2 Kings 21:1-16 NET
1 Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned for fifty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother was Hephzibah. 2 He did evil in the sight of the LORD and committed the same horrible sins practiced by the nations whom the LORD drove out from before the Israelites. 3 He rebuilt the high places that his father Hezekiah had destroyed; he set up altars for Baal and made an Asherah pole just like King Ahab of Israel had done. He bowed down to all the stars in the sky and worshiped them. 4 He built altars in the LORD’s temple, about which the LORD had said, “Jerusalem will be my home.” 5 In the two courtyards of the LORD’s temple he built altars for all the stars in the sky. 6 He passed his son through the fire and practiced divination and omen reading. He set up a ritual pit to conjure up underworld spirits, and appointed magicians to supervise it. He did a great amount of evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger. 7 He put an idol of Asherah he had made in the temple, about which the LORD had said to David and to his son Solomon, “This temple in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, will be my permanent home. 8 I will not make Israel again leave the land I gave to their ancestors, provided that they carefully obey all I commanded them, the whole law my servant Moses ordered them to obey.” 9 But they did not obey, and Manasseh misled them so that they sinned more than the nations whom the LORD had destroyed from before the Israelites. 10 So the LORD announced through his servants the prophets: 11 “King Manasseh of Judah has committed horrible sins. He has sinned more than the Amorites before him and has encouraged Judah to sin by worshiping his disgusting idols. 12 So this is what the LORD God of Israel says, ‘I am about to bring disaster on Jerusalem and Judah. The news will reverberate in the ears of those who hear about it. 13 I will destroy Jerusalem the same way I did Samaria and the dynasty of Ahab. I will wipe Jerusalem clean, just as one wipes a plate on both sides. 14 I will abandon this last remaining tribe among my people and hand them over to their enemies; they will be plundered and robbed by all their enemies, 15 because they have done evil in my sight and have angered me from the time their ancestors left Egypt right up to this very day!'” 16 Furthermore Manasseh killed so many innocent people, he stained Jerusalem with their blood from end to end, in addition to encouraging Judah to sin by doing evil in the sight of the LORD.
We have been studying what the Bible says about worship. We understand that worship is very important to Jesus. It is not something we can do without. We saw last week that worship is something we should do regularly, but we should reserve our worship for God alone.
Jesus affirmed this when he was being tempted by Satan. He said to the devil “You are to worship the LORD your God and serve only him” (Matthew 4:10). We can appreciate others and even respect them. But worship is exclusive to God.
One of the reasons for this is that God’s character and power are flawless. His glory is above all others. For that reason, Moses commanded Israel to worship God exclusively. But he knew that they would fail to do that.
God told Moses that “after I have brought them to the land I promised to their ancestors – one flowing with milk and honey – and they eat their fill and become fat, then they will turn to other gods and worship them; they will reject me and break my covenant” (Deuteronomy 31:20).
Worship would become corrupted.
This happened many times in the history of God’s people. Today’s text highlights how worship was corrupted during the reign of King Manasseh of Judah.
Manasseh corrupted the worship in Judah by copying the religions of the nations (1-5)
Notice that Manasseh’s father – King Hezekiah – had torn down the high places that the pagans had used for worship. So Manasseh cannot claim that he was just doing what his father did before him. He chose to undo Hezekiah’s reforms. His father had taken steps to purge Judah of its idolatry, but Manasseh reversed his policies.
Manasseh invited other gods and goddesses to take their place in Jerusalem, which God had specifically designated as his home. How would you feel if someone came into your home uninvited by you? Manasseh had no business inviting these other gods into the Lord’s home.
God had warned his people that if they tried to be like all the nations around them, they would suffer the same fate as those nations. Some of those nations had been destroyed when the Israelites came into the promised land. The Lord had warned Israel that if they became idol worshipers like those nations…
“I will destroy your high places and cut down your incense altars, and I will stack your dead bodies on top of the lifeless bodies of your idols. I will abhor you. I will lay your cities waste and make your sanctuaries desolate, and I will refuse to smell your soothing aromas. I myself will make the land desolate and your enemies who live in it will be appalled. I will scatter you among the nations and unsheathe the sword after you, so your land will become desolate and your cities will become a waste” (Leviticus 26:30-33 NET).
When it comes to worship, God does not want us to be like everyone else. He wants us to worship him exclusively and he wants us to worship him differently than all the other religions worship their gods.
In this modern age, there are two major ways we can follow in the footsteps of Manasseh and corrupt biblical worship. One is that we can borrow worship practices from other religions. We can sometimes be tempted to borrow practices from non-Christian religions and Christianize them. We need to be careful that we examine the origins of certain practices.
But there is another way we can corrupt our worship as Manasseh did. The most prominent religion of today is atheistic secular humanism. We can build our high places to the god of human progress. If it replaces our devotion and loyalty to the God of the Bible, it corrupts his worship.
But Manasseh went even further than this.
Manasseh corrupted the worship in Judah by encouraging demonic practices (6-11).
The king passed his son through the fire (in other words, he sacrificed one of his sons to the pagan god Molech) and he also practiced divination and omen reading. He set up a ritual pit to conjure up underworld spirits, and appointed magicians to supervise it.
He opened the door to every kind of demonic activity that the Lord had labeled detestable. If he had published newspapers, he would have put the daily horoscope in them. He hired palm readers, and people to hold seances. He had his own royal magicians. These were not illusionists and sleight-of-hand magicians. It was practitioners of the magic arts. When it came to corrupting worship, Manasseh boldly went where no man had gone before. He plunged his nation into the darkness.
Because Manasseh corrupted the worship of Judah, the LORD pledged to wipe Jerusalem clean (12-16).
God could not let this sacrilege continue. But notice that God was not only going to judge Manasseh. Since the king led the nation into corrupted worship, the whole nation would have to suffer.
Since Manasseh has invited false gods and Satanic magic into God’s house – God was going to have to do some house cleaning. He likened it to cleaning a plate on both sides. It doesn’t make sense to just clean a plate on one side, because if you stack the plate afterward, and it is still dirty on the bottom, it will dirty the next plate on the top.
God said he will destroy Jerusalem the same way he did Samaria and the dynasty of Ahab. He will wipe Jerusalem clean, just as one wipes a plate on both sides.
He used foreign empires to take away the kingdoms from those kings. He did that because he could not and cannot tolerate hypocrisy. He cannot allow those who worship other gods to pretend to worship him too.
James tells us to draw near to God and he will draw near to us. He tells us sinners to cleanse our hands. He tells us double-minded people to make our hearts pure (James 4:8). God hates all sin, but he particularly detests corrupted worship.
LORD, we come to you confessing that we have failed to worship you exclusively. Forgive us, LORD, and show us how to clean our hands of this sin-stain. Show us how to make our hearts pure, and our minds singular. We want to worship you the right way.