“Do you think that I like to see wicked people die? says the Sovereign LORD. Of course not! I want them to turn from their wicked ways and live. (Ezekiel 18:23, NLT)
Have you ever watched the pain and grief of a parent who has a wayward child? Or perhaps you are that parent. It’s so easy to agonize, “What did I do wrong? How did I fail?” I’ve known many godly people whose children turned away from God, and it’s heartbreaking. But it doesn’t mean they were bad parents.
As I was reading the Bible this morning, I came across the story of Manasseh, the son of King Hezekiah of Judah. Hezekiah was a God-fearing man who trusted in the Lord and faithfully followed His commandments. You may remember Hezekiah as the king whose life God extended for fifteen more years (II Chronicles 32). During those fifteen years, Manasseh was born.
Manasseh was only twelve when his father died and he ascended the throne. Everything his father stood for, Manasseh seemed to despise. His godly father would have been heartbroken to see the wickedness of his son’s actions and the way he led the nation into idolatry. As we read Manasseh’s story in II Chronicles 33, we learn:
- He rebuilt the high places.
- He built altars to Baal.
- He brought in other forms of idolatry.
- He set up a carved image of Asherah in the house of God.
- He sacrificed his own son.
- He used witchcraft and consulted mediums.
It seems that nothing was too depraved for Manasseh. His wickedness was worse than that of the heathen (II Chronicles 33:9). He was beyond redemption—or at least that’s what we might think. How could someone who tried to destroy everything good and holy ever be saved?
The Bible says Manasseh’s actions provoked God’s anger, and God brought the king of Assyria against him. He was bound in fetters and carried into Babylon. God got his attention by placing him in extremely dire circumstances.
“And when he was in distress, he entreated the favor of the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers.” (II Chronicles 33:12, ESV)
Manasseh repented, truly repented, and humbled himself before the Lord. God mercifully heard his prayers and restored him to his kingdom. Manasseh began to undo his previous actions. He took away the false gods and the altars he had built. He repaired the altar of the Lord and restored true worship. He commanded the people to follow the Lord. Yes, he had many wasted years, and his wickedness affected an entire nation, but God extended mercy.
As I read Manasseh’s story, it reminds me once again that no matter had great the sin, God’s mercy is greater. You and I may have written Manasseh off as being too wicked for God to save. But God saw a wayward son that He wanted to restore and bring home.
If you have a prodigal in your family, don’t give up hope. No matter how far they have fallen, no matter how deep their sin, God’s arm of mercy can pull them back to safety. Keep praying; keep believing. Yes, God may allow them to endure some difficult situations until He gets their attention but remember that He loves them even more than you do.
“I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak . . .” (Ezekiel 34:16, ESV)
Lord, You said that it is not Your will for any to perish. We pray for our loved ones who have turned away from You. Watch over them and protect them, even though their sin may lead them into dangerous situations. Remind them of Your love and mercy and give them a heart to serve You. Place others in their path who will speak loving truth into their life. We trust You to bring them safely home.