A moment comes when God’s people cross the irrevocable line.  Under Manasseh, who outstripped all the Kings of Israel in wickedness, apostasy in Israel reached its climax and with his reign there began that abandonment of Jehovah which moved steadily downward to the awful tribulation of Babylon.  And it is a wonderful forecast for our instruction, for “in these things they became figures of us” (1 Cor. 10: 6, R.V. margin).  Manasseh, a concrete embodiment of apostasy, is plunged into the very tribulation that was to overtake Israel - Babylon - and by that shock of agony he is brought back to God.  It is as lovely a jewel of grace as the Bible holds.


Scripture names are most studiedly significant, and Manasseh’s at once blazes out:- ‘Manasseh’ means ‘forgetting’, ‘one who forgets’ (Gesenius): it is the apostate; one who has forgotten the Faith - either having never been born again, or else a regenerate soul who has turned his back on His Saviour.  Manasseh’s early convictions are (doubtless purposely) not revealed, and so he covers both.  There had arisen in Judah - the last refuge on earth of Divine revelation - a violent hostility to Jehovah, His worship, and His Prophets, a significant forecast of our coming apostasy; and Manasseh, brought up in a most godly home, embodies exactly what we are watching - a younger generation deepeningly alienated from God.  The receptivity of youth, which can take the impress of the highest, can equally - like twelve-year-old Manasseh in the hands of a godless palace clique - take the stamp of the worst.  Following the great revival under Hezekiah, as we have behind us the great Christian outburst of the nineteenth century, for fifty years the King, backed (as a whole) by the people of God, plunged into an apostasy without parallel in history.


The fountain of both the past and future apostasies is identical.  Paul foretells:- “Some shall depart [apostatize] from the faith, giving heed to SEDUCING SPIRITS” (1 Tim. 4: 1), and therefore in active communication with them.  Manasseh, more than any Israelite in the Old Testament, is the incarnation of Spiritualism.  “He practised augury, and used enchantments, and practised sorcery” - literally, ‘muttered’; that is, he spoke in ‘tongues’* - “and dealt with them that had familiar spirits” - an exact description of the mediumship of all ages, every medium owning a spirit so, frequent at his beck and call as to be ‘familiar’ – “and with wizards” (2 Chron. 33: 6).  The Askera, the inconceivable wickedness of the phallic symbol, he set up in the Temple itself, an awful forecast of the Image of the Beast.


* So Isaiah (8: 19) speaks of “them that have familiar spirits and the wizards, that chirp and that mutter” . All that know the modern manifestations, inside or outside the Church of God, are familiar with this ‘muttering’.


The fearful character of the apostate now develops.  “Manasseh made Judah to err, so that they did evil more than did the nations whom the Lord destroyed before the children of Israel” (2 Chron. 33: 9).  The Scriptures offer no explanation why the people of God, of all dispensations, follow their leaders, even into apostasy, en masse, as Israel followed Manasseh for fifty years.  “In England,” says the historian, “the bulk of the nation and of the clergy returned at once to Romanism, when restored by Mary, after the death of Edward VI.”  And apostasy is a quintessence of wickedness.  A soul that sins against light must be blacker than a soul that sins without light: moreover, it is of fearful significance for us that an abandonment of the Law, the Temple, and the Old Testament Prophets, is far exceeded in wickedness - on the same principle - by the abandonment of Calvary and the Apostles.  When an evil spirit is cast out, but returns, he brings with him seven spirits more wicked than himself.


God, ever and always, gives full warning, and the rejection of the warnings only deepens the iniquity.  “And the Lord spake to Manasseh, and to his people: but they gave no heed” (2 Chron. 33: 10).  Like modern Dictators, Manasseh broke into bitter bloodshed when opposed.  “Manasseh shed innocent blood very much, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another” (2 Kings 21: 16).  Lawless dictatorship means nation-wide persecution.  Josephus says that “he cruelly put to death all the righteous among the Hebrews, and did not even spare the prophets  It is intensely interesting to observe that according to Jewish tradition as great a prophet as has ever been, Isaiah, Manasseh sawed in two after fastening him in a cedar tree in which he had taken refuge.


Now judgment, which falls on the people of God in all ages as certainly as on the world, descends.  Jehovah says that He will stretch over Jerusalem a plummet - justice will measure guilt and punishment to the exactitude of an inch; and that He will wipe Jerusalem as an emptied and upturned dish - that is, Jerusalem is finished.  God had sent prophet after prophet with the most explicit warnings, exactly as the Apocalyptic judgments are now blazoned before our eyes - equally with all but total rejection.  In a phrase never uttered in Scripture by anyone but Jehovah, the Most High says:- “Behold, I bring such evil upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whosoever heareth of it, both his ears shall tingle” (2 Kings 21: 12).  At the fortieth meeting of the Zionist Congress the fulfilment is tragically summarized by Dr. Weizmann (Times, Aug. 4, 1937):- “The situation of the Jewish people throughout the world shows elements of tragedy such as can rarely have been equalled even in Jewish history, rich as that history is in tragic chapters.  Millions of Jews in Central and Eastern Europe now find themselves not only deprived of their rights and citizenship, but robbed of their livelihood and of the very possibility of their existence


A fact of extraordinary significance now emerges.  Golden revivals, that are still due, cannot cancel the ‘great tribulation’ for apostasy: when a certain line is passed, judgment is inevitable.  Manasseh, and the people of God behind Manasseh, had sinned beyond collective pardon.  Of the next king but one, Josiah, the inspired summary is marvellous:- “Like unto him was there no king before him, neither after him arose there any like him Yet what is immediately added?  “Notwithstanding the Lord turned not from the fierceness of his great wrath, wherewith his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations that Manasseh had provoked him withal” (2 Kings 23: 25, 26).  The outpour of Joel will not cancel the coming Day of Terror.  In spite of Josiah, the model king of all Israel’s history, and the great revival in his reign, within fifty years all Judah had been swept into Babylon.


So now we reach the extraordinary grace of God.  In a priceless forecast of what we may expect, we find that apostates, whether regenerate or not, who have passed into the Great Tribulation, can be amazingly brought back to God.  There came the shock of battle - the fearful overthrow - the headlong flight - the capture - the chains - the dungeon.  “The King of Assyria took Manasseh in chains, and bound him with fetters, and carried him to Babylon” (2 Chron. 33: 11).  That which, fifty years later, was to overwhelm the whole people of God - removal to Babylon - Manasseh actually experiences; and there, in his ‘great tribulation’, encompassed doubtless by his mother’s prayers – Hephzibah, ‘my delight is in her’ - he finds God.  “And when he was in distress, he besought the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly” - he broke into a passion of contrition – “before the God of his fathers”: “then” - when Jehovah had answered him – “Manasseh knew that the Lord he was God” (2 Chron. 33: 12).  The whole Bible contains no more amazing illustration of our Lord’s command:- “despairing of no man” (Luke 6: 35).


So then we have in Manasseh as crowning a proof of God’s grace as we have in all history.  This is the only case of a Jewish king reigning wickedly and finally repenting; the longest reign in all Jewish history, the longest and the blackest, ends in a golden sunset.  But it is much more than that.  The man who turns his back on Christ and enters the Great Tribulation, but who, in those dread terrors, returns passionately to his Lord, is almost certain to be martyred - but that is the Throne.  All martyrs are enthroned (Rev. 20: 4) at the Lord’s return.  “And God brought him again to Jerusalem INTO HIS KINGDOM He re-ascends the Throne.  It is fraught with the deepest significance that to the Laodicean Angel “miserable and poor and blind and naked”* - our Lord lifts up the vision of the Throne:- “He that overcometh, I will give to him to sit down with me in my throne” (Rev. 3: 21).  So all history, perhaps, contains no more delightful concrete encouragement, together with the warning involved, contained in our Lord’s words (Matt. 19: 30):- “Many shall be last that are first; AND FIRST THAT ARE LAST


* One proof that the Angel is a regenerate man is final.  “If ye are without chastening, then are ye bastards, and not sons” (Heb. 12: 8).  But to the Laodicean the Lord says: “As many as I love I reprove and chasten be zealous therefore, and repent” (Rev. 3: 19).  The Angel is chastened therefore he is a son.  “He scourgeth every son whom he receiveth” (Heb. 12: 6).