including the riches of the temple! How important that event was to become, may be considered in the light of the work of Nebuchadnezzar, after Josiah’s death, in bringing out these sacred and precious things, and taking them to Babylon. What then does this teach us ?
DO NOT CAST YOUR PEARLS BEFORE SWINE, as Jesus put in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:6). There are things not to be shared with the unbeliever, because he does not understand, and his grasp is wrong.
DO NOT MAKE FRIENDS WITH THIS WORLD (James 4:4), for it is contrary to God and not to be trusted.
DO GOOD but do not mix your heart with the hearts of the enemies of God. In this world is light and darkness, are children of God and of the devil (cf. John ). To ignore it is to come close to ignoring God! Christ did not ignore it, as clearly shown in John 8, which should be read in detail.
DO NOT MIX WITH UNBIBLICAL CHURCHES, for although no church is perfect, there is a different plane of life, when rebellion against the word of God is practiced. In fact it is FORBIDDEN to have fellowship with those called Christians, who depart from the Bible (Romans 16:17, Ephesians 5, II John, I Corinthians 5:9-13, 6:8-10). It is not the NAME TAG which matters, but the FAITHFULNESS to God, the honouring of Christ and the pursuit of His word as treasure (where but in Psalm 119 do you find such a treatment of that topic!).
Do you remember who else made a vast and almost deadly mistake in this same matter ? It was King Jehoshaphat, another fine king! Do good to all, but do not share your heart or fellowship with what is evil, far less with what does this and dares to use the name of Christ (I Corinthians 5:9-13)! Do not ever add your own name to this error! We have these scriptures that we might LEARN from them (cf. II Timothy , a good verse to memorise, to allow the mind to play upon it, and find its features at leisure!).
3 MANASSEH’S DALLYINGS
For this error of Hezekiah, Isaiah
announced the result. Although the king himself would be protected in place
till his death, the kingdom would taken away by
If Hezekiah had restored the temple and scene of spirituality after the deadly wrongs of wayward Ahaz, that master of idolatry and double-talk, then Manasseh, taking over the monarchy at just 12 years of age, proceeded to rebuild the forbidden high places of pagan worship in the land! Baal worship was to become once more a specialty, even the temple becoming, as with Ahaz, a site for expansion of religious abominations. NOTHING was sacred! Even in the temple, he massed the remembrances of “all the host of heaven”, probably worship concerning the heavens and related imaginary beings.
This was not enough for this child
of Hezekiah, never himself slain in the flames! His sons had to pass through
the idolatrous fires, witchcraft had its new day, fortune telling arose like a
black mist, mediums with their evil powers or quackery, were in vogue. One
remembers, incidentally, that Princess Diane and her intended new husband
visited some kind of fortune teller, by helicopter in
Not yet satisfied, Manasseh brought
Christianity is NOT a field for folly (Romans 6 shows you this), but a scope for spirituality. On that, see Luke 6:46-49!
Hypocrisy has been a game since Judas, but it is not a name for the saint. Remember the word of God to David after his (very unusual) terrible sin, with Uriah and Bath-Sheba ?
That is always most poignant. I WOULD HAVE DONE THIS AND THAT FOR YOU, God told him afterwards, but now there would be discipline! What father does not seek good for his children, but when they dash it away in folly, where is the gift! (cf. II Samuel 12:6-8).
It is here that we must leave Manasseh, so that we may complete his amazing story next week, DV, and then ponder the delight that is the life of Josiah, the last good king before the Fall.
Before we withdraw our eyes from this King for the time, let us hear these lovely words, thus because so loving and tender, and yet true and just, from Isaiah 48:17-20:
Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer,
Holy One of
“I am the Lord your God,
Who teaches you to profit,
Who leads you by the way you should go.
Oh, that you had heeded My commandments!
“Then your peace would have been like a river,
And your righteousness like the waves of the sea.
“Your descendants also would have been like the sand,
And the offspring of your body like the grains of sand;
His name would not have been cut off
Nor destroyed from before Me.”
“Go forth from
Flee from the Chaldeans!”
Do you see here the deep yearning of God, our Father ? Do not then do what is wrong, do not dally with destiny, avoid the double-talk of Ahaz, the weak meanders of Zedekiah, who lost his eyes in any case. Do not follow Manasseh, in wild splurges, secret surges or open follies of misplaced energy.
Become filled with grace, be filled with the Spirit of God, love God and life becomes so much simpler. It takes courage, but what is that ? Is not courage good spent on a good thing ? It takes sincerity, but what is that, do you want to be devious like some tortuous and twisting road ?
SEEK OUT GOOD like Hezekiah, show mercy indeed, and be filled with the works that speak what the words have already said. Be wise in your own day, and have no regrets for the indulgence of the flesh, whether in mind, body or spirit! Cultivate work and walk on the highway of holiness (Isaiah 35:8).
THE GLORY AND THE SURPASSING GLORY
In our third look at these historical developments, we come to specialise further also in the third of the four features remaining, mentioned earlier, “Manasseh’s dallyings” but with this, we move into the richer pastures of his amazing change.
We have left Manasseh in the midst of the factories of doom, as yet prospering in follies which the imagination could do but little to enhance. From this preliminary glance, we have moved back to the vitalising experience of watching Hezekiah, for although there was some sullying at the end, it was but slight compared with the actions of many of the kings, and serves to sharpen our appreciation of the major thrust of the king’s godly life.
Manasseh, for his part, now begins to reap the whirlwind. Now we find him turning to afflict the innocent, pervert justice and this in grand measure. The epaulettes of a dictatorial squandering of sovereignty in the aggrandisements of power, the pursuit of wilfulness mottled with the acne of arbitrariness, proceed as if inadvertently. That, it is what his life is simply becoming (II Kings ).
With this phase of his life, Kings leaves him, but in II Chronicles we find more.
First, in II Chronicles 33:10, we find that deliciously succinct, and so often repeated action of the mercy of God: “And the LORD spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they would not listen.”
How often is this the case! Only this week, the author was speaking to a relative, and such was the result. Left without rational base for his unbelief, and declaring he did not “give a damn” whether his view was logically admissible, it was HIS own, he pursued a course in which not mere physical flames, but worse, the deprivations of destiny afflict more than anything on this earth; for is it not that hope is the refreshment centre of tragedy, especially if it be hope in God ? but when hell flashes its awful ire, presenting the just results in anguished detail (cf. Isaiah 14, Mark 9), there IS NO HOPE.
It is for this reason that one retains hope, even in such a case as this, that the ‘impossible’ will come, the arbitrary acts of desire will fade, and light may yet be found.
Certainly, at least in substantial measure, this is what happened to Manasseh.
us trace the story of it. BECAUSE, we read, of this failure to hear the pitiful
approach of the LORD, He brought on
What is it like ? It is like some truck driver hurtling down the new Freeway, cut with tunnels into the mountain, approaching an end and carrying his passengers with him. Suddenly, the speed too great, he flashes off the road onto the sand filled trap which brings him with a rush, to still. The jolt is amazing, but destruction is averted. The humiliation may be keen; but the blood remains in the body.
here is Manasseh, hooks for his huffing, fetters for his unfettered will,
Such is the wonder of the LORD, that when this was the case, Manasseh did not merely pray. He IMPLORED the Lord, and “humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers”. The Lord heard him. What sweetness is in that! One could cry like some mangy cat at the door of some desired home, some feral roamer seeking admittance, and be never heard; but Manasseh was surely heard. It was as in Psalm 106:43-46:
“Many times He delivered them;
But they rebelled in their counsel,
And were brought low for their iniquity.
“Nevertheless He regarded their affliction,
When He heard their cry;
And for their sake He remembered His covenant,
And relented according to the multitude of His mercies.
He also made them to be pitied
By all those who carried them away captive.”
Again in Psalm 145:18-19, the principle stands:
“The Lord is near to all who call upon Him,
To all who call upon Him in truth.
He will fulfil the desire of those who fear Him;
He also will hear their cry and save them.”
“After this, Manasseh knew the LORD was God.”
might have known before (cf. Romans -20), but he declined.
With him, only the most dramatic, intensive and decisive actions brought back
consciousness, cognisance and capacity to learn; only divine action brought
human rest from riot, only reeling sounded the trumpet as if by some
communications network, for rally. God acted, as only He can. Back to
Manasseh, such was the mercy of God, that back he came to his home. To
fortifications he gave himself (II Chronicles 33:14ff.), to purifications, so
that as he built up, he broke down, reinforcing the city, but removing the base
of its weakness within. The false gods which he had brought even to the temple
precincts, now he cast out of the city. The altar of the LORD, like a latter
day Elijah, but without
The people followed somewhat. They made sacrifices to the LORD only, on their residual “high places”, but not only in the temple. The charge downwards was arrested; a braking occurred, but the soul of the nation was sullied anew.
came this travesty, tragedy and relief to its end. Ammon his son reigned and
just as history can amaze in its testimony to obduracy, so this young man gave
himself without any humbling, to the evil follies in which no doubt he had
grown up, so that he reaped the reward in murder at the hand of his servants.
The lesson was before him; but it was lost. His life also was lost. But before
Josiah’s marvellous reign of
recovery, reformation and restoration
Now we find the interruption before that final splash of folly to follow his godly reign, this young monarch, Josiah, living with vital will and a thrust that seemed fired and inspired from on high, himself the last good king before the end! In some ways like Hezekiah, whose largeness of heart, merciful disposition and amplitude of constructiveness were delightful to observe, Josiah was in the midst of a ruin greater than that of Ahaz, for the people were by now in successive years and reigns of evil, more and more habituated to evil itself, like some genetically modified form of life, with untold contributions made now in this, now in that sphere, with the multiplying disadvantages of ignorance contriving to live with the input intended.
A mere 8 years of age at
his inauguration, Josiah unlike his grandfather Manasseh, king at 12, did not
abort truth, insult justice, outrage righteousness and waylay worship; but
instead did the precise opposite, as far as any man might hope to perform
without an even greater and more wonderful contribution of power and presence
from the Lord. He concentrated on recovery, like those who seek to refloat a
stricken tanker, stuck on the sand. With an address and gleam of faith, he
moved mountains and worked a rescue mission so vast, that it seemed as if the
darkness of Manasseh and Amon, had all but turned into the following day. That
day was short. How Jeremiah mourned it, for the King was killed in battle,
opposing Pharoah Necho on his way to defeat from
In Lamentations you read it (),
“The breath of our nostrils, the anointed of the LORD,
\Was caught in their pits,
Of whom we said, ‘Under his shadow
We shall live among the nations.’”
The manner of his death is unique. It was a deliverance, a bounty, a blessing and a reward!
Early in his reign, he had the administrators take care of the temple finances with some address, so that funds for the rebuilding of the ruins of earlier times, could proceed with zest and efficiency. Tradesmen had to be paid, funds had to be deployed.
In the process of this due and just industriousness, Hilkiah, the high priest told the scribe Shaphan, this delightful but potentially perilous fact: “I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the LORD.” This is sufficiently amazing as an expression of how far things had gone. Here is a formal copy of a central component FOUND! Not merely neglected, it was misplaced. When it was brought to Josiah, he tore his clothes. He realised swiftly, as was his wont, that the depravity was not merely to be found in ruins and unruliness, but in ignorance as well. Does this not however give us a vital lesson. DO WHAT YOU CAN, attack your clear duty, and who knows what treasures and tasks may arise, like pearls below the much, enabling far greater things than ever envisaged to take place!
Josiah did not hesitate. To the priestly party, the King gave command (II Chronicles ):
“Go, enquire of the LORD
for me, for the people and for all
The King, so unlike his predecessors of two generations in the course of his life, followed the rules, but equally sought with spirit the thing that is right, before God, indeed, and that with faith! To Huldah the prophetess went Hilkiah, and they gained this message, to tell the man who sent them,
“Thus says the LORD: ‘Behold, I will bring calamity on this place and on its inhabitants – all the words of the book which the king of Judah has read – because they have forsaken Me and burned incense to other gods, that they might provoke Me to anger with all the works of their hands. Therefore My wrath shall be aroused against this place and shall not be quenched.’ ”
If you read Deuteronomy 32 with Leviticus 26 you will readily discern the scene: this was precisely that CUMULATIVE situation, where gross sin on grievous would bring successive disciplines, and the one following, though not quite the final and worst one, which came for millenia after the national rejection of the prophet to come (Deuteronomy 18), the Messiah transcending Moses, was still severe in its impact on the people.
Indeed it reached the scope of horrendous tragedy. The long stretch of divine mercy for hundreds of years, the more emphasised both the sin and the judgment: for the one had lingered long, and the other, though also delayed, come to its fulfilment suddenly.
From their land they would go, if
only for 70 years on this occasion, yet 70 years ? Men go to war and fight for
5 years and it may seem a life-time, but this exile, for 70 years would see the
babes near the grave, a delay even longer than that of the wandering when
This, then, in the whole context, was the position. But Josiah, he was in a very special context of his own! This, it was not because he was king, but because of fealty, faithfulness, sincere faith that like all faith that is so indeed, found its legs.
To him, then, specifically also, there came through the prophetess, this word:
“Concerning the words which you have heard – because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before the LORD when you heard what I spoke against the place and against it inhabitants, that they would become a desolation and accurse, and you tore your clothes and wept before Me, I also have heard you, says the LORD.
“Surely, therefore, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes shall not see all the calamity which I will bring to this place.”
There you find, then, the apparent oxymoron of history, an early grave as a final grace! Yet consider now the anguish and the grief avoided. Currently, one is reading a quite fascinating book containing the letters to an “English gentlewoman”, wife of a highly placed officer, of an Indian judge (The Letters of an Indian Judge to an English Gentlewoman). He had, when a student at Cambridge, been in England; and it was her social tact and grace which made an enormous difference to the shy young man’s feelings of being alien, inferior and degraded, since there was a ready air of acceptance and kindness which did not differentiate because of the colour of the face. As the phrase above indicates, this is a book of long ago, perhaps a century!
account is entirely from the letters, now published, which he wrote to her, as
an emblem of grace, of
The hope that high spirits would become wiser maturity was suddenly dashed, like a fighter doing aeronautics, suddenly stalling and crushing itself into the ground, with apparent passion. The social ostracism which he was to suffer because of this, though tempered by some who would visit him AT NIGHT, in case it would affect their careers! the grief of heart, the sickness of the son, who failed to commit suicide, by a small margin, after the assassination, the fear of what would happen if he recovered, the father’s lament for his loss, all these things were like splinterings from a piece of timber, so that when he had an operation, apparently he died, just as he had indeed felt little desire to continue.
The anatomy of this grief is poignant, tenderly presented in his letters, and appalling in its rodent thrust into his life.
To King Josiah, such a period of life was not to come.
UNSPARING AND YET SPARED!
From such things, then, Josiah was to be spared. His vigour, ingenuity and address would have full scope, but before the curtain should begin to fall on such an Act as this, and the gloom and thrust of obliterative destiny should descend on the nation – something which Jeremiah lamented to the full in his Lamentations, as he continued in his prophetic task – Josiah was gone.
In battle he went; not in sickness. In seeking to protect his land, he fell, not in falling with it. Such was the blessing, that in the full vigour of manhood, he did his splendid task, and in that very vigour, in the heights of protection for his people, he went. If his life was relatively short, his reign was relatively long, begun at 8 years of age. If his program was suddenly halted, his profile was not hated. In the magnificence of his task, he went, not limping, not hobbled, but alert with energy, alight with dynamism. Such is his contribution to history.
Yet there is more even than this. Josiah is obviously a type of Christ – his life embracing a series of actions symbolising aspects of the work of the Lord, which however only He could actually perform, since redemption is only for the sinless to perform, and satiety for justice is only for deity Himself to encompass for so many, those with such sins as are attributable without Him, to the redeemed!
He was young when called, just as Christ came as a babe. He was zealous from the first, just as was Christ, as seen at the temple, at 12 years of age (Luke -52). His call was for reformation, culminating in death. His zeal was to unmask the follies of generations, and confront with the word of God, the actions of his nation. In all these things, he is a type of Christ.
Then there is more to tell, for how could we finish before he does! He fulfilled the word of God with a lively and intelligent zeal, as when he burned on the altar the bones of the idolaters (II Kings 23:16), exhuming them for the purpose of enacting what God had said through the prophet, long before, that thus it would be (II Kings 13:2), Yes, “men’s bones shall be burned on you”, the prophet had said in derogation of the vile and idolatrous altar set up by Jeroboam, first king in the severed nation to the North, following that early civil war or division, which left Judah and Benjamin the much diminished residual nation to the South, with Jerusalem.
Indeed, he went further (II Kings ), in terms of the death penalty for idolatrous measures (Deuteronomy 13, 18), and so fulfilled the prophetic word. The nation had freely sought to be under divine jurisdiction (Joshua 24:19ff.), and this was a payment for the purgation and the purity required. They had defiled themselves and their children to the point that a far greater evil would befall them, than the executions in terms of the law. The whole people were coming to their flame of judgment, and here was one further stay on THAT proceeding.
Delightful is the care of Josiah, for on spying the grave of the prophet who had predicted just such a judgment on this foul, surrogate altar, this idolatrous trap, this concentrate of spiritual disease, he at once ordered that it be left untouched. Everything “meant”, counted, had its place; and the word of the Lord had first place in these proceedings, for as King, he meant to implement that which, in its absence, was like food for the starving, sustenance to the wandering, water to the thirsty, antibiotic to the fevered. It would be absent no more, he resolved, in his reign.
Carefully and thoroughly he dismantled the engines of evil (cf. II Kings 23:11ff.), and the roof altars of the kings, he pulverised. Better, in the end, to stop evil at its outset, than await its onset and all the gluttony of folly which swallows up life, in the end! This however was already near the end; yet here was a king who would display, as in a lecture to students, what was the way, however few might follow it in the end. To all generations, he has given a display, and if it led to his early death, then in that vast tapestry of glorious scenes, this has its place, never faded.
Mediums and spiritualists he likewise banished, household gods and the whole paraphernalia of aggressive wilfulness that paraded itself so ingloriously in the land, as if of all things, GOD did not matter.
Is it not similar today ? and is not
the approaching glut of disease and disaster, not merely predicted, but as if
anxiously requested from on high (Revelation 6, Matthew 24:7), by the
pure indolence and indifference of reception of evil, as if good were a
luxury and evil the highway! We have virtual atheists, pagans, agnostics,
spiritualists, pronouncers of the word of God from their own minds, teeming
here and preening there, as
It was there in Jeremiah’s day, in Josiah’s day, and on to Christ (cf. Malachi 2:17, 1:13-14) came the hideous deformation of spiritual truth, worship and life, so often castigated by God (Jeremiah 2:24-32). Their response to Him was an expression of their condition. We mirror ancient Israel so much, especially in lands like Australia, England and America, which have had so much of the wonder of the Lord, the blessings of His power, the elevation of their nations, that it is surely enough to cause even the perilously haphazard to consider, and the cultural denizens to pause.
was not, however, this reform of Josiah, enough to stay
After the death of Josiah, came a flurry of weakness, already traced earlier in this Appendix, and the nation, though enlivened in the much later days of the Maccabees, when a bombastic and sacrilegious foreign potentate*1 was confronted and much territory gained, came at length under the sway of Rome.
Great was the courage shown; but the deterioration of morals, the misuse and indeed abuse of the priesthood and its ‘plums’, its powers, these things brought on the day into which Christ came, a day of prostitution of religion to the point where Matthew 23, as we have already pondered, was one of the antidotes and X-rays.
That, it was from the lips of Christ, but this time the nation used its own methods of approach to such diction, moving far to obliterate the very face (Isaiah 52:12ff.).
With the Christ murdered, young but with consummation of His mission in this very fact, as seen from Isaiah 50-55, Psalm 22, Micah 5, there then came to Israel first that horrendous invasion by Rome around A.D. 70, in which the city had a dismantling just such as Christ had foretold (Matthew 24:1ff., Luke 19:42ff.), and a desolation just such as He had, some 4 decades earlier, already lamented (Luke 19:42ff.), indeed such as Daniel had forecast.
law of Leviticus 26 had its effect, but after some two millennia, the
predictive wonders from Ezekiel 36ff. (cf. SMR Appendix
A), and of Isaiah (cf. Heart and Soul, Mind and Strength Chs. 4ff.), of Micah (cf. Galloping Events
Chs. 1 and 8)
and Jeremiah ( cf. Jeremiah is more
than Jeremiad) have come to be. The great restoration has followed
the grand dispersion. Not Josiah but the God of history himself, has carefully
watched over His word, to perform it*2.
it is not
If truth were so insignificant, why was death for its breach so necessary ? Or if God hastens to perform His word, who are those who hasten to annul it that it needs no performance!
So do the confusions of folly anoint the eyes to blindness, with their potent potions; for of a surety, the word of God is ALWAYS fulfilled, never annulled; and where the preliminary is succeeded but the consummation, of course THAT is fulfilled (Hebrews 9ff.); but when the word is not subject to fulfilment, then man is subject to the word, not to earn his salvation, he could NEVER do that (cf. Romans 4), but with the relish of obedience, to exhibit love for the God who spoke it (John 14:21-23).
It is the too Israel-like
parallel, ancient folly for modern counterpart, which thrives in many false or
misled churches, to that annulling the word of God, as if saintly for the
practice, they inscribe their own feelings as if fit for the mouth of God. Do
you not see, moreover the parallel ? In
Thus are we finding just what the Lord has said concerning Israel and Jerusalem at length, their return to their homeland and to Jerusalem, after so long a time (cf. Romans 11, Zechariah 12:6, Isaiah 11:10 cf. SMR Appendix A, Ch. 9), and the Gentiles, alas, too high-minded in their frequent scorn of the Jew, are beginning spiritually to make neo-Jews of themselves, even in that very sacrilege in which the Christ was once murdered; for do not such Gentiles murder Him again to themselves, as far as may be, substituting their thoughts and words for His, this being the nearest to direct confrontation now permitted ? As to the Jew, moreover, did not thousands of these people constitute the early Church, were not the apostles Jewish, and was not Christ according to the flesh, a Jew!
Yet the Gentile world like the
Instead, with many Jewish people and Gentile citizens alike, let us rejoice in the zeal of Josiah as a pointer, and as the centre, in the redemption of Christ and His nearly approaching Second Coming (Acts 1:7-11, Luke 21:24ff.), and lift up our hearts.
Everything is on track, like a suburban train proceeding to its country destination, stop by stop. What would you expect ? It is always so with the Lord, who watches over His word to perform it. Nor is this some precisionist pastime, for in this is shown that faithfulness which even to death has been manifest in the crucifixion of Christ (cf. Matthew 26:52ff.), and that power which to resurrection is made manifest in His life, which continues to conquer many, and to direct the very matrix of history: for as He spoke, so it is (SMR Ch. 8); as He foretold, whether for His own life or the coming Age, so it transpires.
In this is the hallowed nature of history, the delightful reality of fact, the desirable commendation of data; and in NOTHING else is this the case. So have we pondered the history, so seen the application of principle and precept, moral and method, the impact of prediction and of power, in intimate detail able to see large, the print of the word, in the imprint of the dealings of God, interpreted in the text, and exhibited to history. Nothing changes here. It is written. It occurs.
What then of man’s wisdom ? Philosophy assassinates itself regularly, no generation having what is needed to sustain truth without God (cf. SMR Chs. 3, 10). Science passes like yesterday, re-doing its little sums, and finding ever new discoveries to drawf its prior findings, being out of date in much in one short century.
With God it is not so, for His word never strays, being equipped with knowledge; and the case is no different with His mercy which no less, is drawing many and suffusing all who come with reliability that is real, not vague or pompous. Indeed, His word His expression, as Christ is that definitive expression which once for all, has brought to man the very living ideologue*4 of the ideology, incarnation of the deity, flame of mercy, passion of truth, the presentation in man, as man, of God Himself personally.
For this reason, what man despises, the law of God, the Sermon on the Mount (if not in word, then in deed), it is this which man derides to his own derogation, living like orphans in a world with one Father, One carefully unknown (Romans 1:17ff.), while forgetting that living and eternal Word, Jesus Christ who has declared Him; for to the Father, it is he who is His constant companion (cf. Zechariah 12:10, 13:7, Micah 5:1-3, Psalm 45, Isaiah 48:16, 43:10-11 with Philippians 2:1-12), and due delight (John 8:29, Isaiah 41:29-42:6, Matthew 3:17).
*1 Antiochus Epiphanes, inheriting one of the four kingdoms left from the division of the Empire of Alexander the Great, appears as a bombastic and sacrilegious tyrant, one greatly deceived concerning his not so illustrious mission, where power seems to have surpassed glory by a vast margin.
3. Pompous words from ‘big mouth’, the dominant and domineering character to seek to preside over the central bureau of the antichrist (Daniel 7:8,20-21, cf. II Thessalonians 2:4ff.), are what is not needed. The truth is what is not heeded, in vast segments of the earth. Leaving the one, it gets the other. It is fitting and just; but undesirable and devious is this domain.
The term ‘ideologue’ is of much interest. It is always good to seek to adorn our language, so impressively equipped, one hears, with some million words, and most adaptable. We have ‘idealist’ with strict moral overtones, or abstractionist impact, or affirmation of the reality of mentality (quite a good idea in itself, for if it were not real, neither would any concept be, including that of matter); and we have ‘ideologist’, with a tendency for a highly technical meaning on the part of those who do not realise that in getting ‘sensations’ YOU are the whole being doing it, with all your mental equipment, intellectual acumen and functionality, and that you might as well isolate the sun, denying the cosmos, as try to remove the efficiency of the logic which enables you to formulate the theory, and its integrity. It is of course truly wonderful that when you DO follow logic (instead of baiting it, as in monism, so that you have no right to use what you discard at the outset), you reach the reality which verifies itself AS WELL! (cf. SMR Chs. 1, 10), and this without any competition!
As to ‘ideologue’, then, we could use a term which is relatively neutral in this, that it does not SPECIFY moral approaches, nor deride them, does not create philosophical penchants, but suffers amplitude, one which is strong on SYSTEMATIC IDEAS, and has just a tinge of morality and idealism in the sense of ideals, but not dramatically so. It would be a term to allow contextual force to shape it, merely stressing the significance of an arrangement of ideas, not excluding moral ones.
The word of course already exists, and may be found in the large Webster Dictionary, in the small print. It is seen there as meaning ‘ideologist’ with its strong technical penchant; but as Webster acknowledges, THAT term CAN have a broader meaning, even ‘visionary’.
There then is an opportunity to evacuate from ‘ideologist’ with its strong professional overtones, and to be free from any necessity to use ‘idealist’, which can have the same problem for some contexts, and to harness this term, ideologue, for something to be sure, short of fanaticism, simply BECAUSE it is insistent on logical arrangement and defensibility, and not merely intellectual, especially with its delightful close relationship to ‘theologue’ or theologian or student of theology.
A definition for this usage ? Perhaps this:
‘a systematist of ideas, logical visionary, zestful presenter of defended precincts of articulated concepts, reticulated reasoning, not excluding the moral’.