Throughout our lives, we come across all kinds of people. Some leave a very positive impact on us, while others affect us in a negative way. It’s kind of like the sign I once saw in an office that said (I paraphrase): “Everyone blesses this place: some by staying, others by leaving.” How true! We especially remember those who left a positive impact. Maybe, they were consistently helpful, kind, and encouraging. Or, it could have been their bright, cheerful attitude or their uplifting sense of humor. They just made our days better!

We also remember those who affected us more negatively. It could have been their sour, cynical manner. Or, maybe, it was their constant use of foul, inappropriate language or their consistent dishonesty – they just didn’t keep their promises! We may even, in our frustration and/or concern, have confronted and talked with them about their evident character flaws. They may then have ignored what we thought was good counsel and advice and continued on in their destructive ways. In our frustration and “righteous indignation,” we then said (or thought): “What a horrible person! They will never change. They are too far gone.”

Yet, how do we know a person “can’t change?” Do we have the power of prophecy that makes us privy to that information? Are we their final judge that gives us the right to come to that conclusion and make that condemning statement? Let’s get even more personal. What if someone said or thought that about us? Do they have the right to say that? Or, have you ever thought that about yourself? We may have said (or thought): “My habits are too ingrained and my personal problems are too big. I can’t change my ways!”

The problem is that we can be impatient and too short-sighted in dealing with ourselves and others. People can change! In II Chronicles 33: 1 – 20, we read of a king named Manasseh. He reigned for 55 years, from 696 – 642 B.C., longer than any other king of Judah. (1) He is also known to be the most or one of the most wicked of all of their kings. Although he was the son of Hezekiah, who had been a very righteous, pious king, Manasseh was an extremely evil, bloodthirsty individual. He openly practiced idolatry and encouraged his subjects to do the same. He was also involved in witchcraft, the occult and human sacrifice. According to II Kings 21:16, he “…shed very much innocent blood, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another.” His rule saw the spiritual and moral decline of the kingdom of Judah to a level lower than the pagan nations that had once inhabited the land of Canaan!

If we stopped reading at v. 10 of II Chronicles 33, it would be easy for us to say (to assume) that Manasseh’s record clearly showed that he would not or could not change. This fellow was really, really wicked! Yet, if you continue reading the following verses, you will see that he truly repented, turned to God, and changed his ways. The Assyrians came and seized Manasseh, placed him in chains, and forcibly took him to Babylon. Humiliated and held in captivity, he was miserable. Like the prodigal son of Luke 15:11 – 32, he had hit rock-bottom. Pushing aside his pride, arrogance, and self-imposed spiritual blindness, he turned to his Creator. He finally realized he had been wrong and it says in II Chronicles 33:12 that he: “…humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers.” The rest of the passage describes how God blessed Manasseh by restoring him to his throne in Judah and how this once-wicked king, now a reformed, repentant man, dedicated himself to serving God and ridding his land of idolatry.

From the example of Manasseh, we see that all people, even ourselves, can change if we so desire. We are so blessed that God in His unwavering love and patience waits for us to make this change and truly repent. As the apostle Peter said in II Peter 3:15: “…and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation.” Thus, let us be patient with those around us. If they will not listen to our admonitions or counsel, we can at least pray for them or direct other individuals to speak to them. We do not know the time, place, circumstances, or person who may inspire them to change. And if we need to do the changing, let us turn to the Lord with a repentant attitude, ready to humble ourselves like Manasseh did so long ago.

(1) Samuel J. Schultz, The Old Testament Speaks (New York, N.Y.: Harper & Row Publishers, 1960), 215.

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