The Pursuit of God

Serious Topics for Serious Christians

2 Chronicles 6-7: Why We Shouldn’t Ask God to Heal Our Land

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“…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.” (2 Chron. 7:14)

Sound familiar?  This little gem could win an award for how often it is quoted in Christian circles.  Whenever the American economy takes a dip, or when our news media starts cranking out pictures of crops withering from a lack of rain, out comes good old 2 Chronicles 7:14, and a bunch of Christians start preaching that chanting these words is a surefire way to get God to give us what we want.  But is it?  Is God really talking to Americans in this passage?  Of course He’s not.  And as long as we’re pretending to care oh so much about seeking God, it would be nice if we actually listened to everything He says in this speech instead of just ripping out the one line that we find personally appealing. 

Can we really please God by playing selective listening games with Him?  No.  Ignoring God whenever you find it personally convenient to do so is called spiritual rebellion.  And if we’re going to say that this promise is real, then we need to pay attention to the conditions Yahweh attaches to it.  Whenever God starts making threats and promises, there are always conditions, and those conditions will always come down to us responding to Him with the soul attitudes which He says please Him.  Throwing 2 Chronicles 7:14 in God’s face fifty times as a way of trying to coerce Him into raining blessings down on your snarky little head hardly qualifies as a correct soul attitude.  But then again, God wasn’t talking to any of us when He made this promise, and that means we have no valid basis on which we can claim it.  So before you try to wave this tired flag in God’s face again through prayer or song, it’s time to do what Christians are so bad at doing: examine context.

HISTORICAL CONTEXT

The first question we need to ask is “Who’s talking?”  It’s God—but which God?  If this was the New Testament, it could be Yahweh, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit talking.  But since we’re in the Old Testament, this is Yahweh talking.

Now once you become well-acquainted with Yahweh, as soon as you hear His Name you’re going to smile and think, “What an awesome God.”  And of course He is, and He never tires of hearing you compliment Him.  But when you’re thinking of Yahweh and cracking open the Old Testament, then there’s one quality about Yahweh that you just can’t help but think about, and that is His mind-blowing grace.  Yahweh is incredibly gracious, patient, merciful, and kind towards folks who are unbelievably rebellious, entitled, condescending, disloyal, and snarky.  Slogging through account after account of Israel’s abominable treatment of Yahweh in the Old Testament leaves you feeling utterly mystified as to how and why Yahweh put up with the little twerps for so long.  And since the ancient Israelites are so much like we are today, on the one hand, it’s a huge relief to see Yahweh being so gracious towards them.  On the other hand, you start to see why He feels Hell is such a reasonable destination for those who refuse to submit to Him on earth, because come on already, He’s GOD. 

Once you understand what a Sweetheart Yahweh is, you should realize that something is amiss when He starts talking in 2 Chronicles 7.  In general, Yahweh is an incredibly positive and upbeat Guy.  He’s always encouraging any spark of interest in Him, and painting our bumbling efforts to please Him in the most generous of lights.  Yahweh doesn’t lead with negativity unless He’s dealing with folks who are already entrenched in spiritual rebellion, so when we hear Him suddenly get crispy in 2 Chronicles 7, we know that things are not what they seem.

So what’s the historical context of this speech?  Are there specific events that Yahweh is responding to?  Yes, there are.  After twenty years of work, the massive, glittering Temple in Jerusalem has finally been completed.  This is the first Temple—Solomon’s Temple—and Solomon is the current king of Israel.  This is before the great civil war in Israel that broke the nation into two warring kingdoms.  Israel is still one united country, and she’s having a very blessed time of it.  Solomon’s father, King David, greatly expanded Israel’s borders, and now the country is rolling in wealth.

This Temple that was just constructed is going to permanently replace Yahweh’s portable tent Tabernacle.  It was David’s idea to give Yahweh this kind of upgrade, and Yahweh was rather lukewarm about the idea.  He made it clear to David that He didn’t view His tent Tabernacle as subpar, but He also said that He was very pleased with David’s desire to honor Him.  David wanted to start building the Temple right away, but Yahweh said that He wanted Solomon to build the Temple instead.  So David began gathering materials for his son and making plans, but it was Solomon’s crew who started the actual construction.

Now in these times, building temples and statues for gods to inhabit was a very common practice.  But getting your god to accept the structure you built for him was another issue, and the common strategy here was to try and butter him up by holding some grand ceremony in his honor.  This is what the Jews have just done with Yahweh.  To convince Yahweh to physically inhabit the massive Temple that they just built for Him, they moved His special Ark of the Covenant into the new Most Holy Place (aka the Holy of Holies) inside of the Temple, and they sacrificed a ton of animals to Him.  Then they stood around singing the same worshipful sentiment so many times that it undoubtedly lost all sincerity.  The next time you hear a Christian worship song in which lines like “You are good and Your love endures forever,” are being sung ad nauseam, it’s because the writer of the song is trying to get you to imitate the way the ancient Jews sang at Yahweh during the Temple dedication ceremony.  But wait—does Yahweh like it when you try to imitate the way the Jews treated Him back in those days?  You need to ask Him for yourself (see Offensive Worship Songs: LORD, LET YOUR GLORY FALL by Matt Redman).

Now Yahweh was already planning to accept this new Temple when He told David that Solomon had permission to build it.  To give Solomon and his fellow Jews visual confirmation that Yahweh accepted the Temple, at the end of 2 Chronicles 5, Yahweh fills the whole building with a dense cloud.  Why a cloud?  Because Yahweh is working with Jews, and back in Moses’ day, He taught the Jews to associate His personal Presence with a cloud.  For forty years the Jews followed a pillar of clouds around in the desert, and when Yahweh told Moses that He was descending on Mt. Sinai, that was another cloudy event.  Our Gods use different metaphors with different cultures.  The symbols themselves are never important—what matters is the message that They are communicating.

In 2 Chronicles 5, everyone is thrilled to see Yahweh’s cloud filling the Temple.  Is this because these people are fiercely devoted to Yahweh and cherish His magnificent Person?  No, it’s more like they love the idea of having a powerful God conveniently located in their nation’s capital.  You see, in Bible times, every country had national gods, which were viewed as physically guarding the land and protecting the people who lived there.  Like everyone else, the Jews wanted their own Divine backup, and Yahweh moving into the Temple makes them feel very secure.  But valuing Yahweh Himself is a whole different deal than just valuing His great power, and these Jews are miles from sincerely honoring God.

After Yahweh moves His cloudy Self into the Temple and all the Jews do their happy freak out, Solomon gets up and gives a speech and a long prayer, both of which are recorded in 2 Chronicles 6.  In the speech, Solomon really pats himself on the back for building the Temple and makes it sound like he single-handedly did it when in reality he probably didn’t lift a single stone.  But this is how it works when you’re a monarch with absolute power: you get to take the credit for anything you want.

After he finishes his speech, Solomon kneels down in front of all of Israel and raises his hands to Heaven to indicate he is now in prayer mode. The ancient Jews were a very theatrical people and this kneeling business is just a way of trying to look reverent whether you really are or not.

Now you never hear Solomon’s prayer from Chapter 6 being quoted, and yet it is this prayer that Yahweh is responding to when He says that famous line about healing the land.  When we just quote from Chapter 7, it’s like we’re only listening to one half of a conversation.  Unless you understand what Solomon said to Yahweh, you’re not going to be able to appreciate why Yahweh responded the way that He did. So let’s now examine Solomon’s prayer, and as we do, you need to be asking Yahweh to show you if this prayer is demonstrating good or bad soul attitudes.

SOLOMON’S PRAYER

“Yahweh, the God of Israel, there is no God like You in heaven or on earth—You who keep Your covenant of love with Your servants who continue wholeheartedly in Your way. You have kept Your promise to Your servant David my father; with Your mouth You have promised and with Your hand You have fulfilled it—as it is today.” (2 Chron. 6:14-15)

Notice how Solomon identifies both a promise and a condition when he says that Yahweh keeps His covenant of love with those who are serious about pleasing Him.  In other words, we can’t just treat God like garbage and think there won’t be any consequences. Today, Christians like to pretend that the fact that Jesus died for their sins has given them a free pass to totally disrespect Him in life and it will be all good.  Well, no, it won’t.  Our Gods demand ongoing submission from us, and if we start blowing off Their convictions, They will come back at us with discipline.

“Now, Yahweh, the God of Israel, keep for Your servant David my father the promises You made to him when You said, ‘You shall never fail to have a successor to sit before Me on the throne of Israel, if your descendants are careful in all they do to walk before Me according to My law, as you have done.’ And now, Yahweh, the God of Israel, let Your word that You promised Your servant David come true.” (2 Chron. 6:16-17)   

Here is where things start to slip as Solomon starts contradicting himself.  He began this prayer by praising Yahweh for being a God who faithfully keeps His promises.  Now he expresses great doubt in Yahweh’s faithfulness by pleading for Yahweh to keep His word.  In other words, Solomon is saying, “Yahweh, You’re so wonderful because You always keep Your promises.  But Yahweh, please keep Your promises.  You did make promises—remember?  Let me remind You.  You promised my father that his family line would always rule in Israel.  So please keep that promise and don’t break it.”

So much for being complimentary.  But at least Solomon is once again acknowledging that God’s promises always have conditions.  What’s the condition for Yahweh letting David always have someone ruling in Israel?  The condition is: “…IF your descendants are careful in all they do to walk before Me according to My law…”  Now while it sounds like Yahweh is demanding behavioral perfection here, He’s really not.  Notice how He said to David that His descendants would always rule if they obeyed Yahweh like David did.  Well, David messed up plenty of times in his life and he was far from perfect.  But as we said before, Yahweh is a very generous Guy, and if He sees that we’re sincerely wanting to please Him, He is very pleased with us.  Yahweh is not saying that the minute some Jewish king slips up, He’s going to trash everyone.  He’s saying, “My favor has to be earned.  If you people want Me to bless you, then you had better be serious about pleasing Me.”

So did the Jews meet the conditions of this promise?  Nope, and as a result, Yahweh trashed Israel, put an end to David’s line of kings, and shut down the Jewish monarchy.  Oh sure, Christians try to say that Jesus is the figurative Ruler of Israel, and since Jesus was believed to be a descendant of David, then He is figuratively fulfilling this promise.  Well, no, that whole stream of logic is a bunch of rubbish.  Even though Yahweh said that His Messiah would literally rule over the earthly nation of Israel and turn that nation into a world power, Jesus never did any such thing.  And as for this promise to David: it was cancelled on very legitimate grounds because the Jews didn’t hold up their end.  God’s promises always have conditions.  When we pretend that they don’t, we delude ourselves.

Well, so far Solomon has praised Yahweh for being faithful and then begged Him to keep being faithful.  Now all confidence in Yahweh’s goodness is thrown out the window as Solomon starts begging and pleading for Yahweh to even listen to what he’s saying.  Wow.  Yahweh started off sounding great in this prayer.  Now He’s being reduced to some indifferent God who is prone to ignoring His own creatures when they are crying out to Him.

“But will God really dwell on earth with humans? The heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain You. How much less this Temple I have built! Yet, Yahweh my God, give attention to Your servant’s prayer and his plea for mercy. Hear the cry and the prayer that Your servant is praying in Your Presence. May Your eyes be open toward this Temple day and night, this place of which You said You would put Your Name there. May You hear the prayer Your servant prays toward this place. Hear the supplications of Your servant and of Your people Israel when they pray toward this place. Hear from heaven, Your dwelling place; and when You hear, forgive.” (2 Chron. 6:18-21)

Solomon just asked Yahweh six times to listen to people.  Can you imagine asking another human for something six times in a row?  Under what circumstances would you do this?  Clearly you would have to have serious doubts about that person’s level of interest in you.  Because if you thought that they cared about you at all, it would be pretty hard to justify begging them for the same thing six times in a row.

Because we all try to interact with God the same way that we would other humans, this business of pleading for God to listen to us is very problematic.  You just don’t feel the need to do this unless you secretly believe that God is very likely ignoring you.  Think about your own prayer life: what kinds of things do you keep asking God for?  Whatever those things are, they are things that you don’t believe He is willing to give you.  And yet what does God say?  Does He teach us to view Him as some indifferent, callous Creator who couldn’t care less about the works of His hands?  Does He teach us to believe that He is plugging His ears and cranking up the television every time we try to say something to Him?  No, this is not at all what God says.

All three of our Gods are extremely involved Creators who enjoy micromanaging us so much that They’ve created us to be incapable of surviving without Them propping us up every second.  If you don’t believe this, then you need to spend some time thinking about where you are getting your beliefs about God from.  It is other humans who fill our brains with grim views of God, because they’re just passing on their own personal insecurities.  If you’re going to get an accurate view of how God views you, you need to stop letting other humans do His talking for Him and go direct.  You need to ask Him to help you understand how He really views you and to help you let go of any false beliefs about Him which you are currently clinging to.  Only God can give you an accurate understanding of who He is and how He operates. But this is exactly what He will give you if you are willing to go direct.

In 2 Chronicles 6, what Solomon wants is for Yahweh to agree to make Himself regularly available to people at the Temple in Jerusalem.  Even though Solomon knows that Yahweh is everywhere and that He knows all things, Solomon is choosing to limit himself by deciding he desperately needs this Temple in order to communicate with Yahweh.  Well, no, he really doesn’t, and he’s not being wise to take this tact.

Today there are many Christians and non-Christians who believe that they need to be physically standing in a church for God to really hear them (see Prayer Posture & Location).  What happens when we decide that we have to be in a certain place or use a certain posture before God will pay attention to us? We end up severely limiting our communication with Him.  When we’re not in that special place or using that special posture, we think God is unavailable to us.  Instead of acknowledging who God really is, we turn Him into some very limited Being who is so out of touch with His Creation, that He can’t see or hear what happens outside of the walls of a church.  This is hardly the definition of a true God.

Solomon’s prayer is a good demonstration of how too much sight erodes faith.  The Temple was a physical building that Solomon could see and touch.  Solomon likes having visual “evidence” of God’s Presence in Israel, and already we can see by the way that he is praying that the Temple is having a negative impact on Solomon’s faith.  There would simply be no need to beg Yahweh to meet with people at the Temple if Solomon had confidence in Yahweh’s omnipresence.  And once you decide that you must physically come to the Temple for God to really pay attention to you, what is that going to do your prayer life when you’re not at the Temple?  What is the point of praying at home or at work or anywhere else if God is only going to meet with you at the Temple?

In the Bible we find a common pattern of Yahweh using physical props to help boost people’s faith, only to then have people obsess over those objects until they think they can’t function without them.  After Moses’ walking staff was used as a prop in several miracles, Moses decided that the stick itself had power and that he could wield that power any time he wanted to (see Why Moses & Aaron Were Banned From The Promised Land).  When Yahweh used a bronze snake as a prop in a healing miracle, the people decided that the physical object was the thing with the power, and they turned the snake into a god (see The Fate of the Bronze Snake). The prophet Elisha also became too enamored with his walking staff, and when the child of his good friend died, Elisha tried to use the stick to resurrect the kid instead of waiting for God (see The Laying On of Hands). Today when Christians sense the presence of demons, out come the bibles, crosses and holy water.  Today we are worshiping a pile of ink and paper as the equivalent of God Himself and calling it “The Living Word.”  What causes us to act so foolishly?  Well, we’re trying to get out of having to do the work of faith.  When you want to hear some message from God, it’s a lot easier to read words on a page than it is to try and sort through the mess in your head (see Voices in Your Mind: Discerning Between God & Demons).  And yet whenever we start depending on physical props and fabricated emotional highs to make us feel confident that God gives a care that we’re alive, what happens to our faith?  It crumbles.

The more we cling to what we can see, the less trust we have in God Himself.  Stuffing our lives full of Christian paraphernalia is like trying to plug up a hole in a dam using nothing but tissue paper.  It doesn’t work.  You can’t fix weak faith with tangible props and amazing miracles.  To grow strong, faith needs to be cultivated in the absence of sensual confirmation, and this is why God is doing us such a favor by dragging us through those dreaded spiritual deserts (see The Purpose of Spiritual Deserts).  It’s when we’re forced to cling to something God told us a long time ago without having the luxury of Him repeating Himself every five minutes that we end up cultivating strong faith.  It’s when we have to practice depending on the goodness of God when He doesn’t seem to be acting good at all that we start to develop real trust.

When Solomon started this speech, he testified that he already had enough material to build faith on.  He knows that God has a long history of being gracious towards the Jews in general, plus Solomon has heard many stories of how faithful Yahweh was towards his own father.  And yet here he is, begging for God to notice that he’s praying and pleading for the Temple to become some place that he can go to in order to connect with God in the future.  And bear in mind that this whole prayer is happening after Yahweh clouded up the place.  In other words, Solomon can see that Yahweh has just miraculously filled the Temple with a sign of His Presence, and yet how does Solomon respond? By begging and pleading for Yahweh to approve of this Temple.  Such is the detrimental effect of refusing to do the work of faith.

“When anyone wrongs their neighbor and is required to take an oath and they come and swear the oath before Your altar in this Temple, then hear from heaven and act. Judge between Your servants, condemning the guilty and bringing down on their heads what they have done, and vindicating the innocent by treating them in accordance with their innocence.

When Your people Israel have been defeated by an enemy because they have sinned against You and when they turn back and give praise to Your Name, praying and making supplication before You in this Temple, then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of Your people Israel and bring them back to the land You gave to them and their ancestors.” (2 Chron. 6:22-25)

The longer Solomon prays, the more of a jerk Yahweh seems.  Here Solomon begs Yahweh to actually get involved when people come to Him for justice. Under the Old Covenant, there were certain situations in which people who were being accused of crimes were required to come to the Tabernacle to have Yahweh settle their disputes for them.  Often the high priest would discern Yahweh’s will in a situation by casting a special set of lots which Yahweh authorized to be used for that purpose.  This would be like God handing you a special set of coins and saying, “When you’re in a quandary, flip these coins to figure out what I want.  If I make them turn heads up, that means yes.  If I make them turn tails up, that means no.”  This is basically how the special lots that the high priest carried around with him worked.  But not everything involved lot casting.  In some cases, Yahweh said He would perform a miracle to protect people who were being wrongly accused of something.  The point is that it was Yahweh who told Israel how He wanted them to settle disputes, and it was Yahweh who said He would get involved in matters of justice.  So here Solomon is basically begging God to do what He’s already said He’s going to do.

Notice how Solomon acknowledges that if the Israelites rebel against Yahweh, Yahweh will surely discipline them.  He doesn’t express any doubt in God’s anger, but he shows no confidence in God’s mercy by pleading for Yahweh to actually acknowledge when people are trying to repent and get back into a good place with Him.  Wow, really?  So we can count on God to pound us into the ground, but we can’t count on Him to care when we’re desperately trying to make amends?  So God is quick to anger and slower than a snail to forgive?  Well, yes, this is exactly what Solomon is saying by the way he phrases this prayer.  And yet what does Yahweh say?

Then Yahweh came down in the cloud and stood there with Moses and proclaimed His Name: Yahweh. And He passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “Yahweh—Yahweh is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in faithful love and truth, maintaining faithful love to a thousand generations, forgiving wrongdoing, rebellion, and sin. But He will not leave the guilty unpunished, bringing the consequences of the fathers’ wrongdoing on the children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation.” (Ex. 34:5-7)

Don’t get stuck on that part about God punishing the children and grandchildren of sinners.  Instead, look at the whole statement and notice how God is clearly emphasizing the positive.  How many generations does He say He’ll punish sin?  Three to four.  How many does He say He’ll be loving?  A thousand.  The generational language is figurative and it’s like English speakers saying “a little while” versus “forever” (see How long is a biblical generation?).   Metaphors aside, the point is that Yahweh claims to be a God who airs on the side of mercy, not wrath.  He says He is slow to anger.  He says He is compassionate, gracious, and forgiving of rebellion and sin.  Yet when we flip ahead to 2 Chronicles 6, we find Solomon begging God to be merciful and forgiving as if there is no reason to think that these things can be assumed about Him.  Wow.

“When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because Your people have sinned against You, and when they pray toward this place and give praise to Your Name and turn from their sin because You have afflicted them, then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of Your servants, Your people Israel. Teach them the right way to live, and send rain on the land You gave Your people for an inheritance.

When famine or plague comes to the land, or blight or mildew, locusts or grasshoppers, or when enemies besiege them in any of their cities, whatever disaster or disease may come, and when a prayer or plea is made by anyone among Your people Israel—being aware of their afflictions and pains, and spreading out their hands toward this Temple—then hear from heaven, Your dwelling place. Forgive, and deal with everyone according to all they do, since You know their hearts (for You alone know the human heart), so that they will fear You and walk in obedience to You all the time they live in the land You gave our ancestors.” (2 Chron. 6:26-31)

In this prayer, Solomon is talking about right soul attitudes: about people revering and submitting to God.  But he’s modeling wrong soul attitudes by constantly suggesting that God is quick to anger and very reluctant to forgive.  This business of Solomon encouraging his people to spread out their hands towards the Temple in Jerusalem is a very bad idea, for it only encourages people to reject the fact that Yahweh is always with them.  David expresses a far better attitude in Psalm 139, in which he marvels at Yahweh’s intimate involvement in every aspect of his life.  But here in 2 Chronicles 6, Solomon is praying to a God who he clearly views as being so detached from humans that He’s likely to forget all about them if they don’t keep reminding Him that they exist.  Solomon makes Yahweh out to be a God who wants people to fail—for he keeps anticipating times when Yahweh will dish out terrible forms of discipline only to then refuse to listen when desperate souls are crying out to Him in sincere repentance.  You see, you don’t beg someone to do something unless you think that what you’re asking for is unusual behavior for that person.  The fact that Solomon keeps begging God to acknowledge prayers, acknowledge repentance, and involve Himself in human affairs paints a very grim picture of who Solomon thinks Yahweh is.

“As for the foreigner who does not belong to Your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of Your great Name and Your mighty hand and Your outstretched arm—when they come and pray toward this Temple, then hear from heaven, Your dwelling place. Do whatever the foreigner asks of You, so that all the peoples of the earth may know Your Name and fear You, as do Your own people Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears Your Name.” (2 Chron. 6:32-33)

During the days of Moses, Yahweh sternly warned Israel not to shun foreigners or pretend that non-Jews were less important to God than Jews were.  As the king, Solomon knows the writings of Moses, and the books Genesis through Deuteronomy are being preserved in Israel as sacred Scriptures.  Yet even though Yahweh is the One who commands the Jews not to shun non-Jews in the Scriptures that Solomon has access to, in this prayer, Solomon is asking God not to shun non-Jews.  Really?  Solomon is telling God not to be a bigot?  Well, yes, and he’s also telling Yahweh to do anything a foreigner asks Him.  Well, no, Yahweh is hardly going to agree to such an inappropriate request.  God never takes orders from us, regardless of what ethnicity we are.  And after accusing God of being indifferent, merciless, and impossible to please so many times in this prayer, Solomon is really out of line to start telling God to give certain humans a free pass to boss Him around.

“When Your people go to war against their enemies, wherever You send them, and when they pray to You toward this city You have chosen and the Temple I have built for Your Name, then hear from heaven their prayer and their plea, and uphold their cause.” (2 Chron. 6:34-35)

This prayer is only going to feel necessary if you think that Yahweh is the kind of Guy who tells people to go do something just to so He can make them crash and burn.  Why would God do something like that?  Well, in real life, God intentionally creates trials in our lives, but with the positive motivation of helping us grow closer to Him.  Solomon isn’t giving God any credit for positive motivations in this prayer.  Instead, it’s like he keeps saying, “Please, Yahweh, don’t act like Your usual jerky Self.  Be different with us.  Be nice for a change.  I know how You love to make humans miserable just to do it, but please don’t do that with us.”   So far this has been a pretty insulting prayer.

“When they sin against You—for there is no one who does not sin—and You become angry with them and give them over to the enemy, who takes them captive to a land far away or near; and if they have a change of heart in the land where they are held captive, and repent and plead with You in the land of their captivity and say, ‘We have sinned, we have done wrong and acted wickedly’; and if they turn back to You with all their heart and soul in the land of their captivity where they were taken, and pray toward the land You gave their ancestors, toward the city You have chosen and toward the Temple I have built for Your Name; then from heaven, Your dwelling place, hear their prayer and their pleas, and uphold their cause. And forgive Your people, who have sinned against You.” (2 Chron. 6:36-39)

Suppose you knew nothing about Christianity and you visited a church in which a pastor prayed like Solomon does in this chapter.  What would you conclude about the Character of the Christian God?  You’d think, “Wow, He sounds like a totally merciless Guy who flies off the handle whenever people make one wrong move.  And once people get on His wrong side, it sounds like He’s impossible to reconcile with. Why else would this pastor keep begging for God to listen to people and be merciful unless he knows that God is usually indifferent and cruel?”

Are you currently functioning as a leader in the Christian community? If so, then you need to realize that the way you pray out loud has a major impact on other souls.  As a leader, you have a responsibility to be a lot more careful about what kinds of soul attitudes you model in front of others.  Certainly we all struggle with doubts and fears, but when you’re praying in front of other souls, it’s not the time to broadcast your personal issues with God.

In 2 Chronicles 6, Solomon is publicly dishonoring Yahweh by the way he is praying.  There would have been thousands of Jews gathered at this event, and naturally they look up to their king as a spiritual role model—especially since he is the son of the great David.  Yet what is Solomon teaching his people about who Yahweh is?  He’s teaching them that Yahweh is some impossible to please Taskmaster who can’t be counted on for anything.  He’s teaching them that Yahweh gives commands so that He can beat on anyone who fails to obey them, yet when people do try to obey, He doesn’t care.  Is it okay to slander the Character of God just because you’re a king or a pastor or a prophet?  Certainly not.  Solomon is grossly insulting God in this prayer, and he’s publicly rejecting the things that Yahweh says about Himself in the Torah.  These Jews know about Moses, and they know about Yahweh’s Old Covenant laws.  They also know that Yahweh claims to be a very merciful and compassionate Being, but here their king is encouraging them to discount what Yahweh says and follow his miserable example instead.

Leading the flock is a very serious responsibility, and leaders need to be seeking God’s leading before they open their mouths and start talking about Him to others.  The purpose of praying out loud is to model correct soul attitudes for the flock—not to give everyone a glimpse into your personal relationship with God.  What you’re saying to God in the privacy of your own soul is no one else’s business, and God hardly needs you to vocalize your thoughts before He can hear what you’re saying.  So we don’t pray out loud for our sake or for God’s sake: we do it for the benefit of the flock and only when God gives us the words.  When He’s not prompting us to pray out loud, we need to skip it.  Your flock is better off not knowing what you’re struggling with than they are having you dump your issues all over them.  God doesn’t call people into leadership positions so they can just abuse the flock and treat them like a captive audience. People already have enough problems of their own without you adding your own issues onto the pile, so if you’re in a habit of tossing out any prayer that comes to mind without any regard to what kind of role model you’re being, then you need to ask God to help you do a better job of honoring Him in this area (see Praying for Your Flock in a Way that Honors God).

“Now, my God, may Your eyes be open and Your ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. Now arise, Yahweh God, and come to Your resting place, You and the Ark of Your might.

May Your priests, Yahweh God, be clothed with salvation, may Your faithful people rejoice in Your goodness. Yahweh God, do not reject Your anointed one. Remember the great love promised to David Your servant.” (2 Chron. 6:40-42)

Solomon clearly views Yahweh as very impatient, merciless, and inattentive, thus he figures that bringing up his father’s name is a strategic move.  It’s like he’s saying, “Yahweh, I know You can’t be expected to like any of us, but You did like my father David, so could You maybe consider liking us for his sake?”  Is this an appropriate request?  No, it’s not, because God judges us each individually.  Just being associated with David isn’t going to get anyone special privileges with God, and not being associated with David isn’t going to cause someone to be overlooked.  Who you know is a big deal on earth, but your human connections don’t impress God in the least.  The guy with no friends is just as important to God as the guy with a thousand friends.  The popular and the unpopular receive the same attentive care.  Solomon is once again insulting God with these concluding remarks, and don’t miss how he actually asks Yahweh to come into the Temple when the place is already filled with God’s cloud.  At the end of Chapter 5 we were told:

Then the Temple of Yahweh was filled with the cloud, and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of Yahweh filled the Temple of God. (2 Chron. 5:13-14)

The Temple has been shrouded in such dense fog that the priests can’t even see what they’re doing, but here Solomon pleading for God to actually enter the Temple.  Talk about a lousy spiritual role model.

So what will it take to get doubting Solomon to stop begging for Yahweh to enter His Temple?  Since the cloud’s not doing it, Yahweh very generously throws down yet another kind of visual confirmation: fire.

When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of Yahweh filled the Temple. The priests could not enter the Temple of Yahweh because the glory of Yahweh filled it.  When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of Yahweh above the Temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave thanks to Yahweh, saying, “He is good; His love endures forever.” (2 Chron. 7:1-3)

So before God throws down the fire, we’re all talking like He’s some merciless jerk, but once He puts on a light show, we’re waxing on about how good He is?  Such is the hypocrisy of humans.  These people aren’t sincere in their declarations about God’s goodness, they’re just saying what they think He wants to hear in hopes of keeping the miracles coming. Does God like being flattered like this? No, He detests it.  You can’t butter God up.  He doesn’t have our raging insecurities, nor is He blind to our true intentions.  Telling God that you love Him is a complete waste of time if you don’t really mean what you’re saying.  God detests it when Christians stand around mouthing words at Him or singing worship songs while their minds are on other things.  This is why you’re always better off staying silent than joining in with songs and prayers that you don’t really mean.  Singing to God just so you can make a certain impression on the humans around you is only going to get you in trouble with Him.  God hates fake, so if you’re going to be fake, do it with other humans, not with God.

Now after days of hoopla in Jerusalem, everyone finally goes home and Solomon is alone at night in his royal palace when Yahweh suddenly speaks to him.  Here is where we come to that famous line about Yahweh healing the land when people pray to Him.  But now let’s look at everything Yahweh says as He responds to the specific prayer that Solomon prayed.

YAHWEH ANSWERS SOLOMON

“I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for Myself as a Temple for sacrifices.” (2 Chron. 6:12)

Given how insulting Solomon’s prayer was, this is a very generous opening.  Yahweh’s already confirmed His acceptance of the Temple with clouds and fire, but now He personally visits Solomon to confirm yet again that yes, He does accept the Temple.  And this is the same God who Solomon was begging to listen to him so many times.  Clearly all of that pleading was not necessary.

“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, 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. (2 Chron. 7:13-14)

It was Solomon who brought up this idea of God plaguing Israel with troubles as a way of disciplining rebellion.  And we could tell from Solomon’s prayer that he was very worried about Yahweh being impossible to reconcile with.  Here Yahweh is addressing Solomon’s specific fear by saying that of course He’ll respond positively towards people who are sincerely seeking Him.  Of course He’ll listen and forgive and stop beating on them.  Of course He’s easy to reconcile with, because He is Yahweh.

“Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. I have chosen and consecrated this Temple so that My Name may be there forever. My eyes and My heart will always be there.” (2 Chron. 7:15-16)

How many times did Solomon beg for God to listen to people who were praying to Him?  Once again, Yahweh addresses a specific fear by saying that of course He’ll listen to people who are praying to Him.  Of course He won’t just ignore them.  Of course He’ll pay attention and care because He’s Yahweh.

“As for you, if you walk before Me faithfully as David your father did, and do all I command, and observe My decrees and laws, I will establish your royal throne, as I covenanted with David your father when I said, ‘You shall never fail to have a successor to rule over Israel.’” (2 Chron. 7:17-18)

Now Yahweh turns the focus onto His personal relationship with Solomon and says that if Solomon remains serious about pleasing Him, then Yahweh will bless him and honor the promise that He made to David.  But of course when Yahweh says this, He knows that Solomon is going to totally turn away from Him and go off to worship a whole host of idol gods.  He knows that Solomon will get so into his false gods that he’ll build a bunch of temples to them as well, and even go so far as to sacrifice his own kids to them.  Solomon’s long, faithless prayer already indicates that he’s moving in the wrong spiritual direction.  He’s clearly rejecting many truths that Yahweh has stated about who He is and how He operates.  You just don’t pray a prayer like the one in Chapter 6 unless something is going south between you and God on a soul level.  Remember that Solomon is not some lost little thing who has had no positive spiritual influences in his life.  When Solomon was born to David and Bathsheba, Yahweh actually gave him a special name which meant “loved by Yahweh”.

Yahweh loved Solomon; and because Yahweh loved him, He sent word through the prophet Nathan to name him Jedidiah [jeh-dih-DIE-yah]. (2 Sam. 12:24-25)

It’s not like Yahweh hasn’t reached out to Solomon.  And yet despite the special name and loving affirmations, Solomon gets up and publicly makes Yahweh out to be some loveless, hostile Creator.  How do you go from saying, “God gave me a special name to remind me of how much He loves me,” to saying, “My fellow Israelites: because ours is a moody, merciless God who we can’t count on to even listen to us, join me in pleading for Him to set aside His usual hostility and look kindly on us by actually acknowledging when we’re talking to Him”? This kind of shift is a result of many wrong soul choices, and we now hear Yahweh’s tone getting suddenly harsh as He warns Solomon not to choose the path of rebellion.

“But if you turn away and forsake the decrees and commands I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, then I will uproot Israel from My land, which I have given them, and will reject this Temple I have consecrated for My Name. I will make it a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples. This Temple will become a heap of rubble. All who pass by will be appalled and say, ‘Why has Yahweh done such a thing to this land and to this Temple?’ People will answer, ‘Because they have forsaken Yahweh, the God of their ancestors, who brought them out of Egypt, and have embraced other gods, worshiping and serving them—that is why He brought all this disaster on them.’” (2 Chron. 7:19-22)

Yahweh is not about to guarantee that this Temple will be a permanent installation in Israel. Instead, He promises to destroy it if Israel turns away from Him.  And as the king, Solomon has a lot of influence over his people.  They’re going to imitate his soul choices, so if he starts slapping up temples to idol gods, they’re going to worship at those temples as well.  If he starts roasting his children alive to false gods, so will they.  Yahweh knows that Solomon is already drifting, and this stern lecture is a gracious warning for him to take a hard look at his spiritual choices and do what he knows is right.

Well, Solomon doesn’t heed this warning and he ends up being a very tragic figure.  Meanwhile, we are totally discounting the many important spiritual lessons of Solomon’s exchange with Yahweh.  All we want is a formula for how we can get Yahweh to fix our problems.  Solomon wanted the Temple in Jerusalem to be some magic fix.  He wanted Yahweh to agree to do anything people asked of Him.  Today we pretend that if we all group up and pretend to be sad about the rebellion around us, Yahweh will be obligated to make our nation prosper.  Well, no, He really won’t.  For starters, Yahweh isn’t even talking to us in this passage.  Instead, He’s addressing the specific fears of a guy whose faith is down to a few sad shreds.  We don’t want to be anything like Solomon, who ended up greatly disrespecting God by not listening when God spoke.  So we need to listen and recognize that God isn’t talking to us in 2 Chronicles 7.  There are no promises for us in this passage—only promises for an Old Covenant Israel, which no longer exists.  The modern day nation of Israel is trying hard to say that she still has a claim to all of the promises Yahweh made her ancestors, but no, she really doesn’t.  A lot changed with the coming of Christ, and under this  Covenant, Yahweh no longer promises a sweet life to anyone.

Suppose Mary’s husband Tom says to her, “I’m going to take you on a vacation: just the two of us.”  Mary is pleased.  But then her nosy neighbor Janet runs over and says, “Great, Tom, when do we leave?”  Tom looks at Janet and says, “I wasn’t talking to you, Janet. I was talking to my wife.”  But Janet says, “Whatever you say to her applies to me as well, so when do we leave?”

With other humans, you wouldn’t try to get away with this kind shenanigan, yet you do it with God every time you go ripping some line out of the Bible that He said to someone else and say, “You owe it to me to fulfill this promise that You made me!”  In the first place, God doesn’t owe you anything. In the second place, He wasn’t talking to you.  Now certainly there is a wealth of valuable insights that we can learn from the Bible, but we’re not going to learn the right lessons until we get serious about listening to God.

The end times are going to begin in America.  Not because America is more special than anyone else, but because this is what God wants to do.  He’ll start with us, then He’ll expand out to the rest of the world while He continues to trash us.  God has specific agendas in mind for running the end times the way that He is going to run them.  When you pay no regard to what His personal goals are and instead start pleading for Him to stop the damage, are you treating Him respectfully?  No, you’re being a little brat and acting like God should be revolving around you and what you want.  Once the end time destruction begins, it will be a complete waste of time for you to start throwing 2 Chronicles 7:14 in God’s face.  He’s not going to heal our land or anyone else’s.  Instead, He’s going to keep on destroying both lives and property and if we don’t want to end up on the wrong side of His wrath during this period, then we need to listen to what He is saying to us in the privacy of our own souls.

Because God is not the jerk that Solomon makes Him out to be, we can trust Him to lead us through the end times and show us how we can thrive in the midst of them.  Solomon didn’t think he could count on God.  As Christians, we should know better.  If you’re not personally there, then ask God to help you get there.  Keep your focus on your own walk with God and you’re going to do well.  But if you act like the welfare of your nation matters more than you honoring God in your own soul, then you’re going to end up in a mess (see God & Patriotism: Guarding Your Priorities).

FURTHER READING:
Applying 2 Chronicles 20: Learning from Jehoshaphat
Isaiah 26:3 In Context: Does God really give us perfect peace?
Understanding Moses: Identifying Soul Attitudes in Deuteronomy 8
Understanding the Purpose of Terror in the End Times

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