2 Chronicles 33:1-7
"Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, following the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites. He rebuilt the high places his father Hezekiah had demolished; he also erected altars to the Baals and made Asherah poles. He bowed down to all the starry hosts and worshiped them. He built altars in the temple of the Lord, of which the Lord had said, “My Name will remain in Jerusalem forever.” In both courts of the temple of the Lord, he built altars to all the starry hosts. He sacrificed his children in the fire in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, practiced divination and witchcraft, sought omens, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the Lord, arousing his anger."
Of all the "bad" Kings of Judah many will point to Manasseh as the worst of them all. A privileged teen when he came to power, he pretty much led the country into moral ruin. Scholars believe that Asherah poles were in fact phallic symbols. He encouraged and participated in all sorts of pagan worship. Most shocking of all, he was all for child sacrifice and even sacrificed his very own children. One would like to think that a dirt bag like this would receive the worst and deepest of punishment:
2 Chronicles 33:11
"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."
At this point we'd like the story to end. The sicko gets locked up and we all move on. Let him rot in his cell and the world is a better place. Not so:
2 Chronicles 33:12-17
"In his distress he sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his ancestors. 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.
Afterward he rebuilt the outer wall of the City of David, west of the Gihon spring in the valley, as far as the entrance of the Fish Gate and encircling the hill of Ophel; he also made it much higher. He stationed military commanders in all the fortified cities in Judah.
He got rid of the foreign gods and removed the image from the temple of the Lord, as well as all the altars he had built on the temple hill and in Jerusalem; and he threw them out of the city. Then he restored the altar of the Lord and sacrificed fellowship offerings and thank offerings on it, and told Judah to serve the Lord, the God of Israel. The people, however, continued to sacrifice at the high places, but only to the Lord their God."
Somewhere while Manasseh was in his cell he remembered the Lord and asked for forgiveness and God granted it! Proof that Manasseh's heart was changed was that he backed up his words with real action. So now we have a nice feel good story of redemption. This begs the question: Was Manasseh a "good" king or a "bad" one? I bring this up as we now have the dilemma of Joe Paterno.
Although he did not commit any abuse, he is accused of covering up the heinous acts of his former assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky. Vulnerable boys were sexually abused by this man while Paterno and the administration looked the other way and waffled on what to do. In the end, the football program was more important than the lives of innocent children and the crimes were either ignored or worse, covered up. Rick Reilly talks of the deception he fell for believing that this hailed program was headed by a saintly benevolent man. The NCAA handed down a bevy of huge sanctions against the football program. Most interesting to me was that all victories from 1998 to the present have been vacated. This was clearly a sanction against the legacy of Joe Paterno. This cost him 111 victories and drops him out from the title of the all time FBS coaching victory list (scary irony, this means the last quarterback to win a Penn State football game as of this writing is Mike McQueary the man who first help break the scandal). In the past 24 hours, Paterno's statue was removed from the football stadium.
Even two years ago, Paterno was viewed in awe: a man who ran a clean program that had never had a sniff of scandal. He also won a lot. In a sport rife with cheaters and law breakers, his program appeared remarkably pristine. His players graduated, he was and still is revered as a father figure to many, he donated millions to the school and the program brought millions more to the institution.
So this begs the question: is Paterno's legacy that of a great man who mentored, generously gave and won the "right" way or was he detached enabler who created a culture that allowed a sexual predator to destroy the lives of countless children?
Good king? Bad king? Good coach? Bad coach? Good man? Evil man?
The lines on this are blurred. The issue is that we cannot measure a man's heart. Only God has that ability. Add to that, we are all human and capable of all sorts of heinous acts. Each and every one of us left unchecked can find ways to condone any sort of evil behavior. Yet in the same person we can find incredible acts of charity, generosity and self sacrifice. That is the dilemma. So as for legacies, both Manasseh the King and Paterno the coach will settle in to the largest pool. They are human: frail and capable of the most positive and negative acts.
Most of all they are both cautionary tales. With power comes the great magnifying glass of influence but also scrutiny. May we all bow down and recognize that the great and merciful Savior, the Extraordinary, is our only hope. Let us humbly lay before him our crowns along with our shortcomings. He is the healer.
"Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will lift you up."