I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone who would say that 2 Chronicles is his favorite book of the Bible. Most of us only read through Chronicles when we are reading through the entire Bible. The genealogies and head counts aren’t exactly the kind of things that stir within us a hunger for more of God’s Word. With that being said, I imagine that 2 Chronicles 7:14 was preached from quite a few American pulpits this past Sunday in preparation for Independence Day. If not, there was a lot of Twitter debate going on this week for little reason.
It seems to me that the debate included a lot of people talking past one another. I’m guessing that if the two “sides” actually sat down and discussed how to interpret and apply this verse, they wouldn’t be that far apart. In the spirit of trying to turn down the heat, I’m offering a few brief thoughts on how to interpret this oft preached verse of Scripture.
1. The historical context of 2 Chronicles 7:14 cannot be ignored.
This is a basic principle of biblical interpretation. It’s one that must be followed regardless of the passage we set out to preach. We wouldn’t dare read the words of God in Genesis 3 and ignore that God was speaking to Adam, Eve, and the serpent. We wouldn’t dare read 1 Corinthians without recognizing that Paul was dealing with some pretty serious issues in the church at Corinth.
Yet there are some verses or passages of Scripture where the historical context is routinely ignored. Philippians 4:13, Jeremiah 29:11, and yes, 2 Chronicles 7:14 come to mind. We do our people a disservice when we do not help them see the importance of reading the Bible in its context. We must remember that a passage of Scripture cannot mean something to us that it didn’t mean to the original recipients. I’m preaching to the choir here. You know these things, but it’s worth being reminded of them from time to time.
2. There seems to be some pretty clear application to the church.
Who are the “my people” in 2 Chronicles 7:14? When we consider the original context, we quickly discover that the Lord is talking about His chosen people, the people of Israel. But does that mean that 2 Chronicles 7:14 has nothing to say to us today? Of course not! We don’t take that approach to Paul’s letters. Why would we take that approach to 2 Chronicles?
We are the people of God. God delights in the prayers of His people. God does want us to seek His face. When we sin, God desires for us to repent. And we can be sure that when we pray, seek the Lord’s face, and return to Him in repentance, He will hear our prayer and extend healing and forgiveness to us. If you need a New Testament verse to back that up, 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
It may take a little extra work to rightly apply 2 Chronicles 7 to the church than it does 2 Corinthians 7, but that doesn’t make it any less applicable.
3. It is not wrong to make application to our nation.
The application here is not as clear and requires us to be a bit more careful. But I am reminded of Proverbs 14:34. It says, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” Would it be a good thing for Christians in America to humble themselves, pray, seek the Lord’s face, and turn from their sin? Do we think the Lord is more likely to bless that kind of behavior among His people than He is to bless the opposite behavior? I think so.
We should not see 2 Chronicles 7:14 as directly addressing the United States of America. God was speaking to a particular people at a particular time with a particular word. But that doesn’t mean that the principles gleaned from God’s Word in 2 Chronicles 7 should be ignored by all future generations.
May God use His Word to motivate us to humility, prayer, and repentance. And may He pour out on us the healing and forgiveness that is only found in the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Note: Steve Gaines wrote a much better article on this same subject that was published in Baptist Press on July 3. Since I had already started writing this one when I read his article, I decided to go ahead with it anyway. But I hope you will consider reading his article as well.