If My People …

If My People….

     Three decades ago, Francis Schaeffer authored a book entitled “How Should We Then Live.”  It depicted the history of the world and our country in its progressive departure from God in all areas of life over the last several centuries.  He chronicled the stages that occurred showing that each generation was more decadent than the preceding one.  Since his time, our country has not slowed in its downward spiral.  Two decades ago, our country was shamed and startled by flagrant immorality in the oval office.  The judicial part of the government has determined that it is just and acceptable to murder our unborn.  The legislative branch of our country has declared sinful lifestyles to be acceptable.  The educational system is doing its best to deny the existence of God.  The word tolerant is being redefined to mean that any one else’s viewpoint is as valid as our own.  As we consider the current presidential candidates there seems to be little hope for leadership with any integrity.  We may well cry out with the psalmist “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3)  It is to such a cry that the Lord responds in II 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 will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

The healing of our land, then, according to this passage, must be initiated by God’s people.  It begins with the instruction to humble ourselves.  Deuteronomy 8:2-3 describes this process of humbling.  “Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.  He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.”  This humbling was initiated by the Lord in order for them to realize that the Lord was their only resource and that He was the only resource that they needed.  To humble themselves they must recognize and rejoice in the realization that the Lord always knows what is needed, will supply it at the perfect moment, and may use sources and means that may be beyond their comprehension.  This humbling of themselves was to become so complete that it would refuse to satisfy needs or wants outside His will, knowing that it is “his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  (Romans 12:2)

Humbling of ourselves find its fullest expression in prayer.  The recognition of our need and His supply should produce a never ending symphony of adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication.  It expresses a recognition of our weakness and of His strength.  It is the prayer that looks to the Lord moment by moment for His supply whether that need be emotional, physical or spiritual.  Our deepening recognition of His gracious providence leads to a desire to know Him more deeply, as expressed in Hosea 6:3.  “So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord.  His going forth is as certain as the dawn and He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain watering the earth.” (NASB)  David expresses this desire in Psalm 27:4.  “One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek:  that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.”  In this same psalm David relates that this desire culminates in verse eight, where he states.  “My heart says of you, ‘Seek his face!‘  Your face, LORD, I will seek.”

The experience of seeking the face of the Lord and actually having a vision of His glory had a universal effect on those to whom this vision was permitted.  This effect is described in Isaiah 6:5.  “‘Woe to me!’  I cried.  ‘I am ruined!  For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”‘  In the light of His Glory, all that is unlike Him is made visible, and laid bare for our eyes to behold.  The greater the consciousness of His Holiness, the greater the consciousness of our sin.  It is in coming into the presence of perfect Light that our uncleanness may be discovered.  It is in seeking His face that we become conscious of all in our lives that is unlike Him, all of that over which we have retained control, and all the parts of our lives in which we have never consulted Him.  These are without God’s control or direction which is another way of saying that they are ungodly.  The word “ungodly” is used repeatedly in Psalm 1 for which the NIV substitutes the word “wicked.”

What, then, are the wicked ways described in II Chronicles 7:14?   These ways, (ungodly or wicked) need not be areas of noticeable sinful behavior.  They may be, on the contrary, unnoticed and unobservable to anyone except God Himself.  They are  ungodly because God is excluded.  To conduct our business, our home, and any other relationship without reference to His purpose, without recognition of His presence, and without reliance on his power is to be ungodly in those aspects of our lives.  It is to live our lives in Philippians 2:21, “For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ,” rather than in Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ, to die is gain.”

II Chronicles 7:14 was written to God’s people, to those called by His name.  If they were to humble themselves, pray, seek His face and turn from their wicked ways, then the Lord would hear, forgive their sin and heal their land.  They were written long ago to a nation which had its beginnings as a theocracy.  Do these words not also contain truth that applies to God’s people in other nations at other times, those who claim to be “one nation, under God?”   His promise is that He will “hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”  It is dependent upon humbling ourselves, prayer, seeking his face and turning from our wicked ways.  God has declared His terms of deliverance and the response is up to God’s people.  It was an open ended statement to them and it, likewise, is an open ended statement to us.  We will, as they did, determine the future of our land by our response to the Lord’s words as given in this passage of scripture.  “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.”  “If my people”….   “If”…

In Christ, Richard Spann

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