2 Chronicles 33-34, Titus 3
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior. – Titus 3:4-6 ESV
There are those who believe that the God of the Old Testament is somehow a different God than the one portrayed in the New Testament. The Old Testament God appears to be vengeful, angry, bloodthirsty and violent, while the God of the New Testament is a God of love, mercy and grace. But these oversimplified characterizations are too often based on a less-than-thorough understanding of the nature of God as revealed in the Bible. He cannot be relegated to a handful of character traits or given a label based on a few isolated incidences in Scripture. God is multifaceted, not one dimensional, and we see His full character on display throughout the entirety of Scripture. He is holy, righteous, loving, merciful, patient, quick to judge, jealous, gracious, powerful, tender, forgiving, condemning, permissive and controlling – all at the same time. We don't have to wait until the New Testament and the arrival of Jesus on the scene to discover just how loving, gracious and forgiving God can be. We see it on display in the stories of the Old Testament. Manasseh was a wicked king who “did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger” (2 Chronicles 33:6 ESV). In fact, he “led Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem astray, to do more evil than the nations whom the Lord had destroyed before the people of Israel” (2 Chronicles 33:9 ESV). He was so wicked that God eventually allowed him to fall into the hands of Assyrians, who captured him and took him in chains to Babylon. It was there, in the midst of his darkest days, that he saw the magnitude of his sins, and cried out to God. He “humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. He prayed to him and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom” (2 Chronicles 33:13 ESV).
What does this passage reveal about God?
Manasseh had done nothing to deserve God's grace, kindness and forgiveness. But in spite of him, God restored him. God gave Manasseh a second chance. This man who had done everything in his power to replace the worship of God with the worship of false gods, was mercifully delivered by the very God he had forsaken. When Manasseh found himself bound in chains and living as a captive in Babylon, he didn't call out to any of his false gods to save him. He cried out to God. He humbled himself and repented. He placed himself at the mercy of his God, and he found forgiveness and restoration. When Manasseh's grandson, Josiah, became king of Judah, he proved to be a good king, He did “what was right in the eyes of the Lord, and walked in the ways of David his father” (2 Chronicles 34:2 ESV). He removed the idols and altars to the false gods. He cleansed Judah and Jerusalem. He repaired the house of the Lord. And in the midst of the restoration efforts on the Temple, the book of the Law was discovered. When it was read to Josiah and he discovered just how guilty he and the people of Judah were of living in disobedience to God's commands, he responded with mourning and confession. And God responded to Josiah's repentant, humble heart. “Because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before God when you heard his words against this place and its inhabitants, and you have humbled yourself before me and have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you” (2 Chronicles 34:27 ESV). God saw. God heard. God responded. Part of what Josiah had heard when the book of the Law was read to him was God's promises of curses if the people did not obey Him. The curses were still going to come, but God was going to spare Josiah from having to live through them. He mercifully told Josiah, “your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring upon this place and it inhabitants” (2 Chronicles 34:28 ESV). God was going to be just and righteous, punishing Judah for its sins. But He was also going to be gracious and forgiving, mercifully sparing Josiah from having to live through the judgment to come.
What does this passage reveal about man?
Even though Josiah was a good king, he was still just as culpable and guilty as everyone else in the nation of Judah. Even he recognized that he was not exempt from the guilt revealed in God's law. They all stood condemned and worthy of God's full judgment and wrath. As a nation, Judah had been unfaithful and disobedient to God's commands. They were corporately condemned to endure God's righteous judgment. And Josiah knew it. He said, “For great is the wrath of the Lord that is poured out on us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the Lord, to do according to all that is written in this book” (2 Chronicles 34:21 ESV). Paul told Titus a very similar thing. He reminded this young man of the corporate culpability of all men as they stand before a holy, righteous, sinless God. “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another” (Titus 3:3 ESV). In his letter to the Corinthians believers, Paul described in graphic terms those who would not be allowed to share in the kingdom of God. “Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10 NLT). Then he drops the bomb: “Some of you were once like that…” (1 Corinthians 6:11 NLT). But something happened. Paul reminds them, “But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11 NLT). Paul said a similar thing to Titus. “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Titus 3:4-6 ESV). Paul makes it perfectly clear that God saved us, not because we deserved it, but because of His goodness and loving kindness. When we humbled ourselves before God, admitting our guilt and placing ourselves at His mercy, He saved us. He cleansed us. He made us holy. He poured out His Spirit on us.
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
No man deserves the mercy of God. No man can earn the favor of God. Like the people of Judah, we all stand before Him as guilty and condemned – “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 ESV), and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23 ESV). But the good news is that “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23 ESV). In His kindness, God has provided a way in which man can escape the judgment to come. We can move from the hopeless state of being guilty as charged to being just, righteous and completely forgiven, with our sins completely pardoned. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1 ESV). What an amazing, gracious, kind and loving God we worship. He has made it possible for us to enjoy His forgiveness and undeserved mercy. And what should our response be? Paul gives us the answer. “I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works” (Titus 3:8 ESV). Because of all that God has done for us, we should long to do all we can for Him, not to earn His favor or wrack up brownie points. But to express our deep gratitude for His undeserved kindness and unmerited love.
Father, Your kindness of beyond comprehension. I was no more deserving of Your grace, mercy and forgiveness than Manasseh or Josiah. At one time I stood before You as guilty and condemned, fully deserving Your righteous judgment. But even in the midst of my guilt, shame, and sin, You saved me. Your expressed Your great love for me by sending Your own Son to die for me. He took my place on the cross and suffered the death I deserved. May I never take that priceless gift for granted. Help me to live in the light of Your incredible love. Give me the strength to live my life as a testimony and tribute to Your mercy and grace. Amen