“If My people…pray…” Revival in America begins in the Church

Posted: October 30, 2012 in 2 Chronicles, Thoughts

"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 NKJV)

Solomon had just completed the construction of the magnificent temple in Jerusalem.  It had been the dream and the desire of his father, but David had been told by God that his son would be the one to build it.  David had received the vision from God on how it was to be done, David had made the proper preparations, and then turned things over to Solomon when Solomon had become king.  Solomon had been faithful to his father’s wishes, and he oversaw the most glorious building project since the days of Moses when the tabernacle was first built.

Upon its construction, Solomon prays a prayer of dedication at the temple.  This could not be just another building in Israel.  This could not be just another place of worship on the face of the earth.  This was to be the temple of Yahweh, The Lord God, the creator of heaven and earth.  This was to be the place that was the fulfillment of God’s own promise to provide a place for His people to pray and to worship Him. (Dt 12:5). The people had been unfaithful in the past to attempt to worship God in whatever ways that they chose (and they would often do it in the future every time they erected a high place…), but God gave them a place where they could worship His name.  God made it possible for them to worship their God correctly, according to the terms of their covenant.

And that is what Solomon was praying about on that day.  The people had a national covenant with the Creator God.  Back in Deuteronomy, God made it clear through Moses that if the people obeyed God, they would be blessed within the land He was giving them.  If they disobeyed and disregarded God, they would be cursed.  The people would suffer, and even the land itself would suffer through times of famine and drought. 

 Solomon directly addressed this covenant during his prayer of dedication.  He knew that, in our hearts, men are evil.  He understood that eventually the people would fall into sin.  They had done it before during the days of the judges, and they would do it again during the days of the kings.  Solomon knew that the people would break the covenant with God, and that they would naturally incur the discipline of God as He acted faithfully regarding the covenant.  

So part of his prayer was a pre-cursor to repentance.  Knowing that they would fall, he prayed that God would hear them when they realized their sin and confessed.  No matter where God allowed them to be taken in the world, he prayed that God would bring them back – even healing the physical land from the curse of their own sin.  And the glorious thing is that God answered Solomon’s prayer!  God did say that He would be faithful in His covenant promises to punish, but that He would also be faithful in His covenant mercies and love.

And that takes us to 2 Chronicles 7:14. A national promise for the kingdom of Israel.  A promise of God to act exactly according to the covenant conditions of Deuteronomy 28, and the pure faithfulness of His being.

So how exactly does this apply to us?  This verse is often quoted in times of distress in our own nation, with the best of intents.  Our nation has indeed sinned, we are a people in need of healing, and we know that God desires for us to turn to Him in prayer.  But we are not the kingdom of Israel – we are not governed by the covenant in Deuteronomy – as a nation we have not been promised a physical land of blessing on the North American continent.

But isn’t that how we often think according to this verse?  Don’t misunderstand me…it is good to pray the promises of God.  It is good to pray according to the Scriptures.  But we need to understand what it is the Scripture says before we appropriate it.  We are not the nation of Israel, but as Christians, we have been grafted into the promises of God.  So while we may not be able to claim exactly what was promised to Solomon, we can still grab hold of these principles.  What are the principles & premises here?  Let’s take a look…

  • "If My people who are called by My name…"

Stop here.  This begs the question: who are the people of God?  For Solomon, it was easy…it was the national people of Abraham.  It was the people who had been freed from Egyptian slavery by God and brought into the land of promise.  For us, it is the Christian.  Sadly, we cannot say that it is America; we can only say it is the believer in Jesus Christ.  The United States of America may have started out as a nation of Christians, but it is the church in America who are the people of God; not the nation itself.  Especially in these times today. America is a pluralistic nation with all sorts of religions and non-religions everywhere.  No…in application today, the people of God is the church of God.  It is the people who have been called out from the rest of the world and given the right to become the children of God when we received Jesus as our Lord.  The promise given by God here is first to be addressed by, and to, His people.  As the Church, we are God’s people called by His name…which means what God has to say about the action that follows applies first and foremost to us.

  • "will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways,"

God is talking here about repentance.  There needs to be a humbling.  There needs to be a turning.  There needs to be a time to seek the face of God in spirit and truth, desiring the things that He desires, and forsaking the wickedness of the past.  Yet who is to do this humble repentance?  The people of God who are called by His name: the Church.  That can be rather shocking to us, can’t it?  After all, we look at the national sins of America, and we can easily think of all of the sins that everyone else does.  It’s not hard to see so many areas in which the United States has departed from the word of God, and how things that were once abhorrent to us as a nation are now embraced by the people-at-large. 

But judgment begins with the house of God.  God calls His own people to turn in repentance.  God calls Christians in the Church to turn away from our sins, humble ourselves before God, and seek His forgiveness for the things that WE have done wrong.  We cannot expect pagans to act as anything but pagans.  Sinners sin.  That’s what we did prior to coming to faith in Jesus, and that’s what everyone else will do, too.  It is the people of God who must first repent of OUR sins.  Christians need to humble ourselves and repent from the many ways we have turned from our God.

  • We think of abortion, yet we are the ones who say it is OK to be personally pro-life, but nationally pro-choice.
  • We think of the redefining of marriage to include homosexuals, but we are the ones who redefined marriage with no-fault divorce and jumping from spouse to spouse.
  • We think of hatred, yet the church winked at institutional racism for decades upon decades.
  • We think of all kinds of departure from Biblical morals, when we are the ones who have neglected to love our neighbor as ourselves and to practice true religion by visiting widows and orphans in their time of trouble and keeping ourselves unspotted by the world.
  • Beyond the hot-button political issues of our day, the American Church struggles with pornography among Christians, being consumed with the spectacle of religious events vs. sincere worship, and the idolatry of self and stuff rather than lifting up the name and person of Jesus Christ.  There is much for which we as American Christians need to repent!

 

That’s not to say the church has done everything wrong…praise the Lord for much good that has been done for the sake of the gospel through the American church!  But we certainly haven’t done everything right.  We are the ones that need to humble ourselves in repentance.  We are the ones who lift up political candidates as the hope for our nation, rather than seeking the One true person who CAN change our land: The Lord Jesus Christ.

Here’s the point: we cannot only look to the people around us and say that they are the ones that need to repent.  Of course they need to repent and believe in the gospel in order to be saved, but that is not what this Scripture is talking about.  WE are the ones who need to repent.  We are the ones who need to look at our own lives individually, and as the American church as a whole, and we need to confess OUR sins.  Revival always starts with the individual.  May God help us to see our sin, and to turn from it.

  • "I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land."

Here’s the promise of God.  To Solomon, God promised to hear, to forgive, and to heal.  God would not block His ear to the cries of His people.  When they turned in repentance, God promised to give them an audience in their prayers.  When they confessed their sin, God promised to forgive them and restore them.  He would restore them to their land and He would restore the physical early land itself and they would once again become a fruitful nation.

To us, God still promises to hear.  He promises to give an audience to our prayers.  We have grand assurance of this through the resurrection and ascension of our Lord Jesus.  He has given us access to come boldly to the throne of grace for us to find grace in our time of need.  When God’s people pray in sincere repentance, we can be sure that our God hears us.

When God hears, God forgives.  That’s the promise straight from the pages of the Bible to every believing Christian. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9 NKJV). God forgives us because He already made the provision for our sins in Jesus.  When Jesus died for our sins upon the cross, when He rose from the grave three days later, forgiveness was assured to anyone who trusts Jesus as Savior and Lord.  The only obstacle to it is ourselves, and our own lack of repentance.

God promised Solomon that He would heal the land.  We do not have a direct promise about the United States, but we do have a promise from God on how He will use us.  When the church acts like the church, then we will be like a city on a hill, shining forth the gospel in every direction.  When we love as we are supposed to love, people will know that they are in the presence of Christians.  When we live lives of purity and holiness, then that will be the aroma of Christ to the world around us who are otherwise lost without Him.  We do not have a political promise from God regarding America, but we do have a kingdom of God in which He has made us citizens.  May we not neglect our responsibility to humble ourselves before our King, and seek His face, setting an example for the rest of the world around us.

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