Today’s reading includes the reigns of Hezekiah (the latter portion), Manasseh, Amon, and part of Josiah’s. And although we’ve read about some of this history, there is new material presented here, which gives us some substantial food for thought.
Detractors often speak from ignorance — The official from Sennecherib, the king of Assyria, spoke boldly against the God of Israel and against king Hezekiah. He accused the LORD of not being strong enough to defeat Assyria and accused Hezekiah of dishonoring the God of Israel by taking away “His [God’s] high places and His altars”, and saying “you shall worship before one altar”. Sennecherib and his officials couldn’t imagine that the pattern of true worship was at the one altar at Jerusalem — it just wasn’t done that way anywhere else in his world. How little they knew about the one true God.
In my personal experience, the most common mistake of detractors of the LORD or His people is to argue from biblical ignorance and misunderstandings. Early Christians were sometimes accused of being incestuous cannibals, since they kissed their “brothers and sisters” and ate the “body and blood” of Jesus every Sunday. Nero accused the Roman Christians of being arsonists, because they spoke of a day when the world would be consumed in fire (the end of the world). In modern times Christians are sometimes accused of being judgmental, homophobic, ignorant hypocrites. Don’t be discouraged when it happens; it’s par for the course. Peter tells us that the best strategy against such ignorance is “Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.” 1 Peter 2:12, NAS95.
No return for the benefit — So is it true that God gives us things on a quid pro quo basis? Does anyone really have to ask? What could we really give to God? So, what did the Scripture mean, when it says that Hezekiah’s pride kept him from giving to God “no return for the benefit”? The return here is most likely (in my humble opinion) about the simple offering of thanks. What might pride (which is the stated culprit in this situation, 32:25) do that might find no place for a return for the benefit? Maybe a feeling of entitlement? “I’ve been a really good king. So many who came before me were neglectful, lukewarm kings. I’ve clean up a lot of their messes and restored a great deal of the religion and faith of the Jews. God owed me one.” So, thanks were never offered or felt. Do I sense someone saying, “How awful!” We must be careful, too. There is no extra credit, no seniority, God owes us nothing — though He gives us everything. Just because we can’t possibly repay Him for all He’s done, doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to thank Him in words or deeds of gratitude.
Great repentance — Manasseh was the champion bad king of all Judean history; did you get all the bad stuff he did? But as bad as he was, there was forgiveness. His wickedness brought God’s punishment upon himself, but in a Babylonian prison, Manasseh came to himself, repented, and returned to Jerusalem a changed man. He’s a lesson for any and all of us — see how much God is willing to forgive for our repentance? So next time Satan slanders the LORD by saying, “He’ll never forgive yo this time; there’s no need to even try;” remember Manasseh. Next time Satan tells you, “Your sin this time was simply beyond the pale, it was too bad;” remember Manasseh.
Because your heart was tender — King Josiah was reigning after a long national history of rejecting the LORD. Josiah recognized, as he read the Law, just how serious the situation was — that they were in extremely hot water with God. Yet Josiah’s repentance, his change of everything that he could change in his kingdom was overhauled to meet with God’s approval kept the impending disaster at bay. Why? “Because your heart was tender.” Is your heart tender? Is my heart as tender as it needs to be?
My eyes are dry
My faith is old
My heart is hard
My prayers are cold
And I know how I ought to be
Alive to You and dead to me
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.