Ellen G. White Writings

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The Review and Herald

July 8, 1915

Manasseh and Josiah

Mrs. E. G. White

The kingdom of Judah, prosperous throughout the times of Hezekiah, was once more brought low during the long years of Manasseh's wicked reign, when paganism was revived, and many of the people were led into idolatry. “Manasseh made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to err, and to do worse than the heathen.” 2 Chronicles 33:9. The glorious light of former generations was followed by the darkness of superstition and error. Gross evils sprang up and flourished,—tyranny, oppression, hatred of all that is good. Justice was perverted; violence prevailed.

Yet those evil times were not without witnesses for God and the right. The trying experiences through which Judah had safely passed during Hezekiah's reign, had developed in the hearts of many a sturdiness of character that now served as a bulwark against the prevailing iniquity. Their testimony in behalf of truth and righteousness aroused the anger of Manasseh and his associates in authority, who endeavored to establish themselves in evil doing by silencing every voice of disapproval. “Manasseh shed innocent blood very much, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another.” 2 Kings 21:16.

One of the first to fall was Isaiah, who for over half a century had stood before Judah as the appointed messenger of Jehovah. “Others had trials of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.” Hebrews 11:36-38.

Some of those who suffered persecution during Manasseh's reign, were commissioned to bear special messages of reproof and of judgment. The king of Judah, the prophets declared, “hath done wickedly above all ... which were before him.” Because of this wickedness, his kingdom was nearing a crisis; soon the inhabitants of the land were to be carried captive to Babylon, there to become “a prey and a spoil to all their enemies.” 2 Kings 21:11, 14. But the Lord would not utterly forsake those who in a strange land should acknowledge him as their Ruler; they might suffer great tribulation, yet he would bring deliverance to them in his appointed time and way. Those who should learn to put their trust wholly in him, would find a sure refuge.

Faithfully the prophets continued their warnings and their exhortations; fearlessly they spoke to Manasseh, and to his people; but the messages were scorned; backsliding Judah would not heed. As an earnest of what would befall the people should they continue impenitent, the Lord permitted their king to be captured by a band of Assyrian soldiers, who “bound him with fetters, and carried him to Babylon,” their temporary capital. This affliction brought the king to his senses. “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.” 2 Chronicles 33:11-13. But this repentance, remarkable though it was, came too late to save the kingdom from the corrupting influence of years of idolatrous practices. Many had stumbled and fallen, never again to rise.

Among those whose life experience had been shaped beyond recall by the fatal apostasy of Manasseh, was his own son, who came to the throne at the age of twenty-two. Of King Amon it is written: “He walked in all the way that his father walked in, and served the idols that his father served, and worshiped them: and he forsook the Lord God of his fathers” (2 Kings 21:21, 22); he “humbled not himself before the Lord, as Manasseh his father had humbled himself; but Amon trespassed more and more.” The wicked king was not permitted to reign long. In the midst of his daring impiety, only two years from the time he ascended the throne, he was slain in the palace by his own servants; and “the people of the land made Josiah his son king in his stead.” 2 Chronicles 33:23, 25.

With the accession of Josiah to the throne, where he was to rule for thirty-one years, those who had maintained the purity of their faith began to hope that the downward course of the kingdom was checked; for the new king, though only eight years old, feared God, and from the very beginning “he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the way of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left.” 2 Kings 22:2. Born of a wicked king, beset with temptations to follow in his father's steps, and with few counselors to encourage him in the right way, Josiah nevertheless was true to the God of Israel. Warned by the errors of past generations, he chose to do right, instead of descending to the low level of sin and degradation to which his father and his grandfather has descended. He “turned not aside to the right hand or to the left.” As one who was to occupy a position of trust, he resolved to obey the instruction that had been given for the guidance of Israel's rulers; and his obedience made it possible for God to use him as a vessel unto honor.

At the time Josiah began to rule, and for many years before, the true-hearted in Judah were questioning whether God's promises to ancient Israel could ever be fulfilled. From a human point of view, the divine purpose for the chosen nation seemed almost impossible of accomplishment. The apostasy of former centuries had gathered strength with the passing years; ten of the tribes had been scattered among the heathen; only a feeble remnant remained in the land of Judah, and even these now seemed on the verge of moral and national ruin. The prophets had begun to foretell the utter destruction of their fair city, where stood the temple built by Solomon, and where all their earthly hopes of national greatness had centered. Could it be that God was about to turn aside from his avowed purpose of bringing deliverance to those who should put their trust in him? In the face of the long-continued persecution of the righteous and of the apparent prosperity of the wicked, could those who had remained true to God hope for better days?

These anxious questionings were voiced by the prophet Habakkuk. Viewing the situation of the faithful in his day, he expressed the burden of his heart in the inquiry: “O Lord, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! even cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save! Why dost thou show me iniquity, and cause me to behold grievance? for spoiling and violence are before me: and there are that raise up strife and contention. Therefore the law is slacked, and judgment doth never go forth: for the wicked doth compass about the righteous; therefore wrong judgment proceedeth.” Habakkuk 1:2-4.

God answered the cry of his loyal children. Through his chosen mouthpiece he revealed his determination to bring chastisement upon the nation that had turned from him to serve the gods of the heathen. Within the lifetime of some who were even then making inquiry regarding the future, he would miraculously shape the affairs of the ruling nations of earth, and bring the Babylonians into the ascendancy. These Chaldeans, “terrible and dreadful” (Habakkuk 1:7), were to fall suddenly upon the land of Judah as a divinely appointed scourge. The princes of Judah and the fairest of the people were to be carried captive to Babylon; the Judean cities and villages and the cultivated fields were to be laid waste; nothing was to be spared.

Confident that in this terrible judgment the purpose of God for his people would in some way be fulfilled, Habakkuk bowed in submission to the revealed will of Jehovah. “Art thou not from everlasting. O Lord my God, mine Holy One?” he exclaimed. And then, his faith reaching out beyond the forbidding prospect of the immediate future and laying fast hold on the precious promises that reveal God's love for his trusting children, the prophet added, “We shall not die.” Habakkuk 1:12. With this declaration of faith he rested his case, and that of every believing Israelite, in the hands of a compassionate God.

This was not Habakkuk's only experience in the exercise of strong faith. On one occasion, when meditating concerning the future, he said, “I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me.” Graciously the Lord answered him: “Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry. Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.” Habakkuk 2:1-4.

(To be concluded.)

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