[Note: This is a message I shared at my church Sunday, December 14, 2008. A related video follows.]
2 Chronicles 7:13-14 If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
The Bible is full of promises that we can cling to when things get rough. When we need encouragement, we often quote these verses to one another, or even to ourselves. Here are some of my favorites.
(Deuteronomy 31:6) Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.
(Isaiah 43:1-2) But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you.”
(Psalms 91:4-7) He will cover you with His pinions, And under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark. You will not be afraid of the terror by night, Or of the arrow that flies by day; Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness, Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon. A thousand may fall at your side And ten thousand at your right hand, But it shall not approach you.
(1 Corinthians 10:13) No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.
(Revelation 21:1-4) Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
And then there are the verses that we all know by heart.
(John 3:16) For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
(Psalm 23) The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
Comforting words. Strengthening words. Words we can cling to through our darkest hours. With all the things happening in our lives and in our country and in the world today, we would do well to make ourselves familiar with all of God’s promises. In the days ahead, I think we’re going to need them.
As the Holy Spirit leads us to the strength and comfort we need, though, we would also do well to remember that many of God’s promises are conditional. No, we don’t always like to hear about the conditions God puts on us, but we need to hear all of God’s words, not just the ones that make us feel good. So I’m going to read a few of these, also, and I ask you to focus on the conditions that God gives us, rather than just the promise.
(Matthew 6:14-15) For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.
(1 John 1:9-10) If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.
(Deuteronomy 4:29) But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.
(Psalms 37:4-6) Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light And your judgment as the noonday.
(Isaiah 58:10-11) And if you give yourself to the hungry And satisfy the desire of the afflicted, Then your light will rise in darkness And your gloom will become like midday. And the LORD will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.
(Acts 3:19-20) Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you.
(John 15:1-7) I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
And now we return to our scripture for today, 2 Chronicles 7:13-14
If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
God has been bringing this last verse to my mind over and over again lately, and He’s been impressing a couple things on me. The first is that this verse is not written to the people who don’t know the Lord. It’s not written to the atheist or the agnostic. It’s not written to the thief or the murderer or the adulterer. God addresses it to, “My people who are called by My name.” It doesn’t call the ungodly to humble themselves and pray and seek God’s face and turn from their wicked ways – it calls God’s people to humble themselves and pray and seek God’s face and turn from their wicked ways.
The second thing that struck me is the power He has given us. Have you ever thought about that? God has put the fate of our nation in our hands. If we humble ourselves and pray and seek God’s face and turn from our wicked ways, then God will heal our land. We are responsible for what happens to America – not the politicians in Washington, not the gamblers and crooks on Wall Street, not the thieves or the murderers in our midst. God’s people. Christians. We are responsible. Given the state of our country, I’d say we haven’t been doing a very good job of it.
And this verse doesn’t tell us to be activists and try to change what everybody else is doing. It doesn’t recommend that we personally fix all the problems that exist, because only God can do that. No, the only thing that we need to change is us. We need to humble ourselves. We need to pray. We need to seek God’s face. We need to turn from our wicked ways. And then … God will heal our land. He promised.
There’s an old song by Michael Card that’s based on this promise. Having been inspired by Jayme’s example, I made it into a movie and you are now going to see the premier.
Lord, have mercy upon us and show us our wicked ways, that we may repent. Humble us, Lord, that our pride may fall away, and we can pray and seek Your face with honest hearts. And as we respond to Your call, Lord, we remind You of Your promise and ask You to heal our land. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.