August 23

2 Chronicles 35-36, Psalm 80

In 1994 a popular film named The Shawshank Redemption was released. In it the lead character, played by Tim Robbins, named Andy Dufresne was convicted of murdering his wife, which he was completely innocent of, and sentenced to life imprisonment.  The story revolves around his life in prison and his various relationships. Early on we are introduced to Bogs Diamond. This inmate makes Andy's life miserable, though Andy does nothing to deserve it. He continues to brutalize him, beating him up on multiple occasions, at times almost beating Andy to death. It seems hopeless with no end in sight. Due to a turn of events, the prison guards take a liking to Andy. After one gruesome beating, the guards visit Bogs in his cell. As Bogs pleads for mercy, we see the guards viciously beating Bogs with their clubs, crippling him for life. At this point in the movie, we are screaming, finally justice is served. His pleas for mercy seemed false, and I think if you could give those in the movie theater a club, they probably would have helped the guards break his legs, so miserable is this character. That is why we are not in a position to judge, for while we scream justice, God shows grace and mercy.

In yesterdays's reading in 2 Chr 33:1, we meet a king named Manasseh, who became king at age 12 and reigned for 55 years in Jerusalem. The next 8 verses explain in great detail just how evil he was. It concludes this section in 2 Chr 33:9, saying, "So Manasseh seduced Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to do more evil than the nations whom the Lord had destroyed before the children of Israel." The Lord tried to speak to him, but he would not listen. So we read in v.11 that Manasseh was taken out of Jerusalem with hooks, bound with bronze fetters, and carried off to Babylon.  We then see God's grace in action, we read in 2 Chr 33:11-12, "Now when he was in affliction, he implored the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed to Him; and he received his entreaty, heard his supplication, and brought him back to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God."

Tomorrow we begin the New Testament and read about the Prince of Peace, Jesus, who is the embodiment of grace. We read of one, like Andy Dufresne in the story above who was falsely accused and beaten nearly to death without cause. Yet, our Savior, then went further and took all of our sins to the cross and died for us, paying the price that we could not and in the process defeating both sin and death. When we read the story of those persecuting Our Lord, we want to scream justice against the perpetrators. But Jesus, while on the cross, says in Luke 23:34, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do." We sometimes wonder why he would allow an evil king like Manasseh to live and reign for 55 years, the answer is grace. There is so much injustice in this world and we wonder when it will end, but we read of God's heart and desire in 2 Peter 3:9, "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." We learn in the New Testament that it is by grace we are saved, by faith, and not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9). If you know anyone who has fallen off in the One Year Bible Challenge, this is a perfect place to encourage them to jump back in where we spend the remainder of the year in the New Testament, getting to know Jesus, the embodiment of grace. 

Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley:

Marj Lancaster