We are all sinful and in need of God’s radical grace. It is only His forgiveness and redemption is what brings true righteousness.
There are two enticing schools of thought Christians generally gravitate toward:
- I am a sinner and need to be redeemed. (Yet still believes they’re basically good.)
- My sin is too great. I don’t believe God could possibly forgive me.
Both are wrong.
Yahweh, if You considered sins, Lord, who could stand? But with You there is forgiveness, so that You may be revered.
Psalm 130:3-4, HCSB
Several months ago, I read about a father and son duo in 2 Kings 20 and 21. The father, Hezekiah, got sick and was going to die, but he reminded God of how he had lived his life to please Him. In response to this, God granted Hezekiah 15 more years to live.
Three years into Hezekiah’s bonus 15, he had a son, Manasseh. He was an evil dude.
Manasseh also shed so much innocent blood that he filled Jerusalem with it from one end to another. This was in addition to his sin that he caused Judah to commit. Consequently, they did what was evil in the Lord’s sight.
2 Kings 21:16, HCSB
God spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they refused listen. Not only was Manasseh a mass murderer, he transformed the people he ruled over into a nation of sinners. As I read about this all I could think was: Man; if God hadn’t added years to Hezekiah’s life, Manasseh wouldn’t have been born and none of this horrific stuff would have happened. Be careful what you beg God for.
Forgiveness and Redemption
Fast forward to this past week when I read the 2 Chronicles account of Manasseh. I was shocked to find out that when Manasseh was captured by the Babylonians as Isaiah had prophesied, he humbled himself and repented to the Lord. But that wasn’t the thing that rattled me. God forgave him.
He prayed to Him, and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God.
2 Chronicles 33:13, ESV
Of course. God knew what would happen and He chose to fashion a story of redemption from the worst of the worst. But it feels too generous. Manasseh filled Jerusalem with innocent blood and turned a godly nation pagan. Then God not only forgave him, but restored him to his kingdom. It’s hard to reconcile that, because if I’m being honest, I don’t think my sin is that bad.
Matthew 5 has been greatly instrumental in helping me understand the radical grace revealed in the story of Manasseh. It also shows that no one is good and God does not weigh sin as we do. Manasseh’s forgiveness seems undeserved. Yet Jesus told the multitude, hating someone is equal to murdering them, and lusting after someone is equal to committing adultery. Jesus Christ is the only good that ever existed in the world.
The actions of sin have different ramifications. If I hate another member of my church body, it is a transgression. Keeping the hate to myself would fester and rot my heart, and the ripple effect would slowly poison those around me. In contrast, if I had an affair, everyone would know about it and the result would be a tsunami of grief. However, both are evils that flow out of the heart and the penalty is separation from God.
Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore He will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for Him!
Isaiah 30:18, NIV
Over and over in scripture we see God knows our hearts. Outward morality puffs up and God wants none of that. Pointing a finger at someone whose sin is front page news gets the focus off of me and shrouds my pride. I may even feel the illusion of righteousness. Isaiah 64:6 immediately dispels that hogwash when our righteous deeds are called menstrual rags!
We are saved by grace. It is the gift of God. No human’s good deed or righteous act can produce salvation. Nor is there any sin the blood of Christ has not covered (1 Peter 3:18). That is why the gospel is such GOOD NEWS!
Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that He may have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:6-9, ESV
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