Solomon asked for two things. 2 Chronicles 7:12-15 is where the Lord records his answer to the second request. The first was for royal descendants; the second was asking God to be attentive to the prayers of His people, especially when they were in desperate situations.
God first starts answering King Solomon by telling Solomon that He heard his prayer. God had chosen the temple as the place for Himself as a house of sacrifice.
God chooses to answer Solomon's second request first. Perhaps this is a bit difficult for some of us to understand, so let's look at this discussion in three ways: (1) My people, (2) Our responsibility, and (3) God's Judgment.
God's people do not understand what it means to be God's people. This is shown in our shallow concept of the crucial word of covenant. We might use the word 'covenant' in reference to the Old and New Testament but never realize that testament is the same word for covenant. We have never reflected on its basic deeper meaning. All we know about being a Christian is that we believe and are forgiven. We have not understood that our relationship with God is a covenant relationship. Perhaps it is like being married for life and yet never thinking of the marriage covenant.
We will not get into the full ramifications of this word covenant, but only briefly introduce it. When God speaks of 'My people,' He is clearly not talking about any person who comes to His temple or church. He is speaking about those who through faith in Christ have entered His New Covenant. We enter through Christ's blood. From this covenant we become God's people and binds us to Himself. The Old Covenant (same as Old Testament) is what made Solomon's prayer make a real difference. Note what he said in 2 Chronicles 6:11.
When we become His people, we become bound to Him. As a holy God, He takes it upon Himself to make sure that we are holy and righteous. Unfortunately, many Christians think only of Christ's righteousness. However, it is clear that God is greatly concerned with our practical holiness. We only need to think of discipline (Hebrews 12) or examination at communion to see that some people have actually died because they didn't become holy.
In fact, God is willing to make a trade that we are not so very keen on. He is willing for our individual lives to suffer to increase a more holy heart and character. He is committed to make us holy.
Behind the disasters of a nation, we should see that God is utilizing more serious means to accomplish His purpose because the lesser ones did not work. As in the case with Israel and Judah, we find that God gave them a second chance. They were not taken at once but first the northern kingdom of Israel, and then another 150 years later Judah, the southern kingdom was taken. We can see the famines, the evil in the throne room, the injustice of the land, the idolatry in the temple.
As God's covenant people, God pledges that He will make us holy no matter what it costs. Our personal pleasures and comforts will even be rudely taken. Even the lives of people will be taken if necessary. Remember, this is not the first plan of action. Each step of pain has been preceded by many thousands of earnest pleading. Just think for a moment on how many times your pastor has called you to regular prayer, but you just had to watch that sport's game or spend time with your friends? I just asked a newlywed couple (just finished one year) whether he prayed with his wife. This is the most special year they have. He hedged and said, "Yes." With his wife's prompting, he confessed this was their mealtime grace.
How many times did you choose to watch pornographic and violent shows even though you were first prompted not to watch it? You knew of the Lord's prompting but just turned your back on Him. How many times did you see your Bible but just didn't read it? You 'had' to do something else. We dare not think that God did not call us earlier to turn from our sins. Instead we must confess that we did not respond to His tender invitations.
Verse 13 does not tell us what God does all the time. He says it is conditional. It is conditional on whether we ourselves have responded to His tender invitations to share in His holiness. This morning I tried sawing logs with my gas chain saw. It just wasn't cutting. All I had was a little bit of saw dust. The cut was so slow coming that the wood and machine would heat up and just spit out dust. The blades were not sharp. Even though I spent lots of time getting ready to cut wood, after a little bit of using this saw, I just gave up. I went back to my workshop and figured how I was going to get this thing properly working. After an hour of study pamphlets and examing a new blade, I figured out how to sharpen it. I had to take a grinding stone and sharpen it at just the right points.
Can't we see how God will sharpen His blade if it doesn't do the job right?! He will take action. God only has to get tough with us when we are not properly working. We see the desired response that He is eliciting from us in verse 7:14. We will cover this more later on.
Verse 7:13, however, is very specific on what we should see around us happening when God has to use a sharper blade to get through.
We see draught, insects invading our crops and sickness among God's people. This list is just representative of the full list in Deuteronomy 28. Let's look at the second important point of responsibility.
God judges people. He judges nations. Judgment is the means by which God carries out His duty as the righteous Judge. The case can be stalled only so long before it comes before the courts. A good example is the handwriting on the wall. The special hand written text, "MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN" was was interpreted to mean that Babylonian's empire has come to an end and given over to the Medes and Persians. Right after this, we immediately read some astounding words.
God works with His people in a special way. How do they differ?
We should first see that God deals with nations. The prophetic books like Isaiah has whole chapters devoted to the way He will work with a nation. Nations in older times for the most part are just extended families. The way God judges us is by the nation's sins. The sins, however, directly relate to how God's people are living and shining their light into the world. In the Old Testament era, the heathen nations were quite different from the New Testament times. They had no light. They were still judged, however, from their sins. Some nations were more self-controlled by law and reason, but had selfish pleasure dominate their law-making.
Jesus in Matthew 5, right in the Sermon on the Mount, shared how the responsibility of the society depended upon the Christian's holiness. If God's people were holy, they were like salt which would preserve the society. If they were like lights on the hill, their effect would be great. Our major task is to make disciples of Christ and thus save more people from the darkness. We should remember that the world does not like the light shining and will often persecute or eliminate God's people.
When the Lord speaks most clearly about this, though, is in the New Testament when He is addresses the need for the church to be pure. God always wanted the church to be holy. It would have an effect on the society, either in holiness or in persecution, but our focus is on being a holy people so that we can fellowship with our holy Lord.
If we were to pause here and ask, "Whose fault is it that these disasters come upon us?"
God certainly knows that the wickednes of the world is unacceptable. He doesn't say it is because the world is so terrible. It always has been. Or, could we say it is God who does it? But doesn't He say that He does not always do this. It is only for certain conditions? What are these conditions? Does not God say that it is what His people are doing or not doing? Yes. The problems in the church are directly connected to our sin levels and where we are at in the process of God's judgment. This is why many feared joining the early church!
Many people have a great difficulty accepting the fact that God is brings the judgments. They rather blame the devil. Indeed, as the book of Job reveals, the evil one is ever so willing to carry out mischievousness among God's people, but in the end the full control still is in God's control. This is what we find here in 2 Chronicles 7:13. In fact, it is found everywhere in the scriptures. We are almost embarrassed to think how faulty our arguments can be. Who kicked man out of the Garden of Eden? Who sent the flood? Who pursued the death of Achan? Who brought serious judgment upon the church for sins within the church? Who will come and judge the world? The Lord. He is the Judge and stands fully ready to judge. The fear of the Lord helps us moderate our actions so that we would avoid His judgments.
Discipline is a work of careful small-sized judgments to produce in us a fear of the Lord. If we refused to earlier learn through His Word or pastor, the LORD brings more difficult situations before us. In Hebrews 12, God clearly affirms He oversees the chastising of His children. Chastisements are small judgments so that we will not suffer greater ones.
This might seem like a long way to get to 2 Chronicles 7:14, but without this heart preparation, we just will not grasp God's promises. God desires that His people would turn to Him earlier on so that His people would not suffer judgments, but like much like Judah and Israel we seem to wander away and become so hardened. Let's first summarize, and then proceed to looking at 2 Chronicles 7:14.
What about you? Have you been listening and obeying the Lord? If God hasn't been speaking, then it shows that you have stopped listening and begin hardening your heart. How about at this point stop blaming God, and acknowledge every judgment that we receive is deserved. In fact, if we rightly understood our situation, we would be convinced that we deserved to be killed off yesterday. We are living now by God's great mercy. He is putting off judgment. A whole series of invitations has been rejected. Confess your own sins of rejecting and not rightly responding to Him.
Is it right to say that our nations are like Israel and therefore misapply 2 Chronicles 7:14 to our own situations?
Or further, should we conclude that the tragedies that are happening to our nation are a result of the Christian people?
Is this not the situation in the Old Testament when the whole nation was God's people?