Is 2nd Chronicles 7:14 a Prayer that Applies to America? (And if Not, What Prayer Does Apply to America?)
Dr. James J. S. Johnson
“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 I will forgive their sin and I will heal their land.” (2nd Chronicles 7:14)
The easy answer to this question is: “No, 2nd Chronicles 7:14 is not a prayer-formula for America – for the simple reason that America, generally speaking, is not God’s people”.
Yet the more relevant question is this: can the repentance/humility/prayer principle of 2nd Chronicles 7:14 be applied to Christians in America, since real Christians (during the “times of the Gentiles”, at least – see Luke 21:24 & Romans 11:25) have a right to call themselves God’s people (Acts 15:14). And that is true for non-American Christians too!
On the other hand, however, it should be observed that the immediate context of 2nd Chronicles 7:14 – as shown by 2nd Chronicles 7:12 (which reports God speaking to King Solomon) — indicates that the phrase “My people, who are called by My name”, refers to the nation of Israel that had just consecrated Solomon’s Temple for the worship of the LORD.
11 Thus Solomon finished the house of the Lord, and the king’s house: and all that came into Solomon’s heart to make in the house of the Lord, and in his own house, he prosperously effected. 12 And the Lord appeared to Solomon by night, and said unto him, I have heard thy prayer, and have chosen this place to Myself for an house of sacrifice. 13 If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people — 14 If My people, which are called by My name, shall 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. 15 Now Mine eyes shall be open, and Mine ears attend unto the prayer that is made in this place. 16 For now have I chosen and sanctified this house, that My name may be there forever: and Mine eyes and Mine heart shall be there perpetually. 17 And as for thee, if thou wilt walk before me, as David thy father walked, and do according to all that I have commanded thee, and shalt observe My statutes and My judgments; 18 Then will I establish the throne of thy kingdom, according as I have covenanted with David thy father, saying, There shall not fail thee a man to be ruler in Israel. 19 But if ye turn away, and forsake My statutes and My commandments, which I have set before you, and shall go and serve other gods, and worship them; 20 Then will I pluck them up by the roots out of My land which I have given them; and this house, which I have sanctified for My name, will I cast out of My sight, and will make it to be a proverb and a by-word among all nations. 21 And this house, which is high, shall be an astonishment to everyone that passes by it; so that he shall say, Why hath the Lord done thus unto this land, and unto this house? 22 And it shall be answered, Because they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, which brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, and laid hold on other gods, and worshipped them, and served them: therefore hath He brought all this evil upon them.
[Quoting 2nd Chronicles 7:11-22, including prophecies since fulfilled repeatedly.]
Could it be that an attempt to apply this verse to Christians, living on Earth during the Church Age, is out-of-context (i.e., anachronistic) “replacement theology”?
Not to worry! There is, Scripture, an example of a Gentile nation – that feared God, and repented of its national wickedness, and collectively humbled itself (at the national level) before God, and that Gentile nation pled for His mercy and forbearance!
1 And the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time, saying, 2 Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee. 3 So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of 3 days’ journey. 4 And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet 40 days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. 5 So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. 6 For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. 7 And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: 8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn everyone from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. 9 Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from His fierce anger, that we perish not? 10 And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of [lit., “was relieved of”] the evil, that He had said that He would do unto them; and he did it not. (Jonah 3:1-10, emphasis added)
That wicked Gentile nation (which could be called an imperial city-state), more than 2½ thousand years ago, became repentant at an almost unbelievable scale, was the Assyrian city of Nineveh, in response to the doomsday preaching of the (reluctant) prophet Jonah.
And the example of Nineveh’s national repentance – and prayer for God’s mercy – illustrates a Gentile society that asked for and obtained God’s mercy, at a time when that society almost experienced the total opposite of God’s mercy.
Ironically, if Jonah would have had his way (see Jonah 4:1-3 & 4:9), the Ninevites would have been destroyed in heavenly fire as was Sodom and Gomorrah!
Obviously Nineveh’s revival was unprecedented – and there likely hasn’t been anything like it since!
Amazingly, the passive form of the Hebrew verb nâḥam, which is translated as “repented” in Jonah 3:10 (and in Joel 2:13 & Jeremiah 26:3) is elsewhere translated as “comforted” (i.e., “is relieved”) in Genesis 24:67 & 37:35, — so the main idea is that God is “relieved” of the need to punish when we genuinely repent of our sins and plead for His mercy.
Accordingly, when God is about to judge sinful behavior – whether it be personal or corporate, self-judgment of that sin invites God’s mercy and forbearance (compare 1st Corinthians 11:31-32 & 1st John 1:9 with Jeremiah 17:7-8 & Joel 2:12-14a).
Amazing! God’s inclination to punish sin is affected by — relieved by — our repentant humility; our plea for mercy actually relieves God!
However, can we (modern Gentiles) rely on the national repentance of Nineveh, in reaction to the preaching of Jonah — as a general principle that God will do likewise — if a Gentile society undergoes similar humility and begs His mercy?
Happily, the answer is YES, based upon a promise delivered by the prophet Jeremiah, who served God years after the Ninevites’ revival.
7 At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; 8 If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them.
[Quoting Jeremiah 17:7-8.] What a comforting promise God gave through Jeremiah!
Thankfully, we have a divine Editor who theologically corrects our sincere prayers for God’s grace – that divine Editor is none other than God the Holy Spirit, Who dwells inside every true Christian (see Romans 8:26-27).
So, we should pray without ceasing (1st Thessalonians 5:17; Romans 1:9; Acts 12:5; 2nd Timothy 1:3), for God’s mercy , at the personal level — and also for whatever group you (or I) belong to – including your extended family and your nation (Jeremiah 29:7)!
Let God the Holy Spirit adjust the theology of your prayer, on the way “up”, but there is no prayer to edit if no prayer is being prayed! So, let’s remember God’s mercy to the Ninevites, and pray accordingly!
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