“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
Thus says 2 Chronicles 7:14. I know that a lot of Christians in America are distressed about a lot of the recent political and legal changes. Further, there is the belief that these changes are merely the result of cultural, social and religious trends that have been in the works for decades, if not longer. Christians see a longstanding effort by forces in government, education, media, activism, culture etc. working to infiltrate, subvert, undermine and destroy many of our longstanding values and institutions, with the result being a nation that has much more confusion and disorder, and is more hostile to those possessing a Christian worldview. The worst part for many is that decades of various organized countermeasures on the part of many Christians, including but not limited to the religious right, have failed, and this despite much effort being invested and many questionable moves – including alliances with nonbelievers and theological compromises – being made. Further, it appears as if the cultural and moral decay affecting the larger society is being reflected within many institutional church bodies themselves.
In light of these facts, one seeking for a solution may come to the conclusion that the answer is not for the church to turn outward to try to directly or overtly influence the larger community. Instead, relying on 2 Chronicles 7:14 and similar, perhaps instead the answer is to turn inward! Increase our prayer, fasting, church attendance, worship, evangelism, Bible reading and other forms of private and public piety. Reduce our sinful thoughts and actions. Purge questionable doctrines and practices from our midst, and separate from those who practice them. The belief is, then, that if we do this, then God will honor the promise given in 2 Chronicles 7:14 through a revival caused by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and the result would be an improved spiritual, moral, religious, cultural, social, political etc. climate for the nation. Not a few Christians of great esteem assert that such precisely happened as a result of the “great awakening” revivals in this country, and yearn for a similar outpouring to come save us now.
Now I do not wish to debate the actual effectiveness on the larger society of the awakenings and similar revivals in other countries, other than to point out that there is some evidence that they definitely included some mixtures of bad with the good. Instead, the issue is that there is no scriptural basis for the idea that Christians can improve the larger society with increased fervor and fidelity to the faith. Not only should such a thing not be a goal in the first place – for the sole aim of Christianity is to worship, honor and serve Jesus Christ – but there is not even Biblical evidence to suggest that it has been promised to the church as a happy byproduct. Quite the contrary, various New Testament texts seem to indicate that increased sincerity, devotion and faithfulness to the church causes more rejection and persecution from the world, while compromise, carnality and worldliness causes less.
Realize the promise of 2 Chronicles 7:14 (and similar that can be found in such places as Deuteronomy) was given only to Old Testament Israel. This promise was only valid in the context that God made with Israel at Sinai. Israel was the only nation to be miraculously created by God Himself, and it was the only political entity that was meant to be governed by God’s special revelation. God Himself set up Israel’s government, religion, economy and a great deal of its culture. God also instituted a system where Israel’s people were accountable to their leaders, and Israel’s leaders (i.e. kings, judges, prophets, priests) were accountable to Him. As a result of this arrangement, blessings came to Israel when they generally (sort of) kept the covenant, and curses came to them when they did not. So, the context of 2 Chronicles 7:14 was that if Israel ever experienced curses due to their lack of faithfulness to the covenant – and these curses negatively effected the culture, economy, morals and security of Israel – that if they returned to the covenant, God would take the curses away, and such things as economic decline, moral decay, diseases, losing wars to enemies etc. would cease. In other words, the land would be healed from the covenant curses and their effects. And as we can see in the Old Testament record, Israel had a cycle of being at peace and prosperity when the people were led by righteous rulers who caused them to have some level of faithfulness to the covenant, and wars/famines/ruin when led by rulers who caused them to break the covenant with idolatry and other sinful practices.
But what was the case for Old Testament Israel does not apply to any nation ever since. Despite notions of “American exceptionalism” or “dominion theology” or other false doctrines, God never created another nation, and He never made another covenant of blessings and curses with another nation. Those who claimed such things were speaking their own words from their own authority, and not the words of God from the Holy Spirit, including the Bible that the Holy Spirit has inspired and preserved. Indeed, false ideas concerning God making new covenant nations with new covenant peoples are responsible for the worst crimes against humanity – and also against God – by Christians in history, including the tendency to see the nation as “the new Israel”, its inhabitants as “the new Jews”, and the native populations as “the new Hittites/Amorites/Ammonites/Edomites” etc. that were to be brutally subjugated and/or ethnically cleansed.
So, as tempting as it may be, the promise in 2 Chronicles 7:14 is not applicable to the church, which is not old covenant Israel and is not governed by the terms, either the blessings or the curses, of that covenant. For that matter, neither is Israel, with their Sinai covenant long abrogated, with the ark that signified the covenant lost to history at the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon in 586 AD. Instead, the church is governed by the new covenant with better promises, the same covenant whose coming was prophesied by Jeremiah, who also declared the ending of the old conditional covenant due to Israel’s persistent failure to live up to its conditions.
So, one might ask, why is it in the Bible? How does it relate to us, other for historical purposes? What makes it useful to us today as Christians? An answer to this question can be found in Revelation 3:14-21, which deals with the church at Laodicea. And the context is mighty similar. 2 Chronicles 7:14 dealt with a situation where Israel had become unfaithful to God through broad abject failure to attain even a semblance of attempting to keep the Sinai covenant and therefore is in need of repentance and returning to faithfulness. Similarly, the Laodicean church is one that was veering into apostasy. Jesus Christ described their spiritual state as “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” and is threatening to “spue thee out of my mouth.”
So, what to do about this situation, when a Christian individual or a Christian assembly – be it a household or a church – reaches this desperate state of affairs with such dire consequences? That is when 2 Chronicles 7:14 is applicable! That is when the Christian assembly, the people called by the Name of Jesus Christ, should humble themselves, and pray, and seek the face of Jesus Christ, and turn from their wicked ways. When that happens, then will Jesus Christ hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. What is this land in question, if it is not a political entity like Israel? Well, in this covenant, God dwells in the hearts of His church. The bodies of Christians are temples of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit indwells the Christian. Jesus Christ indwells the Holy Spirit. And God the Father indwells Jesus Christ. God in us, and God with us! So, the land, then, is US.
If a Christian backslides, or merely falls into spiritual coldness, or lapses into sin, if such a Christian returns to Jesus Christ in true repentance, Jesus Christ will heal that Christian’s heart. We know this not only from the promise given to the Laodicean church, but also from 1 John 1:9, which tells us that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Further, we know from 1 John 1:8, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” and 1 John 1:10, “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” that all of us become Laodiceans at some point.
One can also apply the doctrine of corporate solidarity, which essentially is that Christians are not lone wolves or islands but instead part of one universal body joined together into one unit, one bride, by the Holy Spirit, to extend this promise beyond merely individual Christians. Instead, an entire family or household, an entire church, or a large group of Christians drawing from and encompassing any number of churches can apply 2 Chronicles 7:14 and return to the Lord in repentance, with the result being God’s healing and new covenant blessings being poured out upon all who come together in the Name of Jesus Christ on one accord and humbly ask for restoration and healing by God’s mercy and grace.</span
We know this because it was what Jesus Christ told the Laodicean church in Revelation 3:18-19. “I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and [that] the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” Just as stated in 2 Chronicles 7:14, Jesus Christ urges and instructs His wayward covenant people to repent and be restored, and in this letter Jesus Christ is not speaking to an individual Christian, but through John to a corporate assembly, an entire church. The entire church is on the verge of apostasy, and Jesus Christ is letting them know that they can come back and be restored as a church, perhaps through a combination of individual prayer with intercession on the part of others who may be haughty or blinded. This allows the same “national” application of 2 Chronicles 7:14 to be applied in a broader or corporate sense to the church.
Consider Revelation 3:20. “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” Now this is often erroneously applied to evangelism, of Jesus Christ making the offer of salvation to sinners and awaiting their response. However, this is not consistent with what Jesus Christ says about evangelism and conversion in every other place, which is His elect hearing the call of His voice and coming to HIM. Saving grace is irresistible, so a mere man does not have the option of leaving the sovereign God, his Creator and the sustainer of his very existence, outside knocking at the door as if Jesus Christ is some jilted lover (or door to door salesman)!
Instead, that passage refers to a Christian’s making his calling and election sure by responding to the command of Jesus Christ to repent and return from his wicked ways. When the penitent backslider does so, then Jesus Christ returns and re-establishes the former state of communion with the former backslider and Himself, and the restoration process is consummated. A the mark of a legitimate Christian, one who is legitimately Christ’s sheep according to the decree of God the Father by the workings of God the Spirit, is that He will heed the command of Jesus Christ in Revelation 3:18-19, which results in the fulfillment of the prophecy and promise of Revelation 3:20. The result is Revelation 3:21, which is “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” This means that the Christians who heed this command to confess and repent of their sins – which is necessarily all actual Christians – will inherit eternal life. Such Christians will be changed, receive new incorruptible bodies, and will be glorified, conformed into the image of Jesus Christ, with no more flaws, death, illness, sickness, grief, trials, trouble, temptations or sin. When this happens, 2 Chronicles 7:14 will have reached its final fruition, and the land – the true Christendom, which is the elect in whom the Holy Spirit dwells – will be finally and eternally healed … New Jerusalem.
Stunningly, the greatest comforting promise was given to the church in Revelation 2-3 in the worst condition and received the sternest rebuke. Great is our God, and great is His grace, forgiveness, love and mercy from everlasting to everlasting! Please, partake of this promise today. Repent of your sins, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved.