TODAY’S READING: 2 CHRONICLES 32-34
It is often said that God cannot look upon sin and that God cannot tolerate the presence of sin. Therefore, sin keeps God away from you. However, it is not sin that keeps God from you. Rather, it is pride. God cannot draw near to you when you are full of pride.
Manasseh, king of Judah, is an example of this in 2 Chronicles 33.
“He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel.” Manasseh did evil, every king of evil that the nations of Canaan had done and for which they removed from the land. The next several verses go on to list all the evils that Manasseh did.
“Manasseh led Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem astray, to do more evil than the nations whom the Lord destroyed before the people of Israel.” Manasseh wasn’t just a little evil, a little sinful. No, Manasseh did even more evil than the nations that were in Canaan before Israel entered the land.
But, look at the very next verse.
“The Lord spoke to Manasseh and to his people, but they paid no attention.” Despite all the evil and sin of Manasseh, God continued to speak to him. Sin did not keep God from Manasseh.
However, Manasseh and the people paid no attention to God. In effect, Manasseh told God he didn’t need God’s help. It was Manasseh’s pride that kept God away. This is because God is love and love does not force anything on anyone. Love draws and woos. But, pride resists.
“And when he was in distress, he entreated the favor of the Lord his God and 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 and into his kingdom.”
What changed? Did Manasseh remove all the evil in the land and stop sinning?
That’s not what the text says at all.
No, Manasseh humbled himself – greatly! When Manasseh, humbled himself, God was right there waiting. Manasseh’s humility moved God to hear him – despite Manasseh’s evil and sin.
Jesus came to dwell in the midst of the people. The people were full of sin. In Mark 2:17, Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Those who are well are full of pride. In effect, they say, “I’m good Jesus. I don’t need your help. I’m just fine as I am, thank you very much.”
But, Jesus came to sinners. He didn’t reject sinners. He ate with tax collectors, drunks, and prostitutes. These were all considered sinners. Jesus was in the presence of these sinners so much that he was accused of being a sinner himself.
If God could not be in the presence of sin, then Jesus would have never entered the homes of these sinners to eat with them.
In the parable of the prodigal son, as the soon as the lost son humbled himself to return to his father’s house the father went running to greet him. This is just what God. He’s right there with us in our sin. God is just waiting for us to humble ourselves and cry out to him in our distress. This moves God and makes us able to receive God’s help.
James 4:6 says, “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.'”
Notice that it does not say that God opposes sinners. No, God opposes the proud. Pride, not sin, is what creates distance between God and man.
However, God gives grace to the humble. God gives grace to the one who cries out for help, who admits his weakness, who says I am sick and need a doctor. But, note that it does not say that God gives grace to the one who does not sin.
Grace is not conditional based on sin. Grace only needs to be received. God’s presence only needs to be received. Pride, not sin, prevents that.