Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ted Kennedy & King Manasseh: A Comparison

This is not a political blog; for one, I prefer to keep my political views largely to myself. For another, there are any number of bloggers who do that for a living, and whose insightsare most likely much more profound than mine would be. Having added that little disclaimer, I noticed on one of the sites I frequent a reference to the recent death of Sen. Ted Kennedy. To my surprise, several of the initial comments were so full of hatred and vitriol that I could scarcely believe what I was reading.

Now, I can't say that I approved of Sen. Kennedy's political leanings, nor many aspects of his personal life, but far be it from me to judge the contents of his heart and speculate on where he will be spending eternity.

It reminded me of the the life of Manasseh, King of Judah, told in 2 Kings 21:1-18 and later in 2 Chronicles 33:1-20.

King Manasseh “reigned in Jerusalem 55 years” (longer than Kennedy!), and “did evil in the eyes of the LORD,” even going so far as to sacrifice his own son in the fire, as an offering to the god Molech. 2 Kings 21:16 tells us that “moreover, Manasseh also shed so much innocent blood that he filled Jerusalem from end to end.” In addition to this, the king engaged in numerous forms of idolatry; worshiping the stars, practicing divination, sorcery and witchcraft, and even building altars to other gods in the temple of the Lord.

2 Chronicles 33 continues this unholy narrative by telling us that Manasseh “did much evil in the eyes of the LORD, provoking him to anger,” and that “[he] led Judah and the people of Jerusalem astray so that they did more evil than the nations the LORD had destroyed before the Israelites.”

As a result of this, the Lord brought about his capture by the Assyrians, who “took [him] prisoner, put a hook in his nose, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon.” I suppose if the narrative stopped there, or ended with a story of his gruesome death at the hands of his captors, we might feel some sense of divine justice for the evil perpetrated by this wicked man, right?

But surprisingly, the account abruptly changes course. We read in vv. 12-13 that “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 entreaty and listened to his plea; so He brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD is God.”

I won’t claim to know all that was in Ted Kennedy’s heart. But I will say that it is indeed possible that in his waning days he “sought the favor of the LORD,” as many are wont to do in the hour of their distress. And if he did, then I believe that God heard his prayers and reassured him of His great love for him.

How grateful I am that God’s love is so limitless – that He loves me abundantly and without measure, and that He pours out this love to all His sons and daughters, whether they acknowledge Him or not. For if God were as petty and capricious as I am in extending love and offering grace and mercy, what a wretched world this would be, and with what fear and trepidation would I contemplate death and eternity!


Dana Michael Krull said...

Well said my friend; I was up until the wee hours writing a paper about violence in Joshua - Kings and so I was really intrigued about the Chronicles parallel for Manasseh, which I hadn't read.

BTW, I'm blogging at a new site now, Let me know what you think.

Grace and peace my friend.

Doctor Eric said...

I guess a lot of people feel that Ted Kennedy didn't get his comeuppance for his well-publicized transgressions (often using family wealth as a means to expiation). There is something psychologically satisfying about seeing justice meted out against others (much more than meted out against ourselves!), and conversely it stings our sensibilities to see justice perverted. Solomon grappled a little with the issue of the fates of different types of people in Ecclesiastes. In the end, death awaits the Mother Teresas of the world, as certainly as it does the Pol Pots. But all will someday give account for their life's works, whether leaving a girl to drown in a car, or choosing abortion over family shame, or harboring hatred against a coworker, or lusting after women in pornography... That is where real justice lies; to excessively malign the departed, even those who did evil, probably shows a little lack of faith in God to mete out proper judgement when the time comes.

Curtis said...

Sorry guys. Where you continually stub your toe is in refusing to accept that men can judge another's faults long before God gets his innings. Why you fail to see that is beyond me. I know evil when I see it and I'm not afraid to condemn it. Yesterday saw another overt act of evil, no more or less evil than Kennedy's. A muslim shot over 40 innocent people, 13 of them to death. Your book would seek to shame me for speaking ill of the killer of pregnant women, children, innocent young women. Yet he is a man and killing one or 13 is a matter of scale not degree. A killer is a killer.

I do live in the county and I'm sorry I missed the sermon. I should have made a note of it and been there.

Anonymous said...

Look at the Psalmist, King David. Murderer and adulterer. Yet, beloved of God. Gave us one of the most beautiful supplicatory prayers we have, Psalm 50 (Septuagent).

Joe in N. Calif.

Dave Harvey said...

@ Curtis-
No one said anything about not judging others; we have a legal system that does just that. What I mean here is that we can judge one's actions, but not the attitude(s) of their heart. Like I said, I don't defend Kennedy's personal life - but I can't say that he's going to rot in hell as a result of Chappaquiddick. Just as King Manasseh had a change of heart, so too is it possible that Ted Kennedy did as well.