Stephen – Rejected by Men

“Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute?  They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One.  And now you have betrayed and murdered him” (Acts 7:52).

If you have ever been scorned, ridiculed, tormented, or in any other way persecuted for speaking the Gospel, then know that you are in good company.

Stephen, “a man full of God’s grace and power” who “did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people” (Acts 6:8), paid the ultimate price for his witness concerning the Lord Jesus.  While the apostles had recently rejoiced “because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name” (Acts 5:41), Stephen now gains the distinction of becoming the first recorded martyr of the Christian faith.

Stephen and the other apostles discovered the hard way that sinful human beings don’t enjoy hearing God’s Word.  We (all of us) become defensive when convicted by God’s just and righteous Law.  We even resist the Gospel because it forces us to bear our souls before God and face our own wretched sinfulness.  It leaves us helpless and vulnerable, reminding us that we are powerless to achieve salvation through our own works.  We would rather exalt ourselves in the eyes of men than humble ourselves before the mercy seat of Almighty God.

Those who preach and confess the Word publicly are often met with resistance and hostility.  For the apostles, it meant torture and humiliation.  For Stephen, it meant death by stoning.  For us, it sometimes means loss of reputation or even employment.

How are we to react when our testimony is met with hard hearts and stiff necks?  We can take our cue from the great heroes of the faith who have gone before us.  The apostles rejoiced that they were permitted to suffer for the sake of Jesus’ name.  Stephen – like his Lord – forgave his murderers even as they carried out his death sentence.  We too should try to recognize that those who revile us are prisoners of darkness who need our prayers and the Holy Spirit in their lives.  God instructs us to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39) and to love even our “enemies” (Matthew 5:44).  His exhortation to take up our cross and follow Him (Luke 9:23) reminds us that our ministry to others may require personal sacrifice on our behalf.  Others undoubtedly sacrificed much to bring the Gospel to you and me, and Jesus sacrificed all to make that Gospel a reality.

In the midst of whatever suffering we are called to endure for the sake of Jesus’ name and whatever resistance we are met with, we must never forget that the Word of God is living and active.  Though our own powers of persuasion may be feeble and faulty, God’s Word is at work doing what it says it will.  In the time of Stephen and the apostles, scores of people were coming to faith in Christ Jesus – including many priests and influential Jews – despite the suffering and persecution of those who proclaimed the Gospel.  In our time, the Holy Spirit continues to work in the hearts of those who hear the words we proclaim; even in those who seem only to scorn and revile us for our testimony.  For this, we give thanks to God for His exceeding grace and mercy!

“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, give me the strength and courage to proclaim Your Word without fear or hesitation.  Send Your Spirit to work in the hearts of all those who hear, that they may believe and live; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, my Lord.  Amen.

The Beautiful Beggar – Returning Thanks

“When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.” (Acts 3:9-10)

His story is the story of every Christian who has received from the Lord free and abundant life.

He was crippled from birth, unable to help himself in any way.  He had to be carried daily to the temple, where he depended on the mercy of others for his daily bread.

He had no merit or worthiness in him.  He did not even ask to be healed.  But Jesus came to him through the witness of two men, and in a single day his life was changed forever.  His legs – that had never walked a step throughout his life – bore him instantly up with a strength that came not from himself, but from God.

Like this poor, crippled beggar, all of us were born spiritually lame and weak under the curse of sin.  We could not believe through our own power, being unable to take even a single step toward our Savior and the life He could offer.  If left to our own devices, we would have gone nowhere.

But God came to us, through the preaching of His Word by faithful men and women in our lives.  Through this Word and by our Baptism, our souls were filled with a strength that came from beyond ourselves.  Jesus took us by the hand and bid us rise and walk with Him – and by His grace, we were able to do just that.

Since this has been the pattern of every Christian’s life, you may think that it’s hardly the stuff heroes of the faith are made from.  But the most remarkable part of this crippled beggar’s account is yet to be seen; it is in his response to the great work that has been done in him.  He cannot contain himself – he rushes into the temple, “walking and jumping, and praising God.”  He simply must use this new God-given ability, and it seems he can only use it to glorify the Lord and testify to His goodness.

You see, we aren’t walking our way to heaven.  We don’t earn forgiveness by jumping up and down and praising God any more than a cripple can “earn” the use of his legs by running and leaping; it’s simply impossible.  Our saving faith, like the beggar’s miraculous mobility, is a free gift of God.

The crippled beggar is a hero of the faith because he shows us the appropriate response to being healed of our sin.  In faith, we run and jump and shout and praise God for the miraculous gift He has given us.  The beggar’s response draws many onlookers to him, and his thanksgiving becomes the catalyst for thousands of others coming to faith in Jesus Christ.  May God grant that our own thank offerings would bring such fruitful results!

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.  Let the redeemed of the Lord say this” (Psalm 107:1-2)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I thank and praise You for redeeming me from all my sins and enabling me to rise and walk with You.  Give me always a thankful heart, that I may proclaim Your goodness and mercy wherever I go; through Jesus Christ, You Son, my Lord.  Amen.

Joseph of Arimathea – Taking the Body of Christ

“Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action.  He came from the Judean town of Arimathea and he was waiting for the kingdom of God.  Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body.” (Luke 23:50-52)

Joseph of Arimathea was a man of true courage.  When Jesus’ own disciples were afraid to show their faces for fear of the Sanhedrin, Joseph stepped forward from among the ranks of the enemy and served our Lord by taking His body down off of the cross and placing it in an unused tomb.  Not only would this act defy his brethren on the Council and infuriate powerful leaders in Jerusalem, but it also broke with the custom of the time to leave the bodies of “criminals” without care or proper burial.  Joseph’s bold actions served as a witness and testimony to everyone that he was a follower of Jesus, the innocent Son of God.

Joseph’s renown as the caretaker of the body of Christ has endured even in secular society through the legends of King Arthur.  In these, Joseph is entrusted with the “Holy Grail,” a powerful artifact that is intimately connected with the body and blood of Jesus.  He is charged with passing down this task and mission to later generations; all the way down to Sir Galahad, who is eventually taken up into heaven by the power of the Grail.

Like Joseph, we have been entrusted with the care of Christ’s body, the Church.  Believing people throughout the world make up the members this body, and are united in Spirit under Jesus, our Head.  We have been given a monumental task to guard and protect this sacred vessel, preserving it for future generations as the place by which they come to the Father through His Son by Word and Sacrament.

Luke tells us that Joseph was “a good and upright man.”  Why does he say this?  What makes Joseph good and upright?  Joseph is moved by the Holy Spirit to come to the cross of Jesus, just as we are today.  Joseph is awaiting the kingdom of God, just as the saints today watch and pray.  And just as Joseph takes the body of Christ in faith and courage, so too do we come to the Lord’s altar and take Christ’s body, with His blood, for the strengthening of our faith and the endowment of His righteousness.  Doing this is the command of our Lord Jesus, and it is the testimony of our faith in Him as the Holy Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

“The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.” (Psalm 147:11)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, preserve Your Church through the preaching of the Gospel.  Help us to proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes again through faithfully partaking of His body and blood.  Let this testimony draw those around us to the cross of Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord.  Amen.

The Thief on the Cross – Jesus, Remember Me

“We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve.  But this man has done nothing wrong…Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Luke 23:41-42)

It is a curious thing that on Jesus’ most heroic day of His earthly existence, there was very little heroism elsewhere – especially in matters of faith.

It was a day for villains and cowards, and even those who had previously shown themselves to be great heroes of the faith faltered in those dark hours.  Rather than standing by their Lord in time of trouble and danger, Jesus’ disciples fled and scattered for the sake of their own safety.  His closest friends denied His name, swearing that they didn’t even know Him.  The administrators of “justice” made a mockery of their noble God-given authority to uphold truth and righteousness.  On that day, the masses of people cried out in anger for the blood of the Lamb of God.

But in this awful darkness, the testimony of one man shines out like a bright star in the heavens.  He was not a friend like Peter, not a student or follower like the disciples, not powerful like Pilate, and certainly not “righteous” like the leaders of the Jews believed themselves to be.  He was a poor, miserable criminal, justly condemned to die alongside Jesus.

During his brief time in the presence of the Word of God made flesh, this thief undergoes a dynamic change effected by the Holy Spirit.  God’s Law was written on this man’s heart, and he recognized his own sinfulness.  He confessed that he was being punished justly, but that Jesus was the innocent Righteous One of God.  The power of Jesus’ words and His very Being enables this criminal to make one of the most beautiful confessions of faith in all of Scripture by his modest plea: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Like blind Bartimaeus, this nameless thief demonstrates remarkable faith in Jesus’ power to forgive and redeem through his humble request for mercy.  And it is by this faith in God’s grace that the thief undergoes the Great Exchange; trading the punishment for his sin – the agony of death and Hell – for Jesus’ righteousness and innocence.  His assurance of this comes immediately after his confession in Jesus’ words: “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

Strengthened by the example of this heroic criminal, we come before God today and humbly ask for mercy.  We too cry out for the blood of the Lamb – not in anger against Him, but in contrition and repentance – asking God to be merciful for Jesus’ sake.  Like the thief on the cross, we can rest assured that Jesus will remember us in His kingdom where we will dwell with Him eternally.

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.  Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” (Psalm 51:1-2)

Prayer: Lord, forgive my sins and remember me in Your kingdom, for the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, my Lord.  Amen.

Bartimaeus – Have Mercy on Me

“When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’” (Mark 10:47-48)

It must have been a motley crew following Jesus that day.  Among the crowd were Jesus’ disciples, as usual, staying close to their teacher and trying to learn whatever they could from Him.  There were, no doubt, a great many who were there to be healed of their sicknesses and demons.  More than likely, a fair number of them were following Jesus to glean from His wise sayings.  And of course, there were probably the ever-present Pharisees out to trap Jesus or try to prove Him wrong.

It’s funny how little times change.  Large crowds still follow Jesus, and it seems they are every bit as diverse today as they were two thousand years ago.  Naturally, Jesus’ modern-day disciples are among the crowd, still trying desperately to understand and hold fast to His teachings.  Then there are those who follow Jesus thinking He’s a bread king or a magic formula for health, financial success, or self-actualization.  Others today follow Jesus because of His wisdom, seeing Him as a moral teacher and no more.  Or they pursue Him for historical research, or as an interesting archaeological specimen, or as a juicy piece of material for their next movie or documentary.  And still others tag along because they can’t stand Him, and are waiting for an opportunity to argue Him out of the way.

And what about Bart?  Poor, blind, begging Bartimaeus wasn’t even able to join the crowd following Jesus around.  So what does he do?  He calls out to Jesus using the single most effective plea in all of Scripture: “Have mercy on me!”

Of course, this doesn’t fit with the rest of the crowd’s desires and expectations of Jesus.  There are plenty of “Shooshers” there to try to silence Bartimaeus, but he just calls out all the louder.  And you know what?  Jesus stops, turns, and calls him to Himself.

After all, Jesus wants to hear exactly what Bartimaeus is calling out for: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  Finally, someone who yearns for what Jesus came to give!  As it turns out, blind Bartimaeus saw who Jesus is more clearly than anyone else in the throng.  The proof?  Well, what does Bartimaeus do after Jesus heals him?  “Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.” (Mark 10:52)

Jesus will always pick that voice out of the crowd – the one that cries out to Him, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  That’s exactly what He’s listening for.  Until He reaches out and touches us with His merciful hand, we cannot really follow Him; at least not the way He wants us to.  As He heals our spiritual blindness and forgives our wretched sinfulness, He also enables us to walk with Him.  May we be the voice that leads everyone in the crowd to join in the plea: “Have mercy on me!”

“This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles.” (Psalm 34:6)

Prayer: Lord God, have mercy on me, a sinner!  Remove my blindness that I may walk with You always; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, my Lord.  Amen.

The Paralytic’s Friends – Whatever it Takes

“When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’” (Mark 2:5)

If you’ve ever had a really close friend who was sick or injured, you know how hard it is to see them suffer.  Most of us would be willing to do almost anything for the sake of helping someone we love.  Imagine for a moment that one such person to whom you are very close is suffering from a terminally debilitating condition, and that an individual who could immediately heal them was close at hand.  What would you not dare in order to get this friend into the presence of that healer?

Now imagine that this friend of yours suffers not from a mere physical ailment or disease, but from a spiritual plague that is eating away at their very soul and threatening to cause eternal death.  Their condition worsens daily, and at any moment they could pass the threshold of physical death, where their malady would be beyond anyone’s help.  What would you not dare to get this person you love into the presence of the One who is able to heal him?

It’s strange how our hearts become overwhelmed with pity for the physical suffering of those around us, and yet we all know friends, relatives, or neighbors whose souls are in critical condition.  If any of these people were physically dying, we would be willing to carry them on foot for miles to whatever specialist was available, go to great lengths to attract the personal attention they need, and pay whatever price was demanded for their treatment.  But often, we neglect to get them the necessary spiritual treatment because we are ashamed, embarrassed, or reluctant to cause tension in our relationship with them.

The paralytic’s friends loved him very much.  They knew that only one person could heal him and restore the use of his legs.  And so, they were willing to do whatever it took to get him into Jesus’ presence, trusting in the merciful Lord to heal him.  What they didn’t realize is that Jesus came first and foremost to remove our spiritual disease of sin – a much more serious condition than even paralysis – and that they all needed His medical attention.  He then restored their bed-ridden friend’s physical capacities in order to show everyone present that He had the power and authority to remove even the most aggressive strains of humanity’s sinful disease.

If you have a friend or relative who is suffering from sickness or physical adversity, by all means bring them to the Lord in prayer for strength and healing.  But also realize that sometimes physical ailments are just what the Doctor ordered for our spiritual sickness.  Pray more so that God would use whatever adversity they are facing to bring them closer to Himself.

If you have a loved one whose spiritual health is on life-support, the best thing you can do is to take a lesson from the paralytic’s friends: Do whatever it takes to bring them into Jesus’ presence.  Then, trust in His mercy to heal and restore them.  Your job is not to work the miracle – but you can remove the barriers and bring them face to face with their risen Lord.  Only by Jesus’ grace, power, and authority will they arise and walk once more with Him.

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we bring before you all those who do not know the joy of Your forgiveness.  Bend their hearts that they may turn to You in repentance and faith, receiving redemption and salvation through Jesus Christ, You Son, our Lord.  Amen.

John the Baptist – Preparing the Way

“And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (Luke 1:76-79)

John’s mother, Elizabeth, certainly “got it” when it came to God’s plan for salvation and what the Messiah was all about.  Zechariah, her husband, shows that he also understood exactly how God saves His people and what it means to be a hero of the faith.  He proclaimed that John, his son, would prepare the way for the Lord by telling the world of God’s forgiveness of sins through His great mercy.  As John prepared the way for Jesus’ ministry, he was preparing the people around him for the Way – Jesus Christ, the only Way to the Father.

John the Baptist’s ministry is summed up nicely in the Gospel of John: “He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe.  He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.  The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world” (1:7-9).  John could certainly have made a big deal out of himself, but he faithfully and humbly used all his resources to point everyone he met to the coming Messiah.  In a time when the Jews were looking for a political leader who would lead them once again to military and economic dominance, John rightly testified to the people what the work of Jesus Christ would really be – to suffer and die on their behalf, as a Lamb with blemish, for the forgiveness of their sins.

There may be no better hero of the faith than John the Baptist, because he shows us exactly what Christians ought to be doing in order to have an effective ministry.  John spends his days doing two things; preaching repentance and forgiveness, and baptizing all who come in faith.  He humbles himself before God and loudly proclaims Jesus as the only source of life and salvation.

As Christians today find themselves in spiritual deserts with parched souls around them thirsting for Living Water, they too can take up John’s mantle and “make straight the way for the Lord.”  We can prepare the hearts of our neighbors and communities to receive God’s Word by what we say and do.  We can correct in love and gentleness, calling our nation and our world to repentance and holding out to them the free forgiveness of sins won by God’s Son.  We can testify concerning the Light of the World and act as a lampstand to hold that Light up for all to see.  That is still what we are called to do as God’s heroes of the faith.

“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!…I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:29,34)

Prayer: Lord, help me to faithfully prepare the hearts of those around me, so that You may enter into their lives with life and forgiveness, through Jesus Christ, Your Son. Amen.

Elizabeth – Getting it Right

“Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” (Luke 1:45)

I’ll make it easy today; those words above are exactly what make Elizabeth one of the great heroes of the faith and our first example for the New Testament.  She professes precisely the same doctrine that Jesus Christ Himself would preach, and the same message that all of our heroes of the faith in the Old Testament pointed toward; we are saved by believing and trusting the promises of God!

It isn’t always easy to fully and immediately trust God’s words.  Elizabeth’s own husband, Zechariah, initially doubted the Word of the Lord through the angel Gabriel, and went without speaking for the duration of Elizabeth’s pregnancy as a result.  However, he and his wife become a united front in faithfully believing what the Lord told them when it came time to name the child, and God richly blessed them for their faith.

How wonderful that in a time of ceremonial laws and regulations a Godly woman would pronounce such a simple, compelling summary of the Gospel!  And what better time for this affirmation of salvation by grace through faith than at the first appearance of our unborn Lord?  Just as John and Peter would later be prompted to their own confessions by the power of the Holy Spirit, so too was Elizabeth filled with the Spirit and given the miracle of faith by which God would use her to speak His truth.

Time and time again, we see those who come into contact with Jesus doing exactly what Elizabeth first proclaimed to Mary on that day: They believe the words of God’s promised Messiah and are blessed with faith and life through Him.  The centurion, the paralytic, the Canaanite woman; all of them and many others confessed their faith in Jesus, believing in what He said, and received the blessings of physical and spiritual healing.  Many, like the thief on the cross, believed Jesus’ words of promise and were blessed with eternal life.

Elizabeth’s statement of faith is true for God’s people today all over the world.  God has promised to redeem and save all those who turn to Him in faith for forgiveness.  Believing that what He says will be accomplished, we look to the cross for salvation, proclaiming righteousness and life to all who trust this promise!

“I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 11:25-26)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me to always trust Your promises.  Send Your Holy Spirit into the hearts of people all over the world, that they may turn to You in faith and live by grace, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord.  Amen.

Malachi – Sounding the Wake-up Call

“My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence and he revered me and stood in awe of my name.  True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips.  He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin.”  (Malachi 2:5-6)

Tell me when this starts to sound familiar:

The people of God had become lukewarm and complacent.  They felt like worship and duty to God were a burden; a task to be performed without love or joy.  They gave to Him out of obligation, but only the dregs and the leftovers.  They complained that God did not reward them for their “faithfulness” and only prospered the wicked.  They longed for God to come with fire and judgment to destroy the “sinners.”  They no longer respected God’s servants, but despised the priesthood.  They turned to pagan peoples and culture for happiness and fulfillment rather than abiding steadfastly in the One True God.  They quarreled and broke faith even with their spouses, endangering the Godly upbringing of their youth.

Many churches today are stressing the importance of “relevance” in their ministries.  That’s fine and good, but if you cannot see the relevance in the plain and simple Word of God, then something is seriously wrong.  I’m afraid that there are those who turn to other more worldly sources because they feel that Scripture is “dated” and “out-of-touch” with people today.  And yet, is there a single item in the above paragraph with which our society cannot perfectly relate?

Malachi made it quite “relevant” to the Israelites, as well as to us today: When we regard worship as a “burden” and offer to God only the leftovers, we dishonor His name and show a lack of love, trust, and devotion to Him.  When we despise God’s Word and those who proclaim it, we can’t complain when the world despises and humiliates us.  When we break faith with God and abandon His ways, how can we expect to reap the fruits of abundant life that He promises as a result of following Him in faith?  And God certainly will come to judge the sinners; so beware!  Our hypocrisy itself accuses us, for we have fallen far short of the Law’s requirements: “Now implore God to be gracious to us.  With such offerings from your hands, will he accept you?” (Malachi 1:9)

The question for our churches today is, how can we make “the rest of the story” relevant as well?  Will we, like the faithful remnant in Jerusalem, turn to God in repentance and place our lives at the mercy of His promise?  “Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard.  A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name.  ‘They will be mine,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘in the day when I make up my treasured possession.  I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him” (Malachi 3:16-17).

Thankfully, our Heavenly Father has a Son who has served Him perfectly, living a life that fulfilled the fullness of the Law and dying on our behalf.  In compassion for Jesus Christ’s sake, God will spare us even though we have flouted His commands, neglected His worship, broken faith with each other, doubted His justice, and wished for vengeance upon the “ungodly.”  We revere His name by trusting in His mercy and placing our faith in the promise of salvation through forgiveness by His grace!

“But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.  And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.” (Malachi 4:2)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, forgive me for the many ways in which I fall short of honoring You.  Help me to put You first in my life by glorifying You in all that I do and by serving my neighbor.  Bring me at last to be with You forever for the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, my Lord.  Amen.

Manasseh – Chief of Sinners

“But Manasseh led Judah and the people of Jerusalem astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed before the Israelites.” (2 Chronicles 33:9)

Manasseh doesn’t sound very faithful or heroic, does he?  So why include him in a devotional series dedicated to “heroes of the faith”?  I have to admit, when one reads the account of Manasseh’s wickedness, it feels pretty dirty to put him in the company of heroes like Hezekiah and Isaiah.  But then I remember some of the other terrible sinners who God was able to forgive and redeem – Samson, Saul, Andrew Boll – and I am reminded that a faith hero is measured only by the love that God demonstrates through him.

Manasseh’s heinous sins led the entire nation into exile and slavery.  His decision to abandon God and perform terrible acts of idolatry caused him great suffering and shame.  Finally, Manasseh wakes up and realizes that his rejection of God is at the heart of all the troubles he and Judah are facing: “In his distress he sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers.  And when he prayed to him, the Lord was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea…Then Manasseh knew that the Lord is God” (2 Chronicles 33:12-13).

Manasseh was a legendary sinner, which makes God’s restoration of him to the one true faith one of the greatest displays of His loving, redeeming power in the Old Testament.  Manasseh finally acknowledges God to be the True King, and uses the remainder of his rule to correct many of the wrongs he had earlier committed.  He is a hero of the faith because he shows us today the path to salvation: Repent, and trust in a merciful God for life and restoration.

The depth of Manasseh’s sins shows all the more the awesome power and love of a God who would go all the way to the cross for the sake of miserable sinners like you and me.  Like Manasseh, in our state of defeat and bondage we turn toward the hills, looking for a Deliverer.  What a glorious sight when we see the Son rising there, swooping down upon our enemies to bring us freedom and hope!

“Look, there on the mountains, the feet of one who brings good news, who proclaims peace!” (Nahum 1:15)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I thank and praise You for the example of sinners as wretched and miserable as I am who show me the power of Your love to redeem.  Grant that I may always turn to You for deliverance from the bondage of sin.  Help me to bring the good news of peace and life to everyone around me today, through Jesus Christ, Your Son.  Amen.