SIN GOD WILL NOT FORGIVE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Kings 21:4
3-11-62 7:30 p.m.
In our Bible, we turn to the Book of 2 Kings, 2 Kings chapter 21, 2 Kings chapter 21. And we shall read the first nine verses; 2 Kings, chapter 21.
We are reading about Manasseh, whose mother’s name was Hephzibah, Hephzibah. I used to know what that meant and I’ve forgotten. I’m just trying to think, Hephzibah. What does Hephzibah mean? "The blessed one, the one in whom I delight," that’s it.
Aren’t you glad I came through with that? It would have been tragic not to know what Hephzibah meant. That was this boy’s mother, "the one in whom I delight."
First nine verses of 2 Kings 21. Now, let’s read it together:
Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and reigned fifty and five years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Hephzibah.
And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, after the abominations of the heathen whom the Lord cast out before the children of Israel.
For he built up again the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; and he reared up altars for Baal and made a grove as did Ahab king of Israel and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them.
And he built altars in the house of the Lord, of which the Lord said, ‘In Jerusalem will I put my name.’
And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the Lord.
And he made his son pass through the fire and observed times and used enchantments and dealt with familiar spirits and wizards. He wrought much wickedness in the sight of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger.
And he set a graven image of the grove that he had made in the house of the Lord, of which the –
Wait a minute. While we’re looking at it, we’ll just explain what he did. This word "grove" in the Hebrew is "Asherah." She was the female goddess of fertility and fecundity to match the male god Baal; translated "grove" – Asherah. Now, let’s look at that comma at the end "of the house." All right, verse 7,
And he set a graven image of the grove that he had made in the house, of which the Lord said to David and to Solomon his son, ‘In this house and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all tribes of Israel, will I put My name forever.
Neither will I make the feet of Israel move anymore out of the land which I gave their fathers – only if they will observe to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the law that My servant Moses commanded them.’
But they hearkened not, and Manasseh seduced them to do more evil than did the nations whom the Lord destroyed before the children of Israel.
[2 Kings 21:1-9]
Now, that’s our introduction to Manasseh. One of the most tragic words that Jesus ever said was this, "It were better for that man had he never been born." When Hezekiah prayed in tears that God would spare his life, for the Lord had sent Isaiah to Hezekiah with the word, "Set thine house in order, for thou shalt die and not live." [2 Kings 20:1] And Hezekiah turned his face to the wall, and Hezekiah prayed and wept before the Lord, and the Lord sent Isaiah back to the king saying, "I have heard thy prayers. I have seen thy tears. And I have added onto thy life fifteen years."
All of which brings to my mind a deep and troubled question about our praying. I want you to look at this man Manasseh and then see what happened when God answered Hezekiah’s prayer. Now, you listen to the Word of the Lord. Following the tremendous and effective and nationwide revival of Josiah, who is described as the Bible describes Hezekiah, there was not a better king in Israel, before him or after him. When Josiah had brought to God’s people this tremendous revival, listen to the Word of the Lord.
Notwithstanding, notwithstanding, the Lord turned not away from the fierceness of His great wrath wherewith His anger was kindled against Judah, because, because of all the provocations that Manasseh had provoked Him withal.
And the Lord said, I will remove Judah out of My sight. As I have removed Israel, I’ll carry Judah into captivity. And the city Jerusalem, which I have chosen in the house and which I said, My name shall be there,
[2 Kings 23:26, 27]
I will turn them into dust and bury them in ashes.’"
Now, did you remember that? This immediately follows the description of the great revival under Josiah, "Nevertheless, nevertheless, the Lord turn not away from the fierceness of His great wrath wherewith His anger was kindled against Judah because of all the provocations that Manasseh had provoked Him withal."
Now, may I read you one other? This is from the fifteenth chapter of the prophet Jeremiah,
Then said the Lord unto me, Though Moses and though Samuel stood before Me, yet My mind could not be toward this people. I shall cast them out of My sight.
And it shall come to pass, if they say unto thee, Whither shall we go forth? then shalt thou tell them, Thus saith the Lord, Such as are for death, to death; and such as are for the sword, to the sword; and such as for the famine, to the famine; and such as for the captivity, to the captivity.
I will appoint over them four kinds, saith the Lord, one, the sword to slay; two, and the dogs to tear; three, and the fowls of the heaven; four, and the beasts of the earth to devour and to destroy.
And I will cause them to be removed into all kingdoms of the earth because of Manasseh, the son of Hezekiah, king of Judah, for that which he did in Jerusalem.
That’s where I got my text saying God won’t forgive. That’s a terrible thing. However the people might turn and however they might repent and however they might have a revival and however they might plead with God, God said, "They have so provoked Me to anger that though Moses and though Samuel, were to stand in My sight to plead for the deliverance of the city and the preservation and salvation of this people, I will not hear because of the sins of Manasseh." That’s not just an incidental passage in the Bible, that’s a part of the fabric of the Word of God.
Now, this prayer that Hezekiah prayed, "O God, O God, you say that I am to die. O Lord, that my life might be spared!" And God heard his prayer. And God spared his life. And he gave fifteen years to Hezekiah.
Now, did you notice, in the passage of Scripture that you read, Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign in Jerusalem? Now, what does that mean? That meant that three years after God spared the life of Hezekiah, Manasseh, his son and his heir, was born. Had Hezekiah died like God intended, and had Hezekiah gone to his grave as the Lord hath purposed, there had never been a Manasseh.
And had there never been a Manasseh, how do you know but that the great revival under Josiah or some other man of God might not have swept the nation heavenward and Godward and spared Judah? But in answering Hezekiah’s prayer, this evil son Manasseh was born. And he so led Judah into iniquity that God said, "I will not overlook and I will not forget and I will not forgive."
Now, before I go on with the sermon about Manasseh – you know, I think it is fine for us to pray, "O God, give me this and, O God, spare me that, and O God, bestow upon me this thing, the other." But I am also avowing, by the Word of the Lord, that when you do it, when you do it, you may be bringing evil and hurt and disaster upon your house and upon this earth that you don’t dream of and that you couldn’t know.
You know, it’s a mighty thing. And it’s a thing that a man ought to tremble before when he seeks to take the reins of this universe out of the hands of God and when he takes and when he seizes the reins of his own life out of the directive purpose of God. It is infinitely better, if we can ever come to that place in our prayer life, it is infinitely better for a man to kneel down before the great high God who sees the end from the beginning. It is infinitely better for a man to kneel down and to pray and say thus, "O God, if Thy name can be glorified in my life, then Lord let me live. But, O God, if my, if my life, if my life cannot honor Thee and if my life is not a tribute to Thee and a glory to Thee, O God, O God, if it is better for Thee and Thy cause that I die, then Lord, take my life from the earth."
And so with all that a man has, and so with every child that he possesses that God has given him, and so with all of the issues of his life, we ought to pray, "O God, I cannot understand and I don’t know and I can’t see the distant future." And I don’t know that far away scene, but God does. "And Lord, into Thy elected purpose I give my life and my house and my children and my destiny and all that I possess. Into Thy hands, O God, do I lay it."
Then if God adds fifteen years to our lives, amen. But if it glorifies the Lord that we fall asleep in Jesus, amen. If it glorifies God that we have children, amen. If it glorifies God that we have no children, amen. If it glorifies God that we have possessions, amen. If it glorifies God that we live in poverty and in need, in necessity and in want, amen. If it glorifies God that I be strong in health, amen. If it glorifies God that I know nothing but weakness and sickness and invalidism, amen. However, God in His infinite wisdom shall choose best for us, amen.
To me, that is real prayer. "Lord, it is in Thy hands – my life, every request that I make, every desire of my soul, every vision of my heart, every dream that I dream, every ambition, O Lord, is in Thy hands. And as God shall place things in my heart and as God shall place visions before me and as God’s will may be done in me, O God, let it be, let it be, let it be."
Now, this prayer of Hezekiah was answered. And in the answering of that prayer, Judah and Jerusalem met an inevitable and ultimate destruction. I want to show you that further in the Word of God. This thing isn’t just like that; it’s even emphasized. Now, you follow it.
This man Manasseh reigned longer in Judah than any other man. He reigned fifty and five years. Even Solomon didn’t reign but forty years. This man was king fifty and five years. And you could not put in English language, you couldn’t translate it – they wouldn’t allow you – you couldn’t send it through the mails, you couldn’t describe the orgies by which Manasseh made Jerusalem and Judah a place of licentious iniquity.
You have it translated there, I said, "a grove." That is Asherah, the female goddess of fertility and fecundity that was worshiped in a way that I could not describe to you. And then, of course, by her side was the male god Baal; those all Phoenician deities of filthiness and licentiousness and indescribable, despicable immorality. And he set up in the holy place in the temple of God, he set up that filthy prostitute image, Manasseh did.
Then out there beyond, in the valley of Hinnom he built there that brazen image of Moloch. And he offered his children, his own children, he offered his children into the fiery arms of Moloch as a living sacrifice to that heathen and abominable deity of the Amorites. Then, moreover, Manasseh shed innocent blood till he filled Jerusalem from one end to the other.
God raised up prophets, it says here in the Book, "Nevertheless, nevertheless, the Lord spake to Manasseh and to His people, but they wouldn’t hearken." [2 Chronicles 33:10] And he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, from one end of the city to the other." [2 Kings 21:16] You put the two together, it means this: God raised up prophets and Manasseh cut them down. And God raised up righteous people and Manasseh slew them.
And all tradition says that that passage in Hebrews where they, the heroes of faith, were sawn asunder, that refers, they say, to Isaiah, who, fleeing from Manasseh, hid in a cedar tree, and Manasseh sawed it in two, thus, the martyrdom of the great prophet Isaiah. And he filled Jerusalem with blood from one end of it to the other, slaying God’s prophets and slaying God’s righteous people – thus, the sins of Manasseh.
Now, if you want to follow the sermon, turn to 2 Chronicles 33, 2 Chronicles 33. 2 Chronicles 33, verse 14. Let’s start at verse 11. Let’s see what God did; then we shall read what Manasseh did; then this message that I’m speaking of tonight.
Now, let’s start at verse 11, "Wherefore, wherefore, the Lord brought upon them the captains of the host of the king of Assyria, which took Manasseh and bound him." By the way, "and which took Manasseh among the thorns," that’s the best they could translate that in that day of 1611. But what that Hebrew says is, "And they put rings in his nose, in his lips," just like you would an animal to lead him in triumph and in humiliation into captivity. "And they took Manasseh and they put a ring in his nose, and they bound him with fetters and they carried him to Babylon."
As I read those old history books, they tell me in those old history books that we cannot begin to understand the humiliation by which those Assyrian monarchs took the kings that they captured and drug them down into depravity, into dungeons and fetters, into all the horrors of a heathen captivity. So, they took Manasseh. Now, the twelfth verse, "And when he was in affliction, he besought the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers."
There, somewhere in a dungeon in [Babylon], afflicted, abused, maltreated – we can’t enter into the horror of it – in his affliction, Manasseh, that vile and evil sinner, Manasseh humbled himself greatly. And he got down on his knees and he prayed to God. Now, look at him. The thirteenth verse, "And he prayed to God, and God was entreated of him and God heard his supplication and God brought him again to Jerusalem in the kingdom."
Isn’t that an amazing thing? God heard his prayer. God saw his affliction. God looked upon his humility and his repentance and He heard his cry. And God lifted up Manasseh out of the dungeon and out of the fetters and out of the affliction. And God gave him back his kingdom. And God gave him back his throne and he was king again in Judah. Now, look at Manasseh. You never saw a king in your life try to undo the evil that he done as Manasseh did. Now, look at him, fourteenth verse, what he tried to do for his city.
Now in the fifteenth verse,
And he took away the strange gods and he took away the idol of Asherah 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, he cast them out of the city.
And he repaired the altar of the Lord and sacrificed peace offerings and thank offerings and commanded Judah to serve the Lord God of Israel.
[2 Chronicles 33:15, 16]
What an amazing reversal! Why, had Caesar Borgia been saved, had Voltaire been converted, had Thomas Paine been made a Christian, had the vilest king that ever lived turned and served God, it would not have been more amazing than this repentant and this salvation and this new life of Manasseh. And he came back to Jerusalem and he took that idol out of the temple. And he tore down those altars and he taught his people to serve God.
Well, what’s the matter? What’s the matter? I don’t understand, what’s the matter here? This man Manasseh repents and this man Manasseh turns and this man Manasseh cries unto God, and God forgives him and He hears his prayers. And Manasseh brings Judah back to God. He teaches them to serve Jehovah of Israel. Then I don’t understand, it says over here in Jeremiah, "I will cast them out, some to the dogs, some to the sword, some to the beasts, and some to the fowls of the heavens, because of Manasseh the king." I don’t understand.
Then, as I began to think and as I began to turn these things over in my mind and then as I began to look in the Book, then it all comes so tragically clear and so horribly plain. Listen man, what Manasseh did when he came back, when he came back; he saw for those years and those years and those years, he saw the horrible, idolatrous, licentious, evil influence of his life, going on and going on and going on and going on. And he tried to stop it.
And can you imagine the heartfelt, the heartbreak, the soul cry of this repentant king as he saw those tides of evil that he had planted in the nation going on and going on and going on? And you don’t stop them, you don’t stop them. And his boy Amon, and his boy Amon did as vile as his father Manasseh, and the Lord slew him. And for the sins of Manasseh, God destroyed Judah.
Now, I want you to listen to me while I talk about that for the moment that remains tonight. You know God is merciful, and that’s right. And God is gracious and He’s forgiving. He’s all of those marvelous things. But these things of the justice of God and the moral judgments of God, they are just as true as the forgiveness and the mercy of the Lord. And when you do evil and when you do wrong and when you do vile, you may repent. And God may forgive you for Jesus sake. But the vileness that you did and the evil that you did and the wrong that you did goes on and on and on and on until Jesus comes again. It doesn’t stop. It doesn’t stop.
You know, that old Talmud is filled with uncounted, uncounted stories. The Talmud is the old rabbis. First they wrote a comment on the Book, a commentary. They called it the Mishnah. Then, in Babylon they wrote a Gemara on the Mishnah. And in Jerusalem they wrote another Gemara on the Mishnah. And you put it all together and you have the Talmud. And in that Mishnah are uncounted stories. This is one of them, this is one of them.
A man went to the rabbi and he said, "Oh Rabbi, I have lived an evil life. I have lived an evil life, what shall I do to change it? What shall I do? What shall I do? I want to correct and rectify my evil life."
And the old rabbi – now, when I tell you this, you recognize the story immediately, it’s thousands of years old. The old rabbi said to the man, "Why, that will be very simple. You get your pillow and you go to the hill overlooking the city and before the wind, you open that pillow and let all of the feathers blow out of the pillow over the city."
So, the next day the man came back to the rabbi and said, "Rabbi, I have done just as you have said. I have stood on the hill overlooking the city and in the wind that blew, I let go the pillow of feathers. I let them fly out over the city, even as you said. Now what, Rabbi?"
And the rabbi replied, "Now, you go gather up those feathers."
And the man in astonishment said, "But Rabbi, but Rabbi, I could never do that. They are scattered in the length and breadth of the earth."
And the old rabbi looked at him and said, "And neither can you rectify and neither can you recall and neither can you call back all the evil that you have done."
God may forgive you, and you may not be damned and burned in hell because of your sin. But when we do wrong before God and when we sin before heaven, the evil that we do goes on and on and on and on until the Lord comes again.
And you don’t ever recall it and you can’t ever rectify it. You can try, and you should. But you don’t ever succeed. Those influences go out and on and forever. And that is one of the most pathetic and one of the most tragic things about the moral government of God in this universe. And one that breaks your heart as you see it all your life and all your ministry and all of your days.
Now, we can’t stay here all night. I want to show you just one thing out of a thousand that I have run into in my ministry. Here’s one. In a revival meeting I had, I had a prayer partner, I had a man of God. Oh, he was a born-again Christian, this old man! I was way out there in the ranch country of New Mexico preaching in a schoolhouse. And that old man, God bless him, prayed and prayed and be there. He was a true servant of Jesus.
I said to him upon a day, "You are one of the greatest Christians I have ever known in my life. I’ve rarely ever seen a man like you. The love of God’s in your heart and you want to see people saved. I guess you’ve been a Christian all of your life."
"No, no," he said. "I’ve been a Christian two years."
"Yes," he said, "two years. I’m seventy five years old and I’ve been a Christian two years."
Why, I said, "Well, man, I can’t imagine such a thing; seventy three years of your life and you have been a Christian just two years beyond. What was the matter?"
Well, then he said, "I" – oh, he’d heard preachers and he’d gone to revival meetings, but he said no to God. And he said no to the Holy Spirit. And he turned down God’s preachers and he turned down God’s evangelists. And he turned down the Holy Spirit. And for seventy three years he said no to Jesus.
Then, two years before I met him, upon a day he said "yes." And he was gloriously saved and marvelously converted and was a true man of God.
Well, I said, "That’s wonderful. Thank the Lord. That’s glorious. Just two years you’ve been a Christian. Saved at seventy three years. Glory to God! Amen, amen, amen."
Well, I got to know him pretty well. I preached there two weeks in that place. And he said to me, he said, "I wonder if you would do something for me." He said, "I have a boy that owns a big ranch." And then he told me where, so many miles this way and so many miles that way, in that vast, open country. And he said, "My boy has a fine family and he’s not a Christian. And I just wonder if you’d go see my boy."
Why, I said, "Brother, I will."
So I got me a car and I drove so many miles that way and so many miles the other way. And when I got to the ranch house, he was in one of those great pastures working at a windmill, they said, getting water for his cattle. So, I took the trail that was pointed out to me. And at that windmill in the big pasture, I found his boy, working there on the windmill. I introduced myself.
"Oh, yes," said the man, "I’ve heard about you. I’m glad to see you."
So, we sat down under the little shade that was provided there by the windmill. And I talked to him about the Lord. And I talked to him about the claims of Christ. And I talked to him about Jesus. And he said those same reasons to me that his father had said for three and seventy years. When I got him to come to the meeting and went to talk to him personally before the services were done, there were those same replies. "No, no, no."
Why, man, when that boy was a little boy, if his father had said to him when he was seven years old, when he was eight years old, when he was ten years old, when he was twelve years old, if that father had said to him, "Son, we are all sinners, all of us. And God sent Jesus to die for us that we might be saved. Now, son, do you realize that you’re a sinner?" And that little boy – for all of us have that realization – that little boy would have replied to his father, "Yes, father, I feel that I’m a sinner." We’re born with that consciousness. "I feel that I’m lost and need God."
"Now, son," that father could have said, "Now, son, kneel down by my side and let’s take it to Jesus." And he could have put his arm around that little boy and talked to Jesus. And then as he talked and prayed, the father could have extended his hand and said, "Son, if you will trust Jesus as your Savior, and give Him your heart, son, give me your hand." And that little boy would have put his hand in the big strong hand of his father and said, "Daddy, today I take Jesus as my Savior." And together, they could have walked down the aisle of some church. And that father could have seen his boy baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. But instead, all that little boy ever heard from his father was, no, no to the Holy Spirit, no to God, no to the church, no to the preacher.
And when I went to see him he was between forty and fifty years of age, that boy, and he had learned it well. He’d learned it well. He’d learned it well. Now, the old man is in heaven tonight. The old man is safe. And the old man was forgiven. And the old man trusted God in his old age. And he died a Christian. And we’ll meet him in glory someday. But the rejection of his life and the refusal of his life and the influence of his life for bad, for evil, for godlessness, lives in the heart and in the soul of that son. "No, no." And he learned it from his father, who became one of the best men that I ever knew. That is the moral government of this universe.
O Lord, that I might offer to Thee a life as well as my sinful soul. O God, that I might bring to Thee the influence of my days, as well as my hope that God will save me to Himself in heaven.
The time to be a Christian is now. The time to call on the name of God is now. The time to live for Christ is now. The time to offer yourself to Jesus is now. The time to give it all that you have is now. "Lord, Lord, I deposit it in Thy care, in Thy keeping, in Thy gracious hands, Lord, I give it to Thee, my life, my days, every dream, every hope. O God, I come to Thee." Then, God will sanctify every day you live, every moment you breathe, every dream and aspiration of your life. God will sanctify and hallow it for His name’s sake.
And that’s our appeal to your soul and to your heart tonight. Not some other day, not some other time. It might succeed for you, but oh, oh, oh, what it may mean to somebody else. Our appeal to you is that now, tonight, give yourself to God. Do it now. And thereafter let the shadow of your life, falling upon others, fall in blessing and in benediction. Do it now. Let every dream and every day and every hope and aspiration be toward God.
"Lord, Lord, I bring to Thee all that I am, all that I have, every hope and every dream. Lord, sanctify it, in Thy blessed and precious name. Do it Lord, do it." Somebody you, trusting Jesus for the first time as your Savior, "Lord, here I come." Somebody you, re-consecrating your life to Jesus, "Lord, here I am. And here I come." Somebody you, putting your life with God’s people in His church, "Here I am and here I come." As God shall open the door, shall whisper the word, shall lead in the way, make it tonight. Make it tonight, while we stand and while we sing.