Mercy for the Wandering Child

by Tommy Jeffcott

Man walking up a hill alone

Recently I found myself struggling to fall asleep. This isn’t altogether uncommon for a Pastor. On any given day there are a dozen things that have the potential to rob me of sleep. However, this night was different. As I lay in bed, I found myself growing concerned about the possibility of one of my children rejecting Christ. My children are still relatively young but I have counseled many grieving parents who are distraught because their child now openly rejects the biblical truth that they were carefully taught.

Children are precious to us and we fervently desire to see our children know and love their Creator. Therefore, it wounds us deeply when they reject the God who made them. As God would have it, the very next morning I opened my Bible to my scheduled Bible reading and found myself in 2 Chronicles 33. In this text, I found comfort and hope and my prayer is that God would use this account to do the same thing for you.

The Story of Manasseh

When King Hezekiah died, his son Manasseh became ruler. Manasseh was as wicked as they come. We might outline his wickedness in this way:

  1. He sinned in spite of having a great knowledge of God.
  2. His sin was brazen.
  3. He encouraged others to sin.

In sum, we are told, “So Manasseh seduced Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to do more evil than the nations whom the Lord had destroyed before the children of Israel.” (2 Chronicles 33:9) One commentator notes,

These verses serve as an indictment against Manasseh. What God had covenanted with David and Solomon was being ignored by Manasseh. God had put his “Name,” his very character, his very essence, in the temple. Manasseh was in effect replacing God with the “carved image.” Whereas God had promised not to send the people into exile if they remained faithful, v. 8 implies that they would indeed find their “feet … leave the land” (cf. Jer 18:5–10). Manasseh did indeed lead Judah into rebellion against God (v. 9) and when God spoke to him and the people they ignored the offer of grace. This action sealed their fate.1

The description of Manasseh’s sin is intended to shock the reader. The contrast between the mercy and patience of God and the bold wickedness of Manasseh serves to highlight God’s long-suffering nature. However, we read in Genesis 6:3, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever.” God will be just and sin has consequences. God sovereignly orchestrates human affairs in order to bring about His desired end.

We read in verse 11, “Therefore the Lord brought upon them the captains of the army of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh with hooks, bound him with bronze fetters, and carried him off to Babylon.” James tells us that sin brings death (James 1:15). Sin feels good in the moment but sin ultimately brings destruction.

Manasseh responds to God’s correction in this way, “he implored the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, 13 and prayed to Him” (v. 12-13) If you are grieving over the sin of a loved one who is living in open rebellion against God, pray that they would respond to God’s correction in the way that Manasseh did.

We note several things about his response.

1. He cried out to God.

This is the same pattern we observe from David in Psalm 51 - “against you and you only have I sinned.” God only is our hope because He is the One that we have offended. J.I. Packer helpfully notes,

“Repentance means turning from as much as you know of your sin to give as much as you know of yourself to as much as you know of your God, and as our knowledge grows at these three points so our practice of repentance has to be enlarged.”2

2. Manasseh was genuinely humble.

True humility is rare because as soon as we think we have it, it is gone. How then can we say that Manasseh was truly humble? The Lord saw his heart and restored Manassah. It doesn’t matter if we convince others that we are humble. It only matters that the Lord sees our hearts and knows that we are humble.

This was the pattern of the tax collector in Luke 18:13, “And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’”

3. Manasseh demonstrated the genuineness of his repentance.

It was not merely lip service. The Apostle Paul tells King Agrippa in Acts 26, “but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.” Earlier Paul said that the Lord sent him to, “open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.’” “Turning from darkness to light” is a description of true repentance.

Pastor Steven Cole notes, “That last phrase (“faith in Me”) shows that repentance is synonymous with faith in Christ. You can’t truly believe in Christ without turning from your sin any more than you can turn north at the same time you’re heading south. Because God and sin are at opposite ends of the spectrum, you cannot turn to God without turning from sin. Repentance begins as an entreaty, “God be merciful to me, the sinner!” But it continues in deeds appropriate to repentance.”

There was a definite change in Manasseh’s life. J.A. Thompson remarks,

“Manasseh provides a convincing example of the efficacy of repentance, indeed, the best example in the Chronicler’s whole work, of which there are several (12:1–12; 19–20, 32:25–26).”1

God graciously restored Manasseh. Repentance brings restoration. Here in 2 Chronicles 33, we find a beautiful picture of God’s ability to bring peace and joy where before there was only pride and sorrow. Verse 13 tells us that God, “…received his entreaty, heard his supplication, and brought him back to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God.” Every sin is ultimately a denial of God’s sovereign claim on the universe. We are in essence claiming that we are God and He is not. Therefore, humility always accompanies true repentance.

One must recognize their place before a righteous, holy God and plead for mercy. In so doing, we acknowledge His sovereignty over all things. Manasseh was trying very hard to be the Lord of his own life. When everything was over, Manasseh “knew that the Lord was God.” God was extremely kind to Manasseh and he allowed Manasseh to reign for 55 years. That’s the longest reign of any king in Judah, longer than David or Solomon or Hezekiah!

As you pray for your loved one who is suppressing God’s truth in unrighteousness, beseech God on the basis of His mercy. God’s mercy is our hope. God is able to mercifully save and the story of Manasseh is just one example of this.


  1. J. A. Thompson, 1, 2 Chronicles, vol. 9, The New American Commentary, 369–370 2

  2. J. I. Packer (2005). “Keep in Step with the Spirit: Finding Fullness in Our Walk with God”, p.87, Baker Books

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