March 1st, 1959 @ 7:30 PM
2 Chronicles 33:1-66
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Chronicles 33:1-16
3-1-59 7:30 p.m.
Now we all turn in our Bibles to 2 Chronicles, not quite to the middle of the Book, 2 Chronicles the thirty-third chapter; the thirty-third chapter of 2 Chronicles. And we read together the first sixteen verses. 2 Chronicles 1 to 16, the thirty-third chapter; 2 Chronicles the thirty-third chapter, the first sixteen verses. Now we all have it? Second Chronicles the thirty-third chapter, the first sixteen verses. Let’s all read it now together:
Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty and five years in Jerusalem:
But did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, like unto the abominations of the heathen, whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel.
For he built again the high places which Hezekiah his father had broken down, and he reared up altars for Baalim, and made groves, and worshiped all the host of heaven, and served them.
Also he built altars in the house of the Lord, whereof the Lord had said, In Jerusalem shall My name be for ever.
And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the Lord.
And he caused his children to pass through the fire in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom: also he observed times, and used enchantments, and used witchcraft, and dealt with a familiar spirit, and with wizards: he wrought much evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger.
And he set a carved image, the idol which he had made, in the house of God, of which God had said to David and to Solomon his son, In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen before all the tribes of Israel, will I put My name for ever:
Neither will I any more remove the foot of Israel from out of the land which I have appointed for your fathers; so that they will take heed to do all that I have commanded them, according to the whole law and the statues and the ordinances by the hand of Moses.
So Manasseh made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to err, and to do worse than the heathen, whom the Lord had destroyed before the children of Israel.
And the Lord spake to Manasseh, and to his people: but they would not hearken.
Wherefore the Lord brought upon them the captains of the host of the king of Assyria, which took Manasseh among the thorns, and bound him with fetters, and carried him to Babylon.
And when he was in affliction, he besought the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers,
And prayed unto Him: and He was entreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord He was God.
Now after this he built a wall without the City of David, on the west side of Gihon, in the valley, even to the entering in at the Fish Gate, and compassed about Ophel, and raised it up a very great height, and put captains of war in all the fenced cities of Judah.
And he took away the strange gods, and the idol out of the house of the Lord, and all the altars that he had built in the mount of the house of the Lord, and in Jerusalem, and cast them out of the city.
And he repaired the altar of the Lord, and sacrificed thereon peace offerings and thank offerings, and commanded Judah to serve the Lord God of Israel.
[2 Chronicles 33:1-16]
And the title of the sermon is, Emergency Religion, SOS Religion, Crisis Religion, Deathbed Religion. And I have chosen as a basis for the message an instance where that kind of religion was blessed and favored of heaven.
This man Manasseh, who was the vilest, the most reprobate of all of the kings who ever reigned in Judah, this man Manasseh sacrificed his children to Molech in the Valley of Hinnom, in Gehinnom, burned them with fire. He made an idol and put it in the very temple of God itself, in the Holy of Holies. He taught Judah to sin beyond, above, what those wicked, vile, unspeakable Canaanites had sinned, whom God had cast out when the people came with Joshua into the land of rest. There was no man who ever taught his people to err and to transgress as this King Manasseh. And he reigned for five and fifty years [2 Chronicles 33:1-7].
When the judgment of God fell upon him, and he was in fetters and in prison, and carried away into Babylon, in the awful trial of that crisis, he cried unto the Lord in his affliction [2 Chronicles 33:11-13]. Until that time he was as vile as a man could be, unspeakably wicked and villainous in all of his ways [2 Chronicles 33:9-10]. Then in the day of that affliction and judgment of God, he called upon the name of the Lord [2 Chronicles 33:12-13]. That’s what I refer to as crisis religion, emergency religion. It’s the same kind of religion that they had in the days of the Flood: for one hundred twenty years Noah preached to a gainsaying generation [Genesis 6:3; 1 Peter 1:20; 2 Peter 2:5]; then when God closed the ark and the rain began to fall, and the flood began to rise [Genesis 7:16], I can hear the call of those people to Noah, "Open the door, open the door." Crisis religion; same kind of religion I can imagine the Sodomites possessed. When the angels took Lot and his family out of Sodom, his wife and two daughters [Genesis 19:15, 22], and when the fire of heaven began to fall and the brimstone began to burn [Genesis 19:24-25], they began to call unto God, cry unto the Almighty. Same kind of religion that Belshazzar had: in the night when the finger of God wrote over against the wall, and Belshazzar’s joints were loosed, and his knees trembled, and his heart failed him, and he called for the man of God, for Daniel [Daniel 5:5-12]. And when Daniel interpreted the revelation, then Belshazzar put a gold chain around the prophet’s neck, and did obeisance to the man of God; but it was too late. That night he was slain, that night [Daniel 5:17-30]; crisis religion, emergency religion, too little, too late.
One of the great famous actors of all time not long ago died here in America. And on three successive days I read these three headlines: it called his name and said, "He is Dying," that was one day; the next day the headline said, called his name, "He Enters the Church"; the third day the headlines said, called his name, "is Dead." That actor for a generation blasphemed God; he was as vile and as wicked as any man who ever lived. He openly flouted at Christ, openly blasphemed the name of God. He was vile in every part of his life. Then those three headlines: "He is Dying," "He Enters the Church," and "He is Dead." Sometimes emergency religion, crisis religion, deathbed religion, sometimes, sometimes it is real, it is genuine, it is actual, it abides, and it saves. But most of the times it is faulty, it is false, it is a fake, it is temporary, and it passes with the passing emergency.
I cut out of the Baptist Standard in 1945 and filed it away, and I read it again this week – I cut out an article by one of the high echelon chaplains of our United States Army, and it was entitled "Foxhole Religion." And that chaplain said, "In my experience in the war, and now that the war is over, with thousands of men," he said, "my experience is that foxhole religion is just that: it’s religion in the foxhole, but not out of it. It begins in the foxhole, and it ends there. No permanent residuum at all; it’s a carnal appeal for physical deliverance, but has nothing to do with the saving of the soul." Emergency religion: we got it in the great trial, but when the trial is passed it is gone with the trial.
One of the most unusual stories I ever read in my life, I read out of a sermon by Charles Haddon Spurgeon. He said that a minister, a preacher of the gospel, lost his way in the forests of Canada. And when he found himself at a settlement, he also found there a large group of those woodsmen, those logsmen. And they built some kind of a little platform in the midst of the group; and there was a fellow up there with great eloquence, and he was denouncing God, and defying God to strike him dead if there was such a God. And as the minister sat there and listened to that diatribe, he said in his heart, "I must stand up to answer that man. I must say something. God help me to say something." But he said when that fellow, and an eloquent orator he was, so the story said, when that atheist sat down who had defied God, and blasphemed God, when he sat down, the minister said, "I had no reason to stand up to speak at all." He said, "Right in front of me there stood up an older man, and he made his way to the platform, and he said, ‘I want to say something to you now. Some time ago,’ that man said, ‘I was on the bank of the river; and there was a man out there in a boat who lost control of his boat and who could not handle the oars. And as he began to drift down the river toward the falls, the rapids, and to death,’ he said, ‘I saw and heard that man get on his knees in his canoe, and he cried to God to save him.’ He said, ‘These hands were used of God to rescue that man out of the river, and to save his life.’ And the old man said, ‘That is the one, that is the man whom you have just heard, and who addressed you tonight.’" Crying to God before the abyss, before the fall, before the rapids; but when the emergency passes, the religion passes, and they forget, and they go back into the old way and to the old life and to the old customs.
All of us know these days of crisis are coming. They come to all of us. Some time, somewhere, that dark visage, that pale enemy death shall stare us in the face and say, "Your number is called." All of us shall face that crisis. And beyond the day of that death, we shall stand in the presence of God. And then what shall we say and what shall we do? I realize there are many who speak of these things flippantly, nonchalantly, indifferently, jokingly; but in the day of that hour and that crisis, you don’t joke, and you’re not flippant, and you’re not nonchalant any longer. That’s a grim reality that every man has to face.
I read in the paper about a man in the Ohio penitentiary who was in the death chamber to be electrocuted. He had been convicted of a heinous crime against a little child. And the paper, newspaper, said that he spent his last hours in a frenzy of prayer. What about that kind of religion? What about?
I have two observations to make. And the first one is this: it’s no good, it’s no good, it’s not good when it’s false, and it’s no good when it’s true. Either way it is no good; it is no good. It is no good when it’s false, because it’s false. And almost always it is false. When I turn back to the story of Moses before Pharaoh, look at Pharaoh: "And Pharaoh said unto Moses and Aaron, I have sinned, I have sinned. Entreat the Lord, for it is enough that there be no more thunderings and hail: and I will let you go" [Exodus 9:27-28]. I turn the page in the same chapter: and when Pharaoh saw that the hail and the rain and the thunder was ceased, he hardened his heart yet more; he and his servants [Exodus 9:34-35]. In the day of the thunder and the hail and the darkness and the fire of judgment, he entreated God: "I have sinned, I have sinned" [Exodus 9:27]. Then when the great day of crisis had passed, he was as wicked and as blasphemous as he ever was before [Exodus 9:34]. Most of the times it is a false profession.
One of the things indelible upon my memory, indelible because I had preached about it several times, used it as one of those high powered deathbed illustrations you so often hear in minister’s sermons. It came about like this: the pastor on the other side of the railroad track, among those poor people on the wrong side of the tracks, the pastor was out of town. And a woman called me, who was over there living in that neighborhood. And she said, "My husband is dying, and he’s a wicked man, and he’s dying. Won’t you come and pray with my husband that he might be saved?" So I got my Bible, and went over there on the other side of town, walked into the house and there was a man. And he was dying. I read to him out of the Book how a man can be saved, and he had just enough consciousness to nod in acquiescence. "Do you understand?"
"Yes," he said. "Will you repent of your sins?"
"Ask God to forgive you?"
"Will you take Jesus as your Savior?"
"And die and go to heaven?"
"Yes, yes," he said. And I went away. I suppose the man had died, he was as near death as I ever saw a man in my life. I went away happy: there’s a man on the very brink of death who lived a wicked life, and he entered into heaven and into glory, and the angels had carried him up there to God. The reason it made an indelible impression on me was I spake of that several times in sermons as I’d make the entreaty for men to come and trust Jesus as Lord. Well, we were having a Vacation Bible School a year or two or three after that, and I saw a little girl that belonged to that family. And I asked her about her home, and found out that man got well. He didn’t die, he got well. I took her address, and as soon as I could I got in my car and went over there to see that man. He didn’t even let me in the house. I talked to him through the screen door. I said, "Don’t you know me?" He said, "Yes, I’ve heard of you?"
"Well, I came here and won you to Christ."
"Yes," he said, "they told me you did that."
Well, I said, "Didn’t you give your heart to Christ?"
He said, "No."
I said, "Weren’t you interested?"
"Won’t you come now?"
"No," he said, "No, no, no." One of my number one illustrations, gone with the wind. Been lying all that time in the name of God and in the pulpit of the Lord. About half of these high powered illustrations people tell are just big lies. They’ve accumulated with the years like a snowball; they didn’t happen that way at all. Same way of that fellow: "No, I’m not interested, and I’m not coming." And he didn’t. Deathbed repentance.
Often times I hear them say, "That thief on the cross, he turned and was saved just before he died." That thief on the cross turned and was saved just before he died: that was the first opportunity he ever had, and he took it. The first time he had an opportunity to look at Jesus, he looked in faith, and he was saved [Luke 23:40-43]. You listen to Paul, listen to the Word of the Lord: in the first chapter of 1 Timothy Paul says, "I, who I before, I was a persecutor, and a blaspheme, and injurious; but I found mercy with God because I did it ignorantly, in unbelief. God forgave me, and God saved me because I did it ignorantly, in unbelief. I did not know any better. I did not know any better" [1 Timothy 1:12-14]. But when you consciously, volitionally do despite unto the Spirit of grace, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins [Hebrews 10:26-29]. When Esau consciously chose to give his birthright away he found no place for repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears [Hebrews 12:16-17]. His day was over and beyond; he’d gone over the line, over the line. Oh, when a man volitionally, consciously, says, "No, I will not," what an awful rejection, and what a terrible decision.
I went to see a young couple. She was so amenable and so responsive. "Yes," she said, "I will take Jesus as my Savior. And I’ll go down to the church, and I’ll be baptized. I will come." And I turned to him, and he said, "No." Then she took the appeal out of my lips and made the appeal herself: "Oh husband," she said, "Husband, please, please, give your heart to Christ. Let us have a Christian home. Come with me. Let us confess Jesus and be baptized together, come." Now listen to his reply: he said to her, and he said to God, he said to her, "No, we are too young. Let’s have a good time, and we have plenty of time to be Christians and give our lives to God. And I’ll do it someday. But now," he said, "we’re too young." How does he know? How does any man know that he ever has another time and another opportunity? How life cuts us down, and how the exigencies of life and the adventitious fortuitous circumstances of life overwhelm us. "Oh, I’ve got time, and I’m too young." What he meant was, "I’ll give my life to the devil, to evil, to the dark and to the world. Then someday I’ll bring a hunk, and a hull, and a chaff, and a husk, and a carcass to God, and lay it at His feet." How does he know God will take him? "Esau, though he sought it carefully with tears, found no place for repentance" [Hebrews 12:16-17].
The other thing; when it’s real it’s the saddest development of life. I just point it out, and that’s all I have opportunity to do. Manasseh reigned in Jerusalem, the wickedest king Judah ever had, the vilest man who ever sat on the throne, and he taught his people to err and to sin [2 Chronicles 33:9-10]. And when he was in affliction, he besought the Lord, and humbled himself before God, and prayed unto Him. And the Lord heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem and put him back on his throne [2 Chronicles 33:11-13]. And when Manasseh came back to Jerusalem, he tried to undo what he’d done. He took all of those statues and all those idols, and he cast them out and burned them. He tore down all the high places. He took that idol out of the temple. He commanded his people to worship God. He did his best [2 Chronicles 33:14-17]. He did his best. But two things: "And Manasseh slept with his fathers, and they buried him. And Amon his son reigned in his stead [2 Chronicles 33:20]. And Amon did that which was wicked in the sight of the Lord, as did Manasseh his father" [2 Chronicles 33:21-22]. Manasseh repented in his age and in his trouble and in his tribulation and affliction; but his boy had been brought up in that world of iniquity and idolatry and sin. When Manasseh slept with his fathers and was buried, his boy ascended the throne, and that boy "did evil in the sight of the Lord,’ listen to the Word of God, "as did Manasseh his father." How do you take it out of that boy’s life? How do you take it out of that girl’s life? How do you gather up those influences? Subvert them, and sublimate them, and offer them up to God. When you’ve lived that way and said, "No, no," to heaven. He lost his boy, he lost his family [2 Chronicles 33:22-24].
There never was –
I’m reading in 2 Kings now –
There never was a king like unto Josiah, no king before him that turned to the Lord with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any man like unto good king Josiah. Notwithstanding the Lord turned not from the fierceness of His great wrath, wherewith His anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations that Manasseh had provoked Him with. And the Lord said, I will remove Judah out of My sight, as I have removed Israel; and I will cast off this city Jerusalem . . . as I have cast off Samaria. My name shall be there no more.
[2 Kings 23:25-27]
Listen: "Surely as the commandment of the Lord came upon Judah, to remove them out of His sight, for the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he did; And for the innocent blood that he shed: for Manasseh filled Jerusalem with innocent blood; which the Lord would not pardon" [2 Kings 24:3-4]. I’m just reading out of the book of the Lord. God said, "I will not overlook that. I will not pardon those days of iniquity and defilement and rebellion. I will not forgive it. I will not." And though they had the best king Judah ever had, good King Josiah, the Lord says, "Because of the iniquity of Manasseh, and because of the vileness of the days of his reign, I will remove Jerusalem out of My sight, I will remove Judah out of My sight" [2 Kings 24:3-4]. And the hosts came pouring out of Chaldea, and they plowed up Jerusalem in heaps. And they took God’s people into slavery and into captivity because of the sins of Manasseh.
"Preacher, you don’t understand. I will repent. I will get right. I will give my heart to God. I intend to be saved. And I’ve got lots of time. When I’ve spent my life in the world, and given it to iniquity and villainy and rascality and unbelief and blasphemy and disobedience, then at the end of the way I’ll turn. I’ll repent. I’ll accept Jesus as Savior. I’ll be in heaven along with the rest of the saints of God."
First of all, Esau couldn’t, and didn’t [Hebrews 12:16-17]. And second of all, if it turns out with you as it did with Manasseh, for the sake of your disobedience, God visits judgment upon the family, and upon the children, and upon the nation, and upon the people [2 Kings 24:1-3]. God does not pardon our dereliction, and our tragic openly chosen disobedience:
He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy unto two or three witnesses: How much sorer a punishment shall he be deemed who hath trodden underfoot the blood of the covenant, who hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace, who says, No, no, no, to the proffered mercies of Jesus our Lord?
"Oh, oh, oh!" God says – and He never says anything else, He never says anything other, He never says anything but – God says, "I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in a time of salvation have I succored thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation" [2 Corinthians 6:2]. I don’t have any time but now; no tomorrow, no tomorrow. And if I wait until that tragic hour of crisis and emergency and death and affliction and judgment, I trifle with God, and I pawn my soul to an adventitious fortune that may not come, like the tide that swept away into the vast eternity of the sea beyond. I have now, I have now. I have tonight. We have this moment, and that’s all.
"If I’m ever going to be saved, this is the hour and the time. If I’m ever going to accept Jesus, this is the moment. If I’m ever going to be a Christian, let me be a Christian now. If ever in my life I intend to walk down an aisle, here are my feet walking down that aisle now. If I ever propose to take a preacher by the hand and say, ‘By God’s grace I take Jesus as Lord,’ I’m going to take that preacher’s hand now." That’s God’s appeal. It’s God’s message. It’s the message of the whole Book: come. "The Spirit and the bride say, Come. Let him that heareth say, Come. Let him that is athirst come. Whosoever will, let him come, let him come" [Revelation 22:17]. Come now. Come this moment. Come this hour. Come this first invitation stanza. Come this first note of the invitation hymn. "Here I am, pastor, and here I come."
In this balcony around, somebody you; "I’ve said no for the last time to Christ. Tonight I make it yes, and forever, amen in Him." In this lower floor, "I’ll never say no, no, no again. From now and until I die, it’ll be ‘Yes, Lord Jesus, yes and amen.’ Here I am, and here I come. To repent, I do. To trust in Jesus, I do. To turn and come, I do. To give the pastor my hand, I will. To come down to the front and stand before God’s congregation, confessing my faith in Jesus, here I am, and here I come."
Somebody you, put your life in the church. A family you, or one, while we sing this song, would you make it now? In the balcony, coming down these stairwells; on this lower floor, into these aisles and down here to the front. "Here I come, pastor, here I am. God has spoken to my heart, and I answer with the love of my life and the trust of my soul. I answer now, and I’ll make it now." Will you? Will you say yes? While you sit there; "I say yes, yes, tonight; God helping me, I make it yes." And when the congregation stands, you come down that stairwell, you step into that aisle. "Here I am, preacher, and here I come by His grace, trusting Jesus." Will you make it tonight? While we stand and while we sing.
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Chronicles 33:1-16
1. Judah’s worse, most evil king
2. Led Judah to follow him in sin
3. Judgment of God fell on Manasseh
II. Manasseh repents
1. Only after he is imprisoned does he repent
2. Similar repenting when the door of the ark closes, Belshazzar in Daniel
III. Most emergency, crisis religions are fake
1. Hollywood actor on his death bed
2. Foxhole religion – carnal appeal for physical deliverance
4. Death row frantic prayers
IV. Excuses for unbelief
V. Consequences for evil behavior