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Ripped Out of Context: Heal Our Land

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· We have been studying verses that we can be guilty of misusing, and in so doing, misrepresent the author/ God’s Spirit say in the passage. Today we are going to look at another Old Testament passage, a verse that makes a dramatic promise, which many Christians who love their country place their hopes in. The passage is . The passage reads, “…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.”
· This passage is often taken by Christians as God’s promise to fix our nation… The way it is put at times is that “If Christians gather to pray for their country and its leaders, then the promise of is that God will heal America by restoring national prosperity and by making the nation a “Christian or God-fearing nation” again (“heal their land”).
· It probably won’t surprise you when I say that this is not a promise that is given to American Christians, and it is not a promise for our nation either (or any other nation except for those who it was originally given to).
· One thing to look for when passages like this are quoted, especially in writing, is those three little dots (ellipses) that show that the person writing is purposely taking out information that comes in a passage. It is interesting how often that, when you read the section that was taken out, that it changes the meaning of what was quoted and shows a passage was taken out of context. Usually when this passage is quoted, verse 14 begins with an ellipsis. What is left out shows why this passage is taken out of context and misapplied to us and our nation…
· (ESV) 11 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. 12 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. 13 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, 14 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.”
· Who is God talking to in this passage? (v12) God is talking to Solomon here… They had just finished building the temple in Jerusalem, offering sacrifices, and praying to God, and here in verse 12, God speaks to Solomon…
· Also, take note of the phrase, “I have heard your prayer (v12).” God’s words here were in response to a specific prayer. What prayer was that? provides the prayer that God is referring to here. What God says here in verses 13-14 and following is in direct response to what Solomon prays in ch6. Whenever the prayer of Solomon is compared to the answer of God in ch7, this is clearly seen…
6:19 “Have regard to the prayer of Your servant, O Lord my God, to listen to the cry and to the prayer which Your servant prays before You.”
7:12 “Then the Lord appeared to Solomon at night and said to him,‘I have heard your prayer...’”
6:26 “...when the heavens are shut up there is no rain because they have sinned against You...”
7:13 “If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain...”
6:28 “...if there is locust or grasshopper...”
7:13 “...if I command the locust to devour the land...”
6:28 “...if there is pestilence...”
7:13 “...or if I send pestilence amoung My people...”
SLIDE 2 - 6:24,26 “...and if Your people, Israel...pray toward this place and confess Your name and turn from their sin when You afflict them...”
7:14 “...and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways...”
6:25 “...then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of Your people Israel...”
7:14 “...then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin...”
6:25 “...bring them back to the land which You have given to them to their fathers...”
6:27 “...send rain upon Your land...”
7:14 “...and will heal their land.”
· So, who are the promises in this passage for? Solomon and the Jewish people… God is responding to specific requests of Solomon on behalf of the nation of Israel, not for America or any other nation… No other physical nation at that time could claim to be God’s people. And no physical nation can claim this promise for them today. Only God’s new covenant people are His nation; His Israel today
o Some try to respond to what I am saying here, saying that “My people” includes God’s people in any age, but this simply will not work. If you made a pledge to your son in a letter that opened “My child” answering a question that they had regarding your will, a child born later couldn’t claim the promise simply because she was also your child. If Savannah asks me for my bicycles in my will, and I responded by telling her that she can have them, Timothy couldn’t come along later, find the letter I sent to Savannah and say, “I want to claim the bikes for me because I have this letter and I am your child.” That isn’t how it works. My original intention was to a specific individual under a specific set of circumstances. Any other use would be abuse – it would be a misuse of my letter. It’s simply not what I had in mind when I wrote the letter. IF there was something in the letter that said that the bikes were for all my children, that would be different. But when there are specific details given regarding who a promise is for, that is who it is for.
o In the same way, is not a blanket promise for anyone considered God’s “people” in any era. Rather, Solomon specifies ten times in the context that the “My people” in view is “Israel” (cf. 6:14, 16, 17, 21, 24, 25, 27, 29, 32, 33).
o This is not a promise by God to heal the self-inflicted wounds of American culture. It’s a promise by God to remove His judgment that He brings on Israel when they repent. This promise is tied to His prior covenant promises to the Jews; His promises to David (6:15-17, 7:17-18) and His promises regarding the land God gave to Israel (6:25, 27).
· Also, when this verse is usually quoted and applied to our country, we usually misapply the phrase “heal their land” in the passage. We tend to think that this means, for us, that God will change the laws of our country and make our nation turn to Him… This is not even what God is promising to Israel here. When God says that He is going to heal your land, “the land” is not talking about the people or their laws, but the physical land that was being afflicted by plagues – by locusts and famine... The repentance of the people led God to show his mercy and heal the land that was afflicted by the locusts and famine…
· This promise has conditions for its fulfillment…
o The people of the nation of Israel repenting, seeking God, and praying towards the temple in Jerusalem or at the temple in Jerusalem.
o If they did this, God would forgive their sin, return them to the land, and remove the plagues he brought against it.
o If they were rebellious, God says in verse 19-22 what He would bring upon them.
· When the narrative is read as a unit, as it should be, the meaning of 7:13-14 is straightforward. This passage is an answer from God to a specific appeal from Solomon that He remove His hand of judgment from the Jews if they repent and seek His mercy (6:24, 25, 27). When God punishes Israel with locust and pestilence, their genuine repentance will bring forgiveness of sin and removal of judgments on the land they lived in (7:13-14).
· There is nothing wrong with praying for America, or better put, praying for all Americans. I want to make this clear. We should, but is not the reason. This provision applies to unique circumstances in Israel’s history, not America’s. We do have specific commands to Christians within the New Testament to pray for everyone… one example that we have looked at before in another lesson is .
o “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”
o A passage like this shows that we should be praying for our leaders and for the people of our nation… But the main emphasis of our prayers needs to show, not our concerns for comfort and prosperity (that is not promised to us or to this nation), but for the souls of the lost people in our country and for the spread of the Gospel. That is what we see in this passage. We need to pray for all in our country so we can live before our authorities with godliness, dignity, and humble submission. But not only these things, Paul says that God wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
o Our prayers for this country so often focus more on documents being changed and not souls being saved… I am not going to say it is wrong to pray for laws to be changed, but we do need to show more concern for our example before our authorities and fellow Americans, and we need to be more concerned for the souls of the people around us in our prayers… Souls need prayed for and evangelism needs to be done… Hearts need brought to Christ.
· God cares about the details of His peoples’ prayers… It is really cool to compare Solomon’s prayer in ch6 to God’s answer here in ch7. I just gave a few examples in this lesson… You see how God heard every word of Solomon’s prayer. He heard Him and wanted to respond to the prayer of His servant. Examples like this show that God does indeed listen to the prayers of His people… He attentively listens to every word that His people pray…
· exemplifies a pattern of God’s mercy to those who humble themselves and repent. We see all through scripture, in both the Old and New Testaments, how God is willing to show mercy to those who repent and seek Him… God is willing to show mercy to even you and to me if we are willing to see our sin against Him, leave that sin, and confess our sin to Him.
· You can receive God’s mercy today if you will humble yourself before Him today and submit to His will for your life.
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