2 Kings 21
Ah, the old, familiar refrain—another evil king in Judah: "Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years. His mother’s name was Hephzibah. 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 destroyed; he also erected altars to Baal and made an Asherah pole, as Ahab king of Israel had done." (vs 1-3)
What a shame. After his father Hezekiah had finally torn down all the altars to the false gods and banned idol worship in Judah, along comes Manasseh. And he rebuilds everything his father has worked to tear down. And, what’s even worse, the people followed him. "Manasseh led them astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed before the Israelites." (vs 9)
For me, the point is simple: God wants to change our hearts. Because if He doesn’t change our hearts, it won’t matter how much our behavior changes—we will always be at risk of returning to the evil things that will harm us. That’s what happened in Judah, isn’t it? Hezekiah outlawed idol worship... and so the people of Judah stopped worshiping idols. But their hearts hadn’t been converted, and when a king came along who made it convenient to worship idols again, they went right back to their old ways.
If we don’t allow God to change our hearts, it won’t matter how well we’re able to "white-knuckle" our way into good behavior for a time. The true change must come from the inside out, and it is only God who can accomplish this work in us. Fortunately, as we will later see in the life of Manasseh himself (through details given in 2 Chronicles 33), God is more than able to accomplish this transformation in the dirtiest of hearts. When we are willing to let Him change us, He will change us all the way—from the inside out.
That’s really what He wants.