A familiar verse indeed, and a tremendous reminder that we, as Christians need to pray with humble and repentant hearts! Not only that, when we pray humbly with repentant hearts, God promises to heal our land!
I confess that, like many others, I too have used this verse to claim healing for the nation, at least until I read it in its original context, and more specifically, verse 13. Here are verses 13 and 14 together.
“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, 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.” (2 Chronicles 7:13 -14)
We like to read and interpret 2 Chron 7:14 as if it’s a standalone verse, when it’s actually a secondary clause that completes a thought begin in 13! I consulted multiple translations and paraphrases and they all presented both verses as a single thought from God (even The Message), with a connecting punctuation mark, connecting word, or both. Let’s look at the verses again from the ESV, with a particular emphasis on two words;
“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, 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.” (2 Chronicles 7:13 -14) (Emphasis mine)
So what’s going on here?
God is speaking and telling the Israelites that when he (God) does certain things and if his chosen people (the Israelites) do certain things, he (God) will heal their land. God takes direct responsibility for drought, devouring locusts and infectious disease, as well as healing the nation. If/when the Israelites continued in their sin and idolatry, they would be punished (See Deuteronomy 28 & the book of Judges for the covenant principle).
What can we learn here, if anything? At the bare minimum:
1. 2 Chron 7:13-14 is ‘descriptive’ about the (old) covenant relationship between God and Israel, and not ‘prescriptive’ for believers living under the new covenant in Christ.
2. God actually “sends” some pretty harsh ‘stuff’ when he punishes his disobedient and rebellious children; he doesn’t just “allow” things to happen.
3. Even if this passage of scripture could be applied to NT believers, the good stuff (healing the nation) comes after some really tough times.
4. We who call ourselves Christians love the good stuff and tend to ignore the stuff we want no part of. (See also Jeremiah 29:11, but this time pay attention to the context).
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