“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
Over the years, I have heard this verse quoted a lot. A. Lot.
It is often a call to prayer after some tragedy has occurred that is viewed as an affront to mainstream America. A tragedy that is deemed to be the result of sin (ironically, though, it’s others’ sin).
I couldn’t remember the context of this particular passage and wanted to see what horrific sin the children of God had just committed that provoked this exhortation from God.
A large assembly of people are gathered. Thousands, maybe even millions. For years they’d heard stories of the tabernacle that their forefathers traveled with in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud. The fire. God’s presence. But they had not seen anything like this…they were but old tales.
The temple. King David wanted this, dreamed of this day. For seven years, they had seen the gathering of materials – wood, gold, jewels. For seven years they’d seen the progress, little by little.
Finally, it is finished.
King Solomon, David’s beloved son, approaches.
Solomon blesses the people of Israel. Then, he prays, dedicating the house of the Lord. “As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple…When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the Lord on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”
They went on to offer sacrifices before the Lord, dedicate the temple, feast for 7 days, and hold a solemn assembly on the eighth day. And, “On the twenty-third day of the seventh month he sent the people away to their homes, joyful and glad of heart for the prosperity that the Lord had granted to David and to Solomon and to Israel his people.”
It is then, after the celebrating, dedicating, feasting and blessing, “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, 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 exhortation was not given because “those people” sinned, it was because he knew that His people would.
God was being proactive, not reactive. Similar to, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
We are a reactive bunch. And, the problem is we often react to other people’s issues, not our own sin. We create a man-made hierarchy of sin, and arrogantly point out “their sins”, (you know, the ones we don’t commit), as the reason for the demise of a group/family/church/nation, and ignore that God has said, “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes,feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies, and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.”
We shut our eyes. Seal our ears. Open our mouths. And what comes forth is anything but humility. Accusations. Insults. Justifications. Excuses. Stubbornness. Pride. Self-preservation. Image management. Winning. Selfishness. Lack of compassion. Lack of empathy…
But not humility.
God warns Solomon, that though people were now “joyful and glad of heart”, there would come a time when discipline would be warranted.
But, there would be a solution – the ownership of sins, which leads to humility which leads to repentance and prayer. Then, God would respond.
Did they listen?
I think of how often the American church claims this verse as our own. We relish in comfort and prosperity- now. Many are “joyful and glad of heart” – now. But, if it all hits the fan, where will the church stand? Will it own its’ sin? Has it up to this point? Will its’ leaders lead in humility? Authentic repentance? Prayer?
Did they listen?
Perhaps, a better question for the American church is, “Will she?”