Originally published 3.28.2020
What if God doesn’t save us?
“…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.” – 2 Chronicles 7:14
It’s really hard to choose what passage of scripture is most often taken out of context, quoted in solidarity to make the speaker or hearer feel better about their circumstances or prooftext a point in debate. Generally I’d say Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” or Matthew 7:1a “Do not judge…,” but in a world of earthquakes, tornadoes, and pandemic illness, 2 Chronicles 7:14 is pushing the usual crowd favorites to the side. I have seen and heard many faith leaders suggest that repentance and turning back to God will save us from our current situation.
The above verse is the most commonly quoted, but there are several similar verses in the Old Testament that convey a similar message, as God tells his people before they stray, they will stray, and He will take them back when they repent: and of course, when they do stray, and He repeats the promise. It’s His grace and human failing in a recurring cycle, but also, His specific promise to HIS people.
Aren’t we HIS people?
Yes – and no. A Christian is received or adopted into God’s family (Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5). We are grafted into that family after the coming of Christ. The promises of the Old Testament to the nation of Israel are promises before the coming of Christ. There’s a lot to unpack there – more than this post can or will attempt – but while the principles of the guidance apply to us, the promise does not.
We are not nationally God’s people—nor will He bring us favor and blessing individually, just because we are “good” children. Taking 2 Chronicles 7:14 out of context to say that following the directives of this verse will rid our land of disease or even make our lives easier is one tiny step from the prosperity Gospel.
Look at the verse from a different perspective — if He does not heal our land by taking away <insert current bad thing> when we humble ourselves and pray and seek His face, and turn from our wicked ways, did we fail or did He?
Have there been bad things before this one? Where were the Christian faithful then? Was Corrie tem Boom not humble enough during the Holocaust for God to stop it? Was no one praying when the Black Plague killed half of Europe’s population? Or maybe Paul had not repented of his sins when he was whipped, beaten, shipwrecked, hungry, cold or naked?
Bad, hard, horrible, unfair things have always been and will always be – and being faithful to Christ will not save us from them. Did Jesus not pray for His cup (of suffering) to pass from Him? And it did not? Will we ever be more faithful than Jesus?
Does 2 Chronicles 7:14 still guide us?
Of course! To be humble, recognizing our humanity and sin, is necessary to come to Christ in repentance and should be a continual mark on a Christian’s life. To pray and spend time in God’s presence is to connect our lives into the power source, like we plug charge a battery, recharging us to face each day. To turn from sin should be the desire of every Christian (1 John 1:5-10).
The guidance of this passage will not save us the suffering, but the actions it urges are the very actions that will carry us through the suffering. We must humbly come before God, recognizing that He as the author and finisher of our faith will sustain us. We must pray and seek His face— His presence is our power in the face of our own weakness. We must repent of our sins to reconcile our relationship with Him. Earthquakes, storms, and pandemics can tear down our homes, damage our possessions, and take our health, but they cannot touch our souls.
Pray and seek God’s face
Turn from your sin
– and face whatever this world has.