The chapter is centred round King Manasseh, who reigned for a record period of 55 years in Judah. The Bible tells us that he was an exceedingly wicked king, committing abominable acts and seducing his people ‘to do more evil than the nations whom the LORD had destroyed before the children of Israel’ (v9). v16 goes so far as to tell us that he ‘filled Jerusalem from one end to another’ with innocent blood.
Surely there was no hope left for such an evil man. We would expect God to condemn and destroy him for his atrocities.
However, if we were to read 2 Chronicles 33, we will see another characteristic of Manasseh that distinguishes him from the other kings of Judah. Manasseh is infamous for being a tyrannical ruler at the earlier stages of his reign. However, after God exacted His righteous judgment upon him, Manasseh ‘humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers’ (v12). He pleaded with God for forgiveness, and recognised that truly, the LORD was God. Manasseh was willing to change himself for the better.
The chapter proceeds to furnish us with details of his sincere repentance; how he cast the foreign gods and their altars out of the city of Jerusalem (v15), repaired the altar of the LORD and commanded Judah to serve the LORD God of Israel (v16). v19 tells us that despite all he had done in the past, God received Manasseh’s entreaty and prayer.
This historical event brings hope to all Christians who have been saved by the blood of Jesus. When we sin, we must, like Manasseh, humble ourselves, acknowledge that we have done wrong, and genuinely strive to return to the path of righteousness. 1 John 1:7 tells us that this way, we will be granted forgiveness, and our sins will be washed away. For sins that are not mortal in nature, it is never too late to turn back.
However, the Bible speaks of sins that are unforgivable. 1 John 5:16-17 explicitly states that there is sin not leading to death, and sin leading to death. We understand this to refer to the baptised Christian only because Jesus cannot be crucified twice (Hebrews 6:6). With regard to sin not leading to death, we can encourage ourselves and others with the fact that as long as we repent of our sins, we will be forgiven. For mortal sins, we leave the judgment to God. ‘There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that.’
Let us cherish each day as an opportunity to seek forgiveness from our magnanimous Father, and strive to do what is right in His sight.