Open Your Bible
2 Chronicles 32:1-33, 2 Chronicles 33:1-25, 1 Timothy 1:15
BY Patti Sauls
My first childhood theater experience was the musical Peter Pan. I remember the fancy lobby, the red velvet chairs, and the crowd’s buzz as we waited for the curtain to rise. I also remember booing at Captain Hook as he schemed against Peter and cheering for Tinkerbell when she rescued him. There were good guys and bad guys, and I was delighted to participate in the tale.
As I read about the kings of the southern kingdom of Judah, I similarly shuffle them into categories. “Boo!” to King Ahaziah; “Yay!” to King Jehoshaphat. There are so many names and details that my mind instinctively attempts to simplify the data.
But there’s a problem with this approach. The conclusions are false. My categorizing leads to polarizing. I regard each king as all bad or all good, either sinner or saint. It may be easier for my mind to make sense of oversimplified labels, but they’re not true. There’s much more to every king’s story.
Today we learn about King Hezekiah and King Manasseh. As we read, let’s resist the urge to categorize and oversimplify. Instead, let’s make space for complexity and nuance as we consider their faithfulness and brokenness.
First, we cheer for King Hezekiah, who restored the temple, smashed idols, and defended Jerusalem. He led with faith, courage, and prayer. “He did what was right in the LORD’s sight” (2Chronicles 29:2). Yay! But there’s more to his story. Even this faithful man of God arched his back in pride as he refused God’s provision during an illness (2Chronicles 32:25). Can we accept the truth that even mighty King Hezekiah was a mixed bag?
Next, we boo Hezekiah’s son, King Manasseh, who practiced witchcraft, defiled God’s temple with idol worship, and even burned his children to death as sacrifice to false gods. Clearly, he was wicked and led Judah far from the Lord. “He did a huge amount of evil in the LORD’s sight, angering him” (2Chronicles 33:6). Booing is a massive understatement. But there’s more to his story, too. Deep in his pride and rebellion, Manasseh hit rock bottom. As a defeated king and shackled prisoner in Babylon, he turned to the Lord in prayer and repentance. Can we accept the truth that even evil King Manasseh was a mixed bag too? “When he was in distress, he sought the favor of the LORD his God and earnestly humbled himself before the God of his ancestors” (v.12).
Yes, there’s more to these stories. In fact, there’s complexity and nuance in everyone’s story. We may be tempted to categorize ourselves or others as all bad or all good, but this is not biblical. Our best days don’t define us, and neither do our worst. God defines us. And He calls us His children. Saved by grace. Sinners made saints. May we delight in participating in this ultimate, true tale of God and His kingdom.