“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 will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)
All too often, we ignore a key phrase in this scripture. As a result, we miss God’s blessing, just like God’s people in the days of the prophet Isaiah:
“Yet they seek Me daily,
And delight to know My ways,
As a nation that did righteousness,
And did not forsake the ordinance of their God.
They ask of Me the ordinances of justice;
They take delight in approaching God.
‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and You have not seen?
Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?’”
These people were seemingly looking back to 2 Chronicles 7:14, telling God, “We humbled ourselves (‘afflicted our souls’)! We prayed (‘fasted,’ ‘approaching God’)! We sought your face! You promised you would heal our land! Why don’t you fulfill your promise?”
What did they miss? Sadly, it is the same thing God’s people seem to usually miss today. The forgotten phrase of 2 Chronicles 7:14 is “turn from their wicked ways.” As God replied to His people in Isaiah’s day:
“Is it a fast that I have chosen,
A day for a man to afflict his soul?
Is it to bow down his head like a bulrush,
And to spread out sackcloth and ashes?
Would you call this a fast,
And an acceptable day to the Lord?
Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
When you see the naked,
that you cover him,
And not hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then your light shall break forth like the morning,
Your healing shall spring forth speedily,
And your righteousness shall go before you;
The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’”
Revival requires Repentance....
Feeling bad about our sin is not repentance. “Afflicting our soul” is not repentance. We repent when we choose to “turn from our wicked ways.”
So “choice” is the bottom line after all!
I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live. (Deuteronomy 30:19)
As we decide to choose life instead of death (for ourselves and for our children), we need to acknowledge the depth of our wickedness, admitting that we are personally responsible for the innocent blood which has been shed in our community. Even though we may not have personally killed anybody, we should not make excuses for our lack of action to save the innocent. If we do so, we reveal hard, unrepentant hearts. If we know that babies are being killed in our community or region, we are responsible.
God’s people must admit that we have failed in our responsibility to care for His flock. We can no longer excuse our inaction by telling ourselves “that’s not my job....” We must not follow Cain’s example of denying that we are our “brother’s keeper,” falsely proclaiming our innocence while the blood of the truly innocent victims cries out from the ground.
We must change our ways, confronting sin in the church and community, seeking to heal the wounds, and developing effectual strategies to protect the innocent. We must commit our resources -- our time, talents, and finances -- to protecting children and helping their mothers.
May God change our hearts today, may He purify our bloodstained hands, may He transform our “cities of iniquity” into “cities of righteousness,” and may He be glorified in our midst by the result! Amen.
From God's Plan: Transforming the Gates of Hell into the Gates of Heaven by Tim Palmquist (pp. 126-129)