In the darkest of days… Manasseh the king, the great, great… great grandson of David, “did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, imitating the detestable practices of the nations that the Lord had dispossessed before the Israelites. He rebuilt the high places that his father Hezekiah had destroyed and reestablished the altars for Baal. He made an Asherah, as King Ahab of Israel had done; he also bowed in worship to all the stars in the sky and served them. He built altars in the Lord’s temple, where the Lordhad said, ‘Jerusalem is where I will put my name.’ He built altars to all the stars in the sky in both courtyards of the Lord’s temple. He sacrificed his son in the fire, practiced witchcraft and divination, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did a huge amount of evil in the Lord’s sight, angering him” (2 Kings 21:2-6). “Manasseh caused Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to stray so that they did worse evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed before the Israelites” (2 Chronicles 33:9).
In response to their rebellion, and in faultless and flawless holiness, the Righteous Judge declared, “I am about to bring such a disaster on Jerusalem and Judah that everyone who hears about it will shudder. I will stretch over Jerusalem the measuring line used on Samaria and the mason’s level used on the house of Ahab, and I will wipe Jerusalem clean as one wipes a bowl—wiping it and turning it upside down. I will abandon the remnant of my inheritance and hand them over to their enemies. They will become plunder and spoil to all their enemies, because they have done what is evil in my sight” (2 Kings 21:11–15).
After Manasseh died, his son Amon became king. He was so immoral that “his servants conspired against him and put him to death … and they made his son Josiah king in his place” (2 Chronicles 33:24-25).
Following generations of wickedness, Josiah was crowned king at the age of eight. “He did what was right in the Lord’s sight and walked in the ways of his ancestor David; he did not turn aside to the right or the left … in his presence the altars of the Baals were torn down, and he chopped down the shrines that were above them. He shattered the Asherah poles, the carved images, and the cast images, crushed them to dust, and scattered them over the graves of those who had sacrificed to them. He burned the bones of the priests on their altars” (2 Kings 22:2-5).
With the assistance of the faithful priests, he set out to clean and repair the temple. As they carried out the accumulated garbage, they found a long-hidden treasure… the Law… a.k.a. the Bible. When God’s Word was read in Josiah’s presence, he humbled himself, repented and tore his clothing. Then “the king went up to the Lord’s temple with all the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, as well as the priests and the Levites—all the people from the oldest to the youngest. He read in their hearing all the words of the book of the covenant that had been found in the Lord’s temple. Then the king stood at his post and made a covenant in the Lord’s presence to follow the Lord and to keep his commands, his decrees, and his statutes with all his heart and with all his soul in order to carry out the words of the covenant written in this book” (2 Chronicles 34:30-31).
“Before him there was no king like him who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength according to all the law of Moses, and no one like him arose after him” (2 Kings 23:25).
Did judgment come as God had declared to Josiah’s granddad? Yes, but not during the lifetimes of Manasseh, Amon, or Josiah. Because God is “compassionate and gracious… slow to anger and abounding in faithful love” (Psalm 86:15), He withheld His wrath, He did not destroy them immediately. God kept His promise, but the destruction of Jerusalem came a few years later. God is patient. That’s grace!