Monday, June 13, 2011

‘If My People... Humble Themselves’

“Then the Lord appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: ... ‘if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land’.”

~2 Chronicles 7:12a, 14 (NRSV).

This is clearly one of the most famous passages in the whole of the Old Testament and, indeed, it’s often seen as summarising the entirety of the Chronicler’s God-inspired message. Many see it as invoking revival — if nations would only heed this Sovereign call of God.

But, it’s as much a message to the individual as anything, notwithstanding the sheer weight of its truth as an eternal message to the Church — those “called” by God’s name.

The Structure of the Promise

The promise is conditional and it exists with four parts, all completely conditional on the first word of verse 14: “if”... “if my people...”

1. If they will humble themselves – they give way to truth and they open the way to the more affirmative actions that follow. No sinner can truly turn back to God without humbling themselves before the truth.

2. If they will pray – they agree that communion with God is required for any sense of turnaround. This is noting the knowledge of God’s will as inspired and revealed through prayer. Prayer is also how we verbally commit to action.

3. If they will seek God’s face – they will be seeking to know the Lord’s will, and they will find out what is really important to God. The Aaronic blessing of Numbers 6:24-26 resonated the fact of the importance of “God’s face” to the Israelites. It’s just as important for us too.

4. If they will turn from their wicked ways – they’ll be abiding to faithfulness that really does justify belief. It is true repentance to turn from and about-face and march in the other, right and just, direction. This acting in repentance — to ‘”turn” — should be a continual process.

The Outworking of the Promise

As is suggested further up, many have vaunted ‘the revival’ and many have prayed for it. Church fellowships, cities and entire nations of believers — “people, who are called by [God’s] name” — have fasted and prayed for national revival and there has been evidence of revival. Prayer for the revival of our nations is God-blessed and always will be.

But as much these days is the importance of this theology for the individual, for the individual has a great advantage over entire fellowships and nations. Change begins with us, and a transformation within our hearts.

It happens much easier for one person than it happens for an entire nation.

If we, as individuals, apply the very same formula by humbling ourselves, praying, seeking God’s face and turning from our flesh-led ways, we too will enjoy the blessings of God regarding powerful change and revival in our personal and interpersonal lives.

Indeed, this is exactly what the new-born believer is doing when they commit wholeheartedly to the Lord Jesus, and whenever any believer re-commits.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Further Reading:

Richard L. Pratt, 1 and 2 Chronicles – A Mentor Commentary (Fearn, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 1998), pp. 247-49.

Andrew Stewart, A House of Prayer – The Message of 2 Chronicles (Darlington, England, Evangelical Press, 2001), pp. 91-92.

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