“It’s too late for me son.”
George Lucas called the Star Wars saga the redemption of Darth Vader. How a young man got corrupted by evil but was eventually brought out of it through the love of his son.
In one of the climactic scenes of Return of the Jedi, Luke Skywalker pleads with his father to let go of his hate, to leave the emperor and come away with him. But Vader regretfully says, “It’s too late for me.” But when the emperor is about to kill Luke, and with Luke pleading with his father to save him, Darth Vader turns against the emperor and saves his son, and ultimately himself.
As I read this passage about Hezekiah’s son Manasseh, it follows a similar storyline. Here was Manasseh, the son of of one of the best kings Judah or Israel ever had. But somehow he went wrong. He started worshiping other gods. He put idols and foreign altars in the temple and the courts of the Lord. He practiced witchcraft and consulted mediums and spiritists. He even went so far as to sacrifice his own sons to the flame to these gods he worshiped. In the book of Kings it says that he shed so much innocent blood that he filled Jerusalem from end to end. (II Kings 21:16)
Time and again, God warned him through the prophets. But not only did he not listen, he murdered them. Tradition has it that while Isaiah was hiding in a log, Manasseh had him sawed in two. And so God said,
“I am going to bring such disaster on Jerusalem and Judah that the ears of everyone who hears it will tingle…I will wipe out Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down. I will forsake the remnant of my inheritance and hand them over to their enemies. They will be looted and plundered by all their foes, because they have done evil in my eyes and have provoked me to anger from the day their forefathers came out of Egypt until this day. (II Kings 21:12-15)
The Assyrians came and took Manasseh captive, putting a hook in his nose and binding him with bronze shackles, and took him to Babylon.
In Kings, the story ends there. But Chronicles gives us more information. That as he was there, he sought God, humbled himself greatly, and repented. And because of that, God restored him to his place as king in Jerusalem. Manasseh then worked the rest of his life to undo all the evil he had done previously, and he eventually died in peace.
Manasseh had done some pretty awful things. He was one of the worst kings Judah had ever had. And yet, even for him, it wasn’t too late to repent.
God will judge people for their sins, as he did with Manasseh. But as slow as he can be to pass judgment, and he did wait a long time before passing judgment on Manasseh, he is very quick to forgive.
Are you feeling it’s too late for you? That you’ve messed up your life too much for God to forgive you? It’s never too late. All you have to do is turn. And when you do, you’ll find that God is not only waiting for you, but is running to greet you, hold you in his arms, and say “Welcome home.”
Lord, I thank you for your grace. That though we may fail miserably, it’s never too late to repent. That you’re waiting for us to return. Help us not to hesitate from shame or pride, but let us come humbly before you, knowing that you will forgive and restore no matter what we’ve done. In Jesus name, amen.