‘Worse than the heathen.’ ‘In affliction he besought the Lord his God.’
I. It is fearful to think into what depths of wickedness it is possible to fall.—The story of Manasseh frightens us. He had a good father and was brought up amid holy influences. Yet when he became king he turned away from all that was good and beautiful and sank into the worst sins. As we read about the things he did we see the terrible danger of departing from God. We cannot know where our departure will end.
II. One of the worst things about a bad life is that it leads others also into evil.—Manasseh was a king and he led a whole nation astray. A father or mother who does wrong takes a whole family away from God. But every one has influence over others. Every young person who lives wickedly draws companions or friends in the evil course. We ought to think of this when we are tempted. Our sin does not destroy ourselves only.
III. Sin always brings trouble.—Even if one is not punished at once, doing wrong draws a curse after it some time. Manasseh’s wickedness brought enemies upon him and he was carried away as a captive. He was treated shamefully. Chains were put upon him and he was cruelly used. But it is thus that sin always uses those who become its slaves. People fancy sometimes that it is hard to be a Christian, but it is far harder to live in sin. However pleasant it may be at the time we do wrong, it brings bitterness in the end.
IV. The worst may repent and be saved.—Manasseh had grown into terrible wickedness, but when he turned his heart to God and called for mercy he was forgiven and restored. The trouble that his sin brought upon him was God’s way of bringing him to see the evil of his course and of leading him to repentance. Then not only was Manasseh forgiven—he was also restored to his place as king, that he might build up again what he had destroyed. So we see him pulling down the idols and idol temples he had set up and repairing and restoring the Temple of God which he had violated. God is very merciful, and there is joy in heaven when a sinner repents. Manasseh’s repentance caused joy.
(1) ‘After a Hezekiah comes a Manasseh, who entirely changed his policy, and undid the work of reform, and the men of Judah and Jerusalem followed him into more evil than did the nations of Canaan. How frail and changeable we are! There is no stability in human virtue. As a garden will return to a wilderness if it be not constantly tended, so would all goodness soon die out of the world if it were not for the grace of the Holy Spirit. The very existence of lovely and noble life among us is a perpetual witness to His being and energy.’
(2) ‘This repentance of Manasseh was evidently the chief subject in the mind of the chronicler, and while his sins are painted faithfully, and revealed in all their hideousness, all this becomes but background, which flings into relief the genuine penitence and the ready and gracious response of God. It is a wonderful picture in the midst of the prevailing darkness and persistent wickedness, this revelation of the readiness of God to pardon. It is always so if men will have it so. Far better to walk with a perfect heart before God through life; but where this has not been so, if there be genuine repentance, all the failures but serve to reveal in a clearer light the love of God. There is a solemn warning in the history of Amon, who, on coming to the throne, followed the earlier example of his father, and was so utterly corrupt that his own servants conspired against him and slew him. While personal sin repented of brings ready forgiveness, the influence of the sinning days is terribly likely to abide.’