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It’s Always Good to Repent and Seek God’s Face, But That Doesn’t Mean You’ll Get Baseball and Toilet Paper Back

2 Chronicles 7

In times such as these passages of Scripture can provide a great source of comfort. That is good and right. But we also need to be sure that we’re properly using those passages—otherwise the comfort is only a mirage. We’ll claim promises that either aren’t our own or which don’t go far enough in their glorious fulfillment. One of these particular passages is 2 Chronicles 7:13-14.

13 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.

The Immediate Context

2 Chronicles 7 is God’s response to Solomon’s prayer. In 2 Chronicles 6:26-28  Solomon asked God to hear from heaven and to bless the temple. This section is a response to that prayer. 13 years have passed between 7:10 and 7:11. Once the temple is completed the LORD appeared to Solomon at night. This speech to Solomon is an acceptance of the temple dedication and it’s couched in covenantal language. It reads very similarly to Deuteronomy. If you do this (walk in obedience) then I will do this (bless you). But if you do this (rebel) then I will (curse you).

This is a specific promise to a specific people. So in what way does it apply to those of us around the globe who are dealing with the pestilence of COVID-19?

2 Chronicles in God’s Story

It’s important to note here that 2 Chronicles would have actually been the end of the Hebrew Bible. (See here for more information on that). This book was written around 400BC when the exiles returned to the land. That’s significant because all this talk about the temple serves a purpose. There is a reason why the 1 Kings 9 telling of this story doesn’t include 2 Chronicles 7:13-15. Stephen Dempster says it well:

After the judgment of the exile, the command to rebuild the temple is nothing less than a catalyst for the fulfillment of the prophetic hopes…The goal of the canon is clearly the great house of God, which is as inclusive as the globe…But this has to be understood in the dual sense of ‘house’, meaning ‘dwelling’ and ‘dynasty’…The [Hebrew Bible] orients its readers to the future. As such the Story is unfinished. The long, dark night of exile awaits a sequel—the dawning of a new light that will radiate to the ends of the earth. (Dempster, 227)

The people of Israel rightly desired the presence of God but they slowly began equating that with the physical temple. This is why when Jesus comes on the scene the Pharisees are accusing him of blasphemy for talking about the temple destruction. They’ve equated the temple with God Himself. But the temple was always meant to point to something greater—the presence of God with man. This is already fulfilled in the incarnation and will be completely fulfilled in the new heavens and the new earth.

But this is important for the way we read and apply 2 Chronicles 7:13-15. We cannot grab ahold of this promise and say, “If America repents then God will absolutely heal our land.” We cannot claim this promise in that way because that’s no longer the function of that promise. America does not equal the people of God. The church does. And the land doesn’t equal the nation you reside within. It’s pointing to something greater.

But there is a principle in here which I think we can see and use in this time. When sin brings disaster repentance brings healing. That doesn’t mean that if you repent and turn to God that you’ll be immediately healed of COVID-19 and we can start watching baseball again. That’s not what healing of the land is about anyways. It’s about shalom. And that’s only ever going to be fully found in the New Jerusalem. And the only means to having access to this unshakeable city is the shed blood of Jesus Christ. So again—repentance brings healing.

It’s always a good and biblical thing to repent, humble ourselves, and seek God’s face. But we need to be careful that we’re not making that a means to an end that God never promised. In other words, I repent, humble myself, and seek God’s face because He is worthy of it and not because I think doing this will allow us to watch baseball games again and buy toilet paper.

If you want a better model for repentance connected with the promise of God look to the king in Nineveh.

The word reached[c] the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”

So, we must be careful not to claim promises that either aren’t our own or which don’t go far enough in their glorious fulfillment. Because doing this will disappoint our hope and cause us to think God hasn’t come through, when in fact He has come through even more than what we had hoped and imagined. The promise of a healed land is far greater than the soil you place your foot upon. Part of our repentance probably needs to be our contentedness with mud pies.

This article originally appeared here.