Yesterday I commented that the Chronicler liked Hezekiah. That all changes with his son Manasseh. Despite having seen his father’s reforms and the positive effect that they had in the life of the nation, Manasseh does his best to turn the clock back and brings in the worst of idol worship and human sacrifice that has been seen in Judah’s history.
In line with the usual pattern of this history, Manasseh’s sin is punished by captivity and exile. Unlike the usual story, he realises the error of his ways and turns back to the LORD. He receives a forgiveness and second chance he doesn’t deserve, and devotes his efforts from then on to turning the nation back to the LORD. The Chronicler doesn’t seem to like it – he makes sure that we know that Manasseh’s sins are all recorded in history – but he recognises the reality of God’s grace in forgiving the undeserving.
At the same time, we’re reminded that it can work the other way too. Josiah, the great reviver and reformer, did as much good in his early reign as Manasseh had done evil. But where Manasseh started proud and learned humility, Josiah went the other way, and allowed pride rather than the word of the LORD to guide him into an unnecessary battle and to his death.
We should never let our relationship to God be defined by our past, whether that’s good or bad. While we live we are never too late to change and be forgiven. But while we live we will never have built up such a store of good deeds that we can count on them for the future. God is always looking to our next decision to be one of faithful obedience, and the last decision counts for more than all that have gone before it.
Even for wicked or heroic Kings.