Sunday, April 18, 2010

Be Careful What You Wish For

Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years. He did what was evil in the Lord's sight, following the detestable practices of the pagan nations that the Lord had driven from the land ahead of the Israelites. He rebuilt the pagan shrines his father, Hezekiah, had broken down. He constructed altars for the images of Baal and set up Asherah poles. He also bowed before all the powers of the heavens and worshiped them.

The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they ignored all his warnings. So the Lord sent the commanders of the Assyrian armies, and they took Manasseh prisoner. They put a ring through his nose, bound him in bronze chains, and led him away to Babylon. But while in deep distress, Manasseh sought the Lord his God and sincerely humbled himself before the God of his ancestors. And when he prayed, the Lord listened to him and was moved by his request. So the Lord brought Manasseh back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh finally realized that the Lord alone is God! (2 Chronicles 33:1-3 & 10-13, NLT)


OK, I get the title. And the passage is somewhat familiar. But what does one have to do with the other? Why tie the beginning of the story of Judah's most wicked (and long-reigning) king to thoughts about what we wish for? Where is the connection? The answer, lies in what the late Paul Harvey would have termed "the rest of the story." And for that, we have to go back in time fifteen years. But before we do that, perhaps a little recollection of a great literary short story might help.

In 1902, W.W. Jacobs published a short story he titled "The Monkey's Paw". The story echoed the proverb about the two great tragedies in our lives were never getting what we wished for ... and getting it. The older couple in the story is presented with a mystical talisman that would bring them three wishes. Of course, they wished for money first ... and find it came at a price - the payment of an insurance settlement for the loss of their son. Things go from bad to worse until, with their final wish, they undo all they had asked for and return to their lives wiser, but definitely changed.

The broader story that brings us to the passage for this entry starts with Manasseh's father. King Hezekiah was told by God's prophet that he needed to get his house in order for he would not recover from his current illness. Hezekiah had been, from all accounts, a righteous man. But instead of accepting God's message, the rolled over in his bed and cried. He decided he did not want to die as God had told him. Before the prophet had left the royal house, God sent him back with a message that Hezekiah would live another fifteen years. Hezekiah had gotten what he wished for - he didn't die after all.

But in his extended life, do you think Hezekiah made good use of the time and struck out for God and to secure the future of Judah? The sad truth, from what we can glean from the text, is that he did not. Some three years after this change, little Manasseh was born. And if Hezekiah took an active role in passing on the godly heritage he had known and lived by, it must have been missed in the young boys lessons. More likely, Hezekiah, now certain of this lifespan, just neglected to do anything about the situation. And at twelve years old, Manasseh ascends the throne and the kingdom of Judah dives back into the pit of idol worship and debauchery the likes of which had not been seen before.

Manasseh erected pagan idols and images everywhere. Most notably, he put them within the confines of the temple ... God's own special dwelling! To say God is displeased would be an understatement. God repeatedly warns the king to give up his evil ways, but Manasseh ignores every one of them. And at the height of his rebellion and wickedness, God apparently had seen enough. The Assyrians came in, put a ring in Manasseh's nose, bound him in chains, and hauled him off to Nineveh. In the end, Manasseh repented, but the damage had already been done. Not long after this chain of events, God would allow the Babylonians to destroy Jerusalem and carry the nation into exile.

Imagine what might have happened if Hezekiah had "manned up" and accepted God's original edict. We may not be able to project all the events, but we know one thing for certain - Manasseh would not have been born, let alone become king. So, what about us? Are we ready to accept what God says at face value, or are we going to roll over, cry, and ask for something different? As I walk along the Crooked Path, I need to trust that God has my best interest at heart at every turn. He knows me and will give me what I need to live for Him. I don't need to rely on some wishes or wants - and if I did get what I want, it might just be one of those two great tragedies. I think I'll try to trust Him more instead.


  1. What do you wish for? Do you temper it with a solemn rest in the God who has promised to provide what we need?
  2. How are you doing in the "1 Peter 5:7" category? Are you casting your cares, heartaches, and headaches on Him without trying to reel them back in?
  3. Are you willing to live a contented life and trust God? Do you really even know what that looks like?


NLTScripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996, 2004. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

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