“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.” 2 Chronicles 7:14
No doubt you have probably heard this verse before. But are you aware of the context?
The Lord appeared to Solomon the night that the Temple/Royal Palace construction project was completed and made him this promise. Note that this is a conditional promise: If… then. And note the preceding verse: “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people…” The Lord, who has chosen Israel as His people and the temple as His place, is saying there will be very difficult days in the future. Now, you would think that if the Lord is our God and we are His special people then we would experience nothing but the blessing of God. But no, this is not the case. At a time when there is great celebration for the people of God He says that there will be tough tests that will make you doubt everything that you believe and everything that you have seen Me do. And then He tells them how they are to respond to these tests.
I’m afraid that we don’t respond the way that we should. I’m not sure that we as the people of God are very good at test-taking. Give yourself a grade in each of these areas of the test…
“Humble themselves” – C.J. Mahaney says, “Humility is honestly assessing ourselves in light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness.” We tend to assess ourselves in light of other people and our own expectations rather than in light of God’s holiness and our own sinfulness. I’m not sure we really understand what it means to be the child of a holy God.
Consider what Jerry Bridges has to say:
“As we grow in the knowledge of God’s holiness, even though we are growing in the practice of holiness, it seems the gap between our knowledge and our practice always gets wider. This is the Holy Spirit’s way of drawing us to more and more holiness.”
“The Holy Spirit opens the inner recesses of our hearts and enables us to see the moral cesspools hidden there.”
“We become so accustomed to our sins we sometimes lapse into a state of peaceful coexistence with them, but God never ceases to hate them.”
True humility has nothing to do with low self esteem. It has everything to do with recognizing the greatness of God and the ugliness of our own depravity. Do you often think on these things?
“Pray” – In the context of this verse, when God says “pray” I don’t think He is talking about the kind of praying that is more often than not lifted before His throne of grace. I think He is talking about the kind of prayer that would be characterized as crying out to God, pleading with Him, imploring Him to come to their rescue because they recognize just how utterly helpless they are to do anything for themselves. How much of your praying is importunate praying?
“Seek My face” – David captures what God desires from us when he writes in Psalm 27, “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple…My heart says of You, “Seek His face!” Your face Lord I will seek.” God desires that we seek Him for who He is not for what He might do for us. He wants us to seek His face, not His hand. What is your motivation for seeking God?
“Turn from their wicked ways” – Repentance. Turning away from sin and turning intentionally to God. Not something we in our post-modern culture do very well. Mostly because we have lost any notion that we are indeed sinners who apart from God’s grace would incur the fierceness of His wrath. And rather than understanding how much we hurt the heart of God when we, as His children, sin against Him – we rationalize and think of sin as not such a big deal – and that God is a big God and He’ll get over it and forgive us. Because after all, isn’t that what God is supposed to do. We don’t like to think of ourselves as wicked – and yet that is exactly what we were. Wicked sinners transformed by God’s glorious grace – who still have a tenacious sin nature that often rears it’s horrid head, even as we seek to seek God. Do you repent from your sin “in dust and ashes” (as Job says) or just blow it off as human nature?
We are “then” kind of people. We want God to hear us, forgive us, and heal us – without the “ifs.” We need to start paying attention to the ifs if we want to enjoy and experience the 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, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
May it be so for the people of God today!