“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves…” is not about you

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Lets put it back into context

11 Thus Solomon finished the house of the Lord and the king’s house. All that Solomon had planned to do in the house of the Lord and in his own house he successfully accomplished. 12 Then the Lord appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice.

13 When 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, 14 if 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.

15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. 16 For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time. 17 And as for you, if you will walk before me as David your father walked, doing according to all that I have commanded you and keeping my statutes and my rules, 18 then I will establish your royal throne, as I covenanted with David your father, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man to rule Israel.’ 2 Chronicles 7:11-17

Very little about this makes sense in our 21 century context, nor does it make sense as a believer in a New Covenant context. First of all, the Lord is not speaking to me living in 2013, but rather he is speaking to King Solomon in 950 BCE. The Lord had just consecrated his temple and his glory filled it. Solomon slaughtered 142,000 animals and offered the burnt offering and the fat as a peace-offering to God. After this the Lord appeared to Solomon in the night and stated that “I have heard your prayer” and “I have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice”

What is the prayer God that heard? It had different facets, but we read about it in Chapter 13. It boils down to a series of “if-then” statements, where Solomon recognized and vocalized that under the Old Covenant God either blessed or cursed the nation corporately  based on how they kept the law. His prayer might be summarized as “Lord, when the people sin against you, you respond. In your terrifying anger you justly bring famine, plagues, exile and death upon them. If they repent of their sins and seek you, stop the famine, deliver them from exile, lift the plagues, and stop bringing in our enemies to kill us.” This has been the history of Israel up till this point, as a theocracy and later under a king in Old Covenant rule. If they honored God they had peace and prosperity and God would heal their land. The flip side is the implicit reiteration of the other half, whch is that if their hearts became full of idolatry and sin they were punished until they repented.

So in context, God’s statement in verse 14 isn’t a unique promise given to every person in every age meant to apply to every geo-political climate and nation state systems. This is not a promise for us or to us. Rather it is a summary of the entire prayer that Solomon just prayed in the previous chapter, and a promise to honor it. God is saying that in response to Israel’s spiritual rebellion and idolatry he will send death, disease, famine and captivity. But if the people of Israel turn from their sin, he will forgive them and heal their land remove these blights from them, which he continued to do for the next 400 years up to and including the fall of Jerusalem and the Babylonian exile.

One thought on ““If my people who are called by my name humble themselves…” is not about you

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