If My People Do What?

“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, ESV).  I cannot say how many times I have seen this verse superimposed over an American flag as though God were speaking this verse directly 21st century America.  There’s only one real problem with that:  God spoke these words to Solomon at night after the dedication of the Temple in the tenth-century B. C. So, is it really for us?


I have heard your prayerThe Lord starts His words to Solomon with, “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for Myself as a temple of sacrifice.” (2 Chron. 7:12)  Remember, what is in mind here is the dedication of the first Temple in Jerusalem.  We are three thousand years later and six thousand miles away.  Verses 15-16 go on that, “My eyes will now be open and My ears attentive to prayer from this place. And I have now chosen and consecrated this temple so that My name may be there forever; My eyes and My heart will be there at all times.”  So this clearly makes it hard to apply directly to our current situation. 


Does that mean we can ignore it?  Absolutely not!  Paul reminds us in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that, “All scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”  That means that we do not have permission to ignore any of the scripture.  So what do we do with scripture that was clearly written at a different time for different people?  


We look for the bridgeA lot has changed in the world since the tenth-century B. C., but a lot has also remained the same.  God is still on the throne and His word is still true.  What we are looking for is the correct application of what we read today.  So, if this passage is still true, and it is, we must look for the bridge that gets us from there to here.  So, lets look at how we do this.


“If My people, who are called, by My name”In the tenth century B. C., this was Israel, through whom the entire world was to know God.  Are there people called by His name today?  Yes.  The Church is called the Body of Christ.  The church consists of all those who follow Christ from every nation and people.  Bear in mind that in 2015, according to Pew Research, only 12 percent of the world’s Christians lived in America.  By comparison, 25 percent of the world’s Christians live in Latin America and 26 percent live in Subsaharan Africa.  The church does not equal America.


“If My people do what?  We can see four things that are required of God’s people in this passage:  humble themselves, pray, seek His face, and turn from their wicked ways.  Again, the principle requires that those called by God’s name do these four things.


“Humble themselves”:  In 1980, Mac Davis famously sang, “O, Lord, it’s hard to be humble, when you’re perfect in every way.”  Those of us who bear God’s name often commit the sin of not being humble.  We act as though salvation is something that we were good enough to earn and others are not.  It is tempting to act as though we have achieved something, when in fact, it’s not what we did, it’s what Christ did.  We need to see ourselves more clearly.


Pray:  I’ve asked before, but what does your “God Time” look like.  Does He get your first and best, or your leftovers.  You know the answer to that.  Our relationship with Christ will never grow without us putting in the time and effort.  If every time you pray it is immediately followed by “pass the potatoes” you have a problem.


Seek My face:  Again, this is God Time.  How much time do you spend in scripture daily? God has revealed Himself in His word.  If the only time that you crack open the Bible is at church, you are behind.  Seeking implies action.  Are you putting the time and effort into earnestly seeking Him.  If I wait too late to have supper, I start getting so hungry that I will mindlessly eat whatever comes out of the fridge that doesn’t have a funny smell.  And after a while, I get to where real food doesn’t even sound good.  It’s the same with seeking God.  If you’re not in His word, you will starve yourself and accept some  junk-food spirituality and the true Word won’t even sound right.


Turn from their wicked ways:  Turning from your wicked ways is tough.  We like to think that we’re good people and don’t have wicked ways.  But scripture (and honest self-assessment) prove this to be false.  Thinking that “I’m OK, You’re OK” denies the sinfulness in us all.  Repentance is key to the Christian life.  You cannot be saved without repentance.  Which means that unless you “turn from your wicked ways” you cannot be in God’s people.  By the way, turning from our wicked ways doesn’t mean just avoiding the big sins.  The old Baptist mantra of “We don’t smoke, drink, cuss, or chew, or hang around with girls who do” is woefully insufficient.  


So how do we get our land healed?  A big part of healing in our land involves our obedience to the Great Commission.  Turning from our wicked ways means ceasing to ignore the command to make disciples.  It means proclaiming Christ as King instead of creating saviors out of political figures.  More people turning to Christ means that fewer people commit wickedness.  More people becoming faithful to Christ means that fewer people will lie, cheat, steal, murder, and the plethora of other sins that plague our land.  It’s not enough for us to repent; we must call others to repentance as well.