2 Chronicles 7:14 is often deployed as a prayer for national renewal in modern times, but this is not an accurate application when held up to the Theology of the New Testament. The true application is much deeper, and better.
Rev. Jonathan Faulkner
This one will probably rattle a few cages, but the cages need to be rattled for the sake of biblical Christianity. We have all seen the posts recently, the prayers for God to “heal our land” with a reference to 2nd Chronicles 7:14 which reads: “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” (NIV). The passage which falls in the middle of Solomon’s dedication of the temple and the events surrounding it (see 2nd Chronicles 6-8) is God’s response to Solomon after he prays and leads the people through the expected ritual sacrifices. The passage is one of many appearances of blessing and curse language. God is telling Solomon what will happen if the people break the covenant of Moses that they have agreed to live by as God’s chosen people. If they engage in covenant breaking God will shut up the heavens and keep the rain from falling or send pestilence on the land, because God has chosen to reside in the house which Solomon had built for Him. If the people repent of their covenant breaking the Lord will hear their prayer and restore them and their land. This follows the Covenant pattern of the OT in which a land, seed and blessing are promised to Abraham and are passed down to Moses and then the house of David who also receives the promise of an eternal kingdom.
But by the time we come to the New Testament Israel has long broken the covenant, a sect called the Pharisees have arisen to be the Jewish protectors of purity. They are the self-appointed gate keepers to keep Israel from covenant breaking. And the house of David? It has been reduced, removed from its royal splendor that built the temple to, what in our times would be lower and middle class tradesmen and shepherds who, though they can trace their lineage back to David, have nothing of the former glory of their line. The land had been stripped from them by Babylon, the blessing seemed far off, the seed was scattered. God has utterly devastated the house of David, reduced it to almost nothing. The kingdom was ruled by Rome with a false king named Herod sitting on the throne, it would not be Israel’s land again until the 1940’s. Far from experiencing the blessings of Covenant renewal, they had experienced the full weight of the Covenant curses of the Old Testament.
But YHWH had not forgotten His promises to Abraham, to Moses or to David. There is still a kingdom for the House of David to rule for eternity and it would come through the line of David, to a descendant named Joseph whose betrothed Mary, still a virgin, would give birth to the son of God named Jesus Christ who would tell the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate that: “My kingdom is not of this world, if it were my followers would have fought for me” (John 18:36). Christ’s death, resurrection and the resulting rise to power as King and Lord over the universe assured that the covenantal promises to David were fulfilled. David now has a heir sitting forever, that heir just so happens to also be God in Incarnate, Jesus Christ, the second member of the Triune Godhead who rules over a kingdom that is not of this world.
The new covenant then is initiated by Christ’s blood, a covenant full of better promises which are in some ways continuations of the Old Covenant Promises under better terms. For example, instead of ritual purity through slavery to endless sacrifices and cleansing. Christ has declared all who are found in Him to be clean before God, to be righteous before God on account of what He has done, not what we have done. By grace he has become the lens through which God the father sees us and we can now live out of gratitude for that reality and keep the moral law of God, which Christ has written on our hearts (Matthew 5-7) through His sanctifying work in us. Second, instead of having to worry about breaking the new covenant we have the Holy Spirit to help us grow more and more into Christlikeness and Godliness. The only ones who are in danger of eternal punishment or curses associated with the New Covenant are those who are covenant Fakers, who claim the name Christian and either intentionally live otherwise and deny the life set forward of Christ. Or who claim to be Christians and think they are living the Christian life when they are reenacting the sin of the Pharisees, religiousness without the relationship that transforms. Paul calls these people Pseudadelphoi which means “False Brothers” They claim to be believers, as First John 1 says; to walk in the light but walk in darkness. In Romans 2:1-17 Paul says they are “Heaping condemnation upon their own heads” when they condemn the world for the vices mentioned in Rom 1:28-30 but then turn around and participate in them.
Finally, the land promise is better, in that, in the OT Israel was promised a specific geographical location, the Fertile Crescent which we know today as Israel and Palestine. Israel had to come in and conquer it once the “sin of the Canaanites” was complete (Gen 15:16). Many of the Covenant Curses of the Old Covenant dealt with some sort of blight on the land, famine, pestilence, disease, drought, and in the case of long-term disobedience loss of and removal from the land itself. However, the New Covenant does not include a specific land promise, but a general and eschatological promise of inheritance of a future place, that is, the New Heavens and the New Earth. Christ, being the descendant of David to whom the spiritual kingdom of God would come sits on the throne forever and one day creation will happen anew, recreation, and those who believe, those whose names are written in the book of life (Rev. 20) will inherit the Earth (Matthew 5:5), that is, the new heavens and the new earth. Thus, there is a land promise in the New Covenant but not one that ties the church to any specific geographical location such as Israel or The United States of America. The people of God now constitute a spiritual kingdom that spans kingdoms, hence the formula kingdom within kingdoms. There is a future geographical location for the kingdom Christ rules, the entire earth.
So this asks the question of how we then apply this verse today. Let me answer that by saying that it is entirely possible we should not directly apply this verse, word for word, to us today. Since the land itself is not a promised part of the New Covenant, there is no literal “land” for God to heal since the one we will finally inherit is already healed. But there is a principle here that can be applied and it applies not to a nation state but to the Church, God’s people, the Kingdom, within the Kingdoms. That is, one can say that if God’s people turn from their wicked ways and humble themselves before God, if we stop the act of covenant breaking we are committing by not living by the way Christ has given us to live, if we repent of this. Then God will hear us and heal His Church. The application is not then directed at the nation as a whole, but on the people of God who exist in the nation but are part of the global kingdom of Christ.
And let us be honest, there is a lot for us as the Church in the United States to repent and turn from starting with clergy and extending to the laity. IF we continue in covenant breaking, that is, living as though Christ has not died on the cross or that the Holy Spirit has not come into our lives. If we continue to sin so that grace can abound (Romans 6:1) we will be self-condemned and, just as with the Church in Germany in the 1940s and 50s see our lampstand removed. We are already headed into exile as Elliot Clark, David Kinnaman and Mike Matlock have pointed out in their respective books “Evangelism as Exiles” (Clark) and “Faith for Exiles” Kinnaman and Matlock). The culture has shifted abruptly against the Church as evidenced by the Church as being viewed as “nonessential” by the government. It is even entirely possible by trying to legislate the end of secularism through political power, we have only sped up the pace at which the culture has turned against us.
This is an uncomfortable truth for us, we like to think we are a chosen nation, but no matter what the nations founders intended or what John Winthrop claimed about the Massachusetts Bay Colony, no matter what promises we have claimed for ourselves. The Bible does not support the notion that under the New Covenant God will “Heal our land” if the nation turns back to Him. He will, however, heal our churches if our churches are willing to repent and turn back to Him. IF we are willing to stand up against the evils and injustices in this world while maintaining the humanity of every individual regardless of their profession or what community they represent. If e are willing to be the people of God, called to be salt and light to this world, of course God will heal our Churches and through healing our churches we may find that He heals our land by moving His people to do what He has called us to do.
The Church in the United States is broadly guilty of covenant breaking, that is not to say every church, or every person is, God does always keep his remnant faithful. But many churches have engaged in covenant breaking while claiming to be God’s people. They have supported schism and sectarianism while claiming to be the true church, they have clamored for power and influence and hated those who stood in their way. The sin does not have to be as blatant as Westboro Baptist to still be sinful and for it to be a violation of the life Christ has given us to live. But that also does not mean these churches are hopeless, there is still time, we can give up the charade of cultural religion and adhere to the Word of God first and foremost. We can reverse the trend of increasing suspicion towards churches and clergy. We can repent, and we can do it publicly. We must do this before God does completely remove our lampstand and we face the kind of persecution some have already told us we are facing.
There is still time, so let us pray together, Father, Heal your Church.
For an addition post on this topic click here
Rev. Jonathan David Faulkner is a Graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary holding Masters in Divinity and Church History, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry. He lives with his wife Rachel and daughter Erin in Buffalo Center Iowa and seeks to be a part of the project of reconciliation in the local and international church. He is currently serving as the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Buffalo Center.