Undoing Dad’s Work

Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Hephzibah. And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to the despicable practices of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel. For he rebuilt the high places that Hezekiah his father had destroyed, and he erected altars for Baal and made an Asherah, as Ahab king of Israel had done, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them. And he built altars in the house of the Lord, of which the Lord had said, “In Jerusalem will I put my name.” And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the Lord. And he burned his son as an offering and used fortune-telling and omens and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger. And the carved image of Asherah that he had made he set in the house of which the Lord said to David and to Solomon his son, “In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my name forever. And I will not cause the feet of Israel to wander anymore out of the land that I gave to their fathers, if only they will be careful to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the Law that my servant Moses commanded them.” But they did not listen, and Manasseh led them astray to do more evil than the nations had done whom the Lord destroyed before the people of Israel. 2 Kings 21:1-9.

It is hard to say why Manasseh turned out so bad. His father was so devoted to the Lord, and he turned to God, who delivered him, when he was in trouble. But his son could hardly wait to abandon the faith, and do it so completely. It would only be after many years, when Manasseh was in trouble himself, that he would turn back to the God of his father. This is the hope of every parent who wonders where he went wrong.

Even the Wise Can Be Foolish

At that time Merodach-baladan the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent envoys with letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that Hezekiah had been sick. And Hezekiah welcomed them, and he showed them all his treasure house, the silver, the gold, the spices, the precious oil, his armory, all that was found in his storehouses. There was nothing in his house or in all his realm that Hezekiah did not show them. Then Isaiah the prophet came to King Hezekiah, and said to him, “What did these men say? And from where did they come to you?” And Hezekiah said, “They have come from a far country, from Babylon.” He said, “What have they seen in your house?” And Hezekiah answered, “They have seen all that is in my house; there is nothing in my storehouses that I did not show them.”

Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord: Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the Lord. And some of your own sons, who will come from you, whom you will father, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?”

Does it ever occur to any of these kings that when they show off all their treasures to some visiting dignitaries that they might think, “Hmm. This is a nation worth plundering.” And when Isaiah tells him that one day this very Nation will be taking his sons captive, all Hezekiah can think is that at least he will have peace during his lifetime.

Our own leaders make a great show of saying they want to save the planet for future generations. But they make no provision for saving the country. They imperil us with debt and uncontrolled migration. And they can no longer say that there is a difference between boys and girls.

Pray Like a King

Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord and spread it before the Lord. And Hezekiah prayed before the Lord and said: “O Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. Incline your ear, O Lord, and hear; open your eyes, O Lord, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. Truly, O Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were not gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed. So now, O Lord our God, save us, please, from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O Lord, are God alone.” 2 Kings 19:14-19.

Unlike his counterpart, the king of Assyria, King Hezekiah was not a bombastic braggart. He approached the Lord with humility. He called out the great things about his God. He approached with reverence. You don’t have to be a king to do this.

The Servant Who Called Out God

And the Rabshakeh said to them, “Say to Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria: On what do you rest this trust of yours? Do you think that mere words are strategy and power for war? In whom do you now trust, that you have rebelled against me? Behold, you are trusting now in Egypt, that broken reed of a staff, which will pierce the hand of any man who leans on it. Such is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who trust in him. But if you say to me, “We trust in the Lord our God,” is it not he whose high places and altars Hezekiah has removed, saying to Judah and to Jerusalem, “You shall worship before this altar in Jerusalem”? Come now, make a wager with my master the king of Assyria: I will give you two thousand horses, if you are able on your part to set riders on them. How then can you repulse a single captain among the least of my master’s servants, when you trust in Egypt for chariots and for horsemen? Moreover, is it without the Lord that I have come up against this place to destroy it? The Lord said to me, “Go up against this land and destroy it.”’” 2 Kings 18:19-25.

Hezekiah was the most righteous king Judah had seen since David. He even tore down the high places to completely purge idolatry from his kingdom. But now he is surrounded by an Assyrian army, and he scares up all the silver, and even strips the gold off the temple gates, in an attempt to buy them off.

It does not work. The Assyrians want it all. And they let the men on the city walls know that if they surrender, it will go well for them. And they believe they are unstopable. No other gods have withstood them, and Hezekiah’s God can’t either.

The world will let you buy them off for awhile. But the day will come when it won’t be enough. Their tolerance will turn to demands of unconditional surrender.

The Origin of the Samaritans

And the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the people of Israel. And they took possession of Samaria and lived in its cities. And at the beginning of their dwelling there, they did not fear the Lord. Therefore the Lord sent lions among them, which killed some of them. So the king of Assyria was told, “The nations that you have carried away and placed in the cities of Samaria do not know the law of the god of the land. Therefore he has sent lions among them, and behold, they are killing them, because they do not know the law of the god of the land.” Then the king of Assyria commanded, “Send there one of the priests whom you carried away from there, and let him go and dwell there and teach them the law of the god of the land.” So one of the priests whom they had carried away from Samaria came and lived in Bethel and taught them how they should fear the Lord.

But every nation still made gods of its own and put them in the shrines of the high places that the Samaritans had made, every nation in the cities in which they lived. The men of Babylon made Succoth-benoth, the men of Cuth made Nergal, the men of Hamath made Ashima, and the Avvites made Nibhaz and Tartak; and the Sepharvites burned their children in the fire to Adrammelech and Anammelech, the gods of Sepharvaim. They also feared the Lord and appointed from among themselves all sorts of people as priests of the high places, who sacrificed for them in the shrines of the high places. So they feared the Lord but also served their own gods, after the manner of the nations from among whom they had been carried away. 2 Kings 17:24-33.

After Assyria took Israel captive, they filled the land with imported idolators from the far flung reaches of their empire. But the Lord didn’t want any idols, so he sent lions to terrify them. So the Assyrian king recruited a Jewish priest to teach God’s ways, and that stopped the lion attacks. But it did not stop the idolatry! The Lord just became one of the gods they worshiped.

God may have tolerated this on some level because these were not the people of His covenant. They didn’t know better, and God’s judgment is always harder on those who know better.

That is why I harp on believers who are lukewarm or unobservant. Those of us who claim to know Christ and to follow His ways are held to a different standard. That is why the world can mock your slackness in faith while they celebrate the murder of unborn children and all manner of sexual perversion. The blind need a brighter light to see. And that’s on us.