If My People, Part 2: Now What?
“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 I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
II Chronicles 7:14
Yesterday, I explained the primary reason why it is problematic for Christians to claim the above verse, namely that it is a promise explicitly given to the nation of Israel after the dedication of Solomon’s temple, and the context of the verse strongly implies a physical nation with real estate, something that the Church simply does not have (with the possible exception of Vatican City).
But, as Christians (literally, ‘those like Christ’), don’t we have more reason to claim that we are called by His Name than Israel (literally ‘strives with God’)? Yes, but we are not a nation, nor a “kingdom of this world.” Furthermore, as Christians, we are literally under a new covenant with God, and the Chronicles verse is made to those under the old. As St. Paul indicates (in Galatians, I think), why would we seek promises from the old covenant when the new is so much better?
Where does that leave us? Do we have any recourse when faced with natural disasters, war, political crises and the like?
Of course. God is still our Father and we are the Bride of Christ, so I suspect God just might be concerned about our circumstances. In fact, He tells us often to “pray without ceasing,” “ask anything in My Name,” and so on.
What we need to realize is that our role on this planet, and God’s purposes are more far-sighted than our circumstances, more long-term—in fact, eternal. Thus, it is often that God uses hard times to draw people to Himself.
“Yes, but isn’t that the spirit of the verse—now that I have your attention, come back to me and I’ll fix the problems?” “What about all the times in the Gospels where someone’s suffering is explicitly an opportunity for us to ask for Him to fix it and He waits for us to ask?”
Yes, to both questions. My point is simply that God’s reasons for things are more multifaceted and deeper than our penchant for simple theology.
C. S. Lewis stated that “Pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Rahm Emmanuel (in)famously said that “you never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” That’s hardly a ringing endorsement, however, the full Lewis quote says, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” In other words, God uses whatever circumstances it takes to call people to Himself. This is no mere ploy for political gain, He died to redeem us from our sin, and wants to make sure we get every opportunity to find that redemption and accept it.
To summarize, the trauma, pain, tragedy and fallenness of this world grieves God more than it does us, yet He allows it that redemption may find all who will ultimately accept it. We need to realize this and in our prayers, fight that all who will, do so quickly. At the same time, we should ask Him to end the trauma or disaster or whatever, so that folks will not be crushed and prosperity can return. His desire is to bless us, and all humans, yet that desire is secondary to bringing people to eternal life. Paul said that our crises are a “light and momentary affliction [that] is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” (2 Corinthians 4:17—interesting, given that today’s primary text is 2 Chronicles 7:14!)
So, while the 2 Chronicles verse is not a good proof text for us, the sentiment is valid and consistent with God’s desires and teachings from the New Testament, though more limited in scope in the context of God’s purposes.
What then can we learn from 2 Chronicles 7:14? After all, even the old covenant is meant for our instruction (2 Timothy 3:16), even if its promises do not directly relate to the Church. Come back tomorrow, because there is a lot to learn about securing God’s blessings, even for those under grace and not the law. (Romans 6:14)