2 Chronicles 7:14 NKJV
“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..”
It seemed appropriate, this last day of an old year, to look ahead to the new year and contemplate what my part in it might be. A month or so ago, I was having lunch with my daughter who is completing her doctorate in political science. We were talking about the various ills of the world and how intertwined things are. One can be concerned about the environment, but to restrict the deforestation of the rain forest greatly affects the financial growth of certain third world nations. One can be concerned about outsourcing, but to limit production only to those in America would significantly raise the price of goods. It’s not that there aren’t answers to the ills of the world, but the problems are so complex it boggles the mind.
The human mind. For the Christian, the problem is amazingly simple and it begins with the heart, soul, and habits of the believer. The Israelites were finally resting from a time of war during the reign of King David. It had been a tumultuous time beginning with the war with the mighty (and overwhelming) Philistines and ended with the implosion of David’s own family as his son, Absalom, sought to wrestle the throne from his father. Now Solomon was on the throne and great peace and wealth had come to the land. As Solomon was dedicating the new (and very opulent) Temple to the Lord, this word comes:
2 Chron. 7:12-13: “Then the Lord appeared to Solomon by night, and said to him: ‘I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice.. When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people . . .’”
The Lord was clearly saying that what the Israelites took as peace—the absence of conflict or hardship—wouldn’t last. (In fact, living in this sinful world, it can’t last). And so the Lord describes three major events which would terrify and upset any person with a grain of common sense: drought (a lack of resources), locusts (total destruction), and pestilence (pandemics). These are three situations which are global in nature (affecting everyone in the area) and scary beyond imagination.
A drought is a situation where there are no resources and no way to generate them. In an agrarian society, farming is utterly dependent upon the availability of water. No water, no crops. It is translated in our society, no job, no paycheck, and no hope in sight to get one. Without resources, one cannot buy what one needs: housing, clothing, food, the basic essentials of life.
Locusts are grasshopper-like insects which can swarm. The desert locust which exists in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, “a desert locust swarm can be 460 square miles (1,200 square kilometers) in size and pack between 40 and 80 million locusts into less than half a square mile (one square kilometer). Each locust can eat its weight in plants each day, so a swarm of such size would eat 423 million pounds (192 million kilograms) of plants every day” (http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/bugs/locust.html). In other words, locusts destroy everything in their path, leaving little or nothing left behind. In our society, such disasters as wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, and earthquakes are like the locusts. Even the recent financial crisis can be likened to a locust attack. These crises occur and nothing is left. The survivors sift through the rubble to find bits and pieces of their lives, but again are without the basic resources of life.
Pestilence is contagious illness without recourse, like the plague. “A pestilence is any virulent and highly infectious disease that can cause an epidemic or even a pandemic” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pestilence). We are well familiar with pandemics, but in the time of Solomon medical science was much more limited. So, a pandemic without recourse, without medicines, without medical help.
Does any of this sound familiar? The Lord already knew that these things would come upon the children of Israel, for He said to Solomon, “When.” Not if, but when. There is no way to live in this world and not experience the disasters that come with the effects of sin. Whether the consequences of our sinful choices or the attacks of Satan, these kinds of situations are going to occur. In America, it’s easy to turn to a multitude of resources to try to fix the problem. We turn to legislation. We turn to finances. We turn to the media. We turn to doctors and medicines. We turn to insurance. It’s time for believers to realize that none of this is truly going to work. There is an answer, but it won’t come from any earthly source.
We need to realize that, as Christians, we have a power beyond the circumstances which we can access! And that power is prayer. Not the kind of prayer that the New Agers claim has power within itself, but the prayer that comes to the Throne of the Almighty, seeking His face. And this prayer can only come from believers.
The scripture begins, “If My people who are called by My name.” Christians. We are called by Christ’s name. This verse is so much about us! Our politicians can’t help us. Our bankers can’t help us. Even our friends can’t help us. But we can help them because we are the one called by His name! We are His people, His children, His heirs. We have access to the Throne of the Father. But we can’t just stand on the fact that we have access; we must use the access. We must pray.
There are three things the scripture says we must do:
(1) humble ourselves
(2) pray and seek His face
(3) turn from our wicked ways.
I looked at a lot of dictionaries for the definition of “humble” and found this: “to make someone understand that they are not as important or special as they thought they were.” I’m not good at being humble.. I really like to think that my opinions are educated, wise, and important. I tend to foist them on others rather than submitting to someone else’s opinion. Some words I found related to “humble” are meek, unassuming, modest, resigned, quiet, submissive. The interesting thing is that we, as believers, need to humble ourselves prior to praying. For me, that means most that I’m likely wrong in what I think and need to submit myself to the Lord’s will and His guidance. My way of getting myself out of a fix is likely to simply add to the problem, not solve it. Interestingly enough, the Lord’s way is often to submit to the person who’s harmed me and then trust Him to work all things for my good. I don’t understand how that works, but I know it does!
The second thing we must do is pray and, in doing so, seek His face. This isn’t an impersonal meeting where we send God our list of needs by memo. This is a personal time of worship and interaction where we get to know His character and submit ourselves to His will. We have the right to enter into the holy of holies, the very throne room of the Almighty God and there to interact with Him. To tell Him of our fears, our concerns, to confess our sins, and to listen to His wisdom and His love for us. This isn’t something we can do quickly or expediently. It is something that demands our time, our efforts, our very soul in the process.
The third thing we must do is to turn from our wicked ways. That means first admitting that we actually have wicked ways. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins.” When was the last time you confessed your sins, even just to yourself? In confessing our sins, we need to not only confess the sins of which we are aware, but to ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate those things to us that we thought weren’t sins. But it’s not enough simply to confess; we must turn from those sins. We must choose obedience over rebellion.
The wonderful thing is that if we do these three things, God Himself will not only forgive us, but He will heal our land. Notice that He didn’t tell us to change the laws or demonstrate against unrighteousness (though there’s nothing wrong with doing those things). He Himself will heal the land.
If this verse is true, then we are Christians are the problem with America. We have failed to humble ourselves, to pray and seek God’s face, and to turn from our wicked ways. We are so busy trying to change our neighbor that we forgot. The Holy Spirit calls on us to change ourselves! We, the believers in America, hold the key to the healing of our country. The question is, are we willing to trust God’s Word, to believe in His promise, and then to act on it?