Increased Guilt or Increased Faith?

Bible Reading: 2 Kings 21:17-25; 22:1-2; 23:25-27; 2 Chronicles 33:18-23

Though King Manasseh's son, Amon, grew up during his father's reformed years, he was enticed by all the remaining idols and shrines that his father had built. "He did evil in the eyes of the Lord.... But unlike his father Manasseh, he did not humble himself before the Lord; Amon increased his guilt" (2C 33:22-23).

When Amon's son, Josiah, was only eight years old, he saw his father brutally assassinated. The memory must have left such an indelible impression of sin's destruction that Josiah would not be deceived by its false appeal. Undoubtedly influenced by his father's short reign of evil and shaken by his violent death, Josiah chose a different path. Firmly setting his mind against evil and fully embracing the ways of the Lord, he developed a solid, determined faith. "He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in all the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left. Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did--with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses. Nevertheless, the Lord did not turn away from the heat of his fierce anger, which burned against Judah because of all that Manasseh had done to provoke him to anger" (2K 22:2; 23:25-26).

Two generations after Manasseh provoked God's wrath, God is still burning with anger. This doesn't sound like our God who is slow to anger and quick to forgive our sins. With a closer look, however, it is clear that it isn't Manasseh that God is still angry with; it's the people in Judah who are still indulging in the evil which Manasseh demonstrated: they are still fascinated with the worship of the starry host, still practicing child sacrifice, sorcery and divination, and still consulting evil spirits. God has waited two generations for the people to humble themselves and turn from their evil ways, as Manasseh did, and to follow God decisively and wholeheartedly, as Josiah did. But his people still provoke his wrath with their idolatry and indifference. So, God sends yet another prophet, Zephaniah, with yet another warning. Though angry, he will not give up on the people he loves so dearly.

Lord, shape me into a woman and mother who turns to you, like Josiah did, with all my heart, soul and strength. I want to walk in your ways, "not turning aside to the right or to the left" (2K 22:2). Teach me your ways, O Lord. Show me what is right and wrong in your eyes as you reveal your heart to me. Open my eyes to Satan's deceit and let me hear and recognize your voice of truth. Lead me in the right path. When I'm drawn away "to the right or to the left," don't give up on me. I know you are slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness. Let me see the evidence of your love and faithfulness, even in the midst of rebellion and confusion. Let me feel your Spirit working deeply and gently within me, to draw me back into your arms of love and onto your path of healing. Help me to hear and heed the warnings you send my way. Give me the courage to turn from my own self-destructive ways and to follow you with passion and determination. As I attempt to walk with my eyes set on you, allow me to have a positive influence on my children and on those you place on my heart and in my path. Let them observe your grace at work in my life, to expose the deceptive appeal of sin and draw them into the wonder of your love. Keep me mindful that my decisions and attitudes affect more lives than just my own.