"If My People..."
“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
This is an oft quoted verse by Christians, claiming a promise from God for the restoration and healing of our country, the United States of America. As far as that goes, it isn’t a terrible thing. But it is often done out of ignorance or glibly, and that is a problem.
First, we quote it out of context, and that is always a dangerous thing. Who is speaking? Obviously God, but under what circumstances and to whom? Read this larger segment:
“When Solomon had finished the temple of the LORD and the royal palace, and had succeeded in carrying out all he had in mind to do in the temple of the LORD and in his own palace, the LORD appeared to him at night and said: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices. When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 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. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.” (verses 11-16)
We see that God is speaking directly to King Solomon after he finished the Temple to God. In return, God is telling him the conditions of His residence in the temple and something about the nature of His relationship with the nation of Israel. Therefore, it is not a blanket promise to anyone who follows Him, but is specific to Israel.
As tempting as it is for us in Texas to latch on to the drought clause right now, we need to hold on and tread lightly. Note how God says “when I shut up the heavens…,” not “if I shut up the heavens…” He is stating clearly that He WILL do these things. By implication from verse 14, He does this because of national sin.
Does this mean that every drought in every location or any other natural disaster is the result of national sin? NO. (Rev. Robertson, are you reading this??) He is very specific that ‘natural disasters’ that afflict Israel will be the result of Israel’s national sin. This is very consistent with His promises to Israel to bless them in times of obedience to such a level that the nations of the world will be in awe of the unnatural success of Israel. In the same manner, their disobedience will bring upon them such unnatural destruction that the other nations will be in awe. (Look up this Chronicles passage and keep reading.) It is all for the purpose of demonstrating that the God of Israel is a living God and no mere idol. Understanding this purpose is key to understanding the intent of His promises.
As the church, we are not a kingdom of this world (John 18:36), nor are we a nation with a geography that can be mapped. Therefore, claiming a promised tied to a nation or a piece of real estate is extremely problematic. We are to infiltrate all nations and bring the seeds of redemption to all tribes, tongues, and peoples.
At best, only a nation that claims a national identity based on Christ could hope to claim this promise. But such a claim must of necessity be explicitly given by God, for the reasons given above. Just having a state church or a spiritual people is insufficient. It is even more problematic for a nation like the U.S., because we are merely founded on Christian principles.
Yes, many of the founders were Christians, or at least steeped in a Christian culture. However, by making the national government explicitly secular, they weakened any national claim to be a nation of people called by His name. This is an inconvenient truth, but it is truth. Compare our national laws to those handed down by God to Israel, and there is a correlation, but not an identity—they are not the same—God’s laws for the nation of Israel are explicitly meant to direct national worship, something this nation’s founders explicitly avoided, and for good reason. Good reason or no, it does tie our hands somewhat in calling us a Christian nation, especially with the current level of pluralism, which cannot legally be redirected/restricted via government action.
There are other problems with claiming this verse for us as Americans, and then there’s the problem of, “Ok, then, now what are we left with?” We’ll look at those issues tomorrow and maybe the next day.