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Thursday, September 22, 2016

"If My People" and the Rest of the Story

Everyone has heard this verse. It’s a promise to the nation of Israel way back in the Old Testament:

If my people, which are called by my name, shall 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 (2 Chronicles 7:14).

It’s a great verse of promise, one of those if-then statements we hear especially in the context of politics. If the nation would only honor God, then God will bless it. And, of course, that’s true.

But, sometimes we fail to read the context. Look what’s happening here, and why God made the promise in the first place. This is on the occasion of Solomon’s dedication of the new Temple. He had just held an awesome sacrifice and equally amazing service of dedication. This is what goes before that verse: And the LORD appeared to Solomon by night, and said unto him, I have heard thy prayer, and have chosen this place to myself for an house of sacrifice. If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people (2 Chronicles 7:12-13). If my people . . . .

Let’s skip a few verses and see the rest of the context: And as for thee, if thou wilt walk before me, as David thy father walked, and do according to all that I have commanded thee, and shalt observe my statutes and my judgments; Then will I stablish the throne of thy kingdom, according as I have covenanted with David thy father, saying, There shall not fail thee a man to be ruler in Israel. But if ye turn away, and forsake my statutes and my commandments, which I have set before you, and shall go and serve other gods, and worship them; Then will I pluck them up by the roots out of my land which I have given them; and this house, which I have sanctified for my name, will I cast out of my sight, and will make it to be a proverb and a byword among all nations (2 Chronicles 7:17-20).

God begins to point the finger: As for thee (Solomon) you need to do right and be obedient. You need to be personally responsible.

Yes, Solomon was the leader. He was the king. So, of course, it was his responsibility to set the example and lead.

It’s important to notice that every individual is responsible for taking the initiative and doing right. If the whole nation honors God, God will heal their land.

It begins with one.

It begins with you . . . and me.

Notice what pleases God. He told Solomon—in the last passage above—that Solomon was to observe His statutes and judgments. That means obedience. It means obeying His laws.

I think we’ve gotten away from that mentality in Christianity today. We don’t like to obey the rules. They seem too restrictive. We like our freedom. We don’t like purity. We don’t like holiness.

Think about our choices of entertainment—movies and TV. Back in my childhood, my parents didn’t let us watch Gunsmoke because it was violent. They wanted us to see only clean, fun TV shows. Later, when we were teens, I remember my mother turning a program off immediately after hearing one curse word. Good friends of ours—at the time with three teenage sons--had a rule that their boys could only see PG and G movies in someone else’s home unless they phoned home and asked about a specific PG-13 movie. The parents took the responsibility for them, and what Mom and Dad decided was what they did.

What are your entertainment choices? Are they holy? Are they pure? Do they depict wholesome values and have a healthy moral tone? Do they honor God?

What do you choose for your kids to see? What kinds of video games are they allowed to play? Are you promoting obedience to God?

Think about our attitudes towards government. I understand that in some countries, their governments are corrupt, and authorities aren’t what they should be. The Bible says, Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good (Romans 13:1-4ยช). It’s even more impacting when we remember that this was written when the Roman government fell very short of fair and kind. Even so, Christians were instructed to respect the rule of law.

Think about the sanctity of marriage and how God views fornication. What’s our attitude toward marriage and lust outside of marriage?

There are many other areas, of course, and we’re not going into them all.

When we say, “If our country would just get back to God” and excuse ourselves for disobeying God’s laws and statutes, God won’t bless us—or our country. On the other hand, if all the Christians in the United States, for example, would start being obedient, pure-living people with the power of the Holy Spirit evident in their lives, we would no doubt have a changed country. God would bless America again.

If my people begins with you and me.

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