FORGET NONE OF HIS BENEFITS
volume 19, number 52, December 24, 2020
“If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” -2 Chronicles 7:13,14
John Winthrop, while standing on the bow of the Arbella in the Spring of 1630, prior to his departure to the new world, gave the most important sermon in the second millennium, A City on a Hill. In it Winthrop laid out the Puritan vision for the new world, that which has clearly served as the foundation for so much of what is good in our country, including our Protestant work ethic, the importance of education, and treating all people with honor and respect. The next generation provided us with Cotton Mather of Boston, a great preacher and theologian who was fluent in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew by the time he was ten, and who is the youngest to enter Harvard, having done so at the age of eleven. The following generation gave us the greatest philosopher and theologian in our history, Jonathan Edwards, whose writings are now more popular than ever. But then we began to see a change in the fabric of American Christianity. Charles Finney, a Presbyterian, dismissed the Westminster Confession of Faith, denied the doctrine of total inability, and consequently developed “new measures” which he used to urge conversion to Christ, an early form of “decisional regeneration.” That is, someone can pray a prayer and “ask Jesus into his heart” and then be sure he is born again. Asahel Nettleton, also a Presbyterian (both were born in Connecticut), stood against Finney and his new measures, but Finney won a larger, more popular following than Nettleton. Consequently Finney’s theology has generally held sway over Nettleton’s Old School Presbyterianism ever since. By the middle of the Nineteenth century there came on the scene the most famous man of the day, the son of Lyman Beecher, the brother of Harriett Beecher Stowe. I am referring to Henry Ward Beecher, a great orator and pastor from Brooklyn who became incredibly rich by pulpit, print, and platform (preaching, publishing novels, sermons, and newspapers, and lecturing all over the country). Beecher seemed to deny the most basic doctrines of the faith, and was said to look out any given Sunday on his congregation and find ten of his mistresses sitting there.
But we have fallen even further in our own day with Your Best Life Now, written by Joel Osteen, published in 2004 with a ten year anniversary edition in 2014, no doubt to take advantage of new readers. The book has sold well over 8 million copies, being one of the most popular “Christian” books ever published. We have fallen from a God-centered, Christ-exalting, Spirit-anointed, man-debasing theology to one that dethrones God and places man at the center of everything. The glory has departed. Only seventeen percent of Americans (whether they are Roman Catholics, mainline Protestants, or Evangelicals) are in church on any given weekend. Only seven percent are evangelical in our nation. There are only around 26 million evangelical believers in the United States.
It is not a stretch to say that I fear we are in the midst of losing our Republic. I have been following the election fraud issue pretty closely since the November 3rd Presidential election and there seems to be massive evidence of fraud. In one poll 40% of registered voters believe enough voter fraud occurred to influence the outcome of the election. If this is true, and if nothing is done to rectify the situation, then all our systems (legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the government) on the national and state levels have failed. If we lose election integrity then we have forfeited our representative form of government. We are in serious trouble in the United States. The degree of perversion, violence, corruption, and division in our country is palpable. What must we do?
Over the next several weeks I hope to take up the wonderful promise in 2 Chronicles 7:14, a powerful passage about revival, “. . . and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
This, of course, is a well known passage of Scripture which many love to cite for the benefit of their nation. However, in order to apply this properly we must understand the context of the passage. Solomon has just completed the construction of the temple in Jerusalem. After the dedication of the temple, after the prayers of thanksgiving were offered to Yahweh, the glory of the Lord (the Shekinah glory) fell on God’s covenant people and they humbled themselves, bowing down to the ground, and praising Him saying, “Truly He is good, truly His lovingkindness is everlasting,” (2 Chronicles 7:1-3). Sacrifices were then offered on the altar and the magnificent feast of dedication was offered to the Lord. After all of this, Yahweh then appeared to Solomon and said to him, “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice.”
However, Yahweh then says that the lack of rain will be a sign of judgment to them, as will the visitation of the locust, as will the devastation of pestilence which would kill many people. Yahweh is making clear to Solomon that so called natural calamities are not happenstance. Yahweh declares that He is the one who brings them. He says the same thing in Isaiah 45:7, Amos 3:6, and Daniel 9:12-14. There are always consequences for idolatry and the exchange of the true and living God for false ones.
Please note the structure of the marvelous promises in 2 Chronicles 7:14. This is vital for our understanding if we are likewise to take full advantage of what He is saying here. Yahweh is promising three things—He would hear from heaven, He would pardon their sins, and He would heal their land (remove their affliction). Furthermore, Yahweh lends further clarification to these three promises. He makes two designations as to the recipients of His promises. He calls them “My people.” They are the covenant people of God, those whom He had chosen, the apple of His eye. And they are the ones who call upon His name for help and deliverance, “who are called by My name.” And then He makes clear the four necessary conditions for these three promises to be fulfilled. One, if they humble themselves. Two, if they pray. Three, if they seek the face of God. And four, if they turn from their wicked ways.
In addressing Solomon, Yahweh goes further to say that if he will walk before Him as David, Solomon’s father did, then Yahweh would establish His royal throne with Solomon and he would never lack a man to rule in Israel. If, however, he or his descendants were to turn away from Yahweh then He would uproot them from the land and cast them out of His sight.
So the 2 Chronicles 7 passage is an instructive paradigm for anyone, any family, and any church or nation. Note these two vital principles—trial and hardship are the norm, not the exception; and the rejection of God unleashes untold wickedness, perversion, and murder which all too often invade the homes of God’s people.
Concerning physical, familial, or financial woes, please note that these are not accidents. They are not from the devil. They are not happenstance or random. God allows them. But why? I propose to answer this “million dollar” question next week, but for now, please understand this vital point—in the afflictions which befall God’s people, He is always tender hearted and full of compassion (James 5:11, Psalm 103:8-13). When Yahweh calls you “My people” He is saying that He cannot, He will not forget you. He will never leave you “high and dry.” He will never desert you. He is always your very present help in time of trouble. When you call upon Him in a day of trouble He promises to deliver you so that you may, in turn, glorify Him (Psalm 50:15). He will never leave you nor will He forsake you. He always sticks closer than a brother. He promises to make all things right on the day of His return. He will sum up everything in Christ (Psalm 23:4, Ephesians 1:10, Romans 8:38,39, Revelation 213,4, Proverbs 18:24). So, even though we may very well face some very hard days in the future, you can and must run to our great God of refuge. He will sustain you as you call upon Him.
1 Seeking a Revival Culture: Essays on Fortifying an Anemic Church, Allen Baker, page 1.
2 The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher, by Debby Applegate.
3 Wall Street Journal, “The Decline of Evangelical America,”December 15, 2012
4 <today.yougov.com> November 19, 2020.