“Spiritual Adultery” – 2 Chronicles 33:1-20

March 31st, 2013 – Easter

2 Chronicles 33:1-20 (see also: 2 Kings 21:1-18; 23:26-27; 24:3-4)

“Spiritual Adultery”

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Bible Memory Verse for the WeekThe law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.  — Romans 5:20-21

                                                                                                               

Background Information:

  • Ahaz had built Judah’s spiritual coffin; Manasseh and Amon put the lid on it and drove in the nails.  The Chronicler and the author of Kings completely agree on this point.  What is striking about the Chronicler’s account of Manasseh’s reign is his description of Manasseh’s repentance, a matter that the author of Kings leaves unmentioned.  (Paul O. Wendland, The People’s Bible, 2 Chr, 382)
  • Manasseh rules longer than any other Israelite king.  His 55 year reign probably includes a coregency of several years with his father, Hezekiah.  The dates of his reign extend from about 696 to 642 B.C.  As an aside, it bears mention that Manasseh was probably born into the royal family during the 15 year extension of Hezekiah’s life granted by God in response to his prayer for healing from a fatal disease (cf. 2 Kgs 20:1-6).  (Andrew E. Hill, The NIV Application Commentary: 1 & 2 Chr, 613)
  • Manasseh, evil son of the godly Hezekiah, had the longest reign of all the Hebrew monarchs, from 697 to 642 B.C.; and he more than any other single person was responsible for the final destruction of the kingdom of Judah (2 Kgs 23:26; 24:3; Jer 15:4).  (Frank E. G belein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 4, 544)
  • (v. 2) During Manasseh’s reign, Palestine continued in the shadow of Assyrian might.  The Assyrian king Ashurbanipal, who was not usually as destructive as his predecessors, undertook a successful conquest against Jerusalem.  At the same time, Babylonian culture also started to become influential.  We find Manasseh resorting to Babylonian practices, such as astrology and séances.  (Broadman & Holman Pub, Shepherd’s Notes, 1, 2 Chr, 85)
  • (v. 3) The evils of Manasseh are accentuated by plural forms in vv 3 (Baals, Asherahs) and 6 (sons).  (Peter R. Ackroyd, 1 & 2 Chr, Ezra, Neh, 196)
  • (v. 11) The nose “hook” and “bronze shackles” (33:11) are typical of the humiliation inflicted on captives in the biblical world (cf. Isa 37:29; Amos 4:2; Hab 1:15).  (Andrew E. Hill, The NIV Application Commentary: 1 & 2 Chr, 615)
  • (v. 11) Why to Babylon, when Nineveh was the Assyrian capital?  Perhaps the summons to the emperor took place in 648 B.C., when he had suppressed in Babylonia the rebellion of his brother, who had also fomented unrest in the west.  (Leslie Allen, Mastering the OT, 1, 2 Chr, 413)
  • (vvs. 11-13) Manasseh is mentioned in seventh-century Assyrian inscriptions as a loyal vassal who contributed as required to support the long Assyrian campaign against Egypt (see the translations of Oppenheim 1969, 291, 294).  However, that may have changed after 652 B.C., when Shamash-shum-ukin, ruler of Babylon and brother to the Assyrian king Assurbanipal (669-626 B.C.) launched his revolt.  The revolt spread quickly, supported in particular by the Arab tribes, and though Babylon was pacified by 648 B.C., the empire never recovered.  Perhaps Manasseh, too, supported Shamash-shum-ukin’s revolt–or was suspected of doing so by his Assyrian overlords.  The treatment of Manasseh described in 33:11-13 is in keeping with the actions of Assurbanipal toward other vassals of questionable loyalty.  (Steven S. Tuell, Interpretation: 1 & 2 Chr, 232)
  • (v. 20) He was properly buried as befitted a king whose repentance put him among the good ones, a veritable example of the graciousness of God towards the repentant sinner.  (Peter R. Ackroyd, 1 & 2 Chr, Ezra, Neh, 198)
  • The narrative in 2 Kgs 24:3-4 ascribes blame directly to King Manasseh for the Babylonian exile of the southern kingdom.  Like matter reaching an irreversible energy state of critical mass in the science of physics, the course charted by the political and religious policies of Manasseh lead irrevocably to the Exile.  (Andrew E. Hill, The NIV Application Commentary: 1 & 2 Chr, 614)

 

The questions to be answered are . . . What was Pastor Keith thinking screwing up Easter by preaching on the life of Manasseh?   Doesn’t he understand what Easter is all about?  What was he thinking?

 

Answer: Pastor Keith earnestly believes he is giving you the most powerful Easter message ever.   Easter is all about the  hope we have because God proved that Jesus was the real deal by raising Him from the dead.   If we could simply understand that the gracious love God showed Manasseh or that Jesus showed the horrible sinners of His day is the same love God desires to direct to us, it would revolutionize our lives forever.

 

Hugh Redwood, the Christian journalist, used to say that God is able to save from the guttermost to the uttermost.  (Leslie Allen, Mastering the OT, 1, 2 Chr, 407)

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Wow!

 

I told a story in my book The Jesus I Never Knew, a true story that long afterward continued to haunt me.  I heard it from a friend who works with the down-and-out in Chicago:

A prostitute came to me in wretched straits, homeless, sick, unable to buy food for her two-year-old daughter.  Through sobs and tears, she told me she had been renting out her daughter — two years old! — to men interested in kinky sex.  She made more renting out her daughter for an hour than she could earn on her own in a night.  She had to do it, she said, to support her drug habit.  I could hardly bear hearing her sordid story.  For one thing, it made me legally liable — I’m required to report cases of child abuse.  I had no idea what to say to this woman.

At last I asked if she ever thought of going to a church for help.  I will never forget the look of pure, naive shock that crossed her face.  “Church!”  She cried.  “Why would I ever go there?  I was already feeling terrible about myself.  They’d just make me feel worse.”

What struck me about my friend’s story is that women much like this prostitute fled toward Jesus, not away from him.  The worse a person felt about herself, the more likely she saw Jesus as a refuge.  Has the church lost that gift?  Evidently, the down-and-out, who flocked to Jesus when he lived on earth, no longer feel welcome among his followers.  What has happened? (Philip Yancey ; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 11)

 

If a bridegroom on his wedding night sat down to negotiate terms of infidelity—“OK, you’ve guaranteed the future by promising to stick with me regardless.  Just how far can I go with other women?  Can I hug them?  Kiss them?  Go to bed with them?  How often?  How many?” —we would call such a husband a fraud, a pathologically sick man.  If he approaches marriage that way, he will never learn the meaning of true love.  And if a Christian approaches forgiveness the same way— “Let’s see, God has promised forgiveness in advance.  What can I get away with?  How far can I push it?”  —that Christian will end up equally impoverished.  Paul’s response says it all: “God forbid!”  (Philip Yancey,; Finding God in Unexpected Places, 186)

 

God says to Hosea, “Hosea, you see this woman over here named Gomer?  Marry her.”

So Hosea says, “Sure.  I‘m a prophet.  You’re God.  You spoke to me.  I’ll marry her.”

And it is not long after he is married to her that he realizes that she has wayward feet.  That she is not being faithful to him, that she is being sexually unfaithful to him.

And as she begins to have children, he realizes that they are not his children. In fact, he names one of them not mine.

And finally her unfaithfulness gets worse and worse and worse, until eventually she leaves him and leaves the kids, and goes off to one man and goes off to another man and goes off to another man.  And finally that last man, because she is so faithless, she is breaking every promise, she is lying and finally he sells her into slavery.

Hosea turns to God and says, “Remind me why you asked me to marry her.”

And God basically says, “So you will know something about my relationship to you.  Now you will now what it is like for me. So you will know what it is like to be me.  And here is what I want you to do Hosea.  I want you to go where she is being bid on and I want you to purchase her freedom and I want you to take her back and then you will know what it is like to be me.”

And so there is poor  Gomer. From what we can tell she is probably being bid on as a slave and she is probably stripped naked as they were so that the buyers could see what they were buying.  And she is standing there and suddenly to her shock she hears her husband’s voice bidding and he purchases her freedom.  And he walks up to her and instead of berating her, he takes his cloak off and covers her nakedness and says, “Now you will come home and be my wife.”   (Tim Keller in a sermon entitled “No One Seeks God”; 31:10 minutes into the sermon)

 

This story is nothing compared to what God has done for you.

Hosea had to go to the next city but God had to come to earth from heaven to find you.

Jesus didn’t purchase you back with money, but went to the cross and paid with his life blood.

Jesus was stripped naked in order for us to be covered with the robe of righteousness.

 

What is 2 Chronicles 33:1-20 trying to tell us?:

I.  Manasseh commits spiritual adultery and does about all that he can do to hurt God (2 Chr 33:1-9)

 

Tradition tells us that during Manasseh’s reign, he takes Isaiah the prophet captive, places him in a hollowed out log, and saws him in two pieces.  He does not want to hear what the prophets have to say, for they go against what he is doing.  (Dr. Tremper Longman, Quicknotes, 1 Chr Thru Job, 99)

 

His sins read like a catalog of all the possible wickedness an evil king might do (see Dt 12:5-13:9; 18:9-14).  The Chronicler structures his listing in such a way so that at both the beginning and the end there are references to the nations the Lord had driven out from the Land of Promise “before the Israelites” (vv 2, 9).  Ominously, our writer foreshadows not only the punishment the Lord was about to inflict on Manasseh but also the punishment his own people were about to receive.  They had joined in the king’s sin and had incurred the same guilt.  God was about to drive them from his land.  (Paul O. Wendland, The People’s Bible, 2 Chr, 383)

 

The intensity of Manasseh’s sin is stressed by the double reference (vv 4, 7f.) to the Lord’s promise, again in Deuteronomy (12:5 etc.), that he would “put his name” in Jerusalem forever.  His putting his name there implied a claim to sole rights over the place, at the expense of other gods (Dt 12:3).  Manasseh’s acts are, therefore, a calculated attempt to throw off the lordship of Yahweh, to claim independence from the Covenant, to drive him from the land which he had given Israel.  The effect of this presentation is to show the extreme danger in which Manasseh himself stands of being driven from the land.  As well as a double reference to the Lord’s name, there is a double reference to his expulsion of Israel’s predecessors in the land because of their attachment to the kinds of practices now indulged in by Manasseh (vv 2, 9).  This again reflects the context of Dt 18, where we read (v 12) that it is precisely because of soothsaying, augury, sorcery etc. that the nations were driven out.  Verse 9, then prepares the reader for Manasseh’s expulsion, as the natural and just consequence of his crimes.  (J. G. McConville, The Daily Study Bible Series, 1 & 2 Chr, 250)

 

In God’s temple, he put a carved image–in the sanctuary and in the city where the Lord had chosen to reveal himself to Israel (v 7).  The effect of the contrast works the sheer horror of the sins into the reader.  God displayed his sweet grace in the temple and city, and this was the thanks he got for it!  (Paul O. Wendland, The People’s Bible, 2 Chr, 384)

 

The Lord, who had loved his people like a husband, was now being asked to tolerate rivals inside his own house (Jer 31:32).  Surely he whose name is Jealous (Ex 34:14) wouldn’t put up with this!  (Paul O. Wendland, The People’s Bible, 2 Chr, 385)

 

The record in 2 Kgs 21:1-18; 24:3, 4 emphasizes three degrading aspects of the regime of Manasseh: upon his accession to the throne he led in a reaction against the reforms instituted by his father Hezekiah; he accelerated the development of heathenism in the country; he instituted a bitter persecution of the prophetic party which opposed the popular syncretism led by the king.  He “filled Jerusalem with innocent blood” (2 Kgs 24:4), and the prophets were put to the sword (Jer 2:30).  Rabbinical lit. places emphasis upon the idea that Manasseh was even more evil than Ahaz, and that he killed Isaiah, who had fled and hid in a tree, by sawing him asunder.  (Merrill C. Tenney, Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. 4, 64)

 

The narrative specifies two points in which, as he matured in years, and was confirmed in his course of conduct, he went wrong: first, in his idolatry; and second, in his contempt of remonstrances and warnings.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, 2 Kgs – Eccl, 252)

 

God had declared: “In this house…I will put My name forever.”  Manasseh’s actions deliberately countermanded this declaration of the divine will: he put “a carved image…in the house of God” (v 7).  Here was blatant apostasy indeed, as if to assert “Not Thy will but mine be done!”  (Leslie Allen, Mastering the OT, 1, 2 Chr, 411)

 

II.  God loved Manasseh enough to go after him.   (2 Chr 33:10-11)

 

Since he refuses to listen to the prophets, God tries to get his attention by taking him captive by the Assyrians.  They place hooks in his nose and fetters on him, and carry him away to Babylon.  This is exactly what Manasseh needs to turn to God.  Manasseh’s conversion is very similar to that of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.  Nebuchadnezzar’s pride brings him to a state of madness until he finally looks up to the true and living God (33:10-20).  (Dr. Tremper Longman, Quicknotes, 1 Chr Thru Job, 99)

 

God would not let Manasseh alone, but endeavored to coax him back by His “seers” (v 18; cf. V 10).  Eventually the king succumbed to His persistent love and found in 2 Chr 7:14 a prescription for the way back to Him: self-humbling, a “prayer” of penitent faith “to his God”–mentioned twice, so important a spiritual key was it–and a favorable response from God.  (Leslie Allen, Mastering the OT, 1, 2 Chr, 416)

 

Exodus begins with the God of compassion, the God of justice, hearing the cry of slaves in Egypt and setting out to do something about it. God sends a man named Moses to rescue them, and it’s through Moses that God makes four promises to these slaves. “I will take you out.” “I will rescue you.” “I will redeem you.” “I will take you to me.”

There’s a reason why these four promises are so significant–they’re the promises a Jewish groom makes to a Jewish bride. This is wedding language. Somebody hearing this story in its original context would realize that some sort of marriage is going to take place.  (Rob Bell; Sex God, 131-32)

 

III.  When pushed against the wall, Manasseh finally understood God’s great love for him and repented and came home. (2 Chr 33:12-13)

 

Chr shows here that the Lord is always ready to restore his people’s fellowship with him and bless them in new and unexpected ways.  He has put his name in Jerusalem “for ever”.  (J. G. McConville, The Daily Study Bible Series, 1 & 2 Chr, 252)

 

We have often spoken about the needs of the Chronicler’s audience.  Their spiritual depression called for liberal applications of the healing balm of the gospel.  This is why the Chronicler chose to use the facts of Manasseh’s history to preach both severest law and sweetest gospel.  We will note some of his specific methods as we discuss the text.  (Paul O. Wendland, The People’s Bible, 2 Chr, 382)

 

After all Manasseh had done, how could the Lord receive him back into favor, bring him back to Jerusalem, and put him back on his throne?  If we are honest, we might confess that even we are tempted to question the kind of grace that could forgive a person like Manasseh.  (Paul O. Wendland, The People’s Bible, 2 Chr, 389)

 

King Manasseh had humbled himself, and the Lord heard him and forgave him, just as the Lord had said that he would.  Because of this same promise, the people of Judah, who themselves were later taken into exile, could have the sure hope that the Lord would bring them back again.  It was this same comfort that could brighten the days of the exiles who had returned and were struggling to survive.  (Paul O. Wendland, The People’s Bible, 2 Chr, 390)

 

Even if Manasseh’s exile and return were historical events with political causes, Chronicles does not present them in that way.  The Chronicler, disinterested as always in political motivations, sees both Manasseh’s exile and his return as acts of God, prompted by Manasseh’s sin and repentance.  Manasseh serves as a compelling illustration of the extraordinary grace of God, offered freely to penitents whatever their offenses–and a firm rebuttal to those who would see a firm divide between “Old” Testament law and “New” Testament grace.  (Steven S. Tuell, Interpretation: 1 & 2 Chr, 233)

 

Manasseh’s plea issues from a contrite heart, for he “humbled himself greatly” (33:12).  This word signifies true repentance, demonstrated by a broken spirit coupled with acts of penance (e.g., tearing of garments and weeping) for personal sin and disobedience to God (cf. 2 Kgs 22:19).  For this reason, the report of Manasseh’s repentance and prayer of forgiveness is reminiscent of the language of God’s promise to King Solomon to restore those who “humble themselves and pray” (2 Chr 7:14).

The expression “the LORD was moved” (33:13) is unusual and marks a theological distinctive of the God of the Bible.  Unlike the deaf Baals after which the Israelites continually strayed, the God of Israel is not only approachable, but he listens to prayer and is capable of responding with empathy toward those in dire need (Ex 22:27; 2 Chr 30:9; cf. 1 Kgs 18:26; Isa 44:18; Hab 2:18).  The stark contrast between God who listens to the plea of Manasseh (2 Chr 33:13) and the people who pay no attention to God (33:10) would not be lost on the Chronicler’s audience.  The episode foreshadows the hallmark attribute of Jesus Christ as the great high priest, who is moved to grant mercy because he sympathizes with human weakness, having experienced it himself (Heb 4:14-16).

According to Selman, the conversion of King Manasseh ranks second in dramatic impact only to the experience of Saul of Tarsus on the Damascus road (Acts 9:3-6).  God is always faithful in returning to those who return to him (Jer 3:22; Zech 1:3; Mal 3:7).  In fact, this is how Manasseh knows that “the LORD is God”–not only because he is restored to the throne out of exile but because “who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression…of his inheritance?” (Mic 7:18).  (Andrew E. Hill, The NIV Application Commentary: 1 & 2 Chr, 615)

 

Selman reminds us that “the Bible consistently affirms that God’s door remains open to anyone, even after what should have been closing time.”  Apparently the Chronicler desires to remind his postexilic audience of this timeless truth as well!  (Andrew E. Hill, The NIV Application Commentary: 1 & 2 Chr, 617)

 

12-13.  The verb “humble” is one of the frequent terms that serves as a vehicle for the Chronicler’s theology of immediate retribution.  By reporting Manasseh’s humbling himself and praying the Chronicler is reiterating the centrality of Solomon’s prayer at the temple dedication and God’s response, particularly 2 Chr 7:14 which serves virtually as a charter for Israel’s history as seen through the Chronicler’s eyes.  (Raymond B. Dillard, Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 15, 268)

 

The Chronicler’s text treats Manasseh as a model of one who was exiled, repented of sin, returned to the land of promise, and restored the nation to God.  (Richard L. Pratt, 1 & 2 Chr, A Mentor Commentary, 462)

 

IV.  It was Manasseh’s understanding of God’s love for him that motivated him to make stunning reforms in Judah.  (2 Chr 33:14-20)

 

The rebuilding of the city wall of Jerusalem (33:14) may refer to repairs made necessary when Manasseh was taken captive by the Assyrians or to the continuation of the expansion of Jerusalem begun under Hezekiah (cf. Isa 22:10-11, 2 Chr 32:5).  Strengthening the military presence in the fortified cities of Judah (33:14) is almost routine for kings ruling in Jerusalem, since these cities form a shield against foreign invaders (cf. 2 Kgs 18:13; 2 Chr 14:6; 17:2; 26:9).  Assuming Manasseh’s renewed loyalty as an Assyrian vassal after his release from exile, both initiatives may have been encouraged by the Assyrians as defensive measures aimed at discouraging an Egyptian military campaign into Judah.  (Andrew E. Hill, The NIV Application Commentary: 1 & 2 Chr, 616)

 

CONCLUSION/APPLICATION: What does this message have to do with Christ and Easter?:

 

 

A-  We have all committed spiritual adultery and greatly offended the God of the Universe by our sin and pathetic love for Him (Ps 50:18; 106:39; Isa 49:18; 54:5-6; 57:3; 62:5; Jer 2:20; 3:1-20; 5:1-11; 7:9; 13:27; 23:14; 31:32; Ezek 6:9; 16:15-45; 23:1-45; Bk of Hosea [especially 5:4]; Mt 12:39; 16:4; Jn 15:19; Rom 7:1-6; Eph 5:21-33; Jas 4:4; 2 Pt 2:14; 1 Jn 2:15; Rv 2:22; 19:7-9; 21:1-14)

 

We don’t love God for Who He is but for what He can do for us.

 

We actually hate God  (Heidelberg Catechism).  We are commanded to love God and our neighbor.  What do we do to express this?

 

Question # 5     Can we live up to all this perfectly?

 

A.   No.  I have a natural tendency to hate God and my neighbor (Rom 3:9-20, 23; 1 Jn 1:8-10; Gn 6:5; Jer 17:9; Rom 7:23-24; 8:7; Eph 2:1-3; Ti 3:3)

 

B-  But, God graciously still loves us jealously.  The world says, “I’ll love you if.”  But God loves no matter what. (Ex 20:5; 34:14; Dt 4:24; 5:9; 6:15; 32:16; Josh 24:19; 1 Kgs 14:22; Ps 78:58; Ezek 16:38; 2 Cor 11:2)

 

Agape doesn’t love somebody because they’re worthy.  Agape makes them worthy by the strength and power of its love.  Agape doesn’t love somebody because they’re beautiful.  Agape loves in such a way that it makes them beautiful.  (Rob Bell; Sex God, 120)

 

Once there is no longer anything distinctive about Christians, once we start looking, talking, and acting “just like everybody else,” we have ceased to carry out the purpose for which God created us in Christ.  When we make ourselves unfit for godly uses and become common, God treats us as common and casts us out into the street to be trampled underfoot.  These are Christ’s solemn words of warning to any who trifle with grace.  (Paul O. Wendland, The People’s Bible, 2 Chr, 383-84)

 

“Grace ceases to be grace if God is compelled to bestow it in the presence of human merit . . .  Grace ceases to be grace if God is compelled to withdraw it in the presence of human demerit . . . {Grace} is treating a person without the slightest reference to desert whatsoever, but solely according to the infinite goodness and sovereign purpose of God. (Samuel Storms; Grandeur of God, 125)

 

My pastor, Pete Alwinson, has the best definition of grace: “Grace,” he says, “is doing good for someone when there is no compelling reason to do so and every reason not to.” That’s it. That is what God has done and continues to do for me.  (Steve Brown, What Was I Thinking?, 208)

 

Sadly, the concepts of grace and forgiveness from God do not appear in Gandhi’s works.  Hinduism stumbles at grace.  “If one is to find salvation,” said Gandhi, “he must have as much patience as a man who sits by the seaside and with a straw picks up a single drop of water, transfers it, and thus empties the ocean.”  At the end of his autobiography, he is still lamenting that he is not passion-free in thought, speech, and action.  “I must reduce myself to zero,” he concludes. (Philip Yancey; Soul Survivor, 174)

 

Grace has meaning only when we are seen as fallen, unworthy of salvation & liable to eternal wrath. (Samuel Storms; Grandeur of God, 124)

 

Either grace is grace for all, or there is no grace at all.  (Paul O. Wendland, The People’s Bible, 2 Chr, 390)

 

If it can be lost – it is not grace

If it has to be earned – it is not grace

 

To receive God’s Grace all you have to do is humbly admit that you need it.  James 4:7.

 

Grace always flows downhill

 

In 2 Kings 21 Manasseh is an unmitigated villain, the king at whose door liability for the Exile is laid, and so a veritable Judas.  The Chronicler put Ahaz or perhaps Zedekiah, if anybody, in that dastardly role.  He found reason to view Manasseh rather as a counterpart to Simon Peter, whose blasphemous denial of Christ remarkably did not debar him from distinguished leadership in the early church.  (Leslie Allen, Mastering the OT, 1, 2 Chr, 410)

 

Believers who are the most desperate about themselves are the ones who express most forcefully their confidence in grace…Those who are the most pessimistic about man are the most optimistic about God; those who are the most severe with themselves are the ones who have the most serene confidence in divine forgiveness…By degrees the awareness of our guilt and of God’s love increase side by side.  (Kent and Barbara Hughes; Common Sense Parenting, 113)

 

Grace is not a two way street.  — Buddy Briggs

 

Grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us more. (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 70)

 

Love in response to goodness is not love, it is reward.  You don’t earn love.  If you earn it, it isn’t love.  So when the Bible talks about love and grace, it is always in the context of sin and rebellion.  The Prodigal Son is not the exception of love, but the very definition of it.  (Steve Brown, Born Free, 138)

 

Love in response to goodness is not love at all but really reward.  You can really never know if you have been loved until you are unlovable.  Love is a choice of loving in spite of behavior or circumstances.

Mercy earned is not mercy.  Love earned is not love.  Compassion for a wage is not compassion, it is a prostitution of the Father’s Character. — Steve Brown

 

Donald Barnhouse:  Love that reaches up is adoration.  Love that reaches out is affection.  Love that reaches down is grace.

 

The first and possibly most fundamental characteristic of divine grace is that it presupposes sin and guilt.  Grace has meaning only when men are seen as fallen, unworthy of salvation, and liable to eternal wrath…

Grace does not contemplate sinners merely as undeserving but as ill-deserving… It is simply that we do not deserve grace; we do deserve hell! (Jerry Bridges; Transforming Grace; Living Confidently in God’s Unfailing Love, 32)

 

Here is a spiritual principle regarding the grace of God; To the extent you are clinging to any vestiges of self-righteousness or are putting any confidence in your own spiritual attainments, to that degree you are not living by the grace of God in your life.  (Jerry Bridges; Transforming Grace; Living Confidently in God’s Unfailing Love, 33)

 

C-  The way back into love with God is by turning back and repenting.  (2 Chr 7:14; Hos 14:1-2; Zech 1:3; Mal 3:7; Mt 4:17; Mk 1:14-15; Acts 2:38; 17:30)

 

We cannot successfully demand the love of a woman or the love of God.  We have to wait.  And just as a woman’s heart is melted when she encounters in us weakness accompanied by our humble admission of it, so God’s heart is melted and he is most tender and gracious to us when he encounters in us weakness accompanied by our humble admission of it.  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 49)

 

I know, from my own life, how diligently I have tried to be good, acceptable, likable, and a worthy example for others.  There was always the conscious effort to avoid the pitfalls of sin and the constant fear of giving in to temptation.  But with all of that there came a seriousness, a moralistic intensity — and even a touch of fanaticism — that made it increasingly difficult to feel at home in my Father’s house.  I became less free, less spontaneous, less playful. . . .

The more I reflect on the elder son in me (from the story of the prodigal son), the more I realize how deeply rooted this form of lostness really is and how hard it is to return home from there.  Returning home from a lustful escapade seems so much easier than returning home from a cold anger that has rooted itself in the deepest corners of my being.

The spiritual games we play, many of which begin with the best of motives, can perversely lead us away from God, because they lead us away from grace.  Repentance, not proper behavior or even holiness, is the doorway to grace.  And the opposite of sin is grace, not virtue. (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 205-06)

 

The grace which they experienced in the resurrection was a whole grace which spoke of a total forgiveness…[one which] does not degrade and grind down the sinner but restores him instantly and fully to the brotherhood.  Jesus was turning the other cheek when He called these bankrupted and faithless men His disciples and brethren.  He was risking anew their betrayal of Him, their flight from Him, their denial of Him.  But He took the risk of forgiving love, the love which insures its risk only with its own gift.  (Paul O. Wendland, The People’s Bible, 2 Chr, 391)

 

There is a beautiful inconsistency in the temple theology of chapter 7 [2 Chr].  It sets up rigorous standards of obedience–and it also provides a loophole, in 7:14, for those who fail to meet them, just like 1 Jn 2:1 in a Christian setting.  This logical weakness is a concession to human infirmity and so is a mark of divine grace.  It is such grace that Psalm 103 celebrates.  (Leslie Allen, Mastering the OT, 1, 2 Chr, 412)

 

I chose the title of this subsection, “The way back to God,” with care: it reminds me of a children’s chorus by E. H. Swinstead I was taught to sing many years ago.  Its tune was a soft, haunting melody which fitted its theme beautifully:

There’s a way back to God from the dark paths of sin,

There’s a door that is open and you may go in:

At Calvary’s cross is where you begin

When you come as a sinner to Jesus.

(Leslie Allen, Mastering the OT, 1, 2 Chr, 415)

 

D-  You will only be able to love, work, and be like Jesus when you understand God’s great love for you in Christ.   (Jn 15:12-13; Eph 4:32; 1 Jn 3:16-23; 4:7-21)

 

Here we simply pause to note that ever since the time of the early church, one of the emphases in the Easter festival has always been to encourage God’s people to consider themselves raised with Christ to a new and holy life.  In a world made foul by sexual immorality and idolatry of every kind, God wants his people to celebrate the feast by getting rid of the old yeast.  “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Cor 5:7).  (Paul O. Wendland, The People’s Bible, 2 Chr, 352)

 

The best reason to be good is to want to be good.  Internal change requires relationship.  It requires love.  “Who can be good, if not made so by loving?” asked Augustine.  When Augustine made the famous statement, “If you but love God you may do as you incline,” he was perfectly serious.  A person who truly loves God will be inclined to please God, which is why Jesus and Paul both summed up the entire law in the simple command, “Love God.”

If we truly grasped the wonder of God’s love for us, the devious question that prompted Romans 6 and 7 — What can I get away with? — would never even occur to us.  We would spend our days trying to fathom, not exploit, God’s grace.  (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 191)

 

Early in 1993, British police accused two 10 year-old boys of the brutal murder of 2 year-old James Bulger. The two boys pleaded innocence.

During the two-week trial the young defendants responded to police questioning with noticeable inconsistency.  The climax of the trial came when the parents of one of the boys assured him that they would always love him.   Confronted with irrefutable evidence linking him with the crime and the assurance of his parent’s love, the boy confessed in a soft voice, “I killed James.”

The miracle of God’s love is that he knows how evil we are, yet he loves us.  We can confess our worse sins to him, confident that his love will not diminish.  (Fresh Illustrations for Preaching, and Teaching, 27)

 

E-  Easter is God’s proof positive to us that everything Jesus did and taught is true.  Even the part when he says he will love you even though you are His enemy and you hate Him.  (Lk ch 24; Acts 17:31-32; Rom 1:4; 6:4-5; 7:1-5; 8:11; 1 Cor 6:14; Phil 3:7-11; Col 2:9-15)

 

What did Jesus teach?

  • Sinners are friends of Jesus (Mt 11:19; Lk 7:34)
  • Tax collectors and prostitutes (Mt 9:11-13; 11:19; 21:31-33; Mk 2:15-17; Lk 5:29-32; 7:34)
  • Came for the sick  (Mt 9:12; Mk 2:17; Lk 5:31)
  • Love your Enemies (Mt 5:44; Lk 6:27-31)

 

Spiritual Challenge: Contemplate the love of God this Easter.

 

What I’m suggesting is that we connect our marriages with our faith in such a way that our experience in each feeds the other.  The next time you caress your spouse, think about how that caress might open up new avenues for your prayer life.  The next time you are virtually overcome by passion for your spouse, consider how you can offer yourself with equal abandon to your God.  Don’t be afraid to use all aspects of marriage–even sexual expression–to expand your prayer life.  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 86-87)

 

Notice this paradox: God’s love is unknowable in its infinity, and yet we can know it because we actually become filled with it!  Ephesians describes it in four dimensions (wide, long, high, and deep) even though we live in a three-dimensional world.  This use of four terms carries us beyond the sphere of human experience into a love that transcends the natural.  Thus, we know this love powerfully and supernaturally because we recognize it in ourselves and because, “together with all the saints,” we experience it Hilariously in community.  (Marva J. Dawn, Truly the Community:  Romans 12, 145)

 

Worship point: When you contemplate the love of God you will worship!

 

Karl Barth said, “Only when grace is recognized to be incomprehensible is it grace.”  If we think we understand God’s love and grace, we are probably without it.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Romans, 19)

 

When you know that the king of the universe loves you dearly what does it matter what the peasants think?

 

“I hear the Accuser roar, of ills that I have done;

I know them well, and thousands more; Jehovah knoweth none. (Hymn “I Hear the Accuser Roar” by Samuel Grandy)

 

 

Quotes to Note:

The Prayer of Manasseh:

LORD ALMIGHTY,

God of our fathers,

of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,

and of their righteous offspring;

who hast made heaven and earth in their manifold array;

who hast confined the ocean by thy word of command,

who hast shut up the abyss and sealed it with thy fearful and glorious name;

all things tremble and quake in the face of thy power.

For the majesty of thy glory is more than man can bear,

and none can endure thy menacing wrath against sinners;

the mercy in thy promise is beyond measure: none can fathom it.

For thou art Lord Most High,

compassionate, patient, and of great mercy,

relenting when men suffer for their sins.

For out of thy great goodness thou, O God,

hast promised repentance and remission to those who sin against thee,

and in thy boundless mercy thou hast appointed repentance for sinners as the way to salvation.

So thou, Lord God of the righteous,

didst not appoint repentance for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,

who were righteous and did not sin against thee,

but for me, a sinner,

whose sins are more in number than the sands of the sea.

My transgressions abound, O Lord, my transgressions abound,

and I am not worthy to look up and gaze at the height of heaven

because of the number of my wrongdoings.

Bowed down with a heavy chain of iron,

I grieve over my sins and find no relief,

because I have provoked thy anger

and done what is evil in thine eyes,

setting up idols and so piling sin on sin.

Now I humble my heart, imploring thy great goodness.

I have sinned, O Lord, I have sinned,

and I acknowledge my transgressions.

I pray and beseech thee,

spare me, O Lord, spare me,

destroy me not with my transgressions on my head,

do not be angry with me for ever, nor store up evil for me.

Do not condemn me to the grave,

for thou, Lord, art the God of the penitent.

Thou wilt show thy goodness towards me,

for unworthy as I am thou wilt save me in thy great mercy;

and so I shall praise thee continually all the days of my life.

For all the host of heaven sings thy praise,

and thy glory is for ever and ever.  Amen.

(Oxford University Press, The New English Bible, 208-09)

 

The wedding day is regarded in Jewish law as sacred, a sort of mini-Yom Kippur.  The bride and groom are encouraged to fast, and even to recite certain penitential prayers that are also said on the Day of Atonement.  (Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, Jewish Literacy, 614)

 

Too often the reform of the ritual of Israelite worship has little impact on the heart of the majority of the people, given the irresistible sensual appeal of Canaanite religious practice (cf. Isa 29:13; Jer 3:10).  As another commentator has noted, “It is easier to lead a people into sin than to lead them back out of it.”  (Thompson, 1, 2 Chronicles, 271)

 

As Jacob before him, Manasseh was doubtless caught in the stream of world politics and had perforce to become subservient to Assyria.  That meant, in part, the adoption of Assyrian religion which in turn compelled the nullification of the achievements of his father and earned for the king the enmity and violent opposition of prophets and religious officials, many of whom worked underground.  (Jacob M. Myers, 1 Chronicles, a New Translation, 198)

He is risen!

He is risen indeed!

 

 

Christ:

The faithful one

 

 

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