In Eat this Book, Eugene Peterson teaches us to chew on a passage of scripture, digest it, and put it to use in practical ways. Our Christian fathers and mothers called this process Lectio Divina. In this passage, we are reminded that when we seek God, God responds.
II CHRONICLES 7:14 (CEB) – PRAY, SEEK, AND TURN
” . . . . if my people who belong to me
will humbly pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways,
then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.”
This beautiful passage addressed to Solomon and the nation of Israel is often taken out of context. Most Biblical scholars agree that the promise of blessing was given to the nation and people of Israel and is not extended to America or to a group of Christians living in America. While they were spoken to a Hebrew nation long ago, the words of the chronicler can still be a blessing to individual Christians wherever they live.
The writer in me instantly noticed the construction of this verse. First the author (God as voiced by the chronicler) specifies the audience to whom he is speaking: “my people who belong to me.” Next the author sets up an “if-then” statement of logic: if this happens, then this will happen. And, finally, he provides three sets of verbs in each part of the verse. We may even make connections between the two sets of verbs:
If you pray, then I will hear.
If you seek my face, then I will forgive.
If you turn from your sin, I will heal.
This verse is an inspiring rendering of the faithfulness and grace of God and the two-sided nature of our relationship. As we live out an intimate relationship with God, facilitated by humbling ourselves in prayer and seeking and repenting, we will be able to appreciate what God freely gives us.
♥ This verse is a helpful set of soul-training exercises for us as individual disciples. After you pray, practice listening. What is God saying? After you seek out God in confession, try to “feel” the forgiveness and let the guilt roll away. If in this process, you discover sinful behavior, change it, and receive the many kinds of healing God will give you.
♥ This verse also shows a path for changing the society around us. First, pray and encourage others to pray for our nation and our leaders; then listen to God’s instruction on how we can bring change.
Seek and steep yourself in God’s wisdom and then practice forgiveness of others – especially those with whom you disagree the most. I vividly remember Chuck Colson’s story in his book Born Again. His lies and deceit as he carried out President Nixon’s agenda hurt his country and the senators and representatives who served it. Yet these same legislators invited him to a Bible study, prayed with him, forgave him, and led him to seek God’s forgiveness. Colson’s conversion and transformed life brought the ministry of restorative justice to the prison system and changed the lives of many – including mine.
This country and all its citizens need to repent of self-righteousness, discriminatory practices, selfish behavior, willful ignorance, lies and deceit. Disciples of Jesus need to speak healing truth to power (even among those we agree with) in strong but gentle terms.
MORE FOOD FOR THOUGHT
“[From this passage we] learn that God desires us to humble ourselves, pray, seek His face, and turn from wickedness. These prescriptions for Israel in the Old Testament are even repeated for Christians in the New Testament. This should not surprise us since God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. But what we cannot do is take a promise out of context, claim it for ourselves when it was never given to us, and assume that if we do these things God is bound and obligated to spiritually renew America. While we should continue to pray for our nation and seek God’s mercy and grace, the continued prosperity of our nation is dependent on exactly that: God’s mercy and grace, not a promise He has made us.” (Aaron Brake writing on the “pleaseconvinceme” website).