Wasted Years Restored
Dec 06, 2021
Are you familiar with the song “Bring Christ Your Broken Life?” The words of its first verse go like this:
Bring Christ your broken life So marred by sin. He will create anew, Make whole again.
But, what are we to make of the following stanza?
Your empty wasted years He will restore, And your iniquities Remember no more.
Is God really able to restore our empty wasted years? Have you ever looked back on a period of time in your life where you see that because of sin in your life you suffered loss? Maybe you’ve suffered great loss. Maybe you weren’t a good parent… maybe you lived in a state of anxiety for years of your life… maybe you were caught in a sin that brought you to ruin…
Going back to the words we sing in this song, the hope in those words aren’t just about being given another chance to go on with life. In them, we sing of a hope for an undeserved restoration of things to us that were lost because of our own personal sin.
It’s one thing to have a reprieve from the Lord’s rod of instruction – those rightfully deserved afflictions that might come our way (always with our good ends in mind) – but it is another thing entirely to receive back the good things that we should consider rightfully forfeited when we have done wrong.
Your empty wasted years He will restore
It is a glorious thought. Sinner you’ve messed up. Now, you’ve come to your senses and realize all of the glorious and good things that you’ve missed because of the sin in your life.
But we sing those words with confidence (“Your empty wasted years He will restore”), and we’re right to sing them. In them we are indeed conveying to each other thoughts that are true to Scripture. Not only do you have a hope for tomorrow, but because we serve the only true and living God who is infinitely powerful, and whose goodness is beyond measure, He can restore to you your wasted years in ways that you might not be able to imagine possible until you have experienced them.
RESTORATING THE BOUNTY OF LOST YEARS
The book of Joel opens in the following way:
“The word of the LORD that came to Joel, the son of Pethuel: Hear this, O elders, And listen, all inhabitants of the land. Has anything like this happened in your days Or in your fathers’ days? Tell your sons about it, And let your sons tell their sons, And their sons the next generation. What the gnawing locust has left, the swarming locust has eaten; And what the swarming locust has left, the creeping locust has eaten; And what the creeping locust has left, the stripping locust has eaten.” (Joel 1:1–4 NAS95)
He goes on to describe these insects of destruction as an army that the Lord commands. This is a shear destructive force being unleashed by God upon them. It must have been terrifying, but He holds out a bright ray of hope for the people and a new chance for very different life:
“The LORD utters His voice before His army; Surely His camp is very great, For strong is he who carries out His word. The day of the LORD is indeed great and very awesome, And who can endure it? “Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “Return to Me with all your heart, And with fasting, weeping and mourning; And rend your heart and not your garments.” Now return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness And relenting of evil. Who knows whether He will not turn and relent And leave a blessing behind Him,” (Joel 2:11–14 NAS95)
These particular people had every reason, according to the Law and their covenant, to be suffering under the hand of the Lord. No one would argue they were getting anything other than what justice demanded. Yet, what do we see here? This is not punishment for punishment’s sake – God shows that His goal is to return the hearts of the people to Himself.
But, God doesn’t plan to simply restore the land to normal order. Instead, these people who have repented after facing such a crisis are promised a return of super-abundance in which everything that had been lost in those previous years would be delivered right into their hands by God’s graciousness towards them:
“Then I will make up to you for the years That the swarming locust has eaten, The creeping locust, the stripping locust and the gnawing locust, My great army which I sent among you. “You will have plenty to eat and be satisfied And praise the name of the LORD your God, Who has dealt wondrously with you; Then My people will never be put to shame.” (Joel 2:25–26 NAS95)
Our God is powerful and able to restore the bounty of lost years. I ask again, have you ever looked back on a period of time in your life where you see that because of sin in your life you suffered loss? It might be that a mistake you made long years ago now has been a shadow over your life to this moment.
The enemy is quite adept at deploying strategies that are successful in keeping us ineffective as saints. I’m thinking about the person who realizes that they haven’t been what they should have been, but are kept unable to find renewal in genuine repentance because they are made to believe that they cannot truly repent; that somehow they will always remain a defective Christian.
This can keep a person in a constant state of anxiety, even unsure of their salvation. Or perhaps worse, maybe the person feels like what I would describe as a mercenary Christian. What I mean is that in a state of being unsure of their salvation because of sin, they nevertheless want to honor God and to cause others to do the same. But because they are in a state of remaining unsure of their salvation, sin has a power over them which it should not. Because of the helplessness (or maybe a sort of hopeless fatalism) which they feel, and in a continuing cycle, in moments of temptation their fatalism weakens their resolve and they give in.
A person can in this way let their past so bind them, that they are unable to be freed from the chains of sin which Christ is eager to break and offer freedom. The verse of the song says:
Your empty wasted years He will restore, And your iniquities Remember no more.
If you can identify with this, can we look at a portion of Scripture together so that you can be made to understand that you have before you this moment lies a chance of renewal? A chance to be fully assured that you are a son or daughter of our God who doesn’t have to live fearfully; and who CAN live a righteous life, blameless before God.
How gracious is the the Lord? There isn’t a shortage of choices where I could go for help on this subject, but a problem I would encounter is that you may be so familiar with the Scriptures that you might not be able to see the wonder in it for your own life anymore. For instance, the parable of the prodigal son, Saul of Tarsus, David, Moses, Adam…
So, I’d like us to look instead at a man whose life of wickedness almost certainly surpasses that of anyone who reads this message, to see what we can learn about the lovingkindness of God.
There was a king born in Judah named Manasseh. He was one of the great-grandfathers of Jesus – you can find his name in Matthew’s genealogy of the Christ. His name meant “forgetfulness” or “to forget,” and this Manasseh certainly did cause the people to forget the reforms of his father, the good king Hezekiah.
2 Chronicles 33:1 says:
“Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem.” (2Chronicles 33:1 NAS95)
Let me just pause right here to say that no other king in Judah ruled longer than this man. Continuing on from verse 2 reads:
“He did evil in the sight of the LORD according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD dispossessed before the sons of Israel. For he rebuilt the high places which Hezekiah his father had broken down; he also erected altars for the Baals and made Asherim, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them. He built altars in the house of the LORD of which the LORD had said, “My name shall be in Jerusalem forever.” For he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD.” (2Chronicles 33:2–5 NAS95)
He multiplied idolatry; this had all sorts of other evils attached to it. Continuing in verse 6:
“He made his sons pass through the fire in the valley of Ben-hinnom; and he practiced witchcraft, used divination, practiced sorcery and dealt with mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking Him to anger.” (2Chronicles 33:6 NAS95)
He killed some of his own children to appease his idols. Today, abortion is an extremely common practice in the U.S. In fact, there is a good chance that someone reading this message has somehow played a role in an abortion in their lifetime. The message continues:
“Then he put the carved image of the idol which he had made in the house of God, of which God had said to David and to Solomon his son, “In this house and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen from all the tribes of Israel, I will put My name forever; and I will not again remove the foot of Israel from the land which I have appointed for your fathers, if only they will observe to do all that I have commanded them according to all the law, the statutes and the ordinances given through Moses.”” (2Chronicles 33:7–8 NAS95)
“Thus Manasseh misled Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to do more evil than the nations whom the LORD destroyed before the sons of Israel.” (2Chronicles 33:9 NAS95)
Now, recall that Abraham had been told by God that his descendants would only come into the Promised Land to possess it after 400 years of bondage, because “the iniquity of the Amorite [was] not yet complete” (Genesis 15:16 NAS95) And now, here, Abraham’s descendants are said to be worse than the very ones they dispossessed of the land promised to them.
“The LORD spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention.” (2Chronicles 33:10 NAS95)
The Lord always revealed the calamity He was preparing as a judgment as a last chance for them to repent and avoid it. Amos 3:7-8 says:
“Surely the Lord GOD does nothing Unless He reveals His secret counsel To His servants the prophets. A lion has roared! Who will not fear? The Lord GOD has spoken! Who can but prophesy?” (Amos 3:7–8 NAS95)
In addition to all these things, the account of Manasseh in 2 Kings tells us that he “shed very much innocent blood until he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another;” (2 Kings 21:16 NAS95). The tradition associated with this particular saying is that Manasseh was the one who had the great prophet Isaiah killed, and is associated with the Hebrews 11 phrase “they were sawn in two” (Hebrews 11:37).
“Therefore the LORD brought the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria against them, and they captured Manasseh with hooks, bound him with bronze chains and took him to Babylon.” (2 Chronicles 33:11 NAS95)
Now, at this point we might have a sense of relief that the madness of Manasseh is finally being addressed. After all, he’s getting what he deserves – this man who has done so much evil personally, and who has also caused the bulk of the nation to plunge into doing the same.
We could understand if the story ends here, but it does not. It continues on in verse 12 of 2 Chronicles 33:
“When [Manasseh] was in distress, he entreated the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. When he prayed to Him, [God] was moved by [Manasseh’s] entreaty and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God.” (2 Chronicles 33:12–13 NAS95)
This evil man, who had every reason to know better – he didn’t have an option to plead ignorance – the Lord put back on the throne when he repented!
“Now after this [Manasseh] built the outer wall of the city of David on the west side of Gihon, in the valley, even to the entrance of the Fish Gate; and he encircled the Ophel with it and made it very high. Then he put army commanders in all the fortified cities of Judah. He also removed the foreign gods and the idol from the house of the LORD, as well as all the altars which he had built on the mountain of the house of the LORD and in Jerusalem, and he threw them outside the city. He set up the altar of the LORD and sacrificed peace offerings and thank offerings on it; and he ordered Judah to serve the LORD God of Israel.” (2Chronicles 33:14–16 NAS95)
The lovingkindness to the undeserving by our God is beyond comprehension. Let me share this thought with you about Manasseh’s repentance that I hope you will heed. The point I am trying to get across in this article couldn’t be put better than Crysostom wrote it hundreds of years ago.
“Now if, looking to the magnitude of his own iniquities, he had despaired of restoration and repentance, he would have missed all that he afterwards obtained; but as it was, looking to the boundlessness of God’s tender mercy instead of the enormity of his transgressions, and having broken in two the bonds of the devil, he rose up and contended with him and finished the good course.” John Crysostom, LETTER TO THE FALLEN THEODORE 1.6.14
It may be that you identify something about Manasseh’s story with your own life. Maybe you see yourself in that image of the king of Judah being led away with a hook in his nose, being pulled where he didn’t want to go. Take heart from how God dealt even with a man like Manasseh who had done so much evil. Get up from your bondage and look to God for the restoration of your life, and rest in His promises.
1 Peter 2:24 says that Christ:
“bore our sins in His body on the cross” (1Peter 2:24 NAS95)
When Jesus went to the cross He was willing to bear even the vast wickedness of Manasseh’s sins in His body there. When the Lord was crucified, Paul says in Romans 3:25ff that:
“This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.” (Romans 3:25–28 NAS95)
If you have a desire to put sin behind you, if you would like to be reconciled with the Lord, don’t put it off. Don’t quench what you have at this moment that you might risk never having again. Don’t despair that restoration is beyond your reach. Don’t let another day go by when you have the promise this day of being renewed in Christ. Don’t miss out on those blessings that are promised to those who belong to Him.
Bring Christ your broken life So marred by sin. He will create anew, Make whole again. Your empty wasted years He will restore, And your iniquities Remember no more.
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