THE GOD OF SECOND CHANCES
Should Jamarcus Russell get a second chance? The Oakland Raiders fans here today probably have an opinion on that one. Jamarcus Russell was the Raiders’ first round (and first overall) draft pick in 2007. He held out from practice until after the regular season had started, and after the Raiders signed him to a $61 million contract. He played 25 games as a starter in three seasons, but only won seven of those games. The Raiders released him in the spring of 2010, disappointed with his poor performance and reported lack of a good work ethic. The team even filed a grievance hoping to get back some of the money they had paid him. Russell was later arrested on drug charges. But now, in the current offseason, he has been working out, losing weight, getting in shape, and working hard toward finding an NFL team that will sign up—and probably not with a lucrative contract or a starting job this time. So should he get a second chance, or has his opportunity passed him by?
Should Manasseh have gotten a second chance? Football fans probably knew who Jamarcus Russell was before I gave his abbreviated NFL biography, but even fairly decent students of the Bible may not know who King Manasseh was. The ancient nation of Israel became a monarchy, ruled by Kings Saul, then David, then Solomon. After those three kings, the nation split into two kingdoms in 930 B.C.—the northern kingdom was still called Israel, while the southern kingdom took the name Judah. The northern kingdom was eventually wiped out by the nation of Assyria in 722 B.C. The southern kingdom stuck around a little longer before the nation of Babylon deported them in 586 B.C. Manasseh was king in the 600’s B.C., and based on the record in today’s First Lesson, he wasn’t a very godly king, either.
Verses two through six in our reading contain a laundry list of Manasseh’s sins that get successively worse with each verse. “He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, following the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites.” That’s not exactly a compliment to hear that the nations Israel once destroyed at God’s direction as a punishment for their wickedness were now the model of behavior for Judah’s king. “[Manasseh] rebuilt the high places his father Hezekiah had demolished; he also erected altars to the Baals and made Asherah poles. He bowed down to all the starry hosts and worshiped them.” The high places that were once locations of idol worship were put back into practice, and the false gods of the surrounding nations along with their sexually deviant worship practices became accepted cultural practice under Manasseh’s reign. “He built altars in the temple of the Lord, of which the Lord had said, “My Name will remain in Jerusalem forever. In both courts of the temple of the Lord, he built altars to all the starry hosts.” It is one thing to encourage people to worship false gods; it is that much more offensive to set up the worship of phony gods in the holy temple of the one, true God. And now here’s the clincher: “He sacrificed his sons in the fire in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, practiced sorcery, divination and witchcraft, and consulted mediums and spiritists.” As if Manasseh’s sins could get any worse, he even engaged in child sacrifice, killing his own sons who would have succeeded him on the throne, and engaging in every form of witchcraft imaginable. Our reading expresses the situation quite tamely when it concludes, “He did much evil in the eyes of the Lord, provoking him to anger.” Should he get a second chance? Read More…