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Keep My Statutes and Ordinances - 2 Chronicles 7:12-22

Follow in My Ways  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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To commit to "turn from ... wicked ways" and seek God.

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Introduction

The previous two lessons covered the dedication ceremony of the newly completed temple in Jerusalem. Today’s lesson follows with solemn warning from the Lord to Solomon that disobedience would result in what we might call a reverse makeover to that structure. The “before and after” contrast would be amazing in a bewildering way. How could something so unthinkable happen? A structure dedicated to God meant nothing if the people themselves were not dedicated to being God’s people. What was true in Solomon’s time is no less true today.
Between the final verse of last week’s lesson treatment and the first verse of this week’s is the single verse : “Solomon had finished the temple of the Lord and the royal palace, and had succeeded in carrying out all he had in mind to do in the temple of the Lord and in his own palace. “Yes, Solomon’s accomplishment was indeed impressive. Further, the people whom he ruled were “joyful and glad in heart for the good things the Lord had done for David and Solomon and for his people Israel” (7:10).
Perhaps the king was tempted to rest on his laurels at that point, satisfied with his record. But God desired far more from Solomon and from the Israelites than the mere construction of a building. God wanted what he has always wanted from his people, be they kings or commoners: obedience. Not even a temple as magnificent as the one Solomon had just completed could substitute for that.
At the center of this lesson are questions of what it means to choose to follow God rather than to follow our own desires. God appeared and made promises to Solomon about his future as long as God was part of it ()

Promised Blessings -

2 Chronicles 7:12–18 NRSV
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. 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, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. For now I have chosen and consecrated this house so that my name may be there forever; my eyes and my heart will be there for all time. As for you, if you walk before me, as your father David walked, doing according to all that I have commanded you and keeping my statutes and my ordinances, then I will establish your royal throne, as I made covenant with your father David saying, ‘You shall never lack a successor to rule over Israel.’
2 Chronicles 7:12-18
This is the second time the Lord has appeared to (Solomon) at night. Perhaps God does this deliberately in order to call Solomon’s mind back to the first time, when the Lord said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you” (). In response, Solomon had requested “wisdom and knowledge” for governing (1:10). The Lord was pleased with the response and promised Solomon that and much more (1:11, 12).
The Lord deems it important to affirm that he has heard Solomon’ prayer. Even so, the first decision ceremony and made was not in Solomon’s prayer requests: to choose this place (the temple) as a temple for sacrifices. Solomon indeed sacrificed many animals during the dedication ceremony () and made many requests in his prayer of dedication (6:12-42). But for the temple to be known as a temple for sacrifices was not explicitly one of those requests. God’s declaration calls to mind Moses’ words in , regarding a chosen place of sacrifice. Now, some five centuries later, the Lord is announcing that such a chosen site exists, and it is Solomon’s temple.
How did an experience of God’s answer to a prayer shape your attitude toward future prayers?
In verse 13 we see that by contrast, the language of the three negative situations here are all reflecting in the language of Solomon’s dedicatory prayer. Solomon has noted the cause for God’s needing to take such action: sin (6:26). The outcomes of famine (due to no rain or locusts) and plague are mentioned within the curses pronounced by Moses when he wanted the Israelites of how they would be disciplined should they turn away from God.
Thinking of a time when God seemed to be disciplining you, how did you know it was not merely natural consequences at work? Considering the nature of your actions; considering the eventual result; considering scriptural precedent.
In verse 14 we encounter one of the Bible’s most quoted scriptures introducing a conditional statement for reasons why the deadly conditions of verse 13 need not be permanent. With the Lord there is and will be hope! Again, this reflects the contents of Solomon’s earlier prayer. After describing the withholding of rain because of the people’s sin, Solomon prayed, “When they pray toward this place and give praise to your name and turn from their sin because you have afflicted them, then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your servants, your people Israel” (, ).
God’s disciplinary action must be recognized as such by his people, and they must respond to it in the way directed by the Lord in the verse before us. The steps of repentance are four in number: First, the wayward people are to humble themselves. Humility acknowledges one’s need for God and dependence on him. Second is to pray. Prayer is a must, especially when turning away from sin, as is the case here. Third to seek the Lord’s face implies a desire for the closest kind of relationship. And fourth, sinners must turn from their wicked ways. Words of contrition must be followed up by actions that match. To turn from one’s sinful ways is precisely what the biblical teaching about repentance means: to do an “about face,” reversing the course of one’s conduct. The process embodied by the terms used in this verse indicates a total surrender to God.
How should evidence of genuine repentance manifest itself in the twenty-first century? In terms of how humility is manifested; in terms of prayers offered; in terms of attitudes toward God; and in terms of behaviors abandoned.
God’s response to such determination is total as well - “then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” Forgiveness of sin will go hand in hand with healing of the land. This suggests a reversal of whatever conditions have been part of God’s disciplinary action. In verse 16, we see that fullness of God’s identification with the temple. The fact that the Lord has consecrated this temple implies its being set apart for a divine purpose. The promises to attache his name in the temple.
In verse 17, God’s message shifts from the people to Solomon himself. Here we another conditional statement that focuses on behavior. That behavior is stated in terms of David’s walk as an example for Solomon to follow. The evidence of a right walk will be seen in obedience to God’s decrees and laws.
Do the requirements for walking before God differ from person to person? Why, or why not? In terms of spiritual disciplines (personal Bible study, prayer, etc.); in terms of personality characteristics (extrovert vs. introvert, etc.); in terms of age.

Promised Discipline -

2 Chronicles 7:19–22 NRSV
“But if you turn aside and forsake my statutes and my commandments that I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will pluck you up from the land that I have given you; and this house, which I have consecrated for my name, I will cast out of my sight, and will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples. And regarding this house, now exalted, everyone passing by will be astonished, and say, ‘Why has the Lord done such a thing to this land and to this house?’ Then they will say, ‘Because they abandoned the Lord the God of their ancestors who brought them out of the land of Egypt, and they adopted other gods, and worshiped them and served them; therefore he has brought all this calamity upon them.’ ”
In verse 19, the warnings cautions the people and Solomon to follow God’s decrees and commands. The primary warning given concerns idolatry - the decision to go off to serve other gods and worship them. This violates the very first of the Ten Commandments. Verse 20 give the consequences of forsaking the Lord and following other gods will be disastrous. If God’s people reverse their loyalty to him and turn from him, then he will reverse his loyalty to them and turn from them.
This will eventually happen during the time of the divided monarchy. Israel (the northern kingdom) is conquered by the Assyrians, and later Judah (the southern kingdom) is conquered by the Babylonians (, ). Disaster will also befall this temple, Solomon’s temple. Instead of the Lord’s eyes being on the temple (, above), he promises to reject it. This passage clearly shows the two sides of God’s promises. Yes, he will bless those who turn to him in sincere repentance; but those who turn from him and reject his commandments will experience his judgement.
Once the temple has been rejected by the Lord, it will become a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples. Such terms reflect the complete reversal in status that Solomon’s temple will experience. Instead of being treated with reverence as a sacred place, it will be viewed with abject contempt.
In verse 21 the attention deepens regarding the temple - the temple is intended to be a place where God’s people can joyfully anticipate gathering for worship. But instead of being awestruck at the sight of the renowned temple, passers-by will be stunned to see it lying in ruins. The destruction of the temple will not reflect poorly on the Lord; it will reflect poorly on his people who will have forsaken him.
The word disaster refers to the physical catastrophe that eventually befalls both the northern of Israel and southern kingdom of Judah. Disaster will happen because the people will have been worshiping and serving some other gods instead of the God who delivered them from bondage and established his covenant with them.
What lessons did you learn from observing someone become a cautionary tale because of disobeying God? Regarding the personal impact of sin; regarding the impact of sin on others; regarding the character of God; regarding the response of God’s people.

Conclusion

Failure to learn the law of cause and effect can be costly. God repeatedly warned the Israelites that their actions would have consequences. In the excitement of dedicating the temple, the people reaffirmed their allegiance to God (). But euphoria has a tendency to be fleeting , and then God’s warnings were eventually forgotten. Even so, God was patient. He withheld his judgment for centuries. But his promise to destroy the temple because of the people’s idolatry eventually became reality.
It’s been said that there are two ways to learn: (1) by wisdom (which is learning from the mistakes of others) and (2) by experience (which is learning from our own mistakes). Which way will you choose to learn?

Prayer

Father, we recognize that what you challenged your people to do in Solomon’s day is what you challenge us to do now: humble ourselves, pray, seek your face, and turn from evil ways. Help us to give heed to both your warning and your promise of blessing. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
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