Manasseh and Josiah
of Judah, prosperous throughout the times of Hezekiah, was once more
brought low during the long years of Manasseh's wicked reign, when
paganism was revived, and many of the people were led into idolatry.
"Manasseh made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to err, and to
do worse than the heathen." 2 Chronicles 33:9. The glorious light of
former generations was followed by the darkness of superstition and error.
Gross evils sprang up and flourished--tyranny, oppression, hatred of all
that is good. Justice was perverted; violence prevailed.
evil times were not without witnesses for God and the right. The trying
experiences through which Judah had safely passed during Hezekiah's reign
had developed, in the hearts of many, a sturdiness of character that now
served as a bulwark against the prevailing iniquity. Their testimony in
behalf of truth and righteousness aroused the anger of Manasseh and his
associates in authority, who
establish themselves in evil-doing by silencing every voice of
disapproval. "Manasseh shed innocent blood very much, till he had
filled Jerusalem from one end to another." 2 Kings 21:16.
One of the
first to fall was Isaiah, who for over half a century had stood before
Judah as the appointed messenger of Jehovah. "Others had trial of
cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment:
they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with
the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being
destitute, afflicted, tormented; (of whom the world was not worthy:) they
wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the
earth." Hebrews 11:36-38.
Some of those
who suffered persecution during Manasseh's reign were commissioned to bear
special messages of reproof and of judgment. The king of Judah, the
prophets declared, "hath done wickedly above all . . . which were
before him." Because of this wickedness, his kingdom was nearing a
crisis; soon the inhabitants of the land were to be carried captive to
Babylon, there to become "a prey and a spoil to all their
enemies." 2 Kings 21:11, 14. But the Lord would not utterly forsake
those who in a strange land should acknowledge Him as their Ruler; they
might suffer great tribulation, yet He would bring deliverance to them in
His appointed time and way. Those who should put their trust wholly in Him
would find a sure refuge.
the prophets continued their warnings and their exhortations; fearlessly
they spoke to Manasseh and
people; but the messages were scorned; backsliding Judah would not heed.
As an earnest of what would befall the people should they continue
impenitent, the Lord permitted their king to be captured by a band of
Assyrian soldiers, who "bound him with fetters, and carried him to
Babylon," their temporary capital. This affliction brought the king
to his senses; "he besought the Lord his God, and humbled himself
greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed unto Him: and He was
entreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to
Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord He was
God." 2 Chronicles 33:11-13. But this repentance, remarkable though
it was, came too late to save the kingdom from the corrupting influence of
years of idolatrous practices. Many had stumbled and fallen, never again
whose life experience had been shaped beyond recall by the fatal apostasy
of Manasseh, was his own son, who came to the throne at the age of
twenty-two. Of King Amon it is written: "He walked in all the way
that his father walked in, and served the idols that his father served,
and worshiped them: and he forsook the Lord God of his fathers" (2
Kings 21:21, 22); he "humbled not himself before the Lord, as
Manasseh his father had humbled himself; but Amon trespassed more and
more." The wicked king was not permitted to reign long. In the midst
of his daring impiety, only two years from the time he ascended the
throne, he was slain in the palace by his own servants; and "the
people of the land made Josiah his son king in his stead." 2
Chronicles 33:23, 25.
accession of Josiah to the throne, where he was to rule for thirty-one
years, those who had maintained the purity of their faith began to hope
that the downward course of the kingdom was checked; for the new king,
though only eight years old, feared God, and from the very beginning
"he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in
all the way of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or
to the left." 2 Kings 22:2. Born of a wicked king, beset with
temptations to follow in his father's steps, and with few counselors to
encourage him in the right way, Josiah nevertheless was true to the God of
Israel. Warned by the errors of past generations, he chose to do right,
instead of descending to the low level of sin and degradation to which his
father and his grandfather had fallen. He "turned not aside to the
right hand or to the left." As one who was to occupy a position of
trust, he resolved to obey the instruction that had been given for the
guidance of Israel's rulers, and his obedience made it possible for God to
use him as a vessel unto honor.
At the time
Josiah began to rule, and for many years before, the truehearted in Judah
were questioning whether God's promises to ancient Israel could ever be
fulfilled. From a human point of view the divine purpose for the chosen
nation seemed almost impossible of accomplishment. The apostasy of former
centuries had gathered strength with the passing years; ten of the tribes
had been scattered among the heathen; only the tribes of Judah and
Benjamin remained, and even these now seemed on the verge of
national ruin. The prophets had begun to foretell the utter destruction of
their fair city, where stood the temple built by Solomon, and where all
their earthly hopes of national greatness had centered. Could it be that
God was about to turn aside from His avowed purpose of bringing
deliverance to those who should put their trust in Him? In the face of the
long-continued persecution of the righteous, and of the apparent
prosperity of the wicked, could those who had remained true to God hope
for better days?
questionings were voiced by the prophet Habakkuk. Viewing the situation of
the faithful in his day, he expressed the burden of his heart in the
inquiry: "O Lord, how long shall I cry, and Thou wilt not hear! even
cry out unto Thee of violence, and Thou wilt not save! Why dost Thou show
me iniquity, and cause me to behold grievance? for spoiling and violence
are before me: and there are that raise up strife and contention.
Therefore the law is slacked, and judgment doth never go forth: for the
wicked doth compass about the righteous; therefore wrong judgment
proceedeth." Habakkuk 1:2-4.
the cry of His loyal children. Through His chosen mouthpiece He revealed
His determination to bring chastisement upon the nation that had turned
from Him to serve the gods of the heathen. Within the lifetime of some who
were even then making inquiry regarding the future, He would miraculously
shape the affairs of the ruling nations of earth and bring the Babylonians
into the ascendancy. These Chaldeans, "terrible and dreadful,"
were to fall suddenly upon the land of Judah as a divinely
scourge. Verse 7. The princes of Judah and the fairest of the people were
to be carried captive to Babylon; the Judean cities and villages and the
cultivated fields were to be laid waste; nothing was to be spared.
that even in this terrible judgment the purpose of God for His people
would in some way be fulfilled, Habakkuk bowed in submission to the
revealed will of Jehovah. "Art Thou not from everlasting, O Lord my
God, mine Holy One?" he exclaimed. And then, his faith reaching out
beyond the forbidding prospect of the immediate future, and laying fast
hold on the precious promises that reveal God's love for His trusting
children, the prophet added, "We shall not die." Verse 12. With
this declaration of faith he rested his case, and that of every believing
Israelite, in the hands of a compassionate God.
This was not
Habakkuk's only experience in the exercise of strong faith. On one
occasion, when meditating concerning the future, he said, "I will
stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what
He will say unto me." Graciously the Lord answered him: "Write
the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth
it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall
speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely
come, it will not tarry. Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not
upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith." Habakkuk
that strengthened Habakkuk and all the holy and the just in those days of
deep trial was the same faith that sustains God's people today. In the
darkest hours, under circumstances the most forbidding, the Christian
may keep his
soul stayed upon the source of all light and power. Day by day, through
faith in God, his hope and courage may be renewed. "The just shall
live by his faith." In the service of God there need be no
despondency, no wavering, no fear. The Lord will more than fulfill the
highest expectations of those who put their trust in Him. He will give
them the wisdom their varied necessities demand.
abundant provision made for every tempted soul, the apostle Paul bears
eloquent testimony. To him was given the divine assurance, "My grace
is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness."
In gratitude and confidence the tried servant of God responded: "Most
gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of
Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in
reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's
sake: for when I am weak, them am I strong." 2 Corinthians 12:9, 10.
cherish and cultivate the faith of which prophets and apostles have
testified--the faith that lays hold on the promises of God and waits for
deliverance in His appointed time and way. The sure word of prophecy will
meet its final fulfillment in the glorious advent of our Lord and Saviour
Jesus Christ, as King of kings and Lord of lords. The time of waiting may
seem long, the soul may be oppressed by discouraging circumstances, many
in whom confidence has been placed may fall by the way; but with the
prophet who endeavored to encourage Judah in a time of unparalleled
apostasy, let us confidently declare, "The Lord is in His holy
temple: let all the earth keep silence
Him." Habakkuk 2:20. Let us ever hold in remembrance the cheering
message, "The vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it
shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will
surely come, it will not tarry. . . . The just shall live by his
faith." Verses 3, 4.
revive Thy work in the midst of the years,
In the midst
of the years make known;
came from Teman,
And the Holy
One from Mount Paran.
covered the heavens,
And the earth
was full of His praise.
brightness was as the light;
He had bright
beams out of His side:
And there was
the hiding of His power.
went the pestilence,
coals went forth at His feet.
He stood, and
measured the earth:
and drove asunder the nations;
everlasting mountains were scattered,
hills did bow:
His ways are
wentest forth for the salvation of Thy people,
salvation with Thine anointed."
the fig tree shall not blossom,
fruit be in the vines;
The labor of
the olive shall fail,
fields shall yield no meat;
shall be cut off from the fold,
shall be no herd in the stalls:
Yet I will
rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in
the God of my salvation.
The Lord God
is my strength."
3:2-6, 13, 17-19, margin.
not the only one through whom was given a message of bright hope and of
future triumph as well as of present judgment. During the reign of Josiah
the word of the Lord came to Zephaniah, specifying plainly the results of
continued apostasy, and calling the attention of the true church to the
glorious prospect beyond. His prophecies of impending judgment upon Judah
apply with equal force to the judgments that are to fall upon an
impenitent world at the time of the second advent of Christ:
great day of the Lord is near,
It is near,
and hasteth greatly,
voice of the day of the Lord:
man shall cry there bitterly.
day is a day of wrath,
A day of
trouble and distress,
A day of
wasteness and desolation,
A day of
darkness and gloominess,
of clouds and thick darkness,
A day of the
trumpet and alarm
the high towers."
bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because they
have sinned against the Lord: and their blood shall be poured out as dust.
. . . Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in
the day of the Lord's wrath: but the whole land shall be devoured by the
fire of His jealousy: for He shall make even a speedy riddance of all them
that dwell in the land." Verses 17, 18.
yourselves together, yea, gather together,
O nation not
decree bring forth,
day pass as the chaff,
fierce anger of the Lord come upon you,
day of the Lord's anger come upon you.
the Lord, all ye meek of the earth,
wrought His judgment;
It may be ye
shall be hid
In the day of
the Lord's anger."
at that time I will deal with all them that afflict thee: and I will save
her that halteth, and gather her that was driven away; and I will make
them a praise and a name, whose shame hath been in all the earth. At that
time will I bring you in, and at that time will I gather you: for I will
make you a name and a praise among all the peoples of the earth, when I
bring again your captivity before your eyes, saith the Lord."
Zephaniah 3:19, 20, R.V.
daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel;
Be glad and
rejoice with all the heart,
O daughter of
The Lord hath
taken away thy judgments,
He hath cast
out thine enemy:
The King of
Israel, even the Lord,
Is in the
midst of thee:
not see evil any more.
day it shall be said to Jerusalem, Fear thou not:
And to Zion,
Let not thine hands be slack.
The Lord thy
God in the midst of thee
Is mighty; He
rejoice over thee with joy;
He will rest
in His love,
He will joy
over thee with singing."