Bethel Baptist Church
Worship Service @ Home
14 February 2021
Service available on Youtube, or as text (below), or for audio see the Podcasts page.Having difficulty hearing the video?
The Old Baptist Union is calling us to a special time of prayer today (Sunday 14 February) and tomorrow (Monday), for our nation at this time of great need. Details and prayer pointers are here.
“Seek the Lord and we will be blessed like the man in ‘The Parable of the Pearl’ (Matt.13:45-46). He sold everything he had and bought the pearl of great value. The Holy Spirit is our Guide and Helper in getting deeper into the riches of God’s Word for our blessing and enlightenment.”
“We are your people,
called by your Name,
We humble ourselves and pray (x2);
We turn from our sin,
and come to seek your face;
Hear from heaven,
and forgive our wicked ways;
Hear from heaven,
and heal our land today”
2 Chronicles 6:12-7:22
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 I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.2 Chron. 7:14
1 and 2 Chronicles was originally one book, (65 chapters in total), and is not the most popular one in the Bible, “despite its breathtaking scope, spanning all of Israel’s story from the creation of the world to the reconstruction following the Babylonian exile” (Steven Tuell). Yet, ancient sources show there is a very high regard concerning Chronicles in which we find “the meaning of the whole of sacred history” (Jerome), the whole gamut of God’s plan and purpose for Israel.
Chronicles was placed at the end of the Hebrew Bible and hence for the Jews and first-century Christians, the Scriptures covered Genesis to Chronicles. So when Jesus condemned the shedding of innocent blood from the blood of righteous Abel (recorded in Genesis 4:1-16) to the blood of Zechariah (recorded in 2 Chronicles 24:20-22) He was covering the whole of the Scriptures.
Today’s text is very well known one, and is often quoted, especially as an exhortation at prayer meetings, for God’s people to pray. The people of Israel really meant it when they committed themselves to obeying the covenant God had established between them. However, due to e.g. pride creeping in, and of them not guarding their hearts, thus allowing doubt, unbelief, and hardness to have centre stage, such led them to break the covenant again, and again. Solomon, the wisest man that’s ever lived, who himself didn’t live according to that wisdom at times, realises the weakness of human nature and includes it in his prayer to the Lord e.g.
“When your people Israel have been defeated by an enemy because they have sinned against you and when they turn back and give praise to your name, praying and making supplication before you in this temple, then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your people Israel and bring them back to the land you gave to them and their ancestors.”2 Chronicles 6:24-25
Afterwards we read:
When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. The priests could not enter the temple of the Lord because the glory of the Lord filled it.2 Chronicles 7:1-2
The Lord had obviously heard and accepted his prayer. However, it is only later, at night, that the Lord appeared to him and speaks to him:
the Lord appeared to him at night and said: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices”.2 Chronicles 7:12
The Lord responds to Solomon’s prayer acknowledging that this nation is an unstable people who will err in their ways and for this they will be chastened. But the Lord also gives the assurance that if they respond in the right way to His chastening then they will be blessed:
“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 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 I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”2 Chronicles 7:13-14
The whole of the Old Testament – the Tabernacle, the Temple, – shouts out that God is loving, kind, compassionate and merciful and that forgiveness flows from His heart to all who repent. If God’s people will do their part, He will do His! If they will humble themselves; will pray; will seek His face; will turn from their wicked ways – then God will hear; will forgive; and will heal their land! The New Covenant also begins with the call for God’s people to repent (cf. Matt. 3:2; 4:17).
“If my people who are called by my name”
There is no way around this, it is a condition “If…” and it’s all down to God’s chosen people. Their destiny is in their hands … ”If … “ There is no mistaking who God is referring to: “If my people, who are called by my name.” God’s people have been mightily blessed and yet with that comes great responsibility. We might ask what is the relevance of this to us today as these words were for the nation Israel, God’s chosen people with whom He made such a covenant. However, Paul, who started off living under the Old Covenant, but when he met Jesus, became part of the New, later writes about God’s dealings with Israel:
Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did … These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.1 Cor. 10:6,11
Note the general rule:
Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people.Proverbs 14:34
“the status of a nation is determined by the piety of its people rather than by the scope of its territory, the size of its treasury, or the extent of its military.”
B. K. Waltke
And again in Jeremiah:
If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned.Jer. 18:7-8
cf. also 2 Chron. 6:32-33). So what are God’s people required to do?
True repentance, which is what this is all about, begins with humility (subduing one’s pride and submitting oneself to God and His will). The fact that God is calling them to humble themselves means that they have become proud. God never wastes words, He says what He means and He means what He says. It is a great step forward in our spiritual development when we realise this, that we cannot mess with God. If He says it, He means it, He will never qualify something with the words, “I’m only joking!” It is not a pick and mix choosing what we want to obey and leaving what we don’t want. He will never change His mind on commands He has given, and He expects us to obey Him no matter what He has asked of us!
“The blessing of God still requires the response of faith, acted out in loving obedience to God’s revelation.”
“in this context is a shameless acknowledgement of personal sin and a plea for God’s mercy, much like that of David’s prayer of repentance (cf. Psalm 51:1-2).”
The nation is in the mess it is in because of its sin and there is a need to acknowledge this before the Lord and each other, whilst at the same time asking the Lord to have mercy!
“seek my face”
This means to worship the Lord in the Temple, to draw near to Him in the prescribed way but it was also used in contexts of repentance, or of general distress, e.g. 2 Chron. 20:3-4, and elsewhere it can refer to a general attitude towards God – e.g. 1 Chron. 16:10-11.
“turn from their wicked ways”
“‘Turn’ is one of the Old Testament’s main words for ‘repent’”
He [Zedekiah] also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him take an oath in God’s name. He became stiff-necked and hardened his heart and would not turn to the Lord, the God of Israel.2 Chron. 36:13
(note in verse 3 ‘he did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet’).
“then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land”
That is what we all want to be sure about that God has heard our prayer cf.
The priests and the Levites stood to bless the people, and God heard them, for their prayer reached heaven, His holy dwelling-place.2 Chron. 30:27
Having our sins forgiven is not like our initial commitment to Jesus Christ when all our sins were forgiven, we were justified. Rather it is a restoration of the close and intimate relationship we enjoy with our heavenly Father.
“Forgiveness and healing are part of the same work of God”
And the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people.2 Chronicles 30:20
which is God’s answer to a prayer for pardon by those who set their hearts to seek God. Healing the land can refer to bringing the exiles back to the promised land (Jer. 30:17; 33:6-7) or restoring the land and its people to peace and security (Jer. 33:6; Is. 57:19).
“‘Heal their land’ may justly be described … as a comprehensive phrase for the restoration of all God’s purposes for the people of Israel and for the Promised Land”
Questions for Discussion
- 2 Chron. 7:14 worked for Israel? Can it work for the Church?
- In what ways, if any, have we become proud?
- Do we really pray as a Church in this nation?
- Is there a danger that we might become too Old Testament in our thinking and forget all the remarkable benefits and blessings that are now ours in Jesus? e.g. “He is with us always”
- In what ways does our land need healing? What are some of the sins of the nation?
- Did the first lock-down teach us anything?
Quote for the Week
“God teaches us to love by putting some unlovely people around us. It takes no character to love people who are lovely and loving to you”
Verse of the week
When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the Lord above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshipped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying, ‘He is good; His love endures for ever.2 Chronicles 7:3
Heavenly Father, we pray “teach us to pray”, for we are conscious that often we don’t know what to pray. So let Your Holy Spirit pray in and through us, even with groans to deep for words, in Jesus Christ’s Name, Amen.