if my people who are called by my name…

We hear 2 Chronicles 7:14 proclaimed as “the answer” to the ills that face the United States today. Sadly, we hear it often taken out of context and with little emphasis placed on the details it states. So, in this post, I will try to shed some real light on what I believe is the REAL problem today, and how we can accurately apply the 2 Chronicles passage to our current situation.

We have to understand how 2 Chronicles 7:14 fits in to God’s narrative. The entire chapter is the record of revelation following Solomon’s completion of construction of God’s Temple as well as the king’s home. It is a time of celebration and blessings. After all, is it not an amazing opportunity to be the one given the honor of building God’s house?

Thus Solomon finished the house of the LORD and the king’s house. All that Solomon had planned to do in the house of the LORD and in his own house he successfully accomplished.  Then the LORD appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. (2 Chronicles 7:11-12)

Warning & Problem
But God didn’t want His people (or king) to become filled with pride or complacent. Indeed, as the fully omniscient God, He knew what was to come and gave Solomon the revelation of the appropriate response when the trouble was to come:

When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, (2 Chronicles 7:13)

Notice the first word here: WHEN. Not “if”. When God shuts up the heavens (drought), when He commands the locusts to devour the land (famine), and brings pestilence (disease and death).

We in the United States of America have a glut of food and beverage, we are left in need very rarely. Yet we most assuredly are living in a time of great drought and famine, not of physical food and water, but of the proclamation of the true and full Word of God. The Gospel preached by many today is little more than sugar-coated junk food. If we were to live on a diet consisting of only candy and other junk foods, what would become of our health? (I believe we see that across our culture as well!). For the sake of attractiveness, to “bring them in”, and to meet the budget (not to mention the promotion of preacher reputations), the gospel has been compromised and the Word of God watered-down and sugar-coated.

I recently saw this meme posted in social media and thought it described a portion of our issues quite well:

I don’t know who this “Ron Smith” is, but I must – at least to this statement – shout AMEN!  I believe many have fallen to a dangerous misunderstanding of the term “edify” in Scripture. The term means to “lift up”, but not in the sense of building “self esteem” as has been popular in the pop psychology world for a few decades. Building up often involves conviction, and most assuredly requires genuine truth being spoken.

Appropriate Response
So let us get back to the text at hand – and the centerpiece of God’s revealed appropriate response to the WHEN events of famine, drought, and sickness:

…if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)

Here God gives four simple, clear, and direct mandates to Him “hearing from heaven, forgiving their sin, and healing their land” (and notice the priority list!):

#1 – If God’s people will HUMBLE themselves. Some people argue that the writer of Hebrew changed this:

Let us then with confidence draw near the throne of grace… (Hebrews 4:16)

Interpreting this passage as throwing off humility is a huge mistake! Never in scripture are we to forget humility before God’s incredible throne. We can only approach Him directly because of Christ’s spilled blood. But that does not give us grounds for being flippant or full of ourselves. Indeed, the extreme price Christ paid for our salvation should cause us to have a genuine sense of awe and humility towards our Lord. So many have made God into little more than a great “Sugar Daddy in the sky”, most obviously with the “Word of Faith”/Name-it, Claim-It charlatans who unabashedly proclaim that God owes us. But this line of thinking actually extends to many even outside of these heretical moments – to even mainstream, formerly conservative denominations and congregations.

#2 PRAY – Scripture tells us that we are to “pray without ceasing”.  Jesus gave a model for prayer to illustrate what our priorities and heart should be when we pray. Yet so many give little more than lip service to prayer. I will be the first to admit that my prayer life isn’t what I think it should be. I don’t see any way I could ever be truly satisfied with my prayers. Yet it is possible to develop our prayer life, to grow in the maturity level and properly-focused attitude of our prayers. But prayers also necessitate the very next two phrases in God’s command:

#3 SEEK my face – What exactly does it mean to “seek God’s face”? I means pursuing His will over your own. It means following Christ’s commands, not as a begrudging task, but as a genuine outflowing of our Love for Him and our gratitude for what He has done (and continues to do for and through us).

#4 TURN from their wicked ways! Uh, oh. Here we go meddling in people’s lives. Another word for “turning from wicked ways (sin) is…. REPENT! How can we expect God to come sweeping in and fixing our issues, wiping away evil corruption, pain, and sorrows, if we are not willing to turn from our sins (which are the major reason we are experiencing the woes of the day)? Shall we call down fire on the evildoers in this world, without calling down that same fire on US when we continue to overlook our own sin? Which brings us back to my initial statement regarding drought, famine, and sickness-

There was a time in the not-so-distant past, where sinners were exhorted powerfully to repent, and to seek God in all things.  Preaching was intended not to give a pat on the back, a wink and a nod, leaving the listener superficially “uplifted and encouraged”, but to draw sinners to genuine sorrow and repentance, to lead and exhort the redeemed to walk “worthy of the high calling”, and to generally live out Christ’s command to love God first and our neighbor second. How in the world have so many who call themselves “Christians” continued to live in hate towards their fellow man, to selectively cry out against certain select sins, while willfully ignoring their own sin? How can we claim to live in a “Christian nation”, while systematically endorsing (often through our silence) the atrocities of our times?

How was Hitler able to round up and exterminate millions of Jews? Because many refused to take a stand and proclaim what was right.  How can we sit by and see the ongoing slaughter of millions of unborn babies (approaching 60 million since the Roe v Wade decision of the U.S. Supreme Court)? How have we arrived at a place in this nation where marriage is being redefined beyond the biblical (and natural) order of one man and one woman? Our nation, where our leadership in high offices tell us lies far more often than the truth, wonders at the distrust that overflows, and where seeds of discord have grown to foster race and economic hatred not seen in many decades.

What are churches preaching at teaching that, on a knee-jerk reaction to a perceived injustice results in thousands in a city not just protesting, but going on widespread violent riots, looting form business owners, and causing massive financial destruction? And further, that some who have coopted the title “reverend” or “minister” are given free reign to promote such behavior – yet calling themselves “Christian”.

What do we have?  A land in a terrible famine and drought.  A land that due to said famine and drought, are seeing sickness grow like an epidemic ripping apart our society. So yes, some of us truly desire that God would “heal our land”. But may we never forget that God commanded us to HUMBLE ourselves, to seek HIS will (face), to PRAY, and to REPENT – literally turning from our sin. This goes to the very Gospel Jesus gave us. The Word of God, not just the convenient, feel-good parts, must be returned to the church house, and the pulpits of every God-fearing, revival seeking congregation across this nation, from the big church on the hill, to the little house church in your neighborhood. Lest we forget:

For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?

I pray that my faith family, New Hope Baptist Church and I never forget or neglect the life-changing, world-shaking, unadulterated Gospel. And I commit myself, whoever I serve, to proclaim the full council of God’s Word:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

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