Revival starts with us!
God tells us that the problem of backsliding and sluggishness of our spirit begins with His people and ends with His people. If the sin of God's people brought them into this situation, then it is their turning from these same sins that will bring the needed help to deliver them from their situation.
In other words, unless we can identify our sins, acknowledge them and take full responsibility for them, then we have no hope. We can not change this world by political reformation and improved educational funding. A church will only be able to turn back from their spiritual decline by carefully following the principles outlined in 2 Chronicles 7:14. This is not the only place these principles are mentioned, but they are clearly articulated here.
Let's look a bit closer look at precisely what God is and is not saying here in 2 Chronicles 7:14 about revival.
We find that if we want to be reconciled with God, everything needs to be right or normal. The verse 2 Chronicles 7:14 is naturally divided into three parts. Each of them is linked to the subsequent letter in the word 'PAR' which is used in sport of golf to mean a normal and good game. We have the declared Promise, the required Action and the expected Reward. For a exciting look at the context of this passage, start your study in 2 Chronicles 6.
What happens when we take the four steps above? We can expect three things to happen. In summary, it is a reversal of the judgment. Most of our readers are not Israelites. The promise is different in character but the same in principle.
God has promised good to all of His people no matter what race we are from.
We must understand as Christians, that we do not need to prove ourselves to gain His favor. From the beginning, God the Father's love for us is great. This is true in a human sense too. The father is naturally affectionate and caring of his child. The baby is not expected to earn this favor. This is the starting point, the assumption, for all of His children. God blesses us. Our lives in Christ are rooted in goodness and covenant love.When a child disobeys, there are consequences that take place. We are not to assume that the father or mother is no longer the parent who cares. This would not be true. Instead, we find that the disciplinary action takes place to restore the child to the right heart. The discipline, if done properly, brings the child humble in heart, asking for forgiveness, reconciling himself and actually turning from that wrong behavior and attitude.
So what is restored or rewarded? In this case three things are mentioned but in a general sense they are referring to all the things that need to be restored. Let's look at them one by one. Each of these three promises are future tenses. They are things that can be and should be. We should never think it is impossible. God did everything to provide us this opportunity. Every good father would do this; our Heavenly Father will all the more provide for this. We are thankful for this opportunity to remind us.
1) I will hear from heaven
Firstly, we find that God again hears His child's voice. This does not mean that earlier on that He literally couldn't hear your voice or prayers but that He did not heed to your voice. What promise has effect when our hearts are stubbornly opposed to His ways? We in the first part, don't want His ways. Secondly, we probably wouldn't ask even if He would hear us. Most important is the fact that God just won't hear our prayers.
The most important part of this promise in 2 Chronicles 7:14 is that God is never so far away to hear us if we come with a right heart. All can be made well. Prayers alone are not what we need. All the religious duties without a changed heart, does not at all change our situation. The Pharisees in the New Testament clearly show this religiosity without a repentant heart.
Positively, though, this phrase "I will hear from heaven" at once restores our relationship with God. God is not changed, but we are changed. And now instantly, in the midst of most difficult situations, we find God standing with us to bring us up out of the pit. This is so clearly evidenced in Psalm 51 when David in His desperate sinful situation finally confesses, and the conversation between God and King David is restored.
We should remember that a parent should never shut out a child that has humbled his heart and turned from his sins. A church should never shut out a person who has sinned but is now changed in heart. Like the parable of the Prodigal, the father is always looking for the son to return. He has his eye to restoration. In order to do this, we must be disciplining for the child's good rather than just trying to quiet the child or take revenge. All of our correction is for the purpose of restoration. This is true of God.
2) Forgive their sin
Our presumption of forgiveness does not bring forgiveness.
We can take forgiveness for granted, but we ought not to. The main reason we assume the provision of forgiveness for our moral debt is Christ's suffering for our judgment on the cross. Many of us are so cultured by the provision of forgiveness that we cannot even think of what it would be like if God had not forgiven us in Christ. Our pride and ungratefulness reaches such heights that we even dare to complain that God is the criminal when God passes judgment rather than brings forgiveness. It is this thinking that leads to what we now know as 'victim' theology, "It is not my fault I did something wrong; it is the other person's fault."
Time cannot absolve our sin.
In fact forgiveness means that we are at fault. We have a moral obligation that we have not met. We were, for example, not to lie to avoid blame, but we not only sinned but compounded sin upon sin by lying. God holds us accountable. There is no normal reason to think that God should overlook what we owe Him.
Give us one thousand years and still the debt remains. Time itself does not bring forgiveness.
Good deeds cannot erase our sins.
What if we do a host of good things to make up for our debt, whether it be tradition or good acts. But all the good things, are things that are still expected and required. They do not in any way excuse what we have done. They can not add to our account and make the debt go away. Nicodemus was a good man but needed to be born from above.
God will not change and so forget to judge our sins.
Nor should we think that God would change. God is immutable in His holiness and not one little sin is blinked at. God never changes His standard to accommodate our society's special hold on wickedness. His holy demand for holiness in His creatures cannot be changed.
If man cannot make up for his loss, and God does not change in His holy expectations, then it stands that we sit in moral debt to the great Creator in fearful expectation of the consequences. Instead of presuming forgiveness, we should be pleading for forgiveness like David.
The promise for forgiveness is unbelievably kind and generous. The more we understand God's holiness that demands vengeance for any disobedience, the easier it is for us to relish God's mercy. We see this most clearly in the cross where Christ died for our sins. He suffered in our stead. The anger and vengeance of God fell on Him the undeserving instead of us. Sin was not overlooked. God did not blink at our sin. Instead Christ, His Son, suffered in our stead and died.
Oh what wonder that we have such a promise to find forgiveness and grace for a time such as this. We might think that God would exercise mercy perhaps for those with little sin and hardness of heart, but we see that God answered Solomon that even in the worst of situations with the greatest hardness of heart, that He would exercise mercy. God's promise is good for any sin. We only need to find a change of heart to humble ourselves and seek reconciliation.
God's people are rooted in mercy and forgiveness. We ought in no situation ever think that we need not extend this same mercy to others around us. Is our spouse being rather irritable and demanding. We must forgive. Is our fellow council member so rude and slanderous? Then forgiveness is our path. Jesus settled it so clearly in the Lord's prayer.
The Christian must continuously walk in the path of forgiveness. We have no other light to direct our path but God's forgiveness in Christ.
3) Heal their land.
While the first reward dealt with restoration of communication, and the second of forgiveness of moral debt, we find this one to be relief from various forms of chastisement. The land is where we all live. Life has become hard in some way because we have sinned against the Lord. Solomon has mentioned some of these already. He mentioned a land might suffer from drought, famine, pestilence, blight, mildew, locust, grasshopper, plague, sickness or even an enemy's threat to their land. These things can happen right where we live.
A massive storm just went through various states spawning off numerous tornadoes and killing 33 people. This is God's judgment. All these things are from the hand of God so that we might earlier come to repentance and seek His face and find blessing. God brings temporal judgment so to cause us to escape the eternal judgment.
Today, we have very few people that would associate what happens in the land with God's judgment. Most people think of the final and complete judgment if they think about God's judgment at all. Bad weather, haywire cells, and mad insects might seem the cause behind these things, but truly God uses all of these things and more to complete His purpose.
God brings small problems so to warn us. If we repent, then we will be rewarded with peace. However, if we don't turn from our wicked ways, then the smaller judgments will be followed by larger ones. It is as if the warning sign in the first place had been too small so they replaced it with a larger one. God does mean business.
Again, we are looking for return to normalcy. These things would not bother the land unless God's people went astray. In Deuteronomy 28, God calls them curses. Curses are the withdrawal of God's blessings. God's blessings brings and maintains stability, order, calmness, etc. Why are their curses?
The curses will be removed from His people when they get back to obedience. This is the reason obedience is so important. It might seem that the Lord just lets it happen, but He is clearly behind orchestrating them.
Yahweh our Lord will not allow His people to simply walk around in their sin. Behind the scenes He is changing what is happening. The meteorologist might call it one thing and the scientist another, but in the end God is sending judgment. He loves His Name too much to allow His people too profane it. Through negative consequences, God is able to wake us up and call us from our wicked ways.
Healing is what is normative under God's blessing. We see this first discussed in Deuteronomy 28.
The blessings will not only touch our lives but overcome us. They will begin to be poured out so powerfully that we are just stunned by God's goodness. Deuteronomy 28:3-6 says that healing of the land will be both in the city and the countryside. It will affect a person's offspring, produce of the ground, the milk of the breast, the increase of the herds and even the basket in which one picks crops or the bowl in which the bread is made.
It is time that we seek God's healing upon our lives. We start with our own lives and then seek His grace to affect more and more hearts. We should not be excited about political matters on their own. They have no solution. They reflect the condition of the society. Nor should we put our confidence in more funding, grants, insurance, etc. These are nothing and can be removed in an instance if we have not God's blessing. Let's seek His face and His blessing.
Our bad times are because of our waywardness. These judgments upon His people are to call them back to Himself and His blessings. 2 Chronicles shows the 4 actions needed to obtain the 3 special blessings. God has done what He has needed to provide for revival. Now we just need to follow up this God-given action plan.