Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Does the Promise of 2 Chronicles 7:14 Apply to the Christian?

Reading: 2 Chronicles 7   
2 Chronicles 7:14 is often used, speaking to Christians in our country and applied to America and our desperate need for “healing” from God. Undoubtedly, our country is in desperate need of healing today, and God hears and answers prayer—a promise that is found all over the New Testament. So pray, pray, pray! However, when read in context, it is fair to ask, “Does this really apply to America?” And, “Does this really apply to the Christian?” Or, “Does it apply today?” Let's read it in context:
13"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, 14if my people, who are called by my name, will 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. 15Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. 16I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there. (2 Chronicles 7:13-16)
This promise was given at the dedication of the temple in response to Solomon's prayer (2 Chronicles 7:12), and the this place of these verses is the temple which Solomon built, and the my people was Israel (this is prior to the divided kingdoms), and their land, was the land of Israel. Is it fair, then, to turn my people into the church, and their land into America, and this place into wherever we happen to be?
It may be helpful to look further back in the story line to 2 Chronicles 7:1. There, after Solomon's prayer for dedicating the temple, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the house. (NIV's temple is specifying which house (literal)—the house of the Lord.) One translation translates the word for glory (kabod) as splendor (NET). Both are good. The glory, the splendor, of the Lord filled the house.
There are three (3) well known references in the Old Testament where fire comes down from heaven. First, at Mt. Sinai when God came down in fire and wrote the law on stone tablets (Exodus 19:18; Deuteronomy 9:10). Second, here at the dedication of the temple. Third, after 3 years of drought, when Elijah goes to Ahab and promises rain by days end. They gather all the priests of Baal who make their sacrifice to their god and pray all morning and well past noon for their god to send fire on the sacrifice to no avail. Then Elijah has his sacrifice drenched in water, and then with a simple prayer, fire comes down and consumes the sacrifice (1 Kings 18:36-38).
There is also a New Testament reference to fire coming down, and it is relevant to our text. In Acts 2:1-4, as the disciples are gathered together daily in prayer (Acts 1:14), and have done so again on the day of Pentecost, fire came down from heaven and divided into “tongues” (projecting points in this case, about the size of a tongue), and came to rest on each one. This is the fulfillment of the promise of the Father, the promised Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5).
Pentecost was a day in which the people “renewed the Sinai covenant”. A day they recommitted themselves to obey it. But something different was going to happen on this Pentecost. Just as God came down in fire at Sinai and wrote the law on stone tablets, now, the Spirit is coming down to rest on each believer as the Father has promised to write the law in their hearts and on their minds (Jeremiah 31:33). This is the New Covenant that replaces the Mosaic Covenant (Hebrews 8:13). Those who walk in the Spirit will fulfill the righteous requirements of the law (love of God and neighbor) (Romans 8:4).
Secondly, after the return to the land from Babylonian captivity, the temple was rebuilt, but the glory, the splendor of the Lord never returned like we saw in Solomon's day. But now, the sacrifice having been made (Galatians 3:13-14), the promised Holy Spirit can come and fill the house. As the disciples were gathered together in a room of the temple that day (Luke 24:53)1, the temple was indeed filled with the glory of the Lord, the splendor of the Lord, as the Holy Spirit filled the temple—the church of the Living God (Ephesians 2:21-22).
Thirdly, even as fire came down from heaven after Elijah's prayer, so we have been promised answered prayer when we too pray fervently; we too are promised the Spirit's power in answer to prayer (James 5:16-18; Luke 11:9-13). Those who come to Christ are baptized by Him with the Holy Spirit and fire. We have the Spirit writing the law of God in our hearts, conforming us to the image of Christ. We have been filled with the glory, the splendor of God—Christ in you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). And we have been promised answers to prayer.
2 Chronicles 7:14 does apply to the Christian—indeed in an ultimate sense it was written for the Christian. It does apply today, as we are promised that God will hear and answer our prayers. There even seems to be an emphasis in scripture on the power of gathered prayer—prayer offered in this place which is now the temple, the assembled people of God. But, does it apply to America? Well, not in the same sense that it applied to Israel. However, we are called to pray for all people that God would for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. So we should pray accordingly for America and Zimbabwe, indeed for all men with this in mind.
Seek God's face for His eyes and heart are on His church who is gathered before Him in prayer in the name of His Son Jesus! God will hear from heaven and answer our prayer!
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,
1There is some debate as to whether the disciples were in the upper room (the house) or the temple (the house) on the day of Pentecost. I believe we can firmly say they were in a room of the temple because, 1) the scripture tells us where they went to pray every day... the temple; 2) house was commonly used to refer to the temple; 3) 120 wouldn't fit in the upper room, and 4) had they been in the upper room they would have been across town from where all the people were gathered on Pentecost, hence no one would have gathered around after hearing them speak in tongues. Never mind all the implications of how this fulfills Old Testament prophecies since it was at the temple. I suspect the only upper room experience the disciples had was eating and sleeping. See also Acts 5:12.

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