March 18th, 1962 @ 7:30 PM
2 Chronicles 33:1-22
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Chronicles 33:1-22
3-18-62 7:30 p.m.
Now all of us in our Bibles, turn to 2 Chronicles. Second Chronicles 33, 2 Chronicles 33, and we shall read together the first ten verses. We are following the life of Manasseh and in 2 Chronicles 33:1-10 is described the wickedness of this evil king. Second Chronicles 33:1-10, now all of us reading it 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 again the high places which Hezekiah his father had broken down, and he reared up all 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 statutes 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.
And thus for the story, as we have read it out loud together. There was never a king in Judah that made God’s people to err like this son of Hezekiah, Manasseh.
Now, there is always a judgment that follows a devastating apostasy like that. The next verse following what we have read together, the next verse, "Wherefore," and without looking at it I could know that there is a calamitous catastrophe falling upon the people of the Lord:
Wherefore the Lord brought upon them the captains of the host of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh, and bound him,
– and put a ring in his nose and carried him –
with fetters and in ignominy and in shame carried him a prisoner to Babylon.
[2 Chronicles 33:11]
Made sport of him; treated him as he would a beast of the field, or a caged and caught wild animal. It is hard for us to realize the shame and the indignity that these Orientals heaped upon their prisoners of war. And this man, who was of the house and lineage of David, who was the son of one of the greatest kings in all the earth, became a dog and was treated as such; vile, outcast, full of reproach and shame.
Now our Lord is merciful, and when Manasseh, this vile and evil king, when Manasseh found himself in affliction and in prison:
He besought the Lord his God,
and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers,
And he prayed unto Jehovah: and the Lord was entreated of him.
And the Lord bowed down His ear to hear his supplication, and He restored Manasseh to his throne and to his kingdom and brought him again to Jerusalem.
[2 Chronicles 33:12, 13]
Now that gives rise to the subject of the pastor tonight, Emergency Religion, Deathbed Religion, S. O. S. Religion, "Approaching the Abyss" Religion, Extreme Unction Religion. Fifty and five years did he reign in Jerusalem, and for most of those fifty and five years, possibly for half a century, he said "No." to God’s preachers, "No." to God’s prophets, "No." to the Holy Spirit of the Almighty in heaven. And he lived a life of idolatry and rejection and blasphemy and unbelief.
Then, when that inevitable conclusion followed hard upon him – and these days of exigency always come. A man can laugh at God, but what do you do in the hour of death? And a man can make fun of judgment, but what does he do when he stands at the bar of almighty God? These inevitable days arrive, and Manasseh found himself in degradation, and in despair, and in dungeons, and in fetters, and in chains, and in shame. And in his affliction, and in his affliction, he besought the Lord God and humbled himself. And the Lord heard his prayer and saved him and lifted him out of his affliction and put him back upon his throne in Jerusalem.
Emergency Religion: religion that a man embraces because of the extremities in his life. He is getting ready to die and he is scared to death, so he turns to God. Or there is a calamitous misfortune that has overtaken him, and he cries unto God. Or he stands at the great judgment day of the Lord and he pleads for mercy. What about Emergency, S. O. S., Deathbed, Near the Abyss, holy final Extreme Unction? "O God, have mercy upon me. I am about to fall into hell!" What about that kind of religion?
Well, it has always been a characterization of the people of the world. It has been that way from the beginning of time. I have often said, "I suppose, the reason disease and disaster and death overwhelm us in this earth is simply because, were it not for these exigencies, men would curse God to His face, and the faith of the Lord would die out in the earth." It is because of the extremities of life that men are brought back to remember God. But oh what a tragedy, what a tragedy when we wait for so long and life, and opportunity, and the day of grace is passed, and we sink into an awful judgment; this last minute "Call upon God" Religion.
I can imagine in the days of the flood, when God shut that door to the Ark and when the rain began to fall and the fountains of the deep were broken up and the waters began to cover the face of the earth, I can well imagine people beating on the door of that Ark crying to Noah, "Open this door! Open this door!" Those were the same people that for one hundred twenty years, had heard Noah preach. This man of righteousness, calling them to repentance and to faith in God and they scorned, and they laughed, and they ridiculed, and they made fun. And now that the door is closed – then they knock as the waters rise to destruction and to death. That is a tragic thing.
I can easily imagine when the fire fell in Sodom and Gomorrah, those very people to whom Lot had made appeal that "You escape for your life." And they laughed at Lot. The Book says so; they scorned his appeal. And when Lot and his wife and his two daughters had gone, then the fire fell. And I can imagine the horror and the consternation of those who turned aside from the appeal of that righteous man and who faced an inevitable and fiery judgment.
I can well imagine the night that Belshazzar was slain; he saw a handwriting on the wall, mene mene, tekel, upharsin, a strange language and a strange word to King Belshazzar. There had lived in that palace for all of the years since his manhood – and he is now an old man – there had lived a man of God, the prophet Daniel. And when that awful hand was writing on the wall then Daniel is sent for and the king places a gold chain around his neck and he elevates Daniel, God’s prophet, in his kingdom. But it is too late; that handwriting is already written on the wall. That kind of religion, that kind of repentance, is a tragic way to face God.
I read, for example, in our daily newspaper – I have been trying to make up my mind whether to call this man’s name or not. I finally decided not to call his name, everybody would know him. He is one of the most famous of all the men who ever went across the theatrical dramatic scene of America. Now he was one of the most desolate, and one of the most vile, and one of the wickedest of all the men who ever appeared on the American stage. Now, here are three headlines that I remember in the daily newspapers in Dallas. The first one was this: called his name, "So-and-so is dying." That was the announcement, big headline. The next day, "So-and-so re-enters the church." And then followed after, the money that he has given the church and all the other things he has prepared in order to buy that Extreme Unction for himself, "So-and-so enters the church." Then the next day, the third day, the third headline, "So-and-so is dead." And when I read those headlines that are a marvelous thing. If a man can give his life to rejection and to unbelief and then, upon his deathbed send for a certain priest, and then give him certain amounts of money and his will’s estate, and then in Extreme Unction re-enter the house of the Lord, and then the next day think that he has entered the courts of glory and of heaven – that kind of religion always has been and is everywhere, and that is what I am preaching about tonight, S. O. S. Religion, Deathbed Repentance; this Extreme Unction kind of an entry into the kingdom of God.
Now, I have two things to say about it. First, sometimes it is real and genuine, and then sometimes it is false. And my impression is, it is mostly false. I remember an article in the Baptist Standard entitled, "Foxhole Religion." And I remember a sentence in that article. It said; it said, quoting a chaplain:
Foxhole religion, the religion that a soldier gets when he is under fire and he is scared to death. Foxhole religion usually ends where it begins, in the foxhole. When he is fighting and when he is scared, there he calls upon the name of God. But when he is delivered, then he forgets about all of those mercies and he goes back into the same life and in the same rejection and in the same blasphemy that he had known before those days of danger fell upon him.
Do you remember this story from Charles Haddon Spurgeon? It is one of the most dramatically effective I ever read in all of my life. Charles Spurgeon said that a friend of his, a minister of Christ, was walking through the great north woods of Canada and while the minister was walking through the woods in Canada in the far north, he heard the sound of a man’s voice. And walking through the great forest to the noise that he heard, he came upon a group of frontier men, big woodsmen. There was a man there on a platform, a hastily erected platform out of logs, and the man was eloquent and he was vigorous and he was able, and he was haranguing those men as an atheist. And the minister said as he stood on the outer circle of that group and heard that man blaspheme the name of God and extol the virtues and the merits of atheism, the minister said, "My heart burned within me." And when the fellow got through speaking, the minister said, "I said in my heart, I must go up there. I must mount that platform and I must try to answer the scurrilous and the blasphemous remarks of this man they’ve just heard." And the minister said, just as he had resolved in his heart to go up there and to speak words in behalf the Lord God, he said, there walked up to the front, a grizzly old backwoodsman and he got up on that homemade platform. And he looked at those woodsmen and he said, "I want to say something to you." He said:
Upon a day I was walking up that river, and as I came to just about where we now are, I heard the cry of a young man who was caught in the swirling rapids in the middle of that river and was being hastened toward the falls below. The young fellow had lost control of his canoe and he was being irresistibly borne downstream to the rapids and to the falls.
And the grizzly old woodsman said, "I heard that young man cry aloud unto God that if God would save him, the rest of his life he’d honor the Lord." He said, "I became God’s answer to the prayer of that young man. I took a rope and I threw it to him in the midst of the river and I pulled him to safety." And the grizzled old backwoodsman turned and said, "And this is the young man who has just spoken to you in defense of unbelief and atheism tonight."
Well, those things are startling, but they are no more startling than the things that I have seen in my life, again and again and again. I could not tell you, in the years of my ministry, how many times I have seen men promise things to God and then they never carry them out. I have seen women promise things to Almighty God and they never carry them out. I have seen families promise things to Almighty God and they never carried them out. Since I have been pastor of this church, I could not tell you the number upon times I have seen people promise things to God and never carry them out. S. O. S. Religion, Deathbed Religion, Extreme Unction Religion, Emergency Religion: when we are in a strait, we call upon the name of the Lord. And then when God delivers us, we forget Him and we go our own and separate ways, leaving God out of our hearts and out of lives, out of plans, out of our hopes, out of our program.
I said a while ago, Emergency Religion is sometimes true, sometimes false, but it is mostly false. I was called by a fellow minister in a city where I pastured; I was called by the church. The preacher was gone. I was called by the church to go see such-and-such man who was over there in his part of town, that he was dying, that his wife had asked for a minister and their preacher was gone and would I make the call? So I took the name and address and knocked at the door and the wife let me in, and there was a poor man who was just barely alive. And I took my Bible and I read to him John 3:16 and I had him, as much as he could, to repeat John 3:16 after me. And then I said, "Will you trust your soul to Jesus? You are going to die. Will you give your heart to Jesus? Will you take Him as your Savior? You haven’t got much time, will you do it now?" And the man shook his head. And I did all that I could to seal that commitment of his life, sick as he was. Well, I turned from the place and I went back to my church and I told them what a great thing we had done. We had snatched the fire from the burning. We plucked a soul from the very brink of hell and what a marvelous conversion it was. I did not keep the name and the address of the man and I could not find, among all those houses that looked exactly alike, I could not find which one he was.
I want you to know that some time after that, several years after that, in a Vacation Bible School, I met a little girl. And in talking to that little girl, she belonged to that family. And I said, "Well, you know I went to see your father just before he died."
And she said, "Oh, my father did not die."
I said, "He didn’t die?"
"No, no," she said, "he got well."
"Well," I said, "your father gave his heart to Jesus."
"Oh," she said, "he didn’t do that."
"No, he didn’t do that."
"Well," I said, "Dear, what is the address of your house?"
And I wrote it down, and that evening I went to see that man. And I said to him, "I am such-and-such; I am the pastor of the First Baptist Church here in this city."
"Well," he said, "I am glad to see you. I have heard about you."
"Well," I said, "I came to see you one time."
He said, "Yes, they told me that you had been here."
"Don’t you remember it?"
He said, "No. I don’t remember anything about it."
"Well," I said, "you gave your heart to Jesus, just as you were preparing to die and we thought you were going to die."
"Well," he said, "I don’t know anything about it."
"Well," I said, "didn’t you do it?"
He said, "No."
"Well," I said, "May I talk to you about the Lord now?"
"No," he said, "I haven’t got time for that."
"Well," I said, "man, we live in the mercies of God, and if we’re not saved, we face an eternity without Christ which means our lot is in perdition and damnation. Our only hope for heaven lies in our repentance and in our faith toward God."
He said, "I’m not interested."
I finally begged the man to say that he would even come to church one time. I could not even get him to do that. The thing that made that so striking in my heart was this, I had so confidently and so brilliantly and so triumphantly and so gloriously told my people of the marvelous conversion that I had seen God bring to pass before my very eyes, by that man trusting Jesus just before he died.
Ah, that did something to me about deathbed repentance, deathbed religion. Chances are your mind is already gone; chances are you have lost your equilibrium. Chances are you do not know what you are doing. The chances are, you cannot make a decision if you were asked to make a decision. How in the world would this earth be run if the decisions that are all important were made by men who were mostly with one foot in the grave or mostly in a coma or mostly in the throws of death or the convulsions of that awful monster? That is no time for a man to make the greatest decision of his life. The time for a man to make a decision for Christ is when he has his finest sensibilities and when he can give himself in a true and open and a thorough commitment and choice to God. That is the time to give your life to Jesus.
And so many times have I heard – and I am glad it happened in the Bible – so many times have I heard about the thief on the cross. Just before he died, he gave his heart to Jesus. May I make a comment about that? I would think that that was the one and only opportunity that man ever had in his life to see Jesus. He had never seen Him before. He had never heard Him before. But the Holy Spirit revealed to his repentant heart that this Man was the Savior of the world and the deliverer of his own soul. And the first time that that dying thief had an opportunity to take Jesus as his Savior, that very first time, he did it. Have you done that? Have you done that? The first time you have ever had an opportunity to give your heart to Jesus, have you ever done it? The first time you ever heard the appeal of Christ for you to be a Christian, did you become a Christian? The first opportunity a congregation stood and sang and the preacher made an invitation, did you accept it? Did you come down that aisle? That dying thief did. He did.
And do you remember what the Apostle Paul said, talking about his life of blasphemy and unbelief? He said, "But I received mercy because I did it in ignorance; I did it in ignorance. I did not know what I was doing." [1 Timothy 1:13] But you know what you are doing when you turn down the overtures of grace. You know what you are doing. You sit there and you say, "No," to God with all the sensibilities of rightful judgment and free choice. Remember the word of the Lord and how terrible it is,
For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin,
But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and a fiery indignation, that shall devour the adversaries.
He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:
Of how much more sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall ye be judged worthy, who have trodden underfoot the son of God, who hath done despite to the Spirit of His grace, and who hath trodden underfoot the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified?
For we know Him who had said Vengeance belongeth unto Me, I will repay, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge His people.
It is a fearful thing to fall in the hands of the living God.
For our God is a consuming fire.
[Hebrews 10:26-31; 12:39]
There is no such thing in this world, or in the world to come; there is no such thing in this Book, or in the book that God has written heaven of a man deliberately and volitionally and choosingly saying "No" to God and that man not be judged for it. It is a terrible thing for a man to say "No" to God. It is a terrible thing for a man to spurn the overtures of grace and of the Holy Spirit of Jesus.
Now some times it is genuine; I have seen instances where it is genuine. Sometimes in Emergency Religion, a deathbed repentance – some times it is real, it is genuine. Some times a man is saved finally and at last, in some extreme and dire emergency. Wonderful, wonderful. There is never an instance like that in which I do not rejoice. There is never a case like that in which all of us would not thank God. This man came to the very brink of hell. This man came to the very pit. He came to the very edge and before he finally fell over into the dark and terrible abyss, he called upon the name the Lord and he was saved. That is wonderful.
That is what Manasseh did. After he had wrought sin in Jerusalem, and after he had given his life to blasphemy and to iniquity, in his affliction, he besought the Lord his God, and he humbled himself greatly and prayed unto Him, and God heard him and saved him. That is wonderful.
But may I point out two things to you? First, I want you to look at the verse that closes this chapter:
So Manasseh slept with his fathers, and they buried him in his own house: and Amon his son, reigned in his stead.
– now look –
And Amon was two and twenty years old when he began to reign, And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, as did Manasseh his father.
[2 Chronicles 33:20-22]
Marvelous for Manasseh in his age, in his affliction, marvelous for Manasseh to repent and to turn to God – but he had already destroyed the life of his son. "And his servants conspired against Amon and slew him in his own house." [2 Chronicles 33:24] I thank God for the repentance of Manasseh and all of us thank God he was saved just before he died; but who could thank God that Manasseh had lived a wicked life for half a century and in his iniquity and in his wickedness, he destroyed the life of his boy.
There is no exception to that. When you sow to the wind, you reap the whirlwind. And when a man gives his life to evil, and to iniquity, and to rejection, and to blasphemy, he can turn in his latter years and plead with his children. But mostly, his children – as they did Lot – laugh him to scorn. And this is Amon, Manasseh’s boy; he did that which was wicked in the sight of the Lord, like he had seen his father do for the years of his life. And Amon might have said, "Well, that is all right for the old man, he is in his dotage now. He is senile now and I guess an old man, in senility and in dotage, I guess an old man ought to call the name of the Lord. But I am young and I am in the prime of my life. And I am vigorous and I am going to do just like my father did. He gave his life to iniquity, and I am going to do the same thing."
I went to see a couple. Ah, these things break your heart in twain! I went to see a couple. The girl is in this church, sweet, wonderful, Christian girl, and she prays for her husband. And I went to see them and I pled with that young husband to give his heart to Jesus and to be a Christian. And I want you to know, he said to me, "I will not do it because I want to have a good time."
"Well, what do mean by a good time?"
"I want to do all of those things that you discountenance and frown on and do not believe in. That is a good time."
I said, "Why man, do you mean to tell me that as between having a Christian home and as between the saving of your own soul and as between all of the wonderful things God can give you, you think it is better, it is a good trade to take these things of the tinsel and tin foil and the cheapness of the empty pleasures of this world that you think are good, you would rather trade for them than to lose your soul and to lose your Christian home? You would rather trade and let Satan have your life, than to give your heart to Jesus and to be a Christian?" He said, "Yes, sir. I would rather have it in the world." And he is that way right tonight. What a shame. What a tragedy.
Then he said – and this is always in the back of the minds of these with whom you talk who reject Jesus – then he said, "I have got plenty of time, preacher, to give my heart to God. I have got plenty of time to serve Jesus, plenty of time. I am young now, I am going to have that kind of a time out in the world."
Reckon he will succeed in it? I do not know. But if he is even successful like Manasseh and comes down to old age and finally turns in repentance to the Lord, he will look back in the sorrow and the tragedy of the life that he has sowed as he sees it in his home and in his family.
Ah! I cannot describe the infinite reward of giving your home to God. Come down that aisle. Come down that aisle, and if one of you is a Christian then both of us are tonight, Christians. If one of you is in the church, then tonight both of us are in the church. If one of us loves Jesus, both of us love Him. If one of us prays to God, both of us are praying to Him. If one of us is in the fellowship of this faith, beginning now, both of us are in the fellowship of the faith.
First thing about Manasseh, he reaped the evil of his life in his boy. And the other thing about Manasseh is what I preached on last Sunday night. Because of his sin, God destroyed Judah. And the Lord said – listen to it – and the Lord said, "Even though this great revival under Josiah, even though these people have turned to the Lord, yet because of Manasseh, the Lord would not pardon their sins." [Jeremiah 15:4] And the Lord destroyed Judah and carried them into captivity because of the sins of Manasseh.
What are you going to do when you give the years of your life to evil? What you going to do in order to retrieve, to redeem them? "Oh, preacher! I will go back again, and I will be a young man again, and I will give my life to Jesus again when I am twenty-five years old," and you are fifty? Man, God does not put it together like that! You do not go back even one day; you do not go back even two days, much less twenty-five or thirty or forty or fifty years. And those years that are given to evil and to rejection, those years are gone forever. And who wants to come and to give a carcass and a hull to Jesus and say, "Lord, I have given my life to the world and I have given the energy and the strength of my soul to serve evil. But now, at the end of the way, I am bringing hull. I am bringing a corpse. I am bringing a carcass and I want You to save me in heaven." That is not right! That does not please God.
Nor is that any man’s right judgment who would stand in the presence of the Almighty and look God in the face and say, "Lord, as God is my judge and as the Lord shall search and try my soul, I owe to Thee, if I depend upon God in heaven to save me, I owe to Thee all the love and strength and the manhood of my life and here I am." If I had a thousand lives, I would like to give every one of them to the Lord. If I had a thousand lives, not a one of them would I like even the prospect of wasting in the foibles, and the foolishness, and the emptiness, and the vacuity, and the vanity of this wicked world. It is fuller and finer and richer and deeper with God.
And that is our invitation to your heart. In the strength of life, give yourself to Jesus. In the manhood of your life, give yourself to the Lord. While God in His goodness, in His infinite, loving favor has poured upon you benedictions and blessings, rejoice in His favor and return to God thanksgiving, and remembrance, and love, and faith and adoration. "Lord, here I am and here I come."
That is our appeal to your heart tonight. Don’t you hope to be saved some day? Don’t you hope to see God’s face some day? Don’t you hope to be in heaven some day? Is there a man who ever lived, who thought that he would spend an eternity in damnation and in hell? Don’t all of us some how, some way hope to be saved? How is a man going to be saved, except that God save him? And how is God going to rejoice in the salvation of a man, when he gives his life to rejection and to unbelief? "Lord, I depend upon Thee to save my soul. Lord, I give to Thee the strength of my life. So help me God, here I am. The issue of my soul and my life are in Thy blessed hands." Why not? That is the strength of a man’s life, that is the glory of a man’s soul, that is the happiness of every future day. "Lord, it is spent in Thee."
"As God shall bless us, and as the Spirit shall lead us, and in His favor may rest upon us Lord, as God shall remember, here I am and here I come. Preacher, I count it a great privilege to stand down here at the front, to take your hand to give my heart and my life to God. It is a great privilege, and I do it with gladness and with joy. I look to God to forgive my sins and to save my soul, and in return, I give to God the strength of my days. Here I am and here I come."
A family you to come, "Pastor, this is my wife and these are my children, all of us are coming." A couple to come, one of you in the church, one of you outside. One some body you to come, trusting Jesus as your Savior. A youth or a child, as God shall say the word, as His Spirit shall lead the way, as we sing our hymn of appeal, on the first note of the first stanza, "Preacher, here I am and here I come. I give you my hand. I give my heart to God."
I cannot make the appeal; the Spirit of Jesus must press it to your heart. If He bids you come, come, as our people prayerfully, earnestly sing this song. It is for you. It is for you, come. "I give my life to God. I take Jesus as my Savior. I am putting my life in the circle and circumference of this precious congregation. Here I am, pastor, here I come." Will you? Will you? As God shall say the word, will you make it now, 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