Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Great Paradox of God

For this is what the high and exalted One says— he who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite. I will not accuse them forever, nor will I always be angry, for then they would faint away because of me— the very people I have created."
Isaiah 57:15-16

What a paradox our God is! He is both high and exalted, yet He chooses to delight in the lowly and contrite. This juxtaposition of seemingly contradictory traits is more than man could have imagined. Yet, it is true of our God! This passage brings to mind the story of Manasseh, king of Judah. Scripture tells us that Manasseh led Jerusalem back into the idol worship that his father King Hezekiah helped lead them out of. This Manasseh even went so far as to sacrifice his own children in the fire to foreign gods and to erect idols in the sacred temple of the Lord. Thus, Scripture rightly says of Manasseh that he "led Judah and the people of Jerusalem astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed before the Israelites" (II Chronicles 33:9). 

However, this is not the end of Manasseh's story. It continues in chapter thirty-three of II Chronicles to become not only one of the most unexpected repentance stories in all of Scripture, but also one of the clearest examples of God's grace and forgiveness in the Old Testament.
The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention. So the Lord brought against them the army commanders of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh prisoner, put a hook in his nose, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon. In his distress he sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his ancestors. And when he prayed to Him, the Lord was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so He brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord is God.
II Chronicles 33:10-13
The next few verses of the chapter tell how Manasseh returned to Jerusalem a changed man. After once again making Jerusalem secure from its enemies, "he got rid of the foreign gods and removed the image from the temple of the Lord, as well as all the altars he had built on the temple hill and in Jerusalem; and he threw them out of the city. Then he restored the altar of the Lord and sacrificed fellowship offerings and thank offerings on it, and told Judah to serve the Lord, the God of Israel" (II Chronicles 33:15-16).

If there is anything we can learn from Manasseh it is the wisdom of humble repentance when we find ourselves under God's judgment. How often we bear the result of our sin with disdain. How frequently we cry out to God as though we were as innocent as Job and demand to know how He can allow our afflictions to come upon us. The truth is that many of these afflictions are the result of our own sin. God cannot be mocked, we reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7). It is often better to humble ourselves under the Lord's correction and to show Him a contrite heart. God didn't have to hear Manasseh's prayer, but He did because He delights in humility and repentance. Humble yourself before the Lord, and see if you do not fare better.

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