If My People…

2 Chronicles 7:13-14

“If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people; 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.”

Here in 2020, we have seen some areas of the world where rain was withheld (Australia), a plague of locusts (Africa), and of course, the Coronavirus, which has frozen the whole world dead in its tracks. Keep in mind, God sends rain on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45), and sometimes his people suffer punishments intended for the wicked (disclaimer: I’m NOT saying that Coronavirus or the droughts or locusts this year are punishments from God, but that it is not unprecedented; consider Elijah in 1 Kings 17).

Verse 14 has been famous even in American politics; when Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan and Vice President Mike Pence took their Oath of Office, their left hand rested on a Bible opened to this verse. It’s one of my personal favorites as well. It is highlighted in my Bible, and it has been on my mind a lot recently, and I have seen it shared on social media more often in the past couple of weeks than usual.

The first time I actually heard this verse by itself (aside from reading it) was in 2016, when a conservative radio talk show host started talking about how far the United States had gone from the Lord, and how it needed a spiritual revival (as every nation on earth does).

“If my people, which are called by my name”

This verse is about Israel, but we do believe that those of us who obey God and follow after the Lord Jesus are God’s people: John says that we are God’s children now; here, in the present (1 John 3:2). And since we are part of “spiritual” Israel, we are called by God’s name as well.

“Shall humble themselves”

Peter says to “be clothed with humility (1 Peter 5:5).” Paul says, “Be kindly affectionate one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another (Romans 12:10).” We need to be humble in personal relationships, but even more in our relationship with God; his ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). He is in heaven, and we are on earth; therefore let your words be few (Ecclesiastes 5:2). We read in Isaiah 14 about someone who thought they were just as good as God, but was humbled: “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregations, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit (Isaiah 14:12-15).” Pharaoh refused to humble himself (Exodus 10:3). But remember who we are in God’s sight; we are all sinners; no one is better than anyone else.

“And pray”

Paul wrote to the Thessalonians to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Reading the Bible is important, and God’s words are obviously more important than our words, but he does not want our relationship with him to be one-sided. He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20); there is nothing too hard for him (Jeremiah 32:17). Jesus says, “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened unto you (Matthew 7:7).”

“And seek my face”

Seek the Lord while he may be found, and call upon him while he is near (Isaiah 55:6). There is only a limited time for each of us; life is the time to serve the Lord. God is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him (Hebrews 11:6).

“And turn from their wicked ways”

David wrote, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me (Psalm 66:18).” We all have “wicked” ways in us; no one is perfect. Ask God, “Search me, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24).” All have sinned and fall short (Romans 3:23). God does not care about what we have done in the past (and none of us are clean and pure as the wind-driven snow); he wants us to turn.

Then he says:

“Then will I hear from heaven”

Heaven is his dwelling place (1 Kings 8:39) and his throne (Isaiah 66:1). He is the creator of the universe; he made the sun, moon, stars, planets, and the earth.

“And will forgive their sin”

God is willing to remove our sins from us as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). He says, “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool (Isaiah 1:18).” He is able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy (Jude 24).

“And will heal their land”

Here in the 21st century, we don’t necessarily have “land” that needs healing. What this verse is essentially saying is that God will do good for us. Continuing on in Isaiah, “If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land (Isaiah 1:19).” The Lord says in Malachi, “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in his wings (Malachi 4:2).” It is written in Psalms that “The Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly (Psalm 84:11).”

This verse can be applied individually; read this verse and substitute your own name, make it more personal instead of national or communal.

This verse is an “if-then” statement. God gives us a choice; we don’t have to obey him; most people don’t. But he tells us what the consequences are for obeying and disobeying: “I set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live (Deuteronomy 30:19).”

We look forward to the greater day of healing, when Jesus will bring peace, truth, and righteousness to a sick and troubled world. Then will no one say to their neighbor or brother, “know the Lord,” for all will know him from the least unto the greatest (Jeremiah 31:34). In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endures. He will have dominion from sea to sea, and from the river even unto the ends of the earth (Psalm 72:7-8).

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