2 Chronicles 7:13-14
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.
We have heard this passage from 2 Chronicles quoted several times since the Coronavirus Pandemic began; and I saved it for today: Our National Day of Prayer! Although I realize this is being sent out quite late in the day, I hope it will impact our thoughts and attitudes about prayer everyday….
I believe the context of 2 Chronicles 7 is important for us to review. Beginning with Chapter 1 of 2 Chronicles, we learn about the heart of King Solomon and his prayer for wisdom. God granted the request along with wealth, possessions, and honor. Then beginning in Chapter 2, the narrative shifts to preparations for the building of the Temple, and construction begins in Chapter 3. The furnishings are reviewed in Chapter 4, and the entire work was completed in Chapter 5 when the Ark of the Covenant was brought into the innermost sanctuary (Holy of Holies) of the temple. There were sacrificial offerings and worship, and the manifested glory of God filled the temple as a cloud…. I invite you to read this historical account when you have the time….
But it is Chapter 6 that sets the stage for our call to prayer. Here, Solomon addresses the assembly to bless them and then offers a public prayer of dedication. He expounds that the Temple cannot contain the God of Heaven; but Solomon asks that God be attentive to the prayers and supplications offered before Him there, and to hear from heaven … to forgive, to judge, to heal, to restore, and to show mercy. What you will note in his prayer, is the acknowledgement that people will sin against God – for there is no one who does not sin. (Verse 36) But the holiness of God has to address the issue of sin. There is an expectation of repentance on the part of people and forgiveness on the part of God. And this interaction is what occurs during prayer. God judges the sin … but He is sovereign to justify the repentant sinner….
In Chapter 6, as Solomon prayed, there is a list of the judgments or afflictions that he shared as examples:
1. When anyone wrongs their neighbor and is required to take an oath before the altar
2. When the nation is defeated by an enemy because they have sinned
3. When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because your people have sinned
4. When famine or plague comes to the land; blight or mildew; locusts or grasshoppers
5. When enemies besiege in the cities; whatever disaster or disease
Solomon goes on praying, asking the Lord God to be responsive to prayers offered:
1. When the foreigner (outsider) come and pray toward the Temple, grant their prayers for Your glory
2. When the nation goes to war against their enemies … grant their prayers and uphold their cause.
3. When people sin and repent … forgive and restore them.
Beginning in Chapter 7, when Solomon finished praying, the text states that “fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple! What a powerful manifestation … revelation of God in response to prayer! The people saw the power of God fall, knelt with their faces to the ground, worshiped, and gave thanks to God. And then an incredible time of sacrifice and worship followed these events over the next seven days. And this sets the stage for our verse:
2 Chronicles 7:11-16 (NIV)
11 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, 12 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. 13 “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, 14 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. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. 16 I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.
Did you note the word “when” in Verse 13? It indicates that God will engage or allow His natural creation to bring affliction to His people. We could view the ensuing suffering and consequence as judgment for sin; but perhaps, the purpose of God is to recapture our attention. Maybe these things “happen” because of sin … our sinful nature … and God wants us to recognize we have offended Him; that we have transgressed His commandments and need to repent. He desires us to repent, to seek forgiveness, and to receive restoration. It is not about what God allows to happen to us; it is about our response to God’s correction and discipline! It is about our hearts … our sorrow … our reverence and love for God. Whatever happens … whatever we observe or encounter in our physical life … it should prompt reflection and repentance and restoration in our spiritual life. As Solomon prayed:
2 Chronicles 6:28-31 (NIV)
28 “When famine or plague comes to the land, or blight or mildew, locusts or grasshoppers, or when enemies besiege them in any of their cities, whatever disaster or disease may come, 29 and when a prayer or plea is made by anyone among your people Israel—being aware of their afflictions and pains, and spreading out their hands toward this temple— 30 then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Forgive, and deal with everyone according to all they do, since you know their hearts (for you alone know the human heart), 31 so that they will fear you and walk in obedience to you all the time they live in the land you gave our ancestors.
What you and I do in prayer … how we respond to God in whatever situation or circumstance He brings into our lives … impacts relationship with Him and reflects our faith in Him. It means that we should keep a humble spirit and attitude. It means that we should realize we are not perfect and need to repent and confess our sins to Him. God wants us to carefully observe His commands … and to endeavor to fulfill His will in our lives. (Cf. Deuteronomy 4:6; 11:22) But when we fail, we need to see it. We need to recognize it and respond in humility and transparency. As the Apostle John affirmed: “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (Cf. 1 John 1:9) Father God wants us to enter His presence and to seek Him. He is willing to hear … willing to forgive … willing to heal. But His response is conditional. It is conditioned upon our willingness to humble ourselves; to pray; to seek His face; and to turn from our sinfulness. This is the key to effectiveness in prayer. This is the message for the Prodigal … for the wayward and lost! God wants the attention of His people, and He will allow adversity to accomplish His desire.
So in our prayer time, let us humble ourselves and seek God while He is near. While we are still and focused, let us repent of every sin that offends and separates us from intimate fellowship with God. And let us give thanks to God for Lord Jesus Christ … for His atoning sacrifice and redemption. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; yet God did not leave us in a desolate place of hopelessness. God is far too concerned about the destructive power of sin and its assault our well-being. So He laid the iniquity of us all upon His Son to rescue us from the dominion of darkness and to bring us into the kingdom of the Son He loves. (Cf. Isaiah 53:6; Colossians 1:13) Yes, let us praise God today for His mercy and grace. And may we fear God with all reverence and walk in the obedience of faith. As Paul urged: “Whatever happens, let us conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ. (Cf. Philippians 1:27)