Come, child, sit here beside me... What? You shy away? Have the nurses and stewards told frightful tales of me? The tales are true, perhaps, but you need not fear. I am the king, but also your grandfather. Give me your hand... Good. This broad columned porch is the finest vantage point in all Judah. Now sit here and tell me what you see.
Yes—night steals over Jerusalem, great city of the kings. Yet Solomonís Temple glows, for its light is within. Do you know who dwells in that golden house? It is the Lord Jehovah, God of our fathers.
Do you know why I asked you to come to me tonight? Not only to share this magnificent view, but to hear a story. Do you like stories, child? Then listen carefully, for this is the most important you will ever hear.
My father was a good man and a wise king. He sought the Lord, kept the Law and the Feasts, and worshiped in the Temple. But I did not follow in his ways.
When I was very young, I had a teacher who was sly and secretive. Once he led me to a cave, where evil men had hidden some of those things that my father sought to destroy: carved idols, the images of the heathen gods.
Traced upon the cave walls were strange pictures of ancient rites and rituals, great wickedness which I cannot describe to you. And I—young as I was—looked at these things and thought: What does my fatherís God offer to rival these pleasures? Why should I, a kingís son, bend and bow and offer sacrifices to an austere God, a God of rigid laws?
My father died when I was but a few years older than you. All Judah mourned the dead king, and the prophets anointed me and admonished me. It seemed then that the great God Himself leaned close to whisper: If you will follow in the path of your father, I will bless you, and all your generations...
But His voice was hateful to me, because my mind was fixed on what I had seen and what I had been told of heathen pleasures.
I determined to silence Him. I rebuilt the altars that my father had torn down, the altars to the gods of sun and moon and constellations. I brought sorcerers from far lands and they taught me practices too terrible to utter... and I delighted in them. Yet the voice still lingered, and it seemed to call to me from the great, shining temple, for I knew that God dwelled there.
So I strove to drive Him out—yes, from His own house. I built altars to the gods in the courts of the Temple, and set up a great carved image in the Temple itself. The people of Judah followed my example, and sinned; and for a while, I believed I had stilled the voice of God.
Yet the Lord in His mercy sent the Assyrians. A band of their mighty men fell upon me and took me, and I languished in Babylonian dungeons. They kept me alive to mock and humiliate me, so that I wished and prayed for death. And there, in a loathsome pit, God found me... and I could not escape Him.
O child, He is merciful! For when I humbled myself, He forgave me, and turned my captivity. I lived to return to Jerusalem, and to restore the worship of the Lord in Judah.
And now, child, look at me and understand why I tell you these things. God has been longsuffering, but His people have squandered the day refusing Him. The night deepens—and my own son, your father, refuses to listen to my words. He thinks my repentance is the madness of an old man broken by Assyrian torments. But you will be king after him, and you must never forget:
I, Manasseh, was King of Judah, and the Lord granted that I should find Him at twilight. O Josiah, beloved son of my son, do not wait until the last hour! Seek Him early and listen to His voice as long as He gives you life. For if our nation had heeded Him throughout the long day He gave us, all Israel would yet be saved.
AUTHORíS NOTE: Hezekiahís son Manasseh was an exceedingly wicked king; yet 2 Chronicles 33 records that Manasseh humbled himself and repented in the last years of his life. Josiah, the future King of Judah, would have been six years old the year his grandfather Manasseh died.
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