faith

Searching the Desert for 2 Chronicles

…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 will forgive their sin and heal their land. ~ 2 Chronicles 7:14

As we enter another day of quarantine life around the world, this bible verse keeps coming to mind. I see many Christians referring to this verse because we are in a time of fear, panic and uncertainty.

People are looking for healing from COVID-19 aka Coronavirus. They’re ready for a return to “normal”. Vacations are cancelled, yet people are dying. They want to hug people, shake hands and reconnect at work, church and at family gatherings.

Civil unrest is also prevalent in America right now. Spurred on by the video recorded death of George Floyd while being held down by a Minneapolis police officer – as well as numerous other deaths at the hands of law enforcement – people are protesting and vocalizing their outrage, pain and anger in ways unseen since the 60’s.

They’re looking for answers, so they’re taking it to the streets. They’re looking for answers and finding none. People are looking for hope, help and reconciliation.

2 Chronicles 7:14 seems like the perfect verse in the grand scheme of things. A perfect verse for these times? Do this to get this. That is, after all, how prayer works, right?

If only it was that easy.

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I am not a bible scholar. Nor am I a preacher or evangelist. Not in any way, shape or form. But, as I think about this verse, how many of us - me included - truly understand what this verse is all about?

I haven't been able to escape this verse since I first started writing this post in April 2020. When I'm walking, working out, cooking, baking, working or even doing homework, this verse keeps coming to mind. 

I pray that these words that follow I are from the Holy Spirit. 

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…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 will forgive their sin and heal their land. ~ 2 Chronicles 7:14

As I meditate on it, I have some questions that need answers. There’s a lot going on in this verse. A lot of activity. Let’s break it down a little bit:

  1. if my people
  2. who have been called by name
  3. will humble themselves
  4. pray and seek My face
  5. turn from their wicked ways
  6. I will hear from heaven
  7. I will forgive their sin
  8. I will heal their land

Seems straight-forward enough.

First, it’s important that we understand the context in which this verse was spoken. According to 2 Chronicles, Solomon had finished building the temple (2 Ch. 7:1) which God had called him to do (1 Ch. 22:6).

It took King Solomon seven years to build this temple. The temple was going to be a place for “The Ark of the Covenant” – aka God’s presence – to reside. The “Covenant” refers to the covenant the Israelites made with God at Mount Sinai – after God delivered them from Egypt. They would be His people and He would be their God.

The Israelites saw a tangible presence of God at Mount Sinai. The Ark became a symbol not only of the covenant they made with God, but a symbol of His presence. Wherever the Israelites went the ark (acacia wood box with special items inside) went with them.

For years, this routine continued. After King David and the people defeated the Philistines (2 Samuel 5), they sought to bring the ark from Kiriath-Jearim to the city of David, Jerusalem. Remember, the ark represented God’s presence.

After bringing it to Jerusalem, King David wanted to build it a permanent home, a building. But, God spoke to the prophet Nathan in a dream telling him to speak with David that he was not the one to build a dwelling place for the Lord.

His son who succeeded David, would be the one to build it, which he did. The ark now had a home. After, King Solomon dedicated the temple to God and they celebrated with a festival (2 Chronicles 7:8) for seven days.

On the eighth day, they held a solemn assembly. Confession, repentance, the reading of God’s word, fasting, praying all were part of their solemn assembly. Then, King Solomon sent all the people that had gathered there away to their homes.

Everything God had asked to be done was done. Their hearts were right.

At a later, unidentified time afterward, God appeared to Solomon (v.12) and spoke to him, including the words of verse 14.

…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 will forgive their sin and heal their land. ~ 2 Chronicles 7:14

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Ark of the covenant (Mount Sinai). Covenant between God and the Israelites. God’s presence. A permanent dwelling place. A dedication. A festival. A solemn (or sacred) assembly. After all of this, God speaks to King Solomon.

Now that we have some context, what does all of that have to do with the use of this verse today? Are we even applying it right? Can we simply take this verse and apply it to today’s circumstances of COVID-19 and civil strife and discord?

Let’s go back to the eight points of the verse and answer some questions:

  1. who have been called by name
  2. will humble themselves
  3. pray and seek My face
  4. turn from their wicked ways
  5. I will hear from heaven
  6. I will forgive their sin
  7. I will heal their land

Who are “my people”? – those who believe and call upon the name of God. Those who follow His ways and statutes. Those who obey what He says to do. Let’s look at some examples:

  • Abraham. God made Abraham the father of a great nation of people that we know as Israel (Genesis 12:2-3). Abraham was God’s people.
  • Jesus. The son of God, born of a virgin through the Holy Spirit (part of the trinity) was God’s people so much so that before Jesus was even born on earth, the prophets foretold of him in the Old Testament.
  • Christ followers. From the disciples turned apostles to the world. Salvation through Jesus Christ was preached to the world after Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Who are “called by name”? – Sin separated us from God, the Father. Only a sacrifice would do. Jesus Christ fulfilled the Old Testament requirements to atone for sin. He fulfilled them by going to the cross and being resurrected. He made atonement for our sins. 

  • All who believe and profess in Jesus as Lord and Savior will be saved (Romans 10:9). Those who are saved are called not only to put their faith in Him, but to live out their lives according to Jesus.

Would humble themselves – Humility is a choice. We have to choose to humble ourselves. This is where pride comes in. Willingly humbling ourselves doesn’t sit well with us.

We like to have control. We like to be in charge of our own lives. We’ve been hurt or burned one too many times. Someone in our lives has humbled us so choosing a posture of humility goes against our protective nature.

  • The folks at Dictionary.com define “humble” as, “having a feeling of insignificance, inferiority, subservience”

Think on one’s knees with hands in the air as a sign of surrender. I like to think of it as actually a sign of strength. Not in ourselves, but deferring to God and His strength. 

Pray – Prayer is two-way communication. I don’t know about you, but I think I talk to God more than I listen. But, in corporate prayer like discussed here, is orderly and respectful. It is singular focused on God. Asking, seeking, talking and…listening. Prayer in this context here, I believe, involves fasting. Fasting – a denial of or abstaining from something significant for the purposes of hearing from God. Fasting can be food or even something like (in today’s age) social media. Corporately, fast and pray. 

Seek my face – Whose face? The face of God. Literally, Sunny? No, I don’t think so. I believe it is relating to who He is, His presence. Communing with Him on His level. His ways and thoughts are higher than ours, right (Isaiah 55:8)? It makes sense that in order to get there we (a humble people who are called by His name) need to be seeking His face (presence) when we are praying (and fasting). We won’t hear from Him if anything else is in our way. He needs to be our central focus. 

Turn from their wicked ways – Sin surrounds me. Sin surrounds us. We were born into sin. And sometimes, it seems like we just can’t get over the sin hump. We know it’s wrong, but it feels good in the moment and so we do it anyway. Or, we exalt something or someone before God. We want to do what we want…even if we know it’s not the best thing for us. (Romans 7:15-20)

Then – I almost feel like this is a mic drop moment before a mic drop moment by God here. 

Then (God says) – Then and only then (maybe?) will I hear from my place in heaven (remember, higher)….

And I will forgive their sin – This is what everything above adds up to. Forgiveness.

And I will heal their land – Bringing it home with a healing of the land, is our God. He doesn’t mess around. You show Him what you got. You show Him what you are bringing before Him. He will show you His greatness, His power, His compassion, His strength and His love.

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We are in a time of crisis.

We are in a physical crisis with COVID-19. We are in a cultural crisis in America and elsewhere with racism. BUT….

We are also in a time of spiritual crisis.

People inside the church are looking to the government for help. People outside the church are looking to the government for help. Why? Because we didn’t put our hope in the God who created the heavens and the earth.

Our hope was built upon ourselves and our ability to manage, maneuver, plan, organize and control our version of normal. By and large, we were comfortable. But, our foundations have been shaken and there is fear in our world today.

Everywhere you look, something or someone has been affected by COVID or racism. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the underbelly of America is being exposed and God is allowing it. He is allowing it because ‘all things hidden will come to light’ (Luke 8:17).

He has allowed it because He wants us to address it – hate, racism, bigotry, prejudice, classism, hypocrisy – all of it needs to be addressed. However, the way it is being addressed currently is exposing more of the heart of America – pain, unresolved anger, unforgiveness, bitterness, rejection, apathy, , us vs them mentality. Someone I know calls it “injury”.

People are walking around, sharing and posting on social media with an injured heart. And, instead of showing love, empathy, compassion and a sincere desire to help, attack, get angry or…throw stones.

We thought we were going to the ‘promised land’, but we’re wandering in the desert. We’re looking for something, anything, to quench the fire, to ease the pain, to be that healing balm. Some are looking for a some “one” to be the answer to all of their problems.

Still, it’s all just wandering.

That begs the question, if we’re in the desert…wandering…are we really in a 2 Chronicles 7:14 posture of humbleness? If we’re seeking anything or anyone else but God, we may be roaming the desert for generations.

…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 will forgive their sin and heal their land. ~ 2 Chronicles 7:14

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Knees Down, Prayers Up

Sunny