This is the time of year in Southern Baptist life when many churches start planning for what they refer to as revivals – a series of (usually) weeklong church meetings geared towards producing a spirit of revival or renewal in churches. Normally, what happens during these meetings is a guest speaker is invited to speak, sometimes guest musicians/choirs do their thing, and food is served afterwards.
Now, I am pro-revival. I believe the church is in constant need of being revived, renewed, and awakened. There should always be seasons in which the church assesses itself honestly, and enters into a time of repentance and renewal if need be. If God chooses to use a guest speaker, different choir, and banana pudding to bring about true revival, then so be it. That’s his call.
What concerns me, in keeping with the theme of this series of blogs, is that 99.9% of the time we’re going to hear one verse of scripture misused as a “prescription” for revival. That verse is 2 Chronicles 7:14, “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.” This verse is normally re-imagined to say something like “If Christians will repent and seek God, America will be restored as a Christian nation.”
How a passage that deals with a covenant God made with King Solomon fits into the narrative of America is anyone’s guess. I’m sure it has at least a little something to do with Scofield and his Bible study notes. Be that as it may, I am assured that 2 Chronicles 7:14 has nothing to do with America as a nation, or revival. That is not to say there isn’t wisdom and application for Christians living in the United States in 2012 found in the verse. There is. But, I must place 2 Chronicles 7:14 near the top of the most misused Bible verses. Let’s examine why.
The context. 2 Chronicles 7:14 is sandwiched in the middle of a passage that deals with the dedication of the first temple in Israel. As we all know, David was Israel’s greatest king, but he was not allowed to personally oversee the building the temple because, “God said to me, ‘You shall not build a house for My name, because you have been a man of war and have shed blood'” (1 Chronicles 28:3). The task of constructing Israel’s first temple went to Solomon, David’s son. The temple was very important because it signified God’s permanent presence among his people.
After the temple was built, Solomon retired for sleep and God appeared to him and made a covenant with him. The gist of the covenant was that if the hyper-sinning Israelites were ever in the midst of a drought, scourge of locusts, or plague, they were to repent and seek God, then he would forgive their sin and change their circumstances for their benefit. Likewise, he promised Solomon in the same breath that, if Solomon remained faithful to him, he would assure a physical Davidic ancestor to always sit on Israel’s throne. However, if Solomon were to forsake God’s commands and fall into idolatry, God would destroy the nation and the temple forever. (Read the entire passage in context here).
I think we all know how the story ended. Solomon married numerous wives, worshipped numerous gods, and wrote numerous books. Therefore, in 586 BCE, the temple was destroyed by the Babylonians. When a second temple was built it too was completely obliterated by the Romans in AD 70.
God means business when his covenants are broken!
From this context we can know for certain that 2 Chronicles 7:14 was intended for the nation of Israel, not the United States. Not that he couldn’t do it, but I don’t see where God is going to turn America into a Christian nation, at least in this passage. We can know that the passage had a prophetic dimension to it, and that the prophecy was fulfilled in full. Scripture and history testifies to this. So, what does 2 Chronicles 7:14 mean for us today?
It signifies the coming of Christ. God did indeed keep his promise to David as reiterated in 2 Chronicles 7:18. We find through the progressive revelation of scripture that God had something greater in mind when he made this promise to David. Jesus himself became the Temple, the Heir of David, and eternal King of Israel (the church).
God is still calling his people to prayer, repentance, and trust in him. These three points should be something we practice daily as Christians and as churches. We should always be about the business of seeking God’s face in every move we make, not just once a year during “revival” meetings. Likewise, we should always be letting God’s Word expose us (Hebrews 4:12), and lead us into the often painful and messy process of repentance.
God still forgives sin. The gospel says that God has forgiven sin through the blood of his Son Jesus. As Christians we should be reminding ourselves of this every day. It should also turn our hearts towards those who don’t know their sins have been forgiven. We are here to tell them.
America, though an exceptional nation, is not a Christian nation. This statement is sure to draw ire and accusations of being unpatriotic.Be that as it may, all statistics point to the fact that America is fast becoming one of the most un-Christian nations. Can anyone seriously watch more than 30 minutes of the news and tell me we’re the “my people” of 2 Chronicles 7:14? As a nation send more missionaries than any other country, we also receive more Christian missionaries than any other country. For all the things we may argue about what America is and is not, one thing’s for sure: America is a mission field.
Let’s pray for our country. Paul told Timothy that we should pray for our government leaders (1 Timothy 2:2). I rarely hear Christians pray for their leaders, especially those with whom they differ politically. Peter said that we should make it a point to live as as “God’s slaves” among our political and civic leaders (1 Peter 2:13).
In my estimation, 2 Chronicles 7:14 isn’t really a recipe for revival as much as it is a call to repentance. If we miss repentance, we’ll never experience revival. We’re better off just eating banana pudding.