Book, Christian women, Jacob

4th of July Sale!


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Discernment, Old Testament, Sunday School

A Non-Prophet Organization ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 6-29-14

A Non-Prophet Organization


These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 26 ~ June 22-28
Proverbs 30-31, 1 Kings 12-21, 2 Chronicles 10-17
A Non-Prophet Organization

1 Kings 12:32-13:34

Setting the Scene (12:32-33)
Solomon has died, and Israel has been divided into two parts: the Southern Kingdom, consisting only of the tribe of Judah, and the Northern Kingdom, Israel, consisting of the other ten tribes. Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, is king of Judah. Solomon’s former servant, Jeroboam, is king of Israel.

Jerusalem, where the temple is located, is in Judah. Jeroboam (king of Israel) figures that if his people continue traveling to Jerusalem for feasts and sacrifices, they will eventually turn their loyalty back to the the kingly lineage of David (12:26-27) and he’ll lose both his kingdom and his head. So, in order to keep the people inside the borders of Israel and control them, he makes a couple of golden calves (which somebody should have remembered turned out bad the last time that was tried {Exodus 32}) for them to worship at either of two convenient locations, Bethel, in the south, and Dan in the north. Jeroboam, leading the way, had the Israelites simply transfer their feasts and sacrifices that they would have offered to God to these golden calves.

Prophet #1 (13:1-10)
Since we aren’t told the names of either of the prophets in this chapter, we’ll just call them Prophet #1 and Prophet #2. This section is about Prophet #1.


In Flagrante Delicto (1-3) 
The Latin phrase, in flagrante delicto, literally means “in blazing offense.” In the American justice system, it means that someone was caught in the act of committing a crime. And, there’s no better way to describe Jeroboam here, standing by the altar, the offensive sacrifice blazing away, when God confronts him about his sin through the prophet.

Normally, when a prophet has a word from the Lord for someone, we see him speaking directly to that person, but here, we actually see Prophet #1 speaking to an altar. Why? Scripture doesn’t say. But, since Jeroboam was standing right there, he got the message.
Prophet #1 prophesied that a new king, Josiah, would come out of David’s line, and slaughter the pagan priests on their own altars. Since Josiah was not to come for about 300 more years, God gave a miraculous sign that He had spoken. The altar was torn down and the ashes “desecrated” (if it’s possible to further desecrate ashes of an idolatrous sacrifice) by pouring them on the ground.

Hypocrisy (4-7)
As soon as Prophet #1 had finished speaking, Jeroboam reached out to kill him, and God protected the prophet by shriveling up Jeroboam’s hand. But, when Jeroboam saw God’s word fulfilled in the altar being torn down and the ashes scattered, he quickly changed his tune. He stopped trying to kill the prophet. And whom did he entreat to heal him? Not the golden calves, but God. Next, he invited the prophet back home for supper and a reward. It sort of looks like he repented. Did he? As we’ll see later in the chapter, he did not.

Jeroboam changed his actions, but so did God. God went from an expression of wrath to an expression of mercy in a heartbeat. When man changes his actions, but not his heart, it’s called hypocrisy. When God changes His actions because of His heart, it’s called grace. Common grace for the sinner, saving grace for the penitent. He did it at the cross, and He does it for each person who will repent and put his faith in Christ.

So, one minute Jeroboam is trying to kill the prophet and the next, he’s being hospitable and wants to reward him. With such a quick turnaround, you have to wonder if he was trying to lure the prophet back home to kill him. We can’t know for sure, but even if God hadn’t forbade him from accepting, it would seem he was wise to decline.

Thanks, but no thanks (8-10)
Contrast the lengths of self denial the prophet went to (“if you give me half your house, I will not…) in order to stay true and obedient to God, and the lengths of disobedience and betrayal of God that Jeroboam went to (12:25ff) to indulge his desire to stay in power. Prophet #1 could have had it made, but his love for the Lord was greater than his love for stuff. It was time to hit the road.

Dueling Prophets (13:11-32)

Prophet #2 and his false prophecy (11-19)
We don’t really know anything about Prophet #2 either, except that he lived in Bethel near one of the golden calf altars. We don’t know why he went out so urgently after Prophet #1 or why he wanted Prophet #1 to come back home with him, and we certainly don’t know why he lied to Prophet #1 to get him to disobey the Lord. It’s ok to try to guess what might have motivated Prophet #2, but we have to remember that anything we come up with will be just that, a guess. Where God’s word does not speak definitively, we cannot speak definitively.

The discernment factor (14-19, Numbers 23:19, Proverbs 30:6, 2 Corinthians 11:14-15, Galatians 1:6-9) 
Prophet #1 gives us a valuable lesson in the importance of comparing to God’s word everyone and everything that claims to be to speaking for God. Prophet #1 certainly knew that

“God is not man, that he should lie,
or a son of man, that he should change his mind.
Has he said, and will he not do it?
Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” Numbers 23:19

God does not contradict His word. If we “hear” from the Lord, or someone gives us a “word from the Lord” or says “God says/wants/thinks…,” it must be in line with Scripture, or it is not truly from the Lord. Whenever we hear preachers, teachers, friends, etc., saying things like that, we need to ask ourselves, “Where does God’s word say that (in context)?” If God’s word doesn’t say it, we need to throw it out. We must be careful not to add to God’s word or believe those who do. Another verse in this week’s reading says:

Do not add to [God’s] words,
lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar. Proverbs 30:6

How quickly Prophet #1 turned from obedience (8-9) to disobedience (19). It can be easy to discern between good and evil in a worldly situation (such as the one Prophet #1 faced when dealing with Jeroboam). It’s easy to discern that it’s wrong to do worldly things: get drunk, use a prostitute, steal, etc. It can be much more difficult when we’re in a Christian or church situation (such as the Prophet #1’s situation with Prophet #2). Evil is there, but Paul tells us:

Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. 2 Corinthians 11:14b-15a

We can’t take at face value (as Prophet #1 did) that a book or a pastor or a speaker is doctrinally sound just because it bears the label “Christian.” There are servants of Satan inside the church and they look like, and call themselves, “Christians.” We must compare what they say and teach to the word of God and get rid of them if they contradict it. Galatians 1 tells us people who preach a different gospel are “accursed,” damned. We are to rebuke and (if they don’t repent) remove these people from the church and have nothing to do with them. Don’t buy their books, don’t follow them on Facebook or watch them on TV. Have nothing to do with them.

1 kings 13 - 28 he found his carcase in the way
Prophet #2 and his true prophecy (20-25) 
Why would God speak through Prophet #2 when he had just blasphemed Him? God also spoke through Balaam’s donkey and through Saul. God chose many vessels to speak for Him, some clean, and some dirty. His way is to get His message across despite the vessel.

Both prophets sinned. But why did God seem more concerned with Prophet #1’s eating and drinking disobedience than with Prophet #2’s lie attributed to God? Why didn’t God also punish Prophet #2? Most likely because the part about not eating/drinking/stopping, and going home a different way (9) was part of his prophecy, a behavioral picture of the way God had rejected Jeroboam. Prophet #1’s prophecy was also very public, and had large scale, national implications. With great power comes great responsibility. Prophet #2’s sin was on a very small, one on one scale, not that that makes it any less a sin. Also, we don’t know that God didn’t punish him at some later, unrecorded time.

This time, Prophet #2 was truly speaking for the Lord, and his prophecy came true. Prophet #1 was attacked by a lion and died without honor, a disgrace.

A change of heart? (26-32)
Did Prophet #2 regret and repent of what he had done when he saw what happened to Prophet #1 and realized God’s word had come true? Had it not been for Prophet #2’s lies, Prophet #1 would have gotten safely home. Prophet #2 certainly seemed sorrowful, mourning Prophet #1’s death and requesting to be buried with him. He also supported and admitted the truth of God’s word that Prophet #1 had spoken to the altar.

Unhappily ever after (33-34, 2 Corinthians 7:10)
Second Corinthians 7:10 tells us:

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

Think about Prophet #2’s remorse. Think about the remorse of Jeroboam earlier in the chapter, and consider these two verses. Which one do you think was experiencing “godly grief”? “Worldly grief?” While it certainly seems that Prophet #2 was exhibiting the “godly grief” this verse speaks of, we know from verses 33-34 that Jeroboam exhibited “worldly grief” back in the first part of the chapter with Prophet #1. He momentarily changed his behavior, but his heart did not change. He continued in sin and was ultimately destroyed.

Christian women, Church, Complementarianism, Men, Tough Passages, Women

Adam 3.0: Meanwhile, Back in the Garden, It’s Deja Vu All Over Again

Adam 3.0


I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.
1 Timothy 2:12-14

Because it’s my passion to see Christian women become holy, passionate, obedient disciples of Jesus Christ, I’ve dealt with this passage a lot and done a lot of research on it. Scripture is crystal clear that women are not to instruct men in the Scriptures in the church in the capacity of pastor or teacher, nor are they to hold authority over men in other positions in the church. (I’ve outlined Scripture’s case for this here if you’d like to do some further study.) And, unfortunately, there are many women in the church who are disobeying this Scripture (I used to be one of them)– some out of rebellion, and some out of ignorance. But until recently, I –and every other piece of information I’ve studied on the subject– have dealt with the issue of women stepping outside their God-ordained role in the church strictly as a women’s issue.

A few days ago, a friend of mine asked for my opinion on a Q&A video produced by a well known pastor. The pastor was asked, “Is it a sin for men to listen to women speakers [female Christian conference speakers, pastors, teachers, etc.]?”

And that’s when it hit me. I’d never heard this question addressed, or even asked, before. First Timothy 2:12ff is always dealt with from the perspective of women and towards women, that this is a women’s sin issue.

But to treat this role rebellion strictly as the sin of women is to pour gasoline on the fire. If it’s a singularly women’s problem, then it naturally falls on women with a right understanding of God’s word on the issue to deal with it, right? And if these women are the ones who have to confront and deal with this sin, even at the local church level, they’re being placed smack dab in the misappropriated role they’re trying to fight because they’re being asked to do the job of elders and pastors whose responsibility it is to maintain order and discipline in the church.

In other words, my Christian brothers, it’s not your discerning sisters’ job to handle this sin of role busting in the church. It’s yours.

The fact that there’s even a need for an article like this, never mind that a woman is writing it, is indicative of the pervasiveness of the problem. Why haven’t I heard any pastors or other Christian men exhorting men in the church to stand on God’s word, properly fill out their own role in the church, and also deal with the problem of female disobedience to this Scripture? Why are Christian men becoming accomplices to women’s sin by seeking out female pastors and teachers to be their spiritual leaders? I believe there are three reasons:

1. Adam 3.0
Give Genesis 3–the story of the Fall–a read through the lenses of 1 Timothy 2:12. See any similarities between what happened in the Garden and what’s happening in the church?

The man is off somewhere, not fulfilling his role of spiritual guardian, leader, and protector, leaving the woman alone and vulnerable to Satan’s attack. Satan tempts the woman to sin and she succumbs. The woman then entices the man to sin, and instead of standing on God’s word, refusing to sin, and correcting her, he actually joins her in her sin. And when God calls the man to account for this whole scenario, what does the man do? He blames the woman.

Was Eve responsible for her decision to sin? Of course. That’s why we even have 1 Timothy 2:12-14 in the Bible. But God gave the man the authority and God held the man ultimately responsible. That’s why we see passages like Romans 5:12-14 (and others) attributing the sin in the Garden to Adam rather than Eve.

While there are many faithful pastors and Christian men out there diligently laboring to be godly teachers and leaders in the church–and praise God for those men!–there is a large and increasing number of men in our churches, both pastors and laymen, who are failing to fulfill the role God has called men to in the church. Pastors who will only preach what tickles people’s ears. Men who sit in the pews refusing to teach or serve or lead or even attend faithfully.

As it was in the Garden, the Christian men are nowhere to be found as Satan creeps into the church and attacks women with this temptation. And, as God called out then, could He be calling out now, “אָדָם, – Adam- Man, where are you“?

2. Men are lazy.
I know that sounds harsh, but, guys, before you get your boxers in a bunch, please hear what I’m not saying. I’m not saying that all men are lazy or that women are never lazy or that men are lazy in every aspect of their lives. What I’m saying is that, in this particular instance of women stepping outside God’s role for them in the church, too many men are sitting back with the attitude that, hey, if somebody else is willing to do the work why not let her? Instead, women (not to mention boys and younger men) should be seeing men in the church step up and say, “I’ll study hard so I’ll be equipped to teach that class.” “I’ll preach the sermon, not my wife.” “I’ll be willing to shoulder the load God has given me instead of pushing it off on a woman.”

3. Men are afraid of women. 
Not afraid of them physically, but afraid of the ones who will make a scene, cause strife, split churches, get pastors fired, and generally make life hell on earth for anyone who dares to put his foot down firmly on the word of God and say, “You’re in disobedience. You need to repent and step down.” I know these women (and, of course, there are men who do this, too). I have had plenty of them come after me, and, having a husband who’s been in ministry for over 20 years, I’ve seen plenty of them attack pastors, staff, deacons, etc., and I don’t blame men for feeling scared. But men, Jesus has called you to defend His Bride from all enemies, both foreign and domestic, and feeling scared doesn’t excuse you from doing what’s right and biblical. Look to the courage Jesus exhibited on His way to the cross. Look at Peter, Paul, James, and the other apostles as your example of valor as they chose flogging, hardship, jail, and martyrdom over compromising the word of God.

And a special word of encouragement to pastors: your church doesn’t need someone who’s afraid to rock the boat, even if that’s what they want, and even if your job is on the line. It needs a man who will stand for Christ, no matter the cost to him personally or vocationally. You can’t call your people to do that in their own lives if you aren’t willing to do it in yours. The God who was strong enough to save you out of the pit of hell is strong enough to find you another job and provide for your family. Be faithful to preach and carry out the word in season and out of season. You can do it. Trust Christ. He’s got you.


God has given women a phenomenal, and much needed, role in the church. He has given men a different, yet equally phenomenal and much needed role in the church. For the local church to function in a healthy way, both men and women have to fill out our own roles correctly. And, guys, we ladies can’t and shouldn’t have to do your job in addition to ours.

I realize this is a more stringent tone than I usually take. Peter, Paul and the other apostles probably raised some eyebrows when they used a stringent tone, too. But when a house is burning down, the fireman doesn’t tiptoe in, hand you flowers, and politely request that you, pretty please, come with him. And that’s where we are in the church. The house is burning down around us. And, in the end, this article is not meant to be a castigation of pastors or other Christian men, but an impassioned plea from a church lady who wants to see her sisters make it out alive.

Help us. Please. Be the heroic men of God that you have the right, the calling, and the responsibility to be. Because, despite what some of the women of your church might say, that’s what we, and the body of Christ, so desperately need.

Old Testament, Sanctification, Sunday School

Solomon: A Season of Discontent ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 6-22-14

Solomon: A Season of Discontent

These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 25 ~ June 15- 21
Psalm 134, 146-150, 1 Kings 9-11, 2 Chronicles 8-9,
Proverbs 25-29, Ecclesiastes 1-12

Solomon: A Season of Discontent

Bill Gates had nothing on Solomon. Solomon was beyond wealthy, he was the wisest man that ever lived, and he reigned during a time of peace and prosperity. Why would he throw all that away?

1 Kings 10-11:11, Ecclesiastes 2:1-11

Solomon Had It All- 1 Kings 10
Fame and Reputation (1-2)-
Solomon’s reputation was global. He was so compellingly renown that the Queen of Sheba –1200 miles away– had not only heard of him and his accomplishments, but felt driven to make the long and arduous trip to see him for herself. And she was only one of many nobles who made such visits (24-25). He was a rock star of rock stars. Everybody wanted to see him.

Praise and Admiration (3-8)-
The queen (and presumably most other nobles who visited him) heaped praise and admiration upon Solomon for his wisdom (4), his personal prosperity (4-5), his support staff (5), and the offerings he made at the temple (5). “Gushing” would be a good word. Who wouldn’t love that?

A Godly Testimony (9, Matthew 5:16)-
The queen (and presumably most other nobles who visited him) attributed all of Solomon’s superlatives to the blessing of God. His riches, wisdom, etc., were not just to make him famous and comfortable, they were primarily to glorify God by making people aware that God was the one responsible for all these blessings.

In a similar way, Jesus tells us to “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) The light we shine is not our own riches or wisdom or opulence, but the riches, wisdom, and opulence of Christ, so that they will give glory to God and be saved.

Swag (10ff)-
4.5 tons of gold and a never equaled abundance of spices from one visitor (10) and plenty of gifts from other visitors (25). 25 tons of gold a year (14). Hundreds of golden shields for his soldiers (16-17). A one of a kind gold and ivory throne (18-20). All gold drinking vessels (21). Silver was not considered anything (21), it was common as stone (27). Horses, horsemen, chariots (26-29).

There was nothing obtainable that Solomon didn’t have plenty of. He wanted for nothing and had the finest of everything.


Vanity- Ecclesiastes 2:1-11, 3:11
Often we carry around the thought: If I just had ______, I’d be happy. A new car, a better job, a husband, better health, more friends. But Solomon had everything he could have possibly wanted, and yet he said it was all vanity (pointless, empty, meaningless). Why?

Because, as 3:11 tells us, God “has put eternity into man’s heart.” We were created by God, for God, and for the things of God. Before Adam and Eve sinned, nothing seemed meaningless or boring or dissatisfying to them. “Wanting more out of life” didn’t even exist as a concept. And ever since they got kicked out of the Garden, we’ve been trying to claw our way back in. We try to get there through money or relationships or success, but none of those things will satisfy our craving for Eden, because we weren’t created for stuff. We were created for fellowship with God, and nothing less will do.

Trashing the Treasure- 1 Kings 11:1-11, Deuteronomy 17:17, 2 Corinthians 10:5
So, if Solomon was so wise and knew that joy and contentment are only found in God, why didn’t he just find joy and contentment in God instead of throwing everything away by disobeying God, worshiping idols he knew were false?

Because of sin.

If we go back to the beginning of Solomon’s reign in chapter 3, we see that “Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of David his father.” (3) We see him humbling himself in complete dependence on God (7-9). As we walk through the subsequent chapters, we see Solomon’s increasing wisdom, wealth, accomplishments, and praise by men. Maybe he doesn’t feel quite so humble or dependent on God anymore. Along the way, he’s gathering 700 wives and 300 concubines. Foreign wives and concubines, whom God had explicitly told Israel not to intermarry with (2).

Deuteronomy 17:17 says, “And [the king] shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold.”

Gradually, through the years Solomon had disobeyed this command over a thousand times. And every time he disobeyed it, he drove the wedge between himself and God just a little bit deeper, until he finally turned away from God to idols.

Solomon didn’t just wake up one morning and suddenly decide to turn from a life of loving and walking with the Lord to a life of idol worship. Sin crept in and Solomon said yes to it time and time again until it completely pushed God out of the picture.

This is the way Satan works in our lives as well. You don’t just wake up one morning and decide to have an affair. It starts with an attraction– a lustful or covetous thought that you entertain instead of killing and repenting of. It moves on to flirting, then a deeper than appropriate friendship, then an emotional attachment, and then an affair. All along the way, we continue saying yes to sin, and no to God, until, finally, we push God out of the picture. This is why it is so important to “take every thought captive to obey Christ,” (2 Cor.) because every sin starts with a wayward thought. We must turn from even the thought of sin, lest it snowball and end up controlling us.

I Can’t Get No Satisfaction
Yes, you can, if you’re a believer. What can Solomon’s story teach us?

  • Preach the gospel to yourself, often. Remember the sin Christ saved you from, what it cost Him, and His great mercy, grace, and forgiveness.
  • Don’t entertain “small” sins. They grow into bigger and bigger sins.
  • Walk in repentance. We’re going to sin, but when we do, we need to turn from it immediately and ask God’s forgiveness.
  • Don’t buy the lie that stuff or circumstances or accomplishments will fulfill us. We need to stay in God’s word, stay in prayer, and stay in fellowship with the church to learn to find our contentment in Christ.
Discernment, Old Testament, Prayer, Sunday School

Properly Praying the Promises ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 6-15-14


These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 24 ~ June 8-14
Proverbs 16-24, 1 Kings 5-8, 2 Chronicles 2-7, Psalm 136
Properly Praying the Promises

There are lots of different ways of praying, and Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the completed temple shows us several. Today, we’re going to take a look at the way Solomon addressed God’s promises in his prayer, and how we can do the same.

2 Chronicles 6:12-7:17

Humility (12-15) Solomon begins his prayer by humbling himself before the Lord. His physical posture is an outward, visible-to-the-people indication of his inward attitude of the heart and sets an example for the people, that they should humble themselves before God as well. When we pray, we are to approach God in humility.

As Solomon did, we:

  • confess God’s uniqueness, magnitude, and supremacy above all else, (14- “there is no God like you in heaven or on earth”).
  • confess God’s faithfulness and fulfillment of promises to His people (14-15- “keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to your servants…You spoke with your mouth, and with your hand have fulfilled it this day.”) What are some promises God has made to Christians that you have seen fulfilled?
  • ask God to keep His promises not yet fulfilled (16- “keep for your servant David my father what you have promised him,” 17- “Now…let your word be confirmed, which you have spoken”), not because there is any doubt that He will, but:
  1. as a way to call to mind and confess God’s faithfulness to keep His promises in the past. Seeing God’s track record of keeping His promises builds our faith and trust that He will continue to do so.
  2. as another way of acknowledging God’s attributes. He is faithful, sovereign, trustworthy, and a promise keeper.
  3. as a reminder to us to give God thanks, praise, and glory for His faithfulness and promise keeping.
  4. as a way of declaring our trust in Him. We ask Him to keep His promises, not hoping that He might, but knowing that He will.
  5. as a way of submitting ourselves to God, agreeing with Him about what He has spoken, rather than asking Him to agree with us about what we have spoken.
  6. as a way of praying in God’s will and in Jesus’ name. Often, when we pray, we’re not certain precisely what God wants to do (His will) in a given situation. When we ask Him to fulfill His promises, we can be certain we are praying for His will to be done and that He will do it.



What’s a promise, anyway?

When thanking God for fulfilling His past promises, or asking Him to fulfill as yet unfulfilled promises, we need to make sure we understand what constitutes a promise (and what does not) and which promises are for us as Christians (and which are not).

Not a Promise (Proverbs 22:6):
For example, we are in the middle of reading Proverbs. The proverbs aren’t promises (to us or anyone else). They are general rules of thumb. We can think of exceptions to many of them. “Raise up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it,” is generally true, but we have all certainly known of godly parents here and there who did their best to raise their child biblically, and then the child rebelled as a teenager or young adult and never came back to the faith.

Just because something is stated in the Bible doesn’t mean it is a promise that God is bound to. We have to discern between promises and other types of statements.

I Never Promised YOU a Rose Garden:
We also have to discern between promises that are meant for us as Christians and promises that were meant for another individual or group of people by studying God’s word in context.

Hi, my name is not David:
It’s easy to see, for example, in v. 16, that God’s promise, “You shall not lack a man to sit before me on the throne of Israel…” was made specifically to David, and not to us. First of all, Solomon clearly says, “keep for your servant David my father what you have promised him.” But even if it didn’t say that, it’s clear in other ways: Israel no longer has a king, you and I are not citizens of Israel, and there are no other Scriptures which indicate that God promises every Christian a line of heirs who will be kings of Israel.

“If my people…” Which people? (2 Chronicles 7:11-18)


However, just one chapter over, is a verse that is often misunderstood to be a direct promise for Christians. 2 Chronicles 7:14 says:

if my people who are called by my name 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.

Now, you’ve seen this verse on memes and bumper stickers and coffee cups. What do you think people usually mean when quoting this verse today? This verse is often quoted as a call to prayer and revival for American Christians, with the promise that if we pray, repent, and humble ourselves, God will turn America around and make it “one nation under God” again. We’ll have a Christian president and legislators who make moral laws. Abortion and homosexual “marriage” will be made illegal, and Christian prayer will be reinstituted in public schools. But is that really what this verse is promising, and is it promised to us as 21st century American Christians? Let’s take a look.

The first thing to notice about this verse is the very first letter. What kind of letter does it start with? A lowercase one. What does that indicate? It’s not the first word of a sentence. Verse 14 starts in the middle of a sentence.

If I gave you a recipe that consisted only of, “whip until frothy, adding the sugar gradually,” and told you to make the dish, you’d have a lot of questions. What am I making? Whip what? How much sugar? What else goes in the dish? What do I do before and after whipping and adding the sugar? In the same way that we can’t fully understand a recipe by just seeing one line of it, we don’t just rip one line or verse of Scripture out of the Bible without looking at the whole “recipe,” or context, or we won’t have an accurate picture of what it’s saying.

Let’s back up just one verse to the beginning of this sentence. Verse 13 says:

When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, 14- if my people who are called by my name 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.

This gives us a little better picture of what’s going on. Who is “I” and “my” here? Obviously God, because He’s the only one with the power to shut up the heavens, etc. But who is “my people” in both of these verses? Israel? All Christians for the past 2000 years? 21st century American Christians? Well let me ask you a couple of questions:

Supporting Scriptures:
Are there any other verses of Scripture that would support that this is a direct promise to all Christians for the past 2000 years or to 21st century American Christians? I don’t know of any other supporting passages that imply that if Christians humble themselves and repent that God will give them a nation governed by biblical laws and leaders and that we will have a society that behaves itself, morally.

In fact, in the New Testament, in the early church, we see the exact opposite. The more the church prayed, humbled itself, and spread the gospel, the more Rome persecuted Christians. Thousands were crucified, burned alive, thrown to the lions, and otherwise tortured and martyred. And yet, we never hear of them claiming 2 Chronicles 7:14 as God’s promise to them that He would turn things around if they would only humble themselves and seek His face more.

We have Jesus Himself saying, “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20) and, “you will be hated by all for my name’s sake.” (Matthew 10:22). In 2 Timothy 3:12-13, Paul says: “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.”

We can see the same thing today in countries like North Korea, Pakistan, and others that persecute Christians. Things are getting worse for Christians in those countries, not better (as 2 Timothy said), and none of those governments are turning around and embracing Christian ways.

Pestilence, anyone? (2 Chronicles 6:26-30)
When was the last time America experienced widespread drought, locust infestation, or pestilence? Verse 13 specifies that these agricultural hardships are the ones that God promises to heal. It is a promise of literal healing of the land so that crops will grow unharmed, game will be plentiful, and people will be able to eat, not a promise of a metaphorical “healing” of a nation’s immorality.

Now, if we claim that this “healing of the land” applies to us today, then we also have to claim that God will punish our disobedience with those very things He promises to heal (drought, locusts, and pestilence), because that’s what these verses are talking about. The people would disobey, God would punish them with these things, they would repent, and God would heal the land.

We can’t claim the promise without claiming the punishment.

And that’s not the way God disciplines Christians, as a whole, today. If it were, we’d see a lot more agricultural problems in our country. So, if we give it a little thought and a little context, we can see that verse 14 does not apply to Christians. Who does it apply to? Who is the “my people” God is talking about? Let’s read verses 11-18 and 6:26-30.

Now, it’s very clear that these are specific instructions to Solomon by God after the dedication of the temple, and a specific answer to Solomon’s prayer, and that the people that both Solomon and God are referring to is the people of Israel.

But it just sounds like it’s for us!
It may sound like this passage is a promise to us, but it isn’t. Just because something sounds good to us doesn’t mean it applies to us.

The reason this passage sounds like it applies to us is because there are some principles in this verse that do apply to us. How do we know? Because they are supported by other clear and direct Scriptures that we know apply to us.

Are we God’s people who are called by His name”? Yes (Acts 11:26)

Should we humble ourselves? Yes (1 Peter 5:6)

Should we pray and seek God’s face? Yes (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

Should we turn from any wicked ways we practice? Yes (Acts 3:19)

Will God hear from Heaven if we do these things? Yes (1 John 5:14-15)

Does God promise to heal our land of the agricultural problems He has punished our disobedience with if we do these things? No. He hasn’t. They don’t exist. He won’t. And there are no other supporting Scriptures that say He will.

Asking, as Solomon did, for God to fulfill His promises and thanking Him for those already fulfilled is a wonderful and worshipful way to pray. But, if we truly want to pray “in the name of Jesus” and pray rightly for God’s will to be done, we must use wisdom, discernment, and the tools God has given us to discover exactly what He has promised us.

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.
1 John 5:14-15