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Misunderstanding 2 Chronicles 7:14


We all know that context is important when attempting to understand Scripture.  So, why do we ignore the context, and thus misunderstand 2 Chronicles 7:14.  "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 will I hear from heaven and forgive their sins and will heal their land". 


The common understanding among Christians today is that "my people" in 2 Chronicles 7:14 refers to either their country or the church.  This understanding stems from an anti-Semitic sentiment that permeated Catholic doctrine during the dark ages of history.  For the most part, the Protestant Reformation did not depart from this sentiment.  For this reason much of Christendom today believes that the prophetic passages of the Bible, including 2 Chronicles 7, do not apply to Israel but to the church or to so-called Christian nations.  I recently heard it again.  "If America would repent as commanded in 2 Chronicles 7:14, God would forgive America and heal its land."  Does the context of this verse suggest that God was calling America, Canada, other nations, or the church to repentance?     


If we back up a few verses we'll note that God was speaking to Solomon about Israel's future.  In verse 13 God said; "When I shut up the heavens so there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land, or send a plague among my people "  The text doesn't say "if I shut up the heavens ..."  It says "when I shut up the heavens, when I command the locusts, and when I send a plague."  2 Chronicles 7:14, as well as the whole chapter, predicted the day when God's judgment would fall upon the wicked nation of Israel.  The only way out of judgment was for Israel to obey God and humble itself by seeking God and forsaking its wicked ways.     


The context makes it clear.  The words "my people" in 2 Chronicles 7:14 refers to Israelis.  Knowing this, can we use this verse to call America, Canada, and other nations to repentance?  There's no doubt that the sentiment expressed in this verse is applicable to our nations today.  Our nations do need to repent, seek God, and turn from their wickedness.  That being said, if we apply a secondary interpretation that permits us to substitute Israel with America, Canada, other nations, or the church, we're walking down a dangerous hermeneutical path.  If we apply a secondary meaning to support a theological bias here we'll do the same elsewhere, and that's exactly what we often do.  It's a mistake to ignore what the Bible clearly says in order to make it say something we want it to say.          


Let's not put our words into God's mouth.  If God is addressing Israel, let's not say He's addressing America, Canada, other nations, or the church.  If you insist on using 2 Chronicles 7:14 to call your nation or the church to repentance, you must first clarify that it was not directed towards America, Canada, other nations, or the church.  You must clearly state that it's a prophetic passage that predicted Israel's place in prophetic history. Once making that sufficiently clear, you might be able to suggest that the sentiment expressed in this verse, but not the verse itself, has some relevance for your nation or the church.  Better still, I suggest that you use more appropriate Bible passages that call nations and the church to repentance.



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