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2 Chronicles 7:14

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We have been in a teaching series called, “The Bible According to..Me: Misunderstanding Scripture” and throughout this series, at both of our campuses, we have been exploring some commonly misunderstood Bible passages. Today, we are going to look at 2 Chronicles 7:14. It says...
2 Chronicles 7:14 NLT
Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.
If you are new to the Christian faith, this verse may not be that familiar to you. But I see this verse pop up, especially on social media, often - especially when there is an election, or a crisis in the world. Usually, I see it in an image like this one from the twitter account “Prayers for America”:
Some Christians, many of them very well meaning, have used this verse to promote a form of Christian Nationalism, as if God will bless the USA because it is a “Christian Nation.” But it’s not just a struggle for our neighbours to the south. It’s prevalent in Canada too. I know Christians who have posted this verse in relationship to our country, taking it literally, without context as a promise for right now.
But how should we understand this passage. In order for us to truly be able to learn what God is saying to 21st Century Canadian Christians, we need to look first at the historical context and the theological context and then we can pull out some principles that can help us grow in our faith and can transform our world.
First, let’s look at the historical context.

Historical Context

The Bible has a bunch of different genres within it. Some of the writings are wisdom literature, some of it is poetry. Some of it is written as prophecy, some of it as apocryphal. And some of it, like the passage we are looking at today is what is called Historical Narrative. It’s history, written in a story-based form. So for us to understand what is being said, we need to know what the story is and how our passage fits into it.
King Solomon was the third King of Israel, having inherited the throne from his father, David. At the end of 1 Chronicles, David wanted to build a temple for God, as a place for the Ark to dwell - a symbol that God had a special relationship with the nation of Israel. He even drew up the plans for the temple but God said that he wasn’t allowed to build it because he was a warrior and had shed blood. So God said to David that his son, Solomon, would be the one to build the temple.
The book of 1 Chronicles is about David and ends with his death and with Solomon installed as King. 2 Chronicles picks up the story with Solomon and in chapter 1, we see Solomon pray for great wisdom and gain an obscene amount of wealth. In chapters 2 through 4, the building of the temple is described in great detail. In chapter 5, Solomon has the Ark of the Covenant brought into the temple, they worship God and the temple was filled a cloud, representing the presence of God himself. In chapter 6, Solomon dedicates the temple and in his dedication he prays. This is what he prays:
2 Chronicles 6:18–31 NLT
“But will God really live on earth among people? Why, even the highest heavens cannot contain you. How much less this Temple I have built! Nevertheless, listen to my prayer and my plea, O Lord my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is making to you. May you watch over this Temple day and night, this place where you have said you would put your name. May you always hear the prayers I make toward this place. May you hear the humble and earnest requests from me and your people Israel when we pray toward this place. Yes, hear us from heaven where you live, and when you hear, forgive. “If someone wrongs another person and is required to take an oath of innocence in front of your altar at this Temple, then hear from heaven and judge between your servants—the accuser and the accused. Pay back the guilty as they deserve. Acquit the innocent because of their innocence. “If your people Israel are defeated by their enemies because they have sinned against you, and if they turn back and acknowledge your name and pray to you here in this Temple, then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your people Israel and return them to this land you gave to them and to their ancestors. “If the skies are shut up and there is no rain because your people have sinned against you, and if they pray toward this Temple and acknowledge your name and turn from their sins because you have punished them, then hear from heaven and forgive the sins of your servants, your people Israel. Teach them to follow the right path, and send rain on your land that you have given to your people as their special possession. “If there is a famine in the land or a plague or crop disease or attacks of locusts or caterpillars, or if your people’s enemies are in the land besieging their towns—whatever disaster or disease there is—and if your people Israel pray about their troubles or sorrow, raising their hands toward this Temple, then hear from heaven where you live, and forgive. Give your people what their actions deserve, for you alone know each human heart. Then they will fear you and walk in your ways as long as they live in the land you gave to our ancestors.
That was Solomon’s prayer at the dedication and when he finished praying, fire shot down from Heaven and consumed the burnt offerings and sacrifices. Super dramatic. Now, let’s look at today’s passage within its immediate context:
2 Chronicles 7:11–16 NLT
So Solomon finished the Temple of the Lord, as well as the royal palace. He completed everything he had planned to do in the construction of the Temple and the palace. Then one night the Lord appeared to Solomon and said, “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this Temple as the place for making sacrifices. At times I might shut up the heavens so that no rain falls, or command grasshoppers to devour your crops, or send plagues among you. Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. My eyes will be open and my ears attentive to every prayer made in this place. For I have chosen this Temple and set it apart to be holy—a place where my name will be honored forever. I will always watch over it, for it is dear to my heart.
Do you see it? Do you see how our passage in 2 Chronicles 7 is God answering the prayer of Solomon in 2 Chronicles 6? That means the conditional promise that God gives - to restore their land and forgive their sins IF they humble themselves, seek God and stop doing their sin - is a promise given only to Israel and is tied to the temple. Solomon’s prayer was if people turned towards the temple and prayed because it was God’s house on the earth. This passage is very much localized to a time and a place - a place that doesn’t exist anymore because the temple has been destroyed. For us in Canada or the United States (or any other country, really) to take this promise from God as a direct promise to us goes against the historical context in which it was written.
Now, in addition to the historical context, we need to look at the theological context.

Theological Context

One of the major mistakes that many people make when reading the Bible is that they read it literally and not theologically. What I mean is that they read a passage or a verse and apply it immediately to them, as if God wrote the Bible specifically for them. But we have to read the Bible theologically, which means we interpret what we read through our understanding of God’s redemptive purpose, revealed in Jesus.
The Old Testament is the story of God’s choosing of, interaction with, and love for the nation of Israel. They were His people - his chosen ones that he would pour out his love on, that he would protect and provide for. He made a covenant with them and as long as they fulfilled their side of it, he would bless them richly and through them, he would reveal himself to the nations.
But they couldn’t keep their side of the covenant. They continually slid into idolatry, evil practices and sin as a nation. Everytime God intervened and they repented, within a generation they were right back at it.
So God came up with a permanent solution: Jesus. With the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus, all sin was permanently dealt with and God’s people could relate to Him directly. Everything was different now. Including who God’s people were.
In the OT, God’s people were the Israelites and those who joined them. But in the NT, through Jesus, God invites all people to become his people. Let’s look at some Bible passages:
Philippians 3:3 NLT
For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort,
Galatians 6:15–16 NIV
Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to the Israel of God.
Paul is calling those who believe in Jesus the “Israel of God.” So while God has always kept a remnant of believing Jews that he calls “his people,” now gentile believers are added into that group. We are the Israel of God - we are His people.
So now let’s look again at our passage in 2 Chronicles.
2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV
if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
We’ve established we are the people of God and so we are the ones called to humble ourselves pray and repent. But what is our land? It can’t be Canada, or the US because believers are everywhere in the world. God has moved beyond borders.
Our land isn’t the country we live in - our land is spiritual, not physical. It’s the church. So I think an appropriate application of this verse for Christians today is “If God’s people (us) will humble themselves and pray and seek His face and turn from their wicked ways, then God will hear from heaven and forgive their sins and heal the church.”
And boy, oh, boy - do we ever need healing. We need healing from covering up injustice because we care more about our reputation than our character. We need healing from dishonest and immoral leadership that seeks personal gain, not God’s glory. We need healing from false teaching that is destroying our witness in the world. We need healing from the judgmentalism that has been so prevalent in the church and has hurt thousands upon thousands of people. The church may be filled with God’s people, but God’s people are also broken, sinful people.
But praise be to God!! He is a God of forgiveness, of love and He is still refining us. We may not be all we should be, but because of his grace and mercy, he hasn’t given up on us. He is waiting for us to come to him and allow him to shape us as individuals and as a church body.
Now that we have looked at the historical context - that this is a promise from God that is for Israel and is connected to it’s temple worship - and we have looked at the Theological context - that people from all nations have been added to true Israel by their profession of faith in Jesus and that the land God will heal isn’t our physical country, but it’s our spiritual country; the church - we can move on to three principles that this passage teaches all believers everywhere.

Principles it teaches

The first principle that our passage teaches us is that God values HUMILITY.

God Values Humility

Many years ago there was a famous baseball player named Ralph Kiner. At the end the season he asked Pittsburgh Pirate general manager Branch Rickey for a raise. He refused. "I led the league in homers," Kiner reminded him. "Where did we finish?" Rickey asked him. "Last," he replied. "Well," Rickey said, "We can finish last without you."
Humility is a crucial character trait for those of us who say we follow Jesus. After all, Jesus defined humility.
Philippians 2:5–8 NLT
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Humility says that there is no task that is beneath you, no person undeserving of your time, compassion or forgiveness, and no position or esteem you are owed because of your talents, popularity or your situation.
God values humility. That’s why in his response to Solomon’s prayers, one of God’s requirements to heal the land is that God’s people would humble themselves.
2 Chronicles 7:14 NLT
Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.
How do we humble ourselves? I think we begin to acknowledge that we need Jesus. I need Jesus to inspire me and help me preach each week. I need Jesus to help me raise my kids so they become healthy, mature adults. I need Jesus to help me forgive those who have wronged me and I need Jesus to show me who I need to seek forgiveness from.
In every area of our lives, we need Jesus. And to humble ourselves means to finally admit that. If we want to see the church forgiven and healed, and if we want to experience God’s forgiveness and healing personally, we have to humble ourselves and admit that we need Jesus.
Our passage reminds us that God values humility. It also reminds us that God values PRAYER.

2. God Values Prayer

A man took his small son with him to town one day to run some errands. When lunch time arrived, the two of them went to a familiar diner for a sandwich. The father sat down on one of the stools at the counter and lifted the boy up to the seat beside him. They ordered lunch, and when the waiter brought the food, the father said, "Son, we'll just have a silent prayer." Dad got through praying first and waited for the boy to finish his prayer, but he just sat with his head bowed for an unusually long time. When he finally looked up, his father asked him, "What in the world were you praying about all that time?" With the innocence and honesty of a child, he replied, "How do I know? It was a silent prayer."
We might not always get it right, but God does value prayer. It’s the means by which we spiritually connect to him, the means by which we communicate to him our needs and desires, and the means by which the kingdom of God will come on earth as it is in Heaven.
2 Chronicles 7:14 NLT
Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.
God wants us to pray and seek his face. He doesn’t want religion, he doesn’t want you to come to church on Sunday or youth on Friday, just because. He wants to listen to you and talk to you. Here is a word for some of you: God isn’t too busy for you, or angry with you, or indifferent to you. He is waiting for you.
Saint Teresa of Avila said, “For prayer is nothing else than being on terms of friendship with God.”
So renew your friendship with God by praying because God will hear you and he’ll answer you.
God values humility and prayer. He also values repentance.

3. God Values Repentance

Repentance is the process of realigning ourselves with God. The word "repent” means “to change direction,” or “to change your mind” and it’s a turning away from the thing that does not honour God and turning toward him.
When it comes to our sin, there is value in confession. To say, “I did this thing that was not right” is important. But confession isn’t the same as repentance; it is only one piece of it. There is also value in apology. “I’m sorry I hurt you with my action” can begin to build a bridge when you have sinned against someone. But it too, is also only a piece and not the fullness of repentance. To fully repent of something you must confess, apologize and take steps to change behaviour. For me to confess and apologize but not do anything different means I haven’t been changed and repentance is all about change.
I think the story of Zaccheus may be one of the best examples of repentance. Here was a crooked tax-collector who had taken more taxes than he needed to in order to make himself rich. When he met Jesus he knew he had to repent. So instead of just apologizing, he vows to return money to anyone he has cheated. He followed up his words with actions.
To be a follower of Jesus is to be a person who practices repentance. We need to repent in our relationships when we hurt each other. We need to repent for when we intentionally do something that we know isn’t right and we need to repent when we accidently do something that isn’t right. We need to do it because God values repentance.
2 Chronicles 7:14 NLT
Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.
In addition to humbling ourselves and praying, God calls us to turn from our wicked ways. The promise he made to Solomon was a conditional promise - IF they turned from their ways, THEN he would listen to their prayers, forgive them and restore their land.
I wonder how many of us, who are here in the room or are watching online, would experience some relational breakthroughs or spiritual breakthroughs if we would just repent.
Our passage today does not promise God is going to heal Canada, the United States or any other modern nation if we would pray more. It was a promise to ancient Israel, tied to temple worship. Our application of it today is better understood as if we, the church, humble ourselves, pray and repent, then God will forgive the church and heal the church. But even better than appropriating the promise of God, we need to see the heart of God in this passage and this passage teaches us that God values humility, prayer and repentance. So let’s focus on those things and I’m convinced that our lives, our communities and even our nation, will be transformed if we do.
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