Monday, 30 November 2009
A Promise God Never Made and A Prophetic Application Overlooked
First, the verse, 2 Chronicles 7:14:"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."
This verse is, first of all -- as it is often presented -- a promise never made.
The implication of many American websites, sermons, books, posters, songs, and bumper-stickers is that if America, or the Christians in America, will seek God's face then He will hear their prayer and heal our country. The reason why many misconstrue this verse as having special application for America and for her revival is that they take these words out of context, focusing instead on special words and phrases that can be reloaded with other meaning. Once the text is denatured and re-natured it comes out red-white-and-blue -- and totally at odds with the context. The essential points of misunderstanding are these:
"My people" = Americans. Rational: Were we not a Christian nation?
"Called by My name" = Christians. Are we not called by Christ's name?
"I.. will heal their land" = America. God will heal our country.
As I said, these applications are arrived at by seeing this verse as self-contained. One well-meaning pastor even makes this verse part of his "single, stand-alone Scripture series"! But to see any verse -- especially one like the present -- as stand-alone is a recipe for exegetical disaster. Context, always helpful for understanding.
Other websites I visited -- a minority of them, unfortunately -- gave due credit to the rest of the passage, chapters 6 and 7 of 2nd Chronicles. As one reads the rest of the passage, one notices a recurring theme: the Temple! This whole passage is set in Solomon's Temple, and was God's answer in the night to Solomon. It was after Solomon's dedication of the Temple, and in response to his prayer during that dedication, 2nd Chron. 6:1-42.
And what did Solomon pray? That God would honor prayers of His people "toward this place". He refers to "this place", "this temple" thirteen times: 6:18, 20 (twice), 21, 22, 24, 26, 29, 32, 33, 34, 38, and 40. God's answer to Solomon, likewise, refers six times to "this place" or "this temple". He also mentions four times the "name" that is associated with this temple. My point in all this enumeration is to show that God's promise is closely associated, not only with the ancient covenant with His people, but with the Temple as well. It is revealing that those who quote 2nd Chron. 7:14 rarely quote the verses before, or those that follow immediately after (emphasis added):"Then the LORD appeared to Solomon by night, and said to him: 'I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice.", vs. 12."Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer made in this place. For now I have chosen and sanctified this house, that My name may be there forever; and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually." vss. 15 - 16.
Looking at this context we see that God's oft-quoted "I will hear from heaven" must be qualified with the very next verse, His ears being "attentive to prayer made in this place" [that is, the Temple]. Not prayers in America, but Jerusalem. And if one sees how important the context and setting is here then it is much easier to follow the application: the "land" spoken of which God, upon prayer and repentance, promised to heal was Israel, not America.
The whole point is that this promise was made to the only nation on the Earth that had (past tense) a national covenant with God: Israel. And, thus, the only nation that could ever have expected corporate healing per this promise is Israel. America has nothing to do with this promise. America, as a nation, has no right to this promise. American Christians have no need for it.
But what about the Principle? Surely, someone might object, there must be some application for us? Yes. One is that God is faithful in all His promises. Even in those situations that don't apply to us.
But one principle we cannot draw out from this passage is that we are able to pull a nation out of a moral nosedive, or into a "national revival", by the spiritual exertions of a Christian minority, however sincere. That is the promise not given. We have the proof of this in Ezekiel 14:13 - 20:"'Son of man, if a country sins against Me by committing unfaithfulness, and I stretch out My hand against it, destroy its supply of bread, send famine against it, and cut off from it both man and beast, even though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job were in its midst, by their own righteousness they could only deliver themselves,' declares the Lord God."In this whole passage God makes it clear that the unrighteous nation -- and America certainly has the right to put themselves in this verse (Ezekiel 14) -- will not avoid judgment by the spiritual exertions of the righteous few.
Second Chronicles 7:14 was a promise given to national, covenantal at the height of their spiritual blessedness. It was for a limited time, as well: the age of legitimate temple worship. How ironically inappropriate and anachronistic for any nation to take this specific promise for themselves!
But the misuse of this verse not only entails a wrong application; it also covers up a Messianic truth.
A Prophetic Messianic Application Overlooked"But He was speaking of the temple of His Body." John 2:21. See also 2nd Peter 2:4 - 10.
"Jesus said to her, 'Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father..."God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." John 4:21, 24
"For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us." 2nd Cor. 1:20
There is much in the Old Testament that is prophetic of the brighter, clearer New Testament. Not only teaching and prophecy, but also types points to Christ. The Temple is one of those types that points to Christ, our Messiah. Christ is our Temple. As we abide in Christ, "a holy nation" studying His Word, worshiping in the spirit and in truth, we are also being built up (edified) into a holy building, living stones resting upon -- and resting in - -the living, precious Stone of Christ. This is the point of 2nd Peter 2:4 - 10. This passage should remind us of both Matthew 7:24 - 27 (the house on the rock) and Matthew 16:18 (on this Rock I will build My church).
How does this relate to 2nd Chronicles 7:14? The whole setting and basis for God's erstwhile promise has changed. It is not as though the Old Testament assurance has become null and void. No, rather it has been amplified in Christ our Saviour:
Prayers once made in the earthly temple are now made in Christ.
Worship once performed between temple walls, in Jerusalem, is now done in spirit and in truth -- everywhere.
The holy name Solomon invoked we know now to be the name above all names, the One in whose name we pray.
And, Peter tells us, we are the holy nation -- believing Jews and Gentiles -- the largest nation in the world, a spiritual diaspora that will know no boundaries, nor ultimate defeat.
All of these things were wonderfully prefigured in 2nd Chronicles chapter 7. To take that one verse 14 and make it be merely about America is to cover up something comforting, gloriously prophetic, and Messianic with something transient and -- by comparison -- quite shoddy.
Do you agree or disagree with this interpretation? What do you think the verses mean?