A tale of decidedly different judges

Published 3:45 pm Saturday, July 22, 2023

By R.A. Tea Mathews

There are judges in my county who will allow a criminal to choose either jail-time or a work program. Another judge scoffed at the idea, saying it costs too much to insure such persons outside of prison.

Decidedly different judges. Which side is correct?

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I don’t have the statistics, but I doubt anyone chooses jail-time with the first judges. The work program they use provides food and shelter. In other words, the men or women go there to live. 

I needed these workers recently, arranging for two men to move a large item to my house. Instead, a band of eight workers arrived with their supervisor. 

“Why so many?” I asked him. 

“This is our first stop. We have yards to cut and other jobs.”

“But it’s already the afternoon. Where were they all morning?”

“Classes,” he said. 

I was ahead of him. “Like AA for drug rehabilitation?”

His response surprised me. “We teach them about Jesus.”

Does the nation need such programs? I looked up recidivism, and the US is among the highest in the world. First Step Alliance says 70% of all criminals will return to prison within five years. 

Seventy percent!

A supervisor at the work ministry told me he had originally been in the program. “They changed my life,” he said.

In Scripture, the evil, the desperate, the arrogant have all been changed by God.

One of the most dramatic stories is scarcely known. Understand that Israel split into two nations after the reign of Solomon. Northern Israel was then conquered by the Assyrians and the people were taken into captivity. 

But God intervened to save Jerusalem in southern Israel. The prophet Isaiah convinced King Hezekiah that the people had to change. And they did.

When Hezekiah died, his son Manasseh took the throne at the age of 12. The young king committed despicable acts—sacrificing his sons, worshiping idols, and practicing witchcraft. (2 Chronicles 33:1-9)

Scripture says the Lord spoke to Manasseh, and what did Manasseh do?

  1. He repented and God protected Jerusalem.
  2. He ignored God and was captured with hooks and chains.
  3. He cursed God and fled to Egypt.
  4. He married a Babylonian princess and formed an alliance.

Make your choice and I’ll show you the passage. This is a great story!

“The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention. 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 led him to Babylon.” (2 Chronicles 33:10-11)

The correct answer is No. 2. “He ignored God and was captured with hooks and chains.”

Once in Babylon, what happened to Manasseh?

  1. He prayed to God and humbled himself.
  2. The Assyrians cut off his thumbs.
  3. He died and was resurrected.
  4. He was rescued by the Egyptians.

Make your choice. Here’s the passage.

As I said, this is one of the great conversion stories in the Bible: “When (Manasseh) was in distress, he appeased the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. When he prayed to Him, He was moved by him and heard his pleading, and brought him back to Jerusalem to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord alone is God.” (2 Chronicles 33:12-13)

The correct answer is No, 1, “He prayed to God and humbled himself.”

Once Manasseh returned to Jerusalem, he removed the idols and the people worshiped only the Lord.

Centuries later, on Easter Sunday, the broken disciples saw the resurrected Savior and charted a new future.

On the Damascus Road, an arrogant Pharisee met Jesus and the Lord changed his heart (Acts 9).

Today, one author after another writes that transformation comes from within. But Scripture said it thousands of years ago: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Romans 12:2)

The last time the men from the work ministry were at my house, I baked them a cobbler. I wanted to care for their physical hunger, but I also want to share Jesus with them. I hope they can see that He can change their lives.

You may not know the Lord, or you may be a long-time Christian worn down by life.

Give your heart to Jesus. If you are constantly looking to Him and talking to Him, He will guide your steps. Several very smart judges understand this. They know Jesus-time is better than jail-time

God can change a heart.

The Rev. Mathews, BA, MDiv, JD, is a newspaper faith columnist and the author of “Reaching to God.” Contact her at Hello@RAMathews.com to join her 1-Minute Bible Study.

Copyright © 2023 R.A. Mathews. All rights reserved.