A Prayer for Mercy
Bible Reading: 2 Chronicles 33:9-20
In an interview on Easter Sunday, Franklin Graham, head of Samaritan’s Purse, urged people to pray for President Vladimir Putin, saying, “What President Putin’s end game is, I don’t know. But I think we just need to pray that God can change his heart…And I would recommend for people to pray for Putin. I don’t want to be misunderstood [on this point]. I want people to pray that God would change his heart. And turn his heart around, and that he would see the sin that he’s involved in. That he would repent and turn from it…And if we pray, that could happen.” There were some hateful responses with some even calling Mr. Graham a traitor and others calling into question the validity of his Christian faith. Can God work to save a man like Putin? Yes! Will he? God only knows. Is it okay to pray for such a person? Absolutely.
Manasseh ascended to the throne of Judah when he was only 12 years old. He reigned for 55 years, the longest reign in Judah’s history. Contrary to his father’s example–who had done right in the sight of the Lord–Manasseh plunged himself and his nation into every possible manner of spiritual evil. Manasseh rebuilt the high places his father, Hezekiah, had destroyed. He erected altars for Baal and Asherah. Manasseh erected pagan altars in both the inner and outer courts and even in the temple itself. The Asherah pole was placed in the temple, the very abode of the sacred name. Incredibly, he sacrificed his own sons as an offering to the false gods! In addition, he practiced sorcery and divination and engaged in other demonic activities. He was a violent man. According to 2 Kings 21:16 he “shed very much innocent blood, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to the other.” In his reign, Manasseh led Judah to do more evil than the nations that had occupied the land before them. Imagine how hard it must have been if you’d been part of the godly remnant that lived in that land in those days!
God sent prophets to warn Manasseh of the grave consequences of his grievous sins, but he refused to listen. God then set in motion the forces that would work to bring judgment upon the nation. God humbled Manasseh by allowing him to fall into the hands of the King of Assyria. In the King’s distress he cried out to God–sometimes it takes a crisis for God to get a man’s attention. Isaiah prophesied during Manasseh’s reign, and once declared: “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord” (Isaiah 55:6-8). Perhaps Manasseh had heard these words, but whether he had or not, he “humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers” …and “prayed to him” (2 Chronicles 33:12-13). “God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God” (2 Chronicles 33:13).
What are we to make of this? God’s ability to pardon sinners transcends our capacity to comprehend. God is a merciful God who stands with open arms before the penitent sinner. In having benefited from the riches of God’s mercy in salvation through Jesus, you’ve got something to be ever thankful for (Ephesians 2:4)! And Manasseh reminds us that God is able to intervene in the life of anyone, no matter how bad off they might be (1 Timothy 1:12-17). It is as Charles Spurgeon once said, “Let no man, therefore, despair of his fellow. I never do, since I think and hope that God has saved me. I am persuaded that, live as long as I may, I shall never see the individual of whom I can say “That man is a hopeless case.” We can pray for others mindful that the compassion of the God “who desires all people to be saved” can reach further than we can imagine.
God’s Ability to Pardon Transcends our Ability to Comprehend
THERE’S A WIDENESS IN GOD’S MERCY
There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
like the wideness of the sea.
There’s a kindness in God’s justice,
which is more than liberty.
There is welcome for the sinner,
and more graces for the good.
There is mercy with the Savior,
there is healing in his blood.
But we make God’s love too narrow
by false limits of our own,
and we magnify its strictness
with a zeal God will not own.
For the love of God is broader
than the measures of the mind,
and the heart of the Eternal
is most wonderfully kind.
If our love were but more simple,
we should rest upon God’s word,
and our lives would be illumined
by the presence of our Lord.