“In Case You Were Wondering” is an ongoing series examining challenging questions about the Bible and Christianity and providing biblical answers. You can read previous ICYWW articles by clicking on the topic in the category cloud to your left.
Is 2 Chronicles 7:14 God’s promise to American Christians today?
“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.”
2 Chronicles 7:14
This verse is often quoted as a call to prayer and revival for American Christians, suggesting that if we pray, repent, and humble ourselves, God will turn America around and make it “one nation under God” again. Since it’s 4th of July week, you’ve probably been seeing this verse in your news feeds, but is it really a promise to us today about America?
Not this particular verse, no. Here’s why:
1. This verse is only part of a sentence (you can tell by the way it starts with a lowercase letter). In order to rightly handle God’s word (2 Timothy 2:15), it’s imperative that we consider a verse’s immediate context as well as the way it fits in with the big picture of the entire Bible. Even adding just verses 13 and 15 shows us that this verse was written about Old Testament Israel, not America. Reading all of chapter 7 sheds even more light on this verse, and if we throw in chapter 6, especially 6:26-31, we can clearly see that 7:14 is part of God’s specific answer to Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple.
2. There are no supporting Scriptures in the New Testament (remember, Believers are in the church era under the new covenant of grace) 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. 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. The New Testament, even Jesus Himself, says that we will be persecuted for godly living (John 15:20, Matthew 10:22, 2 Timothy 3:12-13).
3. We can’t claim the promise without claiming the punishment. Look again at verse 13. It specifies that the agricultural hardships of drought, locust infestation, and pestilence 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.
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.
4. 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:
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 bad morals or the agricultural problems He has punished our disobedience with if we do these things? No.
Asking 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.
For further reading:
Properly Praying the Promises by Michelle Lesley
A Text Out of Context: 2 Chronicles 7:14 at Please Convince Me
The Most Shared Verses in Their Context (2 Chronicles 7:14) at Borrowed Light