Is There Still Hope For Me?
She was in shock. The slippery slope of sin had brought her to a place where she thought she would never be. She knew her heart was capable of evil, but now the wickedness of her soul stared at her point-blank, dark and deep. It felt like the fingers of sin had grabbed her by the throat, squeezing out every breath of faith and future.
Who hasn’t been at the end of this rope? Bewildered about our propensity to do evil, disillusioned about our lack of holiness. We know that we’ve been given the Spirit of power (2 Tim. 1:7). We can slay the dragon of our flesh (Rom. 8:13). But when for a season we refuse and excuse, we get sucked into the quicksand of sin’s power and repercussions. We feel stuck, down and disgusted with ourselves. And we wonder, is there any hope?
The Bible is so wonderfully counterintuitive.
The Bible is so wonderfully counterintuitive. Its truth flies in the face of what we think or feel. God reminds us over and over again that we are never beyond the reach of hope. God’s grace is sufficient to forgive us and to change us (2 Cor. 3:18) – radically change us.
Take the case of king Manasseh (2 Kings 21; 2 Chronicles 33), probably the worst king Judah ever had. He rebelled against God with a passion but by the grace of God made an incredible turn around.
Manasseh's resume of evil is both dramatic and despicable. He followed the worship practices of the nations the Lord had driven out. He rebuilt the high places his father Hezekiah had destroyed and erected altars for Baal. He placed a carved image of the goddess Asherah in the temple of God, which included perverse sexual acts of worship, turning God’s holy house into a sexual pleasure house! Manasseh knew no fear. He consulted mediums, practiced sorcery and worshiped the sun, moon and stars. His reign was one of terror. He led his people to do more evil than the godless Amorites and shed much innocent blood. Tradition has it that Manasseh put the prophet Isaiah in a hollow oak tree and had him sawn in two (cf. Heb. 11:37). He even offered his own son as a sacrifice. His depravity oozes out of almost every verse devoted to him.
His sin provoked God’s anger. In his mercy God had spoken to Manasseh, but he had paid zero attention. His repetitive and unrepentant sinful actions had laced his heart with layer after layer of callus. In his judgment God sent the Assyrians, the nation who had wiped out the Northern Kingdom during his father’s days. King Manasseh was bound with chains on his feet, hooks in his nose, and taken to Babylon. End of story, or so you think.
In Babylon something remarkable happens to Manasseh. In his great distress “he entreated the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers” (2 Chron. 33:12). After decades of sin and unfaithfulness Manasseh embraces the gift of repentance. It must have been heart-wrenchingly deep and sincere, for God hears his plea and is moved by it. He eventually brings Manasseh again to Jerusalem, back to his kingdom.
Manasseh is a changed man. Upon his return he immediately removes all the foreign gods. The idols and altars erected in and around the temple are thrown outside the city. He reinstates the worship of God and commands Judah to serve the Lord only. “Manasseh knew that the Lord was God” (2 Chron. 33:13).
God glories in taking hardened and hopeless sinners from damnation to restoration and from despair to hope.
Now, if there was hope for Manasseh, isn’t there hope for us? A man so vile and deeply steeped in sin finds hope in God? God glories in taking hardened and hopeless sinners from damnation to restoration and from despair to hope. It his trademark. It is the heartbeat of the Gospel. He did it for Paul, for Peter, for the criminal on the cross. He relentlessly pursues sinners, offering the gift of repentance.
But it all hinges on these five words: “and he humbled himself greatly” (2 Chron. 33:12). There is no hope without the death of self, the death of self-reliance and self-sufficiency. It wasn’t until Manasseh was stripped of everything that he came to his senses.
God forgave Manasseh and God changed Manasseh. But he didn't remove the painful consequences of his sin. Alas, the nature of sin. This not only included his unpleasant stay in Babylon but also the harsh reality that for years he had led his people astray. Upon his return, Manasseh removed the idols, but the people kept sacrificing on the high places. They were steeped in the sinful patterns that he had advocated for so long. Eventually the entirety of Judah was taken into captivity, and God ascribed that largely to Manasseh's reign (Jer. 15:4).
When Manasseh died, his son Amon became king. He dug up the old idols and reintroduced the worship of foreign gods. Amon turned his back to the Lord and didn’t walk in his ways, like father like son. But unlike his dad, he didn’t humble himself. He multiplied evil and “incurred guilt, more and more” (2 Chron. 33:23). Two years later, his servants conspired against Amon and killed him, in his own house.
The question is not if there is any hope for us. That question was answered with a thundering yes on Calvary and echoes through every page of the Bible. The question is if we keep the tide of sin growing like Amon or will we humble ourselves before the Lord like Manasseh did.