“But while in deep distress, Manasseh sought the Lord his God and sincerely humbled himself before the God of his ancestors. And when he prayed, the Lord listened to him and was moved by his request. So the Lord brought Manasseh back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh finally realized that the Lord alone is God!” — 2 Chronicles 33:12-13
Judah faced exile by the Assyrians because of her sin. As a people they were collectively guilty before God for their rejection of Him, His commands and His desires for them. But, lest we think the exile was all about a nation that was punished for her transgressions and then restored, God points to a single individual whose life needed to be turned around. And it was!
After all that King Hezekiah had done to bring Judah closer to the Lord, his son Manasseh defiantly led Judah back into idolatry. For that callous rebellion, God punished Manasseh by having him dragged off to Babylon with a hook in his nose. If anything can get someone’s attention, that certainly should!
To his credit, Manasseh genuinely and truly repented–so much so that God heard his prayers and restored him to the leadership of the kingdom. It is a wonderful story of brokenness and redemption. But more than that, it is a close-up snapshot, not of an entire nation, but the individual people and personalities who comprise that nation. Nations (as nations) do not repent. It is people who repent.
Were someone to say to us today that the church needs to repent of its materialism, its inattention to social injustice, and its moral laxity, they could not be more right–or wrong depending on how we understand that reference to “the church.” Some churches (as churches) do indeed need to repent for having adopted official doctrines that debase the holiness of Christ and the clear moral standards taught by God in His Word. Yet we miss the whole point when we look at churches as institutions we can hide behind. To say that “the church” needs to repent is merely to say that you and I need to repent–one by one, person by person.
This question must be asked of us individually today: What “hook in my nose” would it take for me to repent of the sins of “my church”? Am I (are you) conceptualizing the sin in us or are we personalizing the sin? Until we see our lives through the lenses of aberration and fear, we cannot be brought back.
Until you and I are willing to deal with our own sin, revival and restoration will not come. The saddest tragedy of all is that until we get a picture of repentance that has us in the center of it, we will never see and know God as Manasseh came to know Him: [Manasseh] …realized that the Lord alone is God!”
It is only when repentance is personal that it becomes powerful!