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.

Jonathan – Friend of the Lord’s Anointed

“He loved him as he loved himself.” (1 Samuel 20:17)

Saul’s son Jonathan is one of the most overlooked heroes of the faith in the whole Bible.  If we are to speak of the courage of Gideon and David, Jonathan could also be numbered among them.  After all, he climbed a hill and fought the army of Philistines, trusting in the Lord alone for success.  He single-handedly killed twenty of their warriors, and the Lord used his courageous assault to throw the rest of the army into a panic.  Jonathan understood that God can do great things despite overwhelming odds: “Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving whether by many or by few” (1 Samuel 14:6).

But the thing that rightly sets Jonathan apart from the rest of the faithful men and women in the Bible is his loyalty and friendship toward David, God’s anointed king.  This is no small thing, considering that Jonathan’s father was the current king (with whom he seemed to be on pretty good terms).  He cared enough for David that he was willing to give up his own future rule for the sake of his friend.  His support and friendship of David would eventually lead to his own death at the hands of his enemies, the Philistines (1 Samuel 31:2).

Jonathan’s friendship and love for David is beautifully reflected in our relationship with Jesus.  Like Jonathan, we are friends with God’s Anointed One – Christ, the promised Messiah.  Although we were children of this world, we are called to turn aside from our worldly inheritance and follow Jesus out of love for Him.  For the sake of friendship with us, Jesus, like Jonathan, gave up His throne in heaven and even His very life at the hands of His enemies.  He has redeemed our life from the threat of death by the ruler of this fallen world, just as Jonathan rescued David from the hand of King Saul.  As Jonathan’s truthful words and earnest pleas turned aside the king’s wicked wrath from David, so Jesus’ perfect life and innocent death plead on our behalf and turn aside the righteous judgment of His Father, our Holy God.

Only Jonathan was able to reconcile his father, King Saul, with David.  Through Jesus, we are reconciled eternally with His Father and our gracious King.  His blood has formed a pact of friendship that nothing can ever break.  Jesus loved us enough to give up His life for us, and we in turn are moved by the Spirit to love Him as ourselves: “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).  Even though we fail time and again to honor the pact of friendship that Jesus has purchased for us, He will remain our friend forever, pleading with the Father on our behalf.  Now we can say with Jonathan, “Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving.”

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I thank and praise You for the reconciliation purchased by the blood of Your Son, Jesus Christ, through His friendship.  Amen.