Many years ago, I studied the history and prophets books in the Old Testament in a Bible Study Fellowship class. I learned that 1 and 2 Chronicles covers the same historical period as 2 Samuel through 2 Kings. Our teacher told us that the Samuel/Kings account is from the point of view of the historians, while the Chronicles account is from the point of view of the priests -- that is, it gives you more of an idea of God's view of the incidents. If that's accurate, then it sheds an interesting light on the story of King Manasseh.
Manasseh was the son of Hezekiah, a king who "did what was right in the eyes of the Lord." He was also the grandfather of Josiah, the king who led a tremendous spiritual revival in Judah. But Manasseh himself was not a godly king.
In 2 Kings 21, the entire account of Manasseh's reign is about how bad he was. He not only "did evil in the eyes of the Lord", but he did "much evil in the eyes of the Lord". It says Manasseh led the people astray "so that they did more evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed before the Israelites." The prophets of the time linked Judah's coming destruction specifically with the actions of Manasseh. And the account closes with the remark that "Manasseh also shed so much innocent blood that he filled Jerusalem from end to end." This was one bad dude. Ain't nothin' good to be said about him.
At least in the Kings account. But the Chronicles account is different. There, we have several verses telling us the same story of how Manasseh "did evil in the eyes of the Lord." But in verse 10, the story changes:
10 The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention. 11 So the Lord brought against them the army commanders of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh prisoner, put a hook in his nose, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon. 12 In his distress he sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his ancestors. 13 And when he prayed to him, the Lord was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so he brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord is God.
And the rest of the Chronicles account tells us about this life change in Manasseh. He rebuilds some of the wall around Jerusalem. He cleans out the temple, tears down pagan altars he built, and begins sacrifices again to the Lord. He instructed the people to serve only the Lord.
Interesting, isn't it? This change in Manasseh's life apparently was too little too late for the nation of Judah. The historians don't even mention it at all; as far as they were concerned, it was inconsequential. But in the priestly account -- in the eyes of God -- it's the highlight of the story. God's goal for Manasseh's life was for the two of them to have a relationship. And the fact that this ultimately happened was not only worth noting, it was worth celebrating -- despite everything that happened before.
Nope. It's never too late, friends. Ask that thief on the cross beside Jesus.