Faithlife Sermons

For Now and for All Time - 2 Chronicles 7:11-22

The Big Story - 2 Chronicles  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
0 ratings


How seriously do you want to be right with God? It’s a question that we should stop and ask ourselves from time to time. Do you want God more than you want an easy life? Do you want God more than you want acceptance by your peers? Do you want God more than you want the promotion or a husband or wealth or a graduate degree? Jesus says that our love for God should be so intense, so all-consuming that the love that we have for our moms and dads and families looks like hatred in comparison. How seriously do you want to be right with God?
There’s a corresponding question that ought to be asked that will indicate how fully you want to be right with God. It’s this: How seriously do you deal with your sin? Are you more likely to confess it or cover it up? Do you hate it, or do you secretly love it? Do you think of ways to prevent it or ways to justify it? John Owen once wrote: “Be killing sin, or it will be killing you.” One of the clearest indicators of how seriously you want to be right with God is how seriously you seek to kill your sin.

God’s Word

2 Chronicles 7:12 “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.”
What God presents in chapter 7 are two different paths to two different destination that his people can take when they realize their sin before him. And, by outlining these two different paths, God is responding back to Solomon’s prayer of dedication by saying: How seriously do you want to be right with God? Then, how seriously will you deal with your sin? This morning, I want to give a quick overview of the two paths that God presents and then make some very specific applications with them because I think that’s the trickiest part of this passage. It’s not difficult to understand what’s being called for so much as it is difficult to understand what that means for us today. Two Paths of Response: (Headline)

Path One: “Repentance” to “restoration.”

2 Chronicles 7:13 “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”
Verse 13 discusses the discipline of the Lord. We’ve talked before about how God refers to his discipline as a marker of his love in that He will not leave you alone as you destroy your life and abandon his goodness. He disciplines us to reveal our sinfulness to us and draw us back into his mercy. Verse 14 reveals the type of response that God desires:
“Turn” toward God “humbly.”
2 Chronicles 7:14 “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.”
This is the verse that it’s in a lot of yearbooks, but I want us to make sure that we get it right. Understand that this is not a verse that’s written to the United States of America. It’s not a promise that’s first given to us. It’s a promise that’s given to the covenant people of God in the Old Covenant. We’ll talk more about that when I get to the applications. But, what is clear is how God demands his people to respond to Him in the face of their sin. That is, He’s explaining to us what real repentance looks like. Notice all of the “ands” that are here. If you’re thinking of this like an equation, then each of these are necessary additions. These are like three sides of the triangle of repentance: humble/pray/turn. If you take one of them away, then you lose the whole triangle. Think about it: If you’re humble, you look beyond yourself and pray. You repent/turn from your sin, it’s because you’ve been humbled and so you pray.
Repentance is nothing more or less than recognizing who I am and what I’ve done in light of who God is and what He requires. You see, when you realize who you really are and how you’ve betrayed such a great and holy God, you only have two paths to choose from. The same two we see here. One is turn and throw yourself upon his mercy, and the other is to run harder and harder away to see if you can make it on your own. That is, path one is to place your faith in God’s mercy, and path two is to place your faith in yourself. But, when you turn toward God humbly, you can be certain that you will...
“Receive” from God “mercifully.”
That’s the other side of this equation. If God’s people who are marked by God’s name and known by God’s love will go to God on his terms and abandon their sin, God “will hear” and “will forgive” and “(will) heal” them with his mercy. That’s what God wants to get through to Solomon. It’s a Father looking to his son and saying, “However big you ever blow it, please come home so that we can deal with it. It won’t be easy, but we will overcome it. But, if you hide it, then you’re going to have two sets of problems.” That is, God is making it clear that He will not simply look the other way on Israel’s sins. His desire and passion is to restore them, but He will only restore them if they turn away from their sin and toward him for his mercy, if they recognize who they are and who He is and respond toward him in faith.
Know what’s “conditional” and what’s “unconditional.”
2 Chronicles 7:16 “For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time.”
This is one of the ways that we can get into trouble, and I”ll apply this specifically in a minute. But, we often fail to understand what parts of God’s promises are conditional and what parts are unconditional. That’s in view for the post-exilic generation. Notice the two bookends of verse 16 to see what I’m talking about: “for now” (conditional/temporary) and “for all time” (unconditional/permanent). Think about this generation that’s hearing this. Solomon’s temple was gone. No son of David was upon Israel’s throne. They were likely to think: God didn’t keep his word! This house didn’t endure! But, this response from God is being read back to them so that they could see from the beginning that God had always made the endurance of the Temple conditional upon their faithfulness to it, but God had promised that his people would always have his “eyes” and “heart” so that they could turn back and know his mercy any time. It was hope for them. The Temple is gone because the conditions weren’t met. But, God’s mercy is still offered. It’s so important that we understand what’s conditional and what’s not.

Path Two: “Defiance” to “destruction.”

It’s the sting of losing these conditional promises that is meant to bring them face-to-face with the second path we can choose when we’re in sin. Path one is humbly turning toward God and being restored by his mercy. Path two is defying God’s instruction by continuing down the path you’re already one, and it leads to the kind of destruction they had suffered from. Path two is to:
“Go” your own “way.”
2 Chronicles 7:19 ““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,”
The only thing you have to do to be on path two is keep going down the path of sin. Keep heading in the direction that you’ve been. The “turn aside” that’s mentioned is a turn that’s already happened. It’s a turn from God’s way and God’s command. It’s the opposite of humility. It’s self-belief. It’s to say, “I know the way home, and I don’t need any help.” God’s envisioning a scenario in which they’ve experienced the exact same consequences and discipline as those who chose path one; yet, they ignore the warnings and discipline. They keep going. Other ships keep calling, “Iceberg ahead!” But, Titanic keeps pressing forward.
“Love” your own “god.”
2 Chronicles 7:19 ““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,”
Why do they do that? Why do they ignore the warnings when it seems so obvious? Because they love it. Because disobeying God seems more appealing than obeying him. It allows them to choose which god they like and which god they don’t. It allows them to chase whoever seems to offer them more opportunities. It puts their lives in their hands, and they think they can a do a better job than God could. They can make the money they want to make and have the relationships with the world they want to have and raise their families they want to raise them. They choose the god they prefer so they can live how they love.
“Forfeit” God’s “blessing.”
2 Chronicles 7:20-21 “then I will pluck you up from my land that I have given you, and this house that I have consecrated for my name, I will cast out of my sight, and I will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples. And at this house, which was exalted, everyone passing by will be astonished and say, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this land and to this house?’”
Listen closely to what God is saying here because it’s vital. He’s saying, “If my people who are called by my name love other gods and prefer other gods and chase after other gods because they believe those other gods are better than me, then I will let them have what they want. I will flatten this house, remove my presence, and let the other gods care for them.” It’s reminiscent of the Parable of the Prodigal Son. He wants his inheritance so that he can go and see how much better the world is than his father’s house, and his father lets him go. He lets him go until he’s starving to come back home again. That’s what this looks like. And, here is a generation of people who have heard the Babylonians and Persians remind them their God had forsaken them and that their temple had been flattened. And so, the Chronicler is retelling this story in such a way as to say: “Are you starving to go back home yet?”
Three Realms of Application: (Headline 2)
2 Chronicles 7:14 “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.”
There are three realms in which I want us to consider the two paths this passage presents so that we can see how it applies today. But, applying this passage is tricky because there are some questions we need to answer so that we don’t misuse it. First, who are “my people” today? This is where we too easily get off the tracks. “My people” is not the USA. “My people” is not colonial Europe. Originally, “my people” referred to God’s Old Covenant people — Israel — and so today, this verse applies most helpfully to God’s New Covenant people — the Church, the new Israel. And, by the Church, I don’t mean the American church or just this church. I mean the invisible, universal Church. I don’t mean those who have their name on a roll but those who have their names in the Lambs book of Life. The Second question we need to consider is: How should we understand “heal their land” today? God’s people in the OC were a geo-political nation with well-defined borders. Their enjoyment of the promised land was a sign of God’s love for them and a realization of his promises to them. But, today, God’s people are a new nation without borders that includes people of every tribe, tongue, and nation. We don’t have “land” per se, but we do have gifts of the Spirit, blessings attained only through the gospel, advancement of the Kingdom through us, which evidences God’s love and promises to us. Lastly, how are we to understand what parts of God’s promises are conditional and what parts are unconditional? This is really, really important. I think this will all become clearer at these specific applications.
Iron City isn’t “unconditional”.
Matthew 16:18 “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
Does this promise mean that Iron City Baptist Church will always exist because we can just claim this promise? No! This is not an unconditional promise to every local church; it’s an unconditional promise to the Universal Church. Let me show you Reve 2:
Revelation 2:18-23 ““And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze. “ ‘I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works.”
What’s Jesus’ concern? Jesus isn’t concerned here with the sin that’s outside of the church, though that’s what many church people concern themselves with. Jesus is concerned with the sin that’s within the church. Jesus isn’t preeminently concerned with sexual promiscuity outside the church, but sexual promiscuity within the church. He’s not concerned with liars outside the church, but those who lie and deceive within the church. He’s not concerned with the greed and self-centeredness outside the church; He’s angered by the greed and self-centeredness inside the church. Do you hear him? He gave them time to repent, but the did not repent and so He will put this part of the church to death.
Revelation 2:1-5 ““To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. “ ‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.”
Jesus isn’t concerned with the love of the world; He’s concerned with the love of the church. When any given church begins to love the world more than Jesus, He will remove its lampstand. He will remove that church. Iron City’s future is not unconditional!
Iron City, we must decide whether our church will live or die. We must decide which path we will choose. Do we want the presence of God? Will we deal with the seriousness of our sin? Or, will we go our own way and worship our own gods only to have God remove our lampstand in the Cheaha Valley? There is a way that we can become so engrossed with being a growing church and an exciting church and a friendly church and a successful church that we forsake being a holy and God-centered church! But, “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 will use them to shake the nations and will fill them with unity and joy and will bless them so that people are brought into the Kingdom through them. What path will we choose?
The Southern Baptist Convention isn’t “necessary.”
Now, let’s drill down a little deeper. Most of you probably know by now that I emailed you last week concerning the Southern Baptist Convention and the sexual abuse report released by Guidepost Solutions. So, does Matthew 16:18 mean that the gates of hell will not prevail against the SBC? Is this a house that will necessarily stand forever? Emphatically, no! There are no promises made in the Bible to denominations. It must be said loud and clear: God’s doesn’t need the Southern Baptist Convention to reach the nations. He’s going to reach the nations, with or without the SBC.
We’re involved with the SBC because they have upheld the sufficiency of the Bible and have been committed to the advancement of the gospel to all nations. But, what this report has revealed is that God’s mission has become too corporate and too image focused, and it’s taken us away from the mission. Can the SBC still be a viable, valuable sending network for the sake of the nations? Yes! Can the SBC be put to death? Also, yes!
We’re waiting to see is what path is going to be taken. Will the SBC keeping going its own way and serving its own gods of money, influence, and image, or will the SBC repent, restructure, and refocus? “If my people who are called by my name 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 will use them to send missionaries and plant churches and meet needs and glorify my name.”
The United States of America needs a “pure Church.”
Now, let’s get to America. You see, America isn’t a direct recipient of this promise; she is a secondary beneficent. How does this offer hope to America? It doesn’t offer hope by way of politics. It doesn’t offer hope by way of policies. It doesn’t offer hope as though America must endure forever. Great as she is and has been; she is not guaranteed another day. The hope for America is that this passage would raise up a pure Church within her. The hope for America is that a pure Church would repent of her sins and get serious about her God and then permeate this land as salt and land. Every nation on earth is on the clock until Christ returns. They’re all temporary. But, the stronger the church, the slower the rot and the greater the hope. So, the question of America is not: What about all of “them”? The question of America is: What about all of “us”? We are his people. What path will we choose?
Related Media
Related Sermons