Thursday, May 30, 2013

"If My People...?" What People?

"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. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. For 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."
2 Chronicles 7:13-16 (ESV)


Have we taken II Chronicles 7:14 out of context?

Shortly after Solomon had completed the first Temple in Jerusalem, God appeared to him in the night and personally delivered a message that contains, among other things, those words that have become the rally cry of all great revivals: "If My people, who are called by My name..."

Surely, this passage stands as one of the most colossal promises made by Him Whose mercies endure to all generations and eternity beyond.

But, have we taken it out of its context?

Let's have a closer look at the full Scripture....

- First thing we notice is that the passage is phrased as a perpetual promise. No expiration date. As long as the conditions are met (the "when" and "if"), we can expect the promise ("then I will...")!

- Furthermore, the verses that follow reiterate its eternal qualities: "now," "forever," and "for all time."

Let's review the conditions.

"WHEN" ... There's no disputing the fact that our great nation is in dire need of healing.
- No Rain, and Locusts Devouring: unprecedented, unrelenting recurrence of dire weather and natural disaster on top of crippling national debt, unemployment, foreign trade deficit.  And the list goes on.
- Pestilence among the People: We're a sick nation—sick in body (spending close to 20% of GDP on health care), in mind (according to the NIMH, over 25% of U.S. adults experience a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year), and of course, most of all in spirit!

"IF" ... Notice, it doesn't say, "If the people of the land repent." God clearly articulates the condition to be "MY people." And then, just in case we might misunderstand and think He's referring to cultural Jewry or—in the case of our own nation today—cultural Christendom, He spells it out even more clearly: "who are called by My name." There's no doubt He's speaking, in our time, of the greater Church of Jesus Christ—that's us. His people. Called by His name.

And the promise?

"THEN I WILL" ... Not only does our Heavenly Father enumerate the forgiveness and healing He will perform when those conditions are met.  He circles back, in the following verses, to emphatically state that His eyes are open, and His ears straining to catch the first whisper of His people's humble, united prayer of repentance.  So He can respond.

Why? Because His loving eyes and heart are forever there. Where? On His Temple.

BUT HEREIN LIES THE QUESTION.... Are we yanking this verse out of proper context? Since the latest temple was destroyed in A.D. 70, surely this promise has expired. It was a covenant meant for the "covenant people"—the Jews—and no one else. And only good for as long as they had their Temple. 

Right?  Not exactly.

In fact ... decidedly not.... Hallelujah!

Not only does this Scripture stand clearly as a perpetual promise—in God's own words: "now," "forever," and "for all time"—but in fact, it turns out that "The Temple Issue" is no issue at all.

Why did God allow the Temple to be destroyed and sacrifices to cease? Because Jesus, the Sacrifice Lamb was slain once for the ages.  And by His shed blood He purchased us and made us His Temple. (See: 1 Pet.2:4-6; 1 Cor.3:16-17; 2 Cor.6:16; Eph.2:19-22.)

So, by quoting the "If My people" passage, have we staked illegitimate claim to a promise meant for a different people, living in a different time?

NO, NO, NO!

Thanks be to God, we are His people, His Temple, and His eyes and heart are upon us for all time, waiting and longing for us to lift our humble prayers to Him in unison.  So He can forgive OUR sin—the sin of His people, His Church, that has failed Him—and heal OUR land.

That's what the National Minute of Prayer exists for: to rekindle the hope this Scripture represents.  If you haven't already, please visit the National Minute of Prayer website for more information about how to spread the word: www.MinuteOfPrayer.org