In the span of my ten minute drive to work yesterday, I decided it was time for a pet. Seeing as my house is still fuller than normal, a goldfish seemed the best way to go.
Naming things is very important to me, be it a pet or even some of my inanimate objects. (Example: my current car is named Cleo. It took me several weeks to decide on this name.)
Needing a quick way to get as many opinions as possible, I posted a Facebook status announcing to the world my decision to acquire a goldfish, and requested suggestions for names; preferably biblical, male names. Though I received many good suggestions, none seemed quite right.
As I went through my work day, I happened to come across the story of King Manasseh as found in II Chronicles 33. (Yes, I really was working—when you work at a Christian publishing company, flipping through the Bible sometimes does qualify as work. Which is pretty cool.)
I noticed Manasseh because I had names on the brain, and thought, “Manasseh would make a pretty good fish name.” Then I read his story.
Manasseh became king at the age of twelve, and “led Judah and the people of Jerusalem astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed before the Israelites.” (II Chronicles 33:9, NIV) He built idols, worshiped the gods of the nations surrounding Judah, even sacrificed his own sons—not what God had in mind for the ruler of his people.
So God let Manasseh be taken captive by Assyria. Only then, after being ripped from his land and position of power, did Manasseh see his foolishness.
In his distress he sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. 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. (II Chronicles 33:12-13)
It’s a redemption story. As I quoted here in a post about everyday redemption, to redeem is to buy back. To set free by paying a ransom. To deliver from sin and its penalties, as by a sacrifice made for the sinner.
After his piles of sin, Manasseh did not seem like a likely candidate for redemption. But, as Albert Wolters writes in his book Creation Regained,
“Nothing in the world ought to be despaired of. Hope is grounded in the constant availability and the insistent presence of the good creation, even in those situations in which it is being terribly violated.”
It is one of my favorite quotes about redemption (and I’ve used it before over here). As one of the worst kings Judah ever had, Manasseh was a prime example of violating God’s creation by blatantly disobeying what God had told him to do. Yet God heard him, rescued him from his plight, and redeemed him.
And so, Manasseh. An unlikely name for a goldfish, perhaps. If he goes the way of his predecessors, he may not swim for long; but even so, he will serve as a reminder that redemption is not only possible, but a reason to hope.
“Nothing in the world ought to be despaired of.”
Til next time…