It’s been said by some biblical scholars that the three most important rules for a proper and thorough understanding of the text of Scripture are Context, Context, & Context. By that we mean:
- The immediate context in a section or chapter of Scripture
- The larger context of a particular book in the Bible
- The broad context of the entire Bible and God’s plan for his children
I freely admit that some passages of Scripture can be valuable in and of themselves as precious promises, words of comfort, or even admonition or warning. They can also be used to ‘prove’ one’s personal opinion or preferred interpretation. Examining context can therefore be not only profitable, but extremely edifying.
With that said, let’s examine 2 Chronicles 7:14.
A familiar verse indeed, and a tremendous reminder that we, as Christians need to pray with humble and repentant hearts, turn away from evil and seek God, we will hear from heaven! Not only that, God promises to heal the 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.
1. What is the biblical context of 2 Chronicles 7:14?
The context of this passage is the dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem after Solomon had completed its construction. 2 Chronicles, Chapter 7 begins with the assembly of the people of Israel gathered before Solomon offering praise and thanksgiving to God after the priests had placed the Ark of the Covenant in the inner sanctuary.
Solomon then faced the assembly, blessed the people, and offered a prayer of dedication. When the prayer was finished, “fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple” (Ch 7, v. 1).
The dedication ceremony lasted 7 days, with King Solomon and the people offering more sacrifices and burnt offerings, Praises were lifted to God continuously and the sound of trumpets filled the air. A 7-day feast followed the dedication, after which Solomon sent the people back to their homes, rejoicing and glad of heart because of God’s great blessing upon the house of David.
God then appeared to Solomon in the night and spoke this to him:
“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)
As you can see, between verses 13 and 14 there’s a comma indicating that verse 14 finishes the sentence that began with verse 13.
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 that in 13! I consulted multiple translations and paraphrases and they all presented both verses as a single thought from God, with a connecting punctuation mark, a 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 really going on here?
God is speaking to Solomon and telling him that that when he (God) causes certain calamities and if his chosen people (the Israelites) do certain things, then he (God) will heal their land. God takes direct responsibility for drought, devouring locusts and infectious disease, as well as healing the nation. Furthermore, this is definitely a reminder of the covenant God initiated with the people of Israel we see in Deuteronomy 28, the Book of Judges, and elsewhere the Old Testament.
In 2 Chronicles 7, the Lord simply reminds Solomon of the previous agreement. If Israel obeys, they will be blessed. If they disobey, they will be judged. The judgment is meant to bring Israel to repentance, and God assures Solomon that, if they will be humble, pray, and repent, then God will deliver them from the judgment.
2. Is 2 Chronicles 7:14 a promise for the United States of America?
For several decades or so, whenever our country has found itself in distressful situations, Christians have claimed half of a promise from God to the nation of Israel as a promise to heal what ails the United States of America. As we wonder if our country will survive its current decline and moral decay, 2 Chronicles 7:14 quotes and Facebook memes are popping up on a regular basis. So that I don’t offend anyone, I won’t answer that directly, but I will ask a few questions that might help us:
- Does God have an eternal covenant relationship with the United States like the OT covenant with Israel?
- If the answer is NO, should we claim the promises given to Solomon for Israel for our nation?
- God’s promises for the nation of Israel included judgement (drought & pestilence for sin and restoration dependent upon national repentance Given the continuing moral decay in our nation, does God have the responsibility to ‘heal the land’ if Christians (God’s chosen remnant) are praying and seeking God’s face, but our nation continues in its descent into the moral abyss?
NOTE: In fact, both Solomon and the nation of Israel sinned, resulting in the destruction of the nation and the temple.
- Given that our culture, as well as the leader of our nation, promote and even celebrate that which is abomination in the eyes of God, might our nation be headed for God’s judgment and the dustbin of history?
3. How should we respond to 2 Chronicles 7:14?
As Christians, humble repentance, confession, and the forsaking of sin should be the continuous lifestyle of any believer. It may be that God in His grace will bless our nation as a result—but is there a guarantee of national deliverance? Even if God did use our efforts to bring about national repentance and revival, is there a guarantee that the nation would be politically or economically saved?
While God will do with our nation what it is He has planned to do, we can certainly follow Paul’s advice to young Timothy:
“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” (1 Tim 2:1-2)
Finally, it is our duty as believers to live holy lives, seek God, pray, and share the gospel knowing that all who believe will be saved. So I have to ask myself: “Self, what are you most concerned with, saving our nation, or the salvation of lost sinners?
So regardless of what you have believed about 2 Chronicles 7:14, now you have. . .
. . .the REST of the verse!
John Piper provides insight at: https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/which-old-testament-promises-apply-to-me