Within the reach of grace

No one is beyond the reach of the grace of God.

We see this glorious truth made evident in the story of Manasseh in 2 Chronicles 33. Manasseh was the worst king that Judah ever had. He served false gods, practiced witchcraft, burned his own sons as a sacrifice to the god Molech, and led Judah so far astray that the nation did more evil than all the nations it dispossessed.

In His righteous anger, the Lord sent Assyrian commanders to take Manasseh captive to Babylon. Bound in a prison in a foreign land, lost in his sin, there was no hope for Manasseh.

Or was there?

In his distress, Manasseh cried out to God. After all the evil that Manasseh had done, worshiping other gods and murdering his own children, God would have been just to shut His ears to Manasseh’s pleas for mercy.

But in His grace, He didn’t: “[Manasseh] prayed to him, and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God” (2 Chronicles 33:13).

Manasseh experienced God’s restoration, began worshiping Him, and became an entirely different person.

I love how Matthew Henry sums up Manasseh’s story in his commentary:

We have seen Manasseh’s wickedness; here we have his repentance, and a memorable instance it is of the riches of God’s pardoning mercy, and the power of his renewing grace. Deprived of his liberty, separated from his evil counsellors and companions, without any prospect but of ending his days in a wretched prison, Manasseh thought upon what had passed; he began to cry for mercy and deliverance. He confessed his sins, condemned himself, was humbled before God, loathing himself as a monster of impiety and wickedness. Yet he hoped to be pardoned through the abundant mercy of the Lord. Then Manasseh knew that Jehovah was God, able to deliver. He knew him as a God of salvation; he learned to fear, trust in, love, and obey him. From this time he bore a new character, and walked in newness of life.

May I suggest that Manasseh’s story is a shining example of what God can do in Jahar’s life. Let’s read that paragraph again, this time replacing Manasseh with Jahar:

We have seen Jahar’s wickedness; here we have his repentance, and a memorable instance it is of the riches of God’s pardoning mercy, and the power of his renewing grace. Deprived of his liberty, separated from his evil counsellors and companions, without any prospect but of ending his days in a wretched prison, Jahar thought upon what had passed; he began to cry for mercy and deliverance. He confessed his sins, condemned himself, was humbled before God, loathing himself as a monster of impiety and wickedness. Yet he hoped to be pardoned through the abundant mercy of the Lord. Then Jahar knew that Jehovah was God, able to deliver. He knew him as a God of salvation; he learned to fear, trust in, love, and obey him. From this time he bore a new character, and walked in newness of life.

Simply beautiful. That is my constant prayer for Jahar. His life seems absolutely hopeless, as he sits alone in that cell enveloped by spiritual darkness. But in the midst of that darkness, he might finally recognize his need for a Savior. With plenty of time to think and possibly decades of facing the consequences of his actions, he may finally see his sin for what it really is and cry out to our God for mercy and forgiveness. The light of the Gospel can burst into the darkness of his soul and open his eyes to see that Yahweh, not Allah, is God. Then he will be changed forever, a new creation in Christ who loves God and serves him for the rest of his life. Like Manasseh, he can become a powerful testimony of God’s pardoning mercy and His renewing grace.

Interestingly enough, unlike that in 2 Chronicles 33, the account of Manasseh’s life and reign in 2 Kings 21 never mentions his repentance. I found a wonderful blog entry that explains why this is. I encourage you to read the entire post, but I will leave you with part of its final paragraph:

II Kings 21 never says Manasseh did not turn around at the end. It only ignores that fact, for from a human perspective, Manasseh’s evil acts could never be atoned for. Yet II Chronicles 33 is from God’s perspective, and records for us how even an extremely bloody, Godless, immoral, rebellious man like Manasseh could be forgiven and restored through God’s grace. Thus there is no discrepancy here. There is only the reminder that, though from our human perspective some things are unforgivable, there is nothing that is beyond the grace of God. Let us thank God for recording for us this truth, and helping us to see in the fate of Manasseh one more example of the boundless nature of His wonderful grace!

In the world’s eyes, an “extremely bloody, Godless, immoral, rebellious man” like Jahar could never be forgiven. But through the eyes of grace, we see that through the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the cross, Jahar Tsarnaev can be washed white as snow. May he become yet another example of God’s amazing grace!

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3 Responses to Within the reach of grace

  1. Matheus says:

    you speak as he was sure that he is guilty. This is sad, but Jesus knows he is a good person and innocent.

    • Bri says:

      I’ve got my reasons for doing that. I’ve actually spent plenty of time looking into the case, and there was even one point over the summer when I was starting to lean toward Jahar being innocent. But after a lot of thinking over things, I thought there was too much to explain away for him to be innocent. Now since I’m almost certain he’s guilty, I write with that perspective. I realize the importance of the presumption of innocence (after all, I’m going to law school and am potentially interested in criminal defense), but I’m not going to write as if he’s innocent when I don’t believe that. Also, a vast majority of Americans believe he’s guilty, so it’s also just a case of knowing my audience. This blog is here in part to try to motivate other Christians to pray for Jahar, and if they thought he were innocent, they wouldn’t need that motivation. But since they think he’s this evil monster, they need to see that it’s very biblical to love and pray for people “like Jahar.”

      There’s a reason, though, that it says on the top right of this blog that “This is not a site concerned with Jahar’s innocence or guilt.” We believe as Christians that whether or not Jahar is guilty, he still needs Jesus because “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). His biggest spiritual problem isn’t that he is allegedly a murderer but that he doesn’t know Jesus as his Savior.

  2. Bri says:

    I’m glad you liked it. 🙂 The moment I read that part in Matthew Henry’s commentary, I knew I had to use it in a blog entry. It was so perfectly relevant.

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