READ – 1 Chronicles 33:1-20
Chronicles is written to provide stories about the past so that God’s people might have hope for the future. 2 Chronicles 33 describes the lowest point in Judah’s rocky royal lineage in the rebellion and subsequent renewal of King Manasseh. As many scholars point out, Manasseh’s life is evaluated in the strongest negative language possible in Chronicles. He was a bad guy. But more than Manasseh’s flawed moral character, this story is written to give us hope that where sin increased, grace abounds all the more.
SUMMARY: Renewal comes when we are awed by God’s grace.
1. GRACE SEEKS US IN OUR LOSTNESS
2 Chronicles 33:1-9 is a litany of Manasseh’s moral compromise and failure as a leader of Judah. In fact the parallel account of Manasseh’s reign in 2 Kings 21 credits Manasseh with the destruction of Jerusalem and the national exile into Babylon.
But aren’t these accounts of supposed Old Testament atrocities just religious peccadillos? Granted, Manasseh was guilty of the child sacrifice of his sons, but aren’t things like rebuilding unorthodox worship sites, seeking out fortune-tellers, etc. just alternative spiritualities—are they really sufficient to provoke God to anger (v. 6)? Manasseh’s actions were manifestations of his (and our) lostness. Just like Manasseh led the whole nation “astray” (v. 9), Isaiah the prophet said that we all like sheep have gone astray (Isa 53:6). We often don’t recognize or show gratitude for the success and gifts that God does give to us. Instead, like sheep, we get lost—nibbling here and there in our careers, addictions, and distractions. But grace says that God is a Good Shepherd who specializes in seeking lost sheep. That’s why God “spoke” to Manasseh and the nation (v. 10), through His prophets. That’s why God still confronts us with His Word today.
2. GRACE LOVES US IN OUR SINFULNESS
The shocking reality about grace is its God’s love for sinners, not His tolerance for sinners. In the catalogue of Manasseh’s sin (vv. 1-9), twice we’re told that Manasseh did more evil than the godless nations who occupied the land prior to Israel’s arrival (vv. 2, 9). That’s Bible-speak for, Manasseh was just the worst. But several commentators point to the reference to God’s “forever” covenant in vv. 4, 8. In essence, what the text is saying is even when Manasseh was intent on sinning with a “high-hand” and deliberately flaunting it in God’s face, God was intent on preserving His unshakeable promise in the midst of human rebellion.
3. GRACE CROWNS US IN OUR SHAMEFULNESS
As a result of Manasseh’s sin, God leads him into personal exile into Babylon. He is bound, disgraced, humiliated, and physically tormented. He would have been made a public spectacle of shame as a warning to other political leaders. He is a king without a crown. That could have been the end of Manasseh’s story. But thank God for v. 13. God not only returns Manasseh from exile, He restores him to his position as king. God takes the worst king of Judah and reinstalls him with all the dignity, honor, respect, and glory that a king would receive. Why?
Because God’s grace is the full re-granting of our inheritance after we have royally screwed up. Mercy would be God releasing Manasseh from exile. Grace is God restoring the crown. Mercy is not getting what you deserve, cancelling the million dollar debt; Grace is getting what you don’t deserve, crediting your account with a million dollars.
What’s the catch? There isn’t any. Grace is gloriously and wondrously free. What’s the cost? None to you, but everything to another king in the lineage of Manasseh, King Jesus. He was the perfectly obedient son and epitome of moral beauty—but He underwent an exile of agonizing shame, torture, defeat, and the exile from God’s presence on the cross, completely losing His crown so that it could be given to us.
4. GRACE FREES US FROM OUR SELFISHNESS
See where Grace leads Manasseh in vv. 14-17? The king who once was attempting to bend reality to his own will through sorcery, who degraded God’s image-bearers through child sacrifice, who distrusted God’s provision and promise and tried to secure happiness through his own performance, that king is now engaging in massive religious and social projects for the glory of God and the good of the community.
Grace operated in Manasseh’s life in at least three ways. First it worked by humbling him before God in prayer. Second, it freed from Manasseh’s quest for religious and social approval by showing him the favor of God in the face of God. Third, grace is seen in Manasseh’s life by his pursuit of the religious and cultural flourishing of his neighbors. Grace frees us to be a servant to everyone.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
1. What about the sermon most impacted you or left you with questions?
2. What is your reaction to stories like the one about convicted serial killer Jeffery Dahmer’s conversion in prison? Does that bother you? Are you skeptical?
3. Manasseh led Judah astray. That’s a good summary of the human condition: we are continuously going astray and getting lost, like sheep. Maybe you aren’t completely lost, but nibbling here and there. Are there areas of your heart and life where you feel like God is distant? How might God’s Word be calling to you?
4. When you think about how God thinks of you—what do you imagine the look on His face to be? How would believing the astounding news that God is delighted in you, smiles on you, dances over you, is crazy about you change your week?
5. Are there individuals or people who you think are beyond the reach of God’s grace? Who are they? How do you think grace might transform the way we see other people—even the people who wrong or offend you?