Manasseh—The Baby Killer
"Hezekiah generated Manasseh, and Manasseh generated Amon… "
Three years ago on a June morning in Georgia Justin Ross Harris grabbed breakfast at Chick-fil-A with Cooper, his 22-month old boy. Then Harris drove straight to work, parked, and went inside to the air-conditioning and work. After lunch with his co-workers, he dropped by the car to put away some light bulbs he had bought, but never checked inside the vehicle. Finally at 4:15 PM after finishing his day, he jumped into the steaming car. Five minutes later according to police record, he pulled over in a shopping center and tried to do CPR on the parched lips of his toddler. It was too late. While he had adulterously sexted online at work, his little son, strapped in his car seat, was dying of asphyxiation.
The jury heard the horror story about a dad frequently committing adultery and purposely murdering his son to escape the responsibilities of marriage and family. They declared Harris guilty on the eight charges against him, and on December 5, 2016, Judge Mary Staley Clark sentenced Harris to life in prison with no possibility of parole, plus 32 years. It was the maximum sentence allowed by Georgia Law. According to Genesis 9:6, God’s Law would have pronounced a stiffer sentence. Fathers who murder their sons deserve the death penalty, and Manasseh, the son of good King Hezekiah, deserved death even more than Harris.
2 Chronicles declares that as a twelve year old king, Manasseh turned away from the faith of his father. He brought back the outlawed male and female goddesses of the surrounding nations. He consulted mediums and worshiped the stars. Then he did far worse. He sacrificed his own children in the fires he kindled for this purpose in the valley close to his palace.
In response to these evils, God allowed the commanders of the Assyrian armies to attack Jerusalem, take Manasseh prisoner, and with a hook in his nose take him away to Babylon. At this point in the story Manasseh, the child killer, got what he deserved. But then 2 Chronicles puts in a twist.
"In his distress he sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. And when he prayed to Him, the Lord was moved by his pleas for grace. The Lord brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom." 2 Chronicles 33:12-13
Like the questions raised by God's failure to execute the death penalty against King David when he committed adultery and murder, how could God show mercy to Manasseh?
The Old Testament tells us many stories where ruthless killers like Pharaoh, Goliath, and Ahab and Jezebel pay for their murders with their blood, but how did the righteous Judge of all the earth bring Manasseh home to Jerusalem when the text tells us he sinned worse than them all?
This question drives us forward in the redemptive story of the Bible to the baby born in Bethlehem, the baby who would be the Lamb of God who would die for the sins of the world, including Manasseh's. And that's why Matthew includes Manasseh in the genealogy of Jesus as he proves that Jesus is the legitimate Son of David, the King who will save His people from their sins.
Lord, thank you that you are a God of justice who demands a life for a life. I also pray that you will work in the heart of the dad who committed a humanly unforgiveable crime. If Manasseh can be forgiven based on Jesus’ death, then so can Justin.
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