Phil Cox

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(Bible quotations are from the NIV unless otherwise stated)

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If my people will... what?

Those of us who've been around the Christian scene for a number of years will be familiar with the text of 2 Chronicles 7:14. Over twenty years ago, many of us even went to "If My People" - the musical. But - if you're one of the many British and other Christians who once took that scripture to heart - what does it mean to you now?

If we start two verses earlier, the text is:

the LORD appeared to him [Solomon] 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 will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

But I fear that many of us have reduced this down to "God will help our nation if we'll just pray more".

I'm sure that this reduced (non-Biblical, or at least inaccurate) version is true (at least in part) but surely those many thousands of us who received it as a real promise from God, should get back to remembering what it actually says, and doing it.

Can we notice first that:

It is God who sends drought, locusts and plague

I expect to have lost a few readers at that point - but that's what the text actually says.

Of course, we can find scientific or pseudo-scientific or socio-political reasons for all kinds of suffering but here's the bottom line: God is in control of all the Earth. Psalm 24:1-2 says "The earth is the LORDís, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it...". And He is a God of judgement as well as of love. Jeremiah 51:56 says "the LORD is a God of retribution; he will repay in full".

Secondly, let's see that the fundamental requirement for the healing of our land's problems is not better government or better education or better heathcare or better criminal justice. Rather, all these things are the result of God's blessing. What we need is for GOD to hear from heaven and ...forgive [our] sin and... heal [our] land .

Thirdly, let's see that God has promised to come as a response to the actions of His people - the Christians. And it follows that:

The state of our country is fundamentally the responsibility
of the Christians, who alone have the capacity
to fulfil God's stated conditions to be fulfilled
before He comes to heal our land.

Fourthly, let's realise that God's people are called to do four things - not one. It's more than an encouragement to pray a bit more. God promises to heal our land if we:

  • Humble ourselves
  • Pray
  • Seek His face
  • Turn from our wicked ways

Since this is what we are told to do, and since the promise of God is healing for our land if we do it, let's consider seriously what these instructions mean:

  • We must humble ourselves: Start by acknowledging that God is the absolute ruler of the universe and our role is to follow and obey Him - not merely ask Him to bless whatever we think we should be doing
  • We must pray: I'm sure we do - but God wants prayer that comes from a humble heart that says "Your Kingdom come. Your will be done on Earth". God hears the prayers of the humble and "The meek shall inherit the Earth".
  • We must seek His face: Not just pray for His blessing for us or our loved ones or our nation, but seek Him Himself. God wants a people who hunger and thirst for Him, not merely for what He can do.
  • We must turn from our wicked ways: Yes, we actually need to repent. Psalm 24: says "Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false". We need to be clean on the inside as well as the outside. Not the sort of hypocrites who say that the're OK becase of some sense of faith in the Atonement, but those whose salvation is proved each day by growing in holiness of living. And not those other hyporites who seem to be living good, holy lives but who are a mess of resentment, anger and hatred in their hearts.