It is not too hard to find a context where a Christian orator will invoke 2 Chronicles 7:14 as an appeal to the Lord. The context can be pro-life, pro-marriage, political, military, or most any issue that impacts the nation. Even if the entire verse is quoted, in actuality what is often meant is “Lord we will pray and you can fix those people who are doing the evil.” It sounds like a good idea, but it is far from what the verse says.
When we gather as a likeminded group, we fall into a groupthink where we believe we are promoting the right thing and seek to change those who are doing the wrong thing by praying this verse. Our problem is not gathering as a group or praying. Our problem is not practicing what we are praying. Let’s first see what the verse really means and then see what we should do to put our prayer into action.
Setting the verse in context
“11Thus Solomon finished the house of the Lord and the king's house. All that Solomon had planned to do in the house of the Lord and in his own house he successfully accomplished. 12Then 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.”
If we start at verses 11 and 12 we will quickly see that the context is the Lord speaking directly to Solomon after the temple was completed.
Taking note of the preface
“13When 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,”
Then the Lord gives an important preface in verse 13. Many translations show verse 13 and 14 as one sentence, so this preface is important. Note that this is a “when” that is preceding an “if”. The Lord is showing His sovereignty by saying “when I…” In this case He mentions rain, locust, and pestilence, but these are simply examples. It is the Lord who is sending a difficulty to the people. This difficulty can indeed by the issue our orator is addressing. We might want to start to wonder why the Lord brought on this difficulty.
Deuteronomy 28 is a prime example of the Lord showing what our worldly consequences are when we disobey Him. It starts with “And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God…” The Lord was not saying that consequence, like no rain, are due to the weather. The Lord reminds us that he is in total control of the weather. We will have rain in season if we obey Him, and lack the rain when needed if we disobey Him.
This is not addressed to those people, but His people. The consequences we face are not because evil people did evil things. The consequences are a direct result of the Lord’s sovereign control in chastising His people for their disobedience.
“14if 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.”
We start with a repeated thought for emphasis. “My people” and “who are called by my name” makes it clear that the Lord is addressing those in the Christian community and not addressing those outside the Christian community. The fact that this refers to the Christian community and not the ethnic Jew can be discussed at another time.
Humbling ourselves is not setting our hearts above those evil people, but confessing that we are the guilty ones. We need not look at the crimes of others, but the sins of ourselves.
To pray is to talk with God. To seek His face is to listen to God. The Lord has said so much to us in writing that we tend to ignore in our day-to-day life. We need an earnest seeking of the Lord’s ways, rather than the culture’s ways.
Turning from our wicked ways is repentance. We need to understand what we are doing wrong, confess that it is wrong, seek forgiveness, and not repeat it. This is not seeking repentance in others; this is us repenting of our own sin. Our sin of idolatry or covetousness does lead to no rain.
Once we have done our part, once we have repented, then the Lord hears, forgives, and heals. It is not after the evil people stop being evil. The Lord is sovereign control of all people. Just as the Lord used the evils of Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar to chastise His people, He will use the evils of this day to do the same.
It applies to politics
“15Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. 16For 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. 17And as for you, if you will walk before me as David your father walked, doing according to all that I have commanded you and keeping my statutes and my rules, 18then I will establish your royal throne, as I covenanted with David your father, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man to rule Israel.’”
Because of Israel’s sin the Lord took the worldly king from the nation. People’s sin resulted in a very bad political environment. Our sin, not those people’s sin, is the cause of all bad political environments.
We must also keep in mind that David and Solomon still have a man, their descendant Jesus, that rules Israel and the world, and His reign is forever.
Applying this to ourselves
We must look to the Scripture first to know how to live. When we find commandments we must seek to understand them and apply them. If the culture, even the culture in our church, does not obey them, then we should do our part to enlighten others, but we must do our part in obedience.
If we are His people, if we are called by His name, we must individually and collectively repent. Our repentance will do more for the issue at hand than any organization, laws, or physical acts. The Lord remains sovereign, and His word to us is fixed and unchanging.
A wonderful gathering
Let’s gather with those likeminded and concerned with our issue and do the most effective thing we can. Let’s “humble ourselves, and pray and seek His face and turn from our wicked ways” and trust that the sovereign Lord will “heal our land.”