Thoughts for Friday 28th August, 2020

Psalm 26:1-8; Jeremiah 15:1-9; 2 Thessalonians 2:7-12

 

Friday 28 August

 

The question uppermost in my mind as I read Jeremiah 15:1-9 today is, What did Manasseh (c.709–c.643 BC) do in Jerusalem which was so bad? And the answer to this can be found in two places in the Old Testament. The first is at 2 Kings 20-20-21:18, and the second at 2 Chronicles 32:33-33:20. These accounts are very similar in most respects.

 

They both tell us that Manasseh was 12 years old when he became king, and that he ruled for 55 years. They both then go on to describe his reign as one no-one would want to live through. Religiously, he promoted the worship of Baal and Asherah, the stars and Molech. This last was particularly pernicious in that, while 2 Kings tells us that he sacrificed one of his own sons as a burnt offering, 2 Chronicles adds that it was sons (plural), and that this took place in the notorious Hinnom (aka Slaughter) Valley.

 

He killed so many people that the streets of Jerusalem ran with blood including, the Talmud tells us, that of the prophet, Isaiah, who Manasseh had sawn in two. There is, though, one enormous difference between the two accounts we have of Manasseh’s life. And that is that, while 2 Kings tells us nothing at all about this, the considerably later 2 Chronicles has Manasseh captured by the Assyrians and taken into exile where he repents, returns, and begins to rule Jerusalem and Judah justly and faithfully instead.

 

It’s far more than likely, I think, that this is what we might call a whopper! But why? And just one idea I myself have is that I do wonder whether some members of the tribe of Manasseh could have been responsible for the production of 2 Chronicles, and wanted one of their own to be turned from an arch-villain into a hero. The truth, though, is that we just don’t know. And one result of this is that there’s a passage of scripture (with a small ‘s’) known as ‘The Prayer of Manasseh’ which some Christian traditions have been happy to include as canonical, but which others have deemed apocryphal.

 

Let us pray:

 

1Lord Almighty, God of our ancestors,

God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,

God of their righteous descendants,

2you created the universe

and all the splendour that fills it.

3The sea obeys your command

and never overflows its bounds.

The power of your wonderful, glorious name

keeps the ocean depths in their place.

4When you show your power,

all creation trembles.

5Your glorious splendour is overwhelming,

and your anger is more than sinners can endure.

6But the mercy you promise is also greater

than we can understand or measure.

7For you are the Lord Most High;

you are patient and show mercy and compassion.

You make our punishment easier to bear

when we suffer for our sins.

O Lord, in your great goodness and mercy

you promise forgiveness and salvation

to those who repent of their sin against you.

8You, Lord, are the God of righteous people.

Repentance was not necessary

for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,

for they did not sin against you.

But for sinners like me

you have made repentance possible.

9I have committed more sins

than there are grains of sand along the seashore.

They are so many, Lord, they are so many.

I have done so much that is wrong

that I am not worthy to turn my face towards heaven.

10I am crushed beneath the weight of my sin;

I am bowed down by its heavy iron chain.

I can find no relief,

for I have made you angry.

I have set up idols everywhere;

I have done what you hate.

11But now I bow in deep humility,

praying for your mercy.

12I have sinned, Lord, I have sinned;

I confess the wicked things I have done.

13I beg you, Lord, I earnestly pray:

forgive me, forgive me.

Do not destroy me because of my sins;

do not be angry with me for ever

or store up punishment for me.

Do not condemn me to the world of the dead,

for you, O Lord, forgive those who repent.

14Show me all your mercy and kindness and save me,

even though I do not deserve it.

15Then I will go on praising you as long as I live.

All the heavenly powers sing your praises,

and your glory endures for ever. Amen.


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