Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
Hezekiah was a good king and a steadfast follower of God. History records,
Hezekiah was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. His mother’s name was Abijah daughter of Zechariah. He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father David had done.
In the first month of the first year of his reign, he opened the doors of the temple of the Lord and repaired them (2 Chronicles 29:1-3).
We’re told that one of his very first acts as king was to restore and reopen the Temple. Certainly, doing the Lord’s will was a high priority for Hezekiah. But there’s more. We read,
Hezekiah sent word to all Israel and Judah and also wrote letters to Ephraim and Manasseh, inviting them to come to the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem and celebrate the Passover to the Lord, the God of Israel (2 Chronicles 30:1).
This was significant because not only was Hezekiah extending a God-based olive branch to the people of the kingdom of Israel (separate from his kingdom of Judah), but he also held the first Passover in a very long time. And the Bible compliments his efforts: “There was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the days of Solomon son of David king of Israel there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem” (2 Chronicles 30:26). Not only did Hezekiah do these things, but he also prayed on behalf of the people. We’re told,
Although most of the many people who came from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun had not purified themselves, yet they ate the Passover, contrary to what was written. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, “May the Lord, who is good, pardon everyone who sets his heart on seeking God- the Lord, the God of his fathers- even if he is not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary.” And the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people (2 Chronicles 30:18-20).
Not only was he praying for the people, but Hezekiah even prayed with Isaiah, the prophet of his day when the Lord’s people were under attack from Assyria. It is written, “King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz cried out in prayer to heaven about this” (2 Chronicles 32:20). This is a big deal, because of the way it’s written, it suggests that Hezekiah was roughly on the same spiritual level as Isaiah the prophet. And why wouldn’t he be? Hezekiah completely trusted God. While Judah was under siege we read,
He appointed military officers over the people and assembled them before him in the square at the city gate and encouraged them with these words: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people gained confidences from what Hezekiah the king of Judah said (2 Chronicles 32:6-8).
If you’re looking for an all-star of faith, Hezekiah was definitely one of them. This guy trusted God through everything.
After he died, Hezekiah was succeeded by his son. We read,
Hezekiah rested with his fathers and was buried on the hill where the tombs of David’s descendants are. All Judah and the people of Jerusalem honored him when he died. And Manasseh his son succeeded him as king (2 Chronicles 32:33).
Manasseh was not such a good king. He followed the ways of the enemies of Israel:
Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, following the detestable practices of the nation the Lord had driven out before the Israelite (2 Chronicles 33:1-2).
-Actually, no. Manasseh wasn’t just as bad as the pagan nations, he was worse: “But Manasseh led Judah and the people of Jerusalem astray, so that they did more evil then the nations the Lord had destroyed before the Israelites” (2 Chronicles 33:9). Why was he so bad? Well, for starters, he undid all of his father’s reforms and restorations:
He rebuilt the high places his father Hezekiah had demolished; he also erected altars to the Baals and made Asherah poles. He bowed down to all the starry hosts and worshiped them. He built altars in the temple of the Lord, of which the Lord had said, “My Name will remain in Jerusalem forever.” In both courts of the temple of the Lord, he built altars to all the starry hosts (2 Chronicles 33:3-5).
Aside from worshiping everything under the sun that wasn’t God, Manasseh also set up his own god for the people to worship:
He took the carved image he had made and put it in God’s temple, of which God had said to David and to his son Solomon, “In this temple and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my Name forever” (2 Chronicles 33:7).
If that wasn’t enough, Manasseh also sacrificed his own children to false idols. Yeah, you read that correctly. Check it out:
He sacrificed his sons in the fire in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, practiced sorcery, divination and witchcraft, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the Lord, provoking him to anger (2 Chronicles 33:6).
Oh, and he killed innocent people too:
Moreover, Manasseh also shed so much innocent blood that he filled Jerusalem from end to end- besides the sin that he had caused Judah to commit, so that they did evil in the eye of the Lord (2 Kings 21:16).
And it’s not like God was silent during all this. However, Manasseh wouldn’t listen to the prophets the Lord sent: “The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention” (2 Chronicles 33:10). In the same way that Hezekiah had tried to follow the Lord in everything, Manasseh basically went through the Law and broke every command of God one by one; essentially giving the Lord the finger.
But God was faithful to Hezekiah. For it is written, “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands” (Deuteronomy 7:9). And so, in faithfulness to Hezekiah and in love to his family, the Lord went to work. We read in 2 Chronicles 33:11,
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 and took him to Babylon (2 Chronicles 33:11).
Yeah, that’s right, he captured the scummy king and had him hooked and brought low. Ok, ok, it doesn’t look good now. But check out what happened as Manasseh hit rock bottom: “In his distress he sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers” (2 Chronicles 33:12). King scumbag repented and the Lord restored him. We read,
And when he prayed to him, the Lord was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so he brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord is God (2 Chronicles 33:13).
Yep, after basically setting his whole life up until this moment in defiance of the Lord, God still completely forgave Manasseh and restored the kingdom to him. And why wouldn’t he? Even when he was warning Israel with the curses they’d face if they turned away from him (culminating in exile and forced idol-worship), the Lord told his people,
But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, then in later days you will return to the Lord your God and obey him. For the Lord your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your forefathers, which he confirmed to them by oath (Deuteronomy 4:29-30).
And so, true to his Word, the Lord restored Manasseh when the evil king cried out to him. In response to the Lord’s mercy, Manasseh turned his act around and completely repented of his evil ways. History records,
He got rid of the foreign gods and removed the image from the temple of the Lord, as well as all the altars he had built on the temple hill and in Jerusalem; and he threw them out of the city. Then he restored the altar of the Lord and sacrificed fellowship offerings and thank offerings on it, and told Judah to serve the Lord, the God of Israel. The people, however, continued to sacrifice at the high places, but only to the Lord their God (2 Chronicles 33:15-17).
And so, through the mercy of the Lord, Manasseh had been brought to repentance and was completely saved from his ways. He turned it around and also inspired the rest of the people to worship God exclusively once again.
Alright, so what was the point of all of that? While I was reading the story of Manasseh, the Holy Spirit reminded me that it’s not too late for anyone to be saved. Until a person dies, it’s never too late to turn it around. So to those of you who are Christians and your family is still far from God, don’t fret. The Lord was faithful to Hezekiah even when his son was not. Rather, pray and the let the Lord do what he can to turn those you love around and bring them into the light. Check out what Paul and Silas told their jailer out Acts 16:30-31,
He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved- you and your household.”
Now I’ve recently heard a pastor comment that this is often misquoted as suggesting that by one family member being saved the whole family will be saved- this is of course not true. Everyone is accountable to God. However, the faith of one family member is a powerful tool when it comes to saving the rest of his or her loved ones. We read of Jesus, “He told them still another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough’” (Matthew 13:33). You put one Christian in a family of nonbelievers and give it some time to work itself in- the rest of the family will come around through prayer and faith. So don’t worry if your family is currently turned against the Lord, just give it time, and God will work his salvation into them (though it may take a hook to the nose to do so).
And if you are a non-Christian who’s spent his or her life away from God; it’s not too late to receive forgiveness and salvation. I mean, think of it like this: no matter what you’ve done, you can’t out-sin Manasseh; this dude did everything evil that he could possibly think of. And yet, he’s probably in heaven right now. Or what of the criminal who hung next to Jesus on the cross? As everyone else mocked Jesus, Matthew 27:44 notes, “In the same way the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.” Both men who were crucified with Jesus teased him and said bad things to him. However, one of them came to his senses later on and after telling the other criminal to shut up he looked to Jesus and we read,
Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:42-43).
This guy hasn’t done anything deserving of heaven in his life, and yet when he finally looked to Christ for forgiveness, it was granted. This is the Lord Jesus Christ. He gave himself so that you and I could be forgiven when we repent of our sins before him and ask for forgiveness. Paul wrote, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, where you’ve been, or how horrible of a person you might have been. When you come to Jesus for forgiveness and salvation, they will be granted; for the work was already done long before you came on the scene. So then, trust in God’s grace through his son Jesus Christ and listen to the Lord’s words in Ezekiel 18:30-32,
Therefore, O house of Israel, I will judge you, each one according to his own ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!
When you come to Jesus for salvation and forgiveness, the Lord will wipe your slate clean (and keep it clean) and you’ll be indwelt with the Holy Spirit, who’ll change your heart and your mind and guide you into a greater life with God- just like the Lord did with Manasseh. It’s not too late for you, so repent now and trust in Jesus! Praise be to our God!