One of my children loves to make loud apologies at the threat of discipline but will quickly turn back to her disobedience as soon as mercy is shown. In a small way, my girl’s skittish repentance reflects Judah’s fickle commitment to God. Unlike the Northern Kingdom, Judah could point to some moments of reform. However, these days of contrition were often forgotten as succeeding kings turned the nation back to it's sins. This is precisely the case with King Manasseh.
Manasseh is crowned twenty-three years after the fall of Samaria. Twenty-three years (filled with God’s protection for the sake of David) were enough to make Judah forget the fate of Samaria and make Manasseh bold in his idolatry and disregard of a covenant keeping God. There was no king in Judah like Manasseh in provoking the Lord to anger; “he burned his son as an offering and used fortune-telling and omens and dealt with mediums and with necromancers...Moreover, Manasseh shed very much innocent blood” (2 Kings 21:6-16).
God’s patience had suffered long with His people----Judah endures for nearly 140 years after the exile of Samaria. But in the days of Manasseh, the Lord seems to say “enough is enough!” The Southern Kingdom would face the harsh consequences of her habitual defiance. God would “stretch over Jerusalem the measuring line of Samaria, and [would] wipe Jerusalem as one wipes a dish” (2 Kings 21:13).
The exile pronounced in 2 Kings 2:13 is carried out in 2 Kings 25:1-21. In between that time, we find the remarkable reign of Josiah--a king who loves God “with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses” (2 Kings 23:25). Josiah did much to reform Judah and “still the Lord did not turn from the burning of his great wrath, by which his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations with which Manasseh had provoked him” (2 Kings 23:26).
God is glorified in His mercy. He is also glorified in His judgement of sin. In Jerusalem’s captivity, God reveals Himself as a God who keeps His word (Deuteronomy 28:58-68) and displays justice, holiness, and infinite power.
But how can God be both merciful and just? Doesn’t His justice nullify His mercy, and vice versa? When we look at Christmas, we have to say “no.” In mercy, the Father sends His Son as a substitute in His righteous judgement of sinners. Mary’s baby is born to die--and in His death, God satisfies His justice and justifies those who will believe...bringing His exiled people near (Romans 3:25-26). Come near therefore, and adore Him!
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