Pray for your nation. But don’t just presume your nation is God’s nation.
Today’s out-of-context verse is really popular with
2 Chronicles 7.14 KJV
- …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.
Right. If our Christian nation returns to God, and returns to proper Christian values (as defined by popular Christian culture), and makes big shows of repentance like public prayer and voting for the prolife political party (and never mind what the party’s candidates think about the needy, the stranger, the widows and orphans—heck, women in general): God will heal our land. Turn it into his kingdom on earth. Make it paradise. Maybe even hold back on the End Times for a few more years, so we can finally accomplish all our personal goals for wealth, romance, and material success, without that pesky rapture messing up our schedule. Yet at the same time, in our church services, claiming we’re getting the church ready to meet her groom.
Yeah, it’s a wholly inconsistent theology. But fear’ll do that to people.
Anyway, whenever I object to them ripping 2 Chronicles 7.14 out of its historical context, I regularly get accused of not loving the United States like they do. And they’re right: It definitely ain’t like they do. I love the United States like God loves the world—and wants to save it.
The historical context.
The 2 Chronicles verse was a statement the L
So when the L
2 Chronicles 7.12-22 KWL
- 12 At night, the L
ORDappeared to Solomon and told him, “I hear your prayer.
- I choose this place as my house of sacrifice.
- 13 Look: If I restrain the skies and don’t let it rain,
- if I tell locusts to consume the land, if I send plague upon my people,
- 14 if my people, called by my name, submit and pray and seek my presence,
- if they repent of their evil ways, I’ll hear from the heavens and pardon their sin. I’ll heal their land.
- 15 My eyes are open. My ears are attentive to the prayers of this place.
- 16 I now choose and sanctify this house to be for my name—there, forever.
- My eyes and heart will be there every day.
- 17 And you: If you walk in my presence like your father David walked,
- and do everything I instructed you—keep my rules and my rulings—
- 18 I’ll support the throne of your kingdom, as I arranged with your father David,
- telling him, ‘Your man ruling Israel won’t be cut off.’
- 19 But if all of you turn away, quit my rules and instructions which I gave you,
- and go serve other gods, and bow down to them,
- 20 I’ll pluck you off my ground which I gave you.
- This house I sanctified for my name: I’ll fling it from my presence.
- I’ll make it an object lesson—a warning to every people-group.
- 21 This house, which was once so great to every passerby, will be desolate.
- They’ll say, ‘Why’d the L
ORDdo this to this land, this house?’
- 22 They’ll hear about it, ‘They quit the L
- their ancestors’ God, who brought them out of Egypt’s land, and embraced other gods.
- They worshiped and served them. So God brought all this evil on them.’”
This is why this passage doesn’t apply to just any people or any land. It’s an ancient-Israel-specific promise. Doesn’t even apply to modern Israel, much as modern Israelis might want it to, and claim it does.
Has God warned other nations he’d drive them out of their homelands if they violate his will? Actually yeah. Like the Hebrew nations of Edom and Moab: His prophets warned Edom they’d be displaced if they kept sinning.
But the promises God made to Israel are not the promises God made to the United States. He never declared he’d drive us off our land if we sinned against him. Just as he never told the Indians, who were here first, he’d drive ’em off their land if they sinned against him. (Though white people have invented stories which claim he did—but that’s in order to justify deporting Indians.) He never threatened to destroy America’s temples, as an object-lesson to the world. In fact, in the case of Christians, he promised to build us into his temple.
The more you look at the whole passage, the less appropriate it is to the circumstances of the United States. That’s why people who love this verse, tend to trim away all the verses but verse 14. Then it appears to fit: Repent, and God’ll repair our nation.
Not overthrow it, and turn the kingdoms of this world into the kingdom of our Lord.
Okay, we repent. How about everyone else?
The other part of the problem is obvious: The United States may be “a Christian nation” by dint of being full of people who claim to be Christian. But our government isn’t Christian; it’s secular. Public officials may personally be Christian, but they’re forbidden by our Constitution from establishing any one religion over the others. Constitution, Amendment 1 As for the population of the United States, much as we claim to be Christian… we sure don’t act it.
Our nation has been guilty of terrible sins in the past. Slavery’s an obvious one. Though our founders were Christian—or thought they were—they permitted it, and even wrote it into the Constitution so their states could tap the slave population to gain more representatives in Congress. Constitution 1.2 ¶3 Now yes, slavery isn’t banned in the scriptures. But it is mitigated: God ordered the Hebrews to treat their slaves civilly. Not as property, but as subjects. Subjects who could still cry out to God when oppressed, much like the Hebrews themselves cried out to him in Egypt. As Christians, we’re to treat fellow Christians as sisters and brothers, even when they’re slaves
So, just as God judged Egyptian slavery, he judged American slavery. He allowed us to suffer the Civil War. It was divisive, bloody, costly, and it did the job of getting rid of slavery. Which is great. Did we repent of it? Nah.
Those who were against slavery had repented long before the war. But the slaveholders sure didn’t. Still haven’t. Their descendants claim they aren’t to blame for their ancestors’ actions—even as they still benefit from the gains their ancestors made by exploiting the institution of slavery. We’re still dealing with the consequences of their lack of repentance: Continued talk of secession and states’ rights, a stronger fixation on property and gun rights, fears of our government which go beyond rationality, segregation (including the fact white and black churches still exist, not as a reflection of their community’s demographics, but because people simply won’t worship together), class exploitation, social injustice, and of course racism (as demonstrated by the claim “all lives matter,” when people’s actions prove they don’t believe certain lives do).
Racism in the United States—even if you don’t imagine you commit it—is proof the people of our nation haven’t really humbled ourselves, sought God’s face, and turned from our wicked ways. It means we put makeup, not medicine, on our wounds. Or we figure, “Well, I repented; that should count for something.” It’d be nice if it did. But Daniel and Ezekiel still got dragged off to Babylon, just the same as their unrepentant pagan Hebrew neighbors.
We think changing our laws, despite no national repentance, will solve our problems. Abortion is awful; let’s ban it! Or get the Supreme Court to ban it! But it’s like putting a Band-Aid on a severed head. It’s not even close to repentance. People will still seek abortions, same as they always have. And as soon as they get a chance, they’ll elect like-minded politicians, who’ll appoint like-minded justices, and we’ll be back to the same old problem.
’Cause it’s happened before. When the U.S. passed Prohibition and banned alcohol, the bulk of our society simply ignored the law. Alcohol went underground, and criminals prospered greatly. The same is happening with narcotics prohibition. The same will happen if we ban porn, abortion, gambling, and other destructive behaviors. We gotta fight society’s bad attitude and self-centered tendencies. We gotta work on the root of the problem: People don’t love their neighbors. People don’t know God. Some of us are only pretending to follow him. The rest of us say all the right words, but harbor all the wrong attitudes. We’ll all pray “Heal our land” together, and ignore the fact we’re still poisoning it.
The promise of a new nation.
The reason civic idolaters quote this verse is ’cause they want God to save the United States. Not so much the people in it. (A lot of times they don’t even like the people in it.) Just them, their rights, their security, their property, their freedom of worship… their comfort. The things of this world.
That’s not the inheritance God intends to grant us Christians. He wants to give us a new world. A new heavens and earth.
Our inheritance isn’t control of our nation. Nor the preservation of this nation. It’s not power for ourselves, with Christians in charge, making everyone behave. It’s a wholly new nation, under God—really under God, not just recited by rote—with Christ Jesus personally in charge. It consists of people from every nation.
That’s our homeland. Not our existing ones. Those will pass away. They’re meant to be replaced with Jesus’s eternal kingdom.
Nope, not saying we should destroy them ourselves. Certainly not by permitting sin, and letting our neighbors drag us into ge-Henna. Let’s repent. Really repent. Let’s share the good news with them, and convince them to repent.
Let’s seek God together—not quote 2 Corinthians 7.14 regardless of context, and hope some part of it’ll kick in for us.