Every Christian has a favorite Bible verse/s that they like to go back to over and over again. Like certain foods they bring comfort to our souls. They encourage us and offer us hope.
But there’s a danger here. The danger is that we make the Bible say something that it doesn’t actually say for the benefit of our own feelings. This seems to be especially true when that favorite passage is in the Old Testament. Does the Bible really say what we think it says?
Take for example one of the most quoted Old Testament passages, 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 will forgive their sin and heal their land.
I can’t tell you how many times that verse has been quoted in relationship to the United States – and I’m sure Christians around the world have applied it to their country as well. The idea is that if Christians will humble themselves, pray, seek the face of God and turn from their wickedness (although this is rarely applied personally – it is more often applied to those who don’t follow God, which is inconsistent with the prayer) then God will forgive our nation corporately and give us spiritual healing.
There are a number of problems with this understanding of the verse. The most significant problem is that it isn’t about the United States – or any other country, except one. This promise was given to Israel at the time of the dedication of the Temple under King Solomon and relates to a future time when Israel would seek national forgiveness. As a result of turning their collective back on God, they would be hit with a series of judgments (verse 13) including drought, locusts and pestilence. It was then, as the nation responded to God’s actions that they were promised forgiveness (spiritual healing) and healing of their land (important note – this relates to a physical healing after the physical devastations not a spiritual healing). This verse was spoken to a specific people/nation about a specific time/issue with specific judgments and specific spiritual and physical blessings. Any interpretation must fit into that framework.
Is it right for Christians today to humble themselves; to pray; to seek the face of God; and to turn from their wicked ways? Of course it is. If Christians do will God hear from heaven? We have His promise that He will. Will God forgive the repentant Christian? Yes. The scriptures teach all of this and more – in many passages – and I would encourage every Christian to follow this example.
Is it right for Christians to pray for their country; for a nationwide spirit of repentance; for God’s mercy? Certainly, and we should.
Where we run into problems is when we claim this verse as God’s iron-clad promise to us for national forgiveness and national spiritual healing. It wasn’t meant for us, it was meant for Israel. And no amount of wanting it to mean something different will change that.
Make sure that you make the Bible say what God intended it to say, not what you want it to say. Only then can we rely on it as truth for our lives.
Stay in the Word