We have probably all done it before. I know I have. In fact, I have even made the mistake of doing it in a published work. I used a Bible verse improperly by not paying close enough attention to its context.
This is a common problem among both Christians and non-Christians. Many skeptics and other unbelievers will pull verses out of context in their efforts to attack the Bible. Many Christians have heard or read a verse that they really like, so they quote it as though it was given as a divine promise just for them. However, we must be careful to examine the context of a passage and make sure that when we quote a verse, we use it in a way that the original author meant for it to be used.
In this particular post, I want to examine one of the verses that Christians regularly misuse. In some future posts, we will look at some more verses misused by Christians and some misused by unbelievers. I realize this will upset some of my readers, but before getting upset with me, you need to take some time and study the context of the verse and then ask yourself, “Am I using this verse appropriately, or am I guilty of misusing it?” I’ll close by sharing the verse that I misused at the end of one of my books.
Commonly Misused Verse #1: 2 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 I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (NKJV)
Well-intentioned Christians (especially in the U.S.) love to cite this verse as a promise from God that if believers in this nation would humble themselves and pray then God will fix our nation. Before you get upset with me for implying that this is not what this verse is about, ask yourself, “What is the context of this verse?” Do you know when these words were spoken and to whom they were addressed? Do you know the occasion for these words or have you just repeated them thinking that they were meant for your particular situation?
Let’s take a quick look at the context. The construction of the first temple in Jerusalem had just been completed. King Solomon led a massive week-long celebration to dedicate the temple. When the people returned to their homes following the celebration, we read this:
Then the LORD appeared to Solomon by night, and said to him: “I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice. When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence 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 will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer made in this place. For now I have chosen and sanctified this house, that My name may be there forever; and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually. (2 Chronicles 7:12–16, NKJV)
These words were spoken to Solomon, the king of Israel, and God promised Solomon that when the land suffered from drought or pestilence, that if the people would humble themselves and pray, then God would hear those prayers and heal their land. The Lord specifically said that His eyes and ears would be attentive to the “prayer made in this place,” a reference to the temple in Jerusalem. As you continue reading the remaining verses in 2 Chronicles 7, it becomes extremely clear that this was a specific promise made by God to the Jewish people at the time of the first temple.
This is quite a bit different than Christians using this verse as a promise from God to fix the problems in the United States of America (or any other nation). Before you get too upset with me, let me point out that I think there are certainly principles we can draw from this. It is always a good thing for God’s people to humble themselves and pray for their nation. As Christians, we absolutely should pray for our nation. We should pray for our neighbors, friends, loved ones, and even our politicians–even the ones we don’t agree with (see 1 Timothy 2:1–4). I think it would be wonderful if every Christian would humble himself or herself and pray for our nation. It can’t hurt, and I think we would see God do some amazing things. However, 2 Chronicles 7:14 is not a divine promise to Christians in the United States that God will fix our nation. We don’t have such a guarantee in Scripture.
So which verse did I misuse? Near the end of my book, God and Cancer: Finding Hope in the Midst of Life’s Trials, I discussed how wonderful heaven is going to be. So I cited a verse I have heard used in this context several times. 1 Corinthians 2:9 states, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” Doesn’t that sound like a wonderful description of heaven? It sure does, except for the fact that Paul was not talking about heaven.
A few months after the book came out I was studying that passage again and noticed, to my embarrassment, that it wasn’t about heaven at all. How do I know? Look at the very next verse: “But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10). Verse 9 was a quote from the Old Testament book of Isaiah. Paul told his readers that although God had not revealed in the Old Testament some of the wonderful things He had in store for His people, He has now revealed them to us by the Holy Spirit.
I’m looking forward to this being fixed in the next printing of the book. I still believe heaven will be far better than we can possibly imagine, but I would not use 1 Corinthians 2:9 in support of that belief. 2 Corinthians 12:2–4 and Revelation 21–22 would be better passages to convey that idea.
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Because You Prayed (2nd Choron 7:11-14)
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Traveling alone in a truck with camper in tow, she launched
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The question is not where is the God of Elijah! The question is where are the Elijah’s of God. Hurt and disappointments seem to limit our spiritual vision. Look at Jeremiah C. Lanphier
GOD DO IT AGAIN — ONE HEART BEAT AWAY…
By Wade Martin Hughes, Sr. [email protected]
**The question is not where is the God of ELIJAH… the question is WHERE ARE THE ELIJAH’S OF GOD? Is there an Elijah in our midst? Is there a Deborah? Esther? Ruth? Arise David’s heart in our camp.
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WE MAKE REVIVAL HAPPEN by doing something in this outline we share the 8 things needed to see revival come to our church and world.
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2 Chr 7:14 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. 2 Chr 7:15 Now mine eyes shall be open, and mine …read more
- Check Your Moral Compass Contributed by Wayne Lawson on Aug 21, 2017
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TITLE: CHECK YOUR MORAL COMPASS
SCRIPTURE: II CHRONICLES 7:14 / II CHRONICLES 33:10-16 / II KINGS 23:26-27 /
II KINGS 21:16
The events in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend highlighted racism and fear are still present in our country and communities. The carrying …read more
- Praying For Our Nation Contributed by Christian Cheong on Aug 13, 2017
Praying for our nation as Singapore celebrates her 52nd birthday. We humble ourselves, acknowledge God and seek righteousness.
Like to take a break from the flow of 1 Kings to pause and pray for our nation, as we celebrate our National Day this WED.
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• Listen to what the Lord …read more
I hear it quoted by many American Christians, especially during election seasons: 2 Chronicles 7:14.
If 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 and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
Attached to this verse are pleas for different groups to change their wicked ways. Sometimes it’s applied to American Christians, American politicians, American politicians who are Christians, or just America in general. Take your pick. It doesn’t matter. They’re all mistaken.
I know this may upset some well-meaning believers who have cited this verse time and again when things look morally bleak across the land they love. It’s all the more confusing when, say on social media, fellow Christians respond with a hearty “Amen,” retweet your post, or click the Like button in a spirit of solidarity. But it still doesn’t remove the fact the biblical text is being misapplied. To be direct, 2 Chron. 7:14 has nothing explicitly to do with the United States. Nothing.
How so? When in doubt, always look at a Scripture’s context. We first notice 2 Chronicles is an Old Testament book which deals with God’s original (or Old) covenant people, the Israelites. That should be a big clue as to why the USA doesn’t factor into this passage. It gets clearer as we examine the immediate context. 2 Chron. 7 follows King Solomon’s dedication of the Temple he built on behalf of Israel. Verse 12 says God spoke to Israel’s king in a dream saying Israel should obey the Lord’s covenant with them. If the Israelites do, they will enjoy the blessings of the covenant which includes a fruitfulness of the physical land itself.
Look at how Deuteronomy 28:1-6, 8 details Israel’s obedience to the old covenant and the physical blessings it entailed.
And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God. Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your cattle, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out…And he will bless you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
Clearly this is an Old Testament passage to an Old Covenant people with a call to be faithful to the Old Covenant promises in order to receive Old Covenant blessings (see a pattern here?). The King of Israel and his people are to keep covenant with Yahweh and in doing so, God will bless them, even the very land of Israel itself. 2 Chron. 7:14 is simply referring to these Old Covenant promises. Now the immediate context of v. 13 makes better sense. God says if Israel disobeys he will “shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people.” Blessing and cursing is literally tied to the land itself.
But how come American Christians don’t quote that part of the verse? In the ESV v. 13 is actually the first part of the sentence which v. 14 completes. This only demonstrates how 2 Chron. 7:14 is explictly a command and promise for Israel. They are the “my people” in context. It’s about Hebrews in ancient Israel, not modern-day Christians in America. Old Covenant people receiving Old Covenant promises, not New Covenant people receiving New Covenant promises. For the record, the Gospel of John demonstrates that for New Covenant believers, these promises and blessings are fulfilled in Jesus. Christ is the better Temple, People, sacrifice, high priest, etc. This is where, once again, Bible readers (and quoters) should understand at what stage each biblical book is in the progressive revelation of salvation history. The text at hand is Chronicles not Corinthians.
This also demonstrates that quoting 2 Chronicles 7:14 and applying it to the USA isn’t so much a historical blunder (although many would argue that as well) but a theological one. It’s mixing apples and oranges. It’s confounding two covenants that, while one builds on the other, are still different covenants – with different peoples of God that were/are dealt with in different ways by God. In the New Covenant, the church replaces ethnic Israel as God’s people. Peter refers to Christians essentially as the true Israel calling them “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession.” (1 Peter 2:9)
Removing 2 Chron. 7:14 from your quotation arsenal won’t really change much in what you hope for the United States. You can still call fellow Americans to repent of their sins. You can continue hoping and praying for a national revival where fellow citizens come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. You don’t have to remove the fact that our national history clearly had Judeo-Christian moorings in its founding. You also can continue to love America and think it’s a special place – one blessed by God. All of those things can still be true without quoting 2 Chron. 7:14. The only difference is you won’t be using the Bible incorrectly.
…and don’t get me started on Phil. 4:13. 😉
Is it scriptural for one to pray 2 Chronicles 7:14 assuming one is genuinely looking for the blessed hope, has an eternal view, knows the land is not their land and is at the same time desiring for God, by His grace, to soften the hearts of Christians and the unsaved, as a last chance before he passes judgment, like Nineveh responded to Jonah’s message from God? Is the principle of repentance and forgiveness universal in this verse in your opinion?
First, we all want all our friends and loved ones to be saved. But 2 Chron. 7:14 is a prayer for a national change of behavior. What our friends and loved ones need is a personal change of heart. In the Church Age, salvation is based on what we believe, not on how we behave. For by one offering He has perfected (made perfect) for all time those who are sanctified (made holy). (Hebrews 10:14).
Second, I don’t believe God sees an American Church, I believe He just sees a Church. And in all the world He hasn’t given the Church one square inch of land. Earth is only our temporary residence. Our citizenship is in Heaven (Phil. 3:20) and we should be longing to go home, not looking to extend our visit here.
Third, I don’t think advocates of 2 Chronicles 7:14 have really thought through the implications of what they’re asking God to do. If we’re in the end times, as I believe we are, and if God answered our prayer and healed “our land”, then what would He do with the rest of the world? Christians in many parts of the world are suffering intense persecution and deprivation that seems to get worse by the day. Would He put all His plans for the Church on hold and let them continue to suffer while we Americans enjoy a few more years of the “good life”? Would He build a big spiritual wall around America and go on with His plans, leaving us here to enjoy our fake heaven while taking the rest of the Church to the real one before bringing judgment on the world? I don’t think so.
Nineveh was powerful in an age where nations could exist independently, and where God treated them individually. Remember, He only had Jonah warn Nineveh of the coming judgment. No other city was involved. But we live in an age where nations are interdependent and where God is in the process of bringing judgment upon the whole world. It’s a whole different set of conditions.
In summary, I don’t think 2 Chron. 7:14 is appropriate for the Church. It was meant for another people in another time. If you want a good Bible passage that is appropriate for our time, I recommend 1 Tim. 2:1-4 instead.
I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone– for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.