Thursday, January 11, 2018 7:23:00 AM
“In his twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of high places, Asherah poles and idols.” 2 Ch. 34:3
A few years later after Josiah made a monumental decision that he would seek the Lord, the king realized it was time to take solid action to implement his belief. He started “to purge Judah and Jerusalem of high places, Asherah poles and idols.” He removed the high places where people went to worship the Lord and other deities to keep the religion holy and pure. Of course anything related to idolatry practiced during the previous years was taken down and demolished. The reformation conducted by the young king was thorough, leaving no remnants of idolatry behind in the nation to tempt the Israelites to backslide.
This is one of those outward things that people often neglect to practice after they have come to the Lord, thinking the remnants connected to their pagan lifestyle are unimportant. Some people even keep them for sentimental reasons, as if their sinful past were something worthy of remembering.
“It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret,” wrote the apostle Paul. Do we have a sense of shame and guilt when we mention the sinful deeds we did as a pagan? If so, why do some people seem to be gloating over them as if they were badges of honor?
To purge the sin we have committed is to get rid of its haunting memory, along with all the things that remind us of our filthy past; not to do so is to underestimate the seductive power of sin.
I have been rather cautious not to bring any article that has anything to do with idolatry into our house. The things may well be harmless, for idols are vanities, yet I do so for my own sake, because I simply don’t want to be reminded of the days of my youth when I was under the influence of the idol worship my family was practicing. It always causes me a great deal of discomfort when I smell the aroma of incense burning every time I go to a local Chinese grocery store. The aroma is indeed harmless, yet the memory it evokes may have an adverse effect on my psyche.
When our sins are cleansed by the blood of our Lord, our memory should also be purified as well, for to a certain extent we ourselves are our memories.
So there were good reasons behind what King Josiah did when he got rid of all the filth relating to idolatry that remained from the reigns of his father and grandfather. He intended to purge the collective memory of idolatry from an entire nation, lest it come back to haunt the people and to seduce them into going back to the old way of doing things.
Are we keeping some memorabilia related to our sinful past and do we often look at them with nostalgia?
Wednesday, January 10, 2018 6:30:00 AM
“In the eighth year of his reign, while he was still young, he began to seek the God of his father David.” 2 Ch. 34:3
What would I do as a young Christian if I had the opportunity to do it all over again? It has been forty some years since the day when I started my spiritual journey, and a lot of time has been wasted. Unfortunately, what I have become is not as I should be and what I am is a lot less than ideal. It frightens me when I ponder about what the end result of my being in this life will be. Will the Lord utter “that’s not what I had intended at all” when he looks at me in disappointment and disbelief.
King Josiah seemed to have done it right. “In the eighth year of his reign, while he was still young, he began to seek the God of his father David,” we read. He was sixteen years old by this time and he knew exactly what sort of man he wanted to become and proceeded to do what was necessary to accomplish his goal. “He began to seek the God of his father David.”
The young king had a crucial choice to make in his youth and the decision he was going to make would impact his entire life, either for good or for ill. He could have followed his father Amon and grandfather Manasseh’s way and made all the foreign deities his gods, yet he decided to take an entirely different path, which turned out to be the best choice he could have made.
Come to think of it, we do have a certain control over who and what we will be in our future when we grow up or grow old. To a large extent, our future will be determined by our present for the self-creation process takes great effort on our part for it to become a success.
Of course, I am not speaking about the self-evolving and self-creating according to the principle of Darwinian evolution; it’s rather the labor and the struggle that we experience every day to be transformed into the holy and glorious image of Christ. This is an ongoing process both in time and in eternity, and the earlier we start the process the better.
There was no need for the Lord to start the process of spiritual growth to conform to the image of God, yet we all know what he was doing at the holy temple at age twelve. The Lord Jesus grew spiritually even though he could have achieved spiritual perfection instantly. Hannah was wise to place Samuel in a place where he could grow spiritually and to become more seasoned in listening to God’s voice.
We don’t become someone we desire to be instantly. Spiritual wealth, like material wealth, takes years of diligent accumulation.
Monday, January 8, 2018 6:56:00 AM
“…all these are written in the records of the seers.” 2 Ch. 33:19
King Manasseh might have intended to erase the record of all he had done in his life had he been able to do so, yet it was etched in stone and couldn’t be removed. What he had done, either good or bad, couldn’t be undone no matter how mighty and powerful he was.
What the king should have done was to consider the possible consequences of all the things he was going to do. Had he done so, he might not have done a lot of things that he intended to do.
“Will this reckless action I am about to do cause me any regrets later?” This is the question that we must ask ourselves before we take any action in question, and by doing so we may save ourselves from having any regret or sorrow after the deed is done.
We may be able to suppress the memory of all our wrongdoings and not bring them to the surface of our consciousness, but that does mean they will be submersed forever. The hard drive of our mind will take down all we have ever done, down to the smallest details both of our actions and thoughts, and there is absolutely no way the memory can ever be deleted. What we have done will gradually become who we are, and our identity will never be annihilated. We are indeed our memory, and as long as we exist, it will also remain.
By what evidence will we be judged before the judgment throne of the Lord? Isn’t it all the things that are etched in our memory, an imperishable tablet of stone?
There isn’t a single moment in my entire life when I am completely pleased with myself, either inwardly or outwardly. Therefore, the self-condemnation and loathing have always been present in my heart. Indeed, “If our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts, and he knows all things,” wrote the apostle John. If so, we will surely be driven to the brink of despair and abandon all hope of ever reaching the destination where we can be accepted totally by the Almighty.
Then we are reminded what Manasseh did when he became utterly desperate: he abandoned himself and turned to the Lord in utter repentance, which was the only thing he could have done at the moment, and it turned out that he did the wisest thing.
There are only two things that we can possibly do under the circumstances actually. We ought to do our absolute best to keep our record on earth clean and holy, void of any filth or flaw, so that there will be no regret when we pay our memory a visit. Secondly, daily repentance is still an utter necessity, for our best efforts will always fall short and all our merits blemished. We are doomed but for God’s mercy.
Thursday, January 4, 2018 7:29:00 AM
“Then he restored the altar of the Lord and sacrificed fellowship offerings and thank offerings on it…” 2 Ch. 33:16
Repentance must be followed by restoration of what has been missing in our lives. Our repentance should always be action-oriented and, unless we take action to ratify our wrong doings, our repentance will remain as mere remorse and nothing more. We may feel sorry for what we have done and are awfully disappointed for being who we are, but unless meaningful actions are taken, we will stay the same.
Come to think of it, I seem to have been repenting about the same things over the years, which only indicates that I really have done very little to ratify the wrongdoing that I have done, which made my repentance necessary. I might have felt bad about certain things that I did, yet I actually enjoyed doing them and had no intention of parting from them. Repentance is actually a soothing device which I employ to console myself and smooth out my guilty conscience.
We may feel remorseful when we confess our sin to the Lord, yet the remorse doesn’t always drive us to make some changes either in our thoughts or actions. To a certain extent, our repentance is merely lip service only.
Not so with Manasseh’s repentance, however. His turning to the Lord was action-oriented. “Then he restored the altar of the Lord and sacrificed fellowship offerings and thank offerings on it.” The king’s thoughts and actions were renewed and were being transformed at the same time.
When will our outward transformation catch up with our inner confession and repentance? This is the question we must address; otherwise our faith in God will remain merely a thing outside of ourselves, an empty shell void of any real substance.
Friday, December 22, 2017 6:33:00 AM
“He got rid of the foreign gods and removed the image from the temple of the Lord…” 2 Ch. 33:15
Manasseh was the one who introduced all the foreign gods to the nation and he had to be the one to get rid of them. The king’s repentance made a great difference in his thought and conduct, and he had no choice but to face up all the ill-effects of all he had done. There was nothing private or personal about the king’s repentance and conversion, and it was humbling for him to confess his transgression in such an open manner.
This is something that we also may find rather difficult to do. We may readily acknowledge our sins to the Lord in secret, yet it’s entirely another matter if we are required to bring them out in the open. We prefer all our skeletons to remain in the secrecy of our closets, don’t we?
There are obviously both spiritual and physical consequences of our wrong doing and they must be dealt with in due time. The Lord will handle the spiritual realm for us since his blood will cover all our sins and the cleansing is once and for all; yet we must bear the ill-effects of our iniquities by ourselves from which there is really no escape. The sins we have committed may cause physical illness or emotional hurt which may haunt us the rest of our lives. It’s absolutely wrong for us to have a cavalier attitude toward sin, believing that forgiveness is merely a prayer of confession away, not realizing our spiritual healing may just take a moment, but our emotional and physical cure may take an entire lifetime.
Manasseh’s sins might have been forgiven by his repentance; but no one was going to pick up the litter of his sins except he himself. There were statures of foreign gods everywhere, bearing witness to the king’s infamous behavior, and whatever was erected must be destroyed by the hands that created them. That was exactly what the king did: “He got rid of the foreign gods and removed the image from the temple of the Lord.”
Getting saved provides us an opportunity to restrict and reorient our lives in such a way that the true meaning of all our actions both past and present become manifest and we finally come to realize who and what we really are. To see things as what they really are is to take up the ownership of all we have done, and to do whatever is necessary to rectify them, if it’s still possible to do so
Wasn’t this what Manasseh did after his conversion? Surely he couldn’t leave the idols which he had fashioned untouched, and continue to do what he had been doing before his inner transformation.
Thursday, December 21, 2017 6:06:00 AM
Then He Knew
“Then Manasseh knew that the Lord is God.” 2 Ch. 33:13
It might have been a little late for the king to come to realize who the Lord was, yet it did take place and the king could start to serve the Lord, however long the remainder of his earthly days was to be.
Even though I didn’t have the privilege to be born into a Christian home and start to follow the Lord as a child, God called me out of my darkness when I was relatively young. Not only did he keep me from committing more sins by saving me, he also endowed me with more earthly days to serve him. Had he waited until my old age to reveal himself to me, I would have wasted my life doing superfluous things.
All things can wait, but knowing the Lord should never be delayed, for our life on earth is quite short and a day spent without serving and loving the Lord is a day wasted.
“Then Manasseh knew that the Lord is God.” This also meant the king came to know who he himself was as well, and his life and actions must have been gone through a complete transformation. The conviction and realization of the truth that the Lord is God impacts our lives to the core, and not to be transformed into the image of God is utterly impossible. To know him is to love and to follow him, and not to do so is just totally irrational and contradictory to one’s conviction and belief.
It’s rather naïve to assume Manasseh’s life was thoroughly reformed from then on, for the point of his conversion was merely the beginning of the turning of his life toward a new direction. Unfortunately, he might not have had a lot of time remaining on earth to walk with the Lord. What he had done as a king caused its irreparable damage, for his legacy of idolatry would forever remain and whatever he did couldn’t be undone.
Surely a man’s life should always be defined by how he ends, not by the way he begins, yet one can certainly accomplish more for God’s kingdom if he allows himself more time to invest by turning to the Lord in his youth, not in his old age. There must have been regret and remorse when the apostle Paul considered how he had squandered his youth in pursuing useless things. It is entirely possible that King David’s heart was filled with sweet nostalgia when he pondered about his young days as a shepherd. I find it rather interesting that Saul was looking for his father’s lost donkeys when he met Samuel, while David was tending his father’s sheep when Samuel inquired about him. The former was wandering aimlessly and the later was shepherding and composing psalms praising the Lord. How and when one starts the journey of following the Lord makes a difference in the outcome of one’s entire spiritual enterprise. I am sure Manasseh must have had regrets for not coming to know the Lord much earlier than he did.
Monday, December 18, 2017 7:23:00 AM
“And when he prayed to him, the Lord was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea.” 2 Ch. 33:13
Can the Lord always be moved by his children’s earnest entreaties? If so, why aren’t so many of our pleas answered according to our wishes? Surely the Lord is sovereign over all and he is absolutely free to make his own decisions, and we just have to accept whatever is handed down to us.
Is this rather difficult for us to accept? On a deeper level of understanding, we may wonder that if this is so, why do we even pray at all, since all things have already been preordained and our petitions will not make the slightest difference. Unfortunately, this mindset is rather fatalistic, causing us to quit praying to God altogether.
Do we all measure the efficacy of our prayers by the way they are answered, and are we inclined to believe that we pray in vain if our wishes aren’t granted in our favor? Moreover, we may put the blame on ourselves if our requests are rejected by God, assuming that it’s because of our lack of faith or persistence in our prayers that they are not effective.
Come to think of it, how can we, mere humans, look at the issue at hand otherwise? From a human point of view, reception and rejection is such a clear cut kind of thing and to consider it otherwise is merely a self-defensive mechanism, making an apology for God’s inaction and the lack of conviction and desperation in our prayers.
The problem that we are dealing with has always been and will always be the way we perceive reality. We simply are incapable of seeing beyond what’s seen with our naked eyes and are blinded to the invisible, where the mysterious, including the power and efficacy of human prayers, is kept hidden.
If so, what does it mean when we are exhorted to pray in faith? Isn’t faith the confidence that the Lord will listen to our entreaties and will likely be moved by our sincerity and zeal and, consequently, will grant us our wishes accordingly? Isn’t this what motivates us to pray unceasingly?
I feel like I have raised more questions than answers bringing up all these issues, for what we have witnessed in reality doesn’t seem to be all that consistent with what we have been instructed concerning the topic of prayer. If this is not enough, how are we supposed to understand the Lord Jesus’ promise in the book of Matthew: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
What’s the solution to this dilemma then? Shall I continue to pray without expecting my will to be done in the slightest, or quit praying to God altogether, convinced that my prayer will not make a smidge of difference in the scheme of things? I suppose the answer to this may lie somewhere in between.
Thursday, December 14, 2017 7:40:00 AM
“In his distress he sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his ancestors.” 2 Ch. 33:12
Suffering did its job to the king and he finally came to realize who he truly was. He was merely a man who was born into wealth and prosperity, which caused him to harbor a sense of entitlement and develop a false idea of self-identity and invincibility. That’s what wealth and power do to people, and we are easily hooked and will succumb to its seduction if we are not on our guard.
We may have climbed to an amazing height, yet suffering will always bring us down to earth and remind us who we really are - we are nothing but dust with divine breath, and apart from God’s sustenance mere existence will become an absolute impossibility.
How we perceive ourselves determines how we will act, but it doesn’t indicate who we are as a living being. Who we are is defined by how we have been created, and what we are is determined at the moment we are formed. Human beings are not self-created and self-defined; what God is decides who we are, for we are created in his own image.
King Manasseh only came to know himself when he became aware of who God was. His true sense of self was unearthed by his knowledge of God, and when he came to the end of his rope, he knew there was no place for him to turn but to turn to God. He had been betrayed by all the pagan gods whom he worshipped and he realized he was destined to die unless the Lord spared his life. Therefore, “in his distress he sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his ancestors.”
The king had done a lot of foolish things during his kingship, and he finally came to his senses and did a wise thing, which henceforth put his life on the right track. Surely the Lord was gracious enough that he engineered adverse circumstances in the king life, thus causing him to see the essence of things and providing him an opportunity for repentance. So the affliction the king was encountering seemed to have turned out to be a good thing.
May we not wait until there is nowhere else to turn before we finally turn to the Lord, and use the “city of refuge” as our last resort when we are desperate, for we have no other avenue of escape. May we render repentance unnecessary by not committing one sin after another against the Almighty, and may we listen to the Lord attentively in times of joy, which may make it superfluous for God to speak to us in our sorrow.
I hope this isn’t some sort of wishful thinking on my part, and I pray that it gets to the point in my life that I only hear the Lord speaking to me through occasions and occurrences of joy.
Wednesday, December 13, 2017 7:27:00 AM
So the Lord brought against them the army commanders of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh prisoner, put a hook in his nose, bound him with bronze shackles…”
2 Ch. 33:11
The Lord might have attempted to speak to Manasseh through various means, yet they didn’t seem to come across to the king, for he continued to do whatever he had been doing in his worship. Not until he encountered great difficulty in his life did he come to realize that the Lord was indeed attempting to speak to him. When all things were going so well, he could afford to ignore the Lord and became deaf to his voice; and it was in a time when troubles came that the king started to seek God’s presence.
It seems to me rather foolish for us to seek the Lord when we are in some sort of trouble and perfectly content to having nothing to do with him when things are rosy and good. If we cultivate a good habit of praising the Lord in thickness, this may render it unnecessary for the Lord to bring forth thinness in our lives to cause us to turn to him. Indeed, troubles and suffering are inevitable in a world ridden by sin, yet we may make them less inevitable by heeding God’s commands and praising his holy name at all times.
That was what transpired in Manasseh’s life when suddenly calamities fell and he was ill-prepared for them. “So the Lord brought against them the army commanders of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh prisoner…” Obviously the trouble didn’t occur to the king capriciously; it was the Lord who engineered the adverse circumstances in his life, hoping that through them the king could finally hear his voice.
Why is it easier to hear the voice of the Lord in sorrow than in joy? I often wonder. Why can’t we listen to Him in good times so that it will not be necessary for God to shout to us in times of calamity?
Of course there is really no guarantee that the Lord will cease speaking to us through our sorrow and difficulty if we always heed his bidding in all things in time of peace and joy. The Lord is sovereign over all and the moment we think we have him pinned down, he escapes from our grip and renders our understanding of him utter nonsense. It’s essential, however, that we listen to him no matter what the circumstance is, for the Lord can communicate to us through whatever means he deems suitable, and he will never quit until he accomplishes his purpose. What we need to do is to train both our ears and hearts so that we won’t miss his message when it’s timely given. It seems reasonable to assume that a drastic measure of communication will not be necessary to deploy if he can easily get his message across.
Tuesday, December 12, 2017 7:09:00 AM
“The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention.”
2 Ch. 33:10
Surely the people must have heard the words uttered by some prophets who gave them warning concerning the ill-effects of not following the Lord. If the Israelites intended to hear God’s voice and were determined to heed his warning, they would have heard God’s words proclaimed loud and clear. It hadn’t been all that long since the day when Hezekiah established an example of godliness in their midst, and they were rendered inexcusable if they decided to do otherwise.
“The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention,” we read.
We may not know exactly in what manner the Lord spoke to his people, but it is clear the communication was made, but Manasseh and the people paid absolutely no attention to the message. Indeed, our listening is selective and we listen to what we want to hear and block out the undesired message. The Israelites had already decided to turn away from the Lord; therefore they ceased to hear the voice from above.
We can easily hear God’s voice if we make up our mind to be obedient to his will at all times. If this isn’t the case, we simply tune God’s voice out concerning whatever is contrary to what we want to do. God becomes silent because we simply have silenced him.
Unfortunately, for many of us Christians the Lord might have become some sort of rubberstamp and asking him for permission to do certain things may just be a matter of formality and nothing else. We don’t seem to take the Lord seriously enough and are not willing to alter the course of our life if he directs us to do so. Unfortunately, our main concern in life is what we want to do, not necessarily what the Lord intends for us to do.
Isn’t this the time when we should start to pay more attention to what the Lord has in mind for us and make him our Master and Lord who has total control over our lives and actions?
There are just too many “half-baked” Christians in this world, and we seem to have created a religion to suit our taste, a belief system that allows all things and demands nothing, a religion in which the worshippers have their cake and eat it too. Is this the gospel carved by the death of Christ on the cross, or is it a human invention, forged to meet our selfish needs, both physically and spiritually?