A Four Part Formula
2 Chronicles 7:14 August 29, 2021
One of the big questions in Scripture is about what one must do to be saved, to have the Lord’s favor and receive His blessings. In Scripture one will find various formulas that answer that question. I’m going to review a couple of formulas from the New Testament then focus on a well known formula from the Old Testament. It is good to know there is only one formula but that there are a number of ways one can find God’s blessings. Some of the formulas overlap. They have similar aspects. However, all formulas acknowledge that it is wise to seek God and be obedient to him.
The apostle Paul and Silas were in the Roman city of Philippi and caused a big issue. The citizens took them to the city magistrate who had them flogged and placed in prison. During the night an earthquake hit. The doors were opened and the prisoners’ chains fell off. The prison warden was about to commit suicide due to his fear that every prisoner escaped. Paul put him at ease. The warden brought them out and asked them, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved.” The earthquake and its results got his attention. Paul and Silas responded: “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household.” The warden was saved. This is a simple formula for salvation. Believe in Christ Jesus and you will be saved.
In Paul’s long letter to the Christians in Rome, he gives another formula for salvation. He tells them, “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved (Romans 10:9-10).” Again, we see the importance of believing in Christ Jesus for salvation. In this formula, Paul shows the importance of believing that God raised Jesus from the dead for salvation. He too highlights the importance of confessing one’s believe with one’s mouth. It is quite important to share one’s faith in Christ Jesus with others.
John writes another formula for salvation in his gospel. In chapter 5, Jesus speaks to people: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life (John 5:24).” Listening to Jesus and believing in God is a key to receiving eternal life. We live in a culture where people reject Jesus’ exclusive claims. They believe that it does not matter who one believes in but all spiritual leaders lead to heaven or eternal life. That is a false belief that must be rejected. We must reject the worldly lies of our culture. In Jesus alone one finds salvation.
Let’s now look at a formula found in 2 Chronicles 7:14. In studying and interpreting the Bible it is important to understand the context and not just pick a verse and ignore its context. The context is Solomon’s completion of building and the dedicating the Temple. The Lord God accepted Solomon’s temple and fire came down from heaven. They responded by bowing their faces to the ground and worshiping Him as they said, “He is good; his love endures forever.” Solomon and the people of Israel offered a sacrifice of 22,000 cattle and 120,000 sheep and goats. They held a festival for seven days. At the end of the festival, the people went home with joyful hearts.
Later the Lord appeared to Solomon at night and told him that he has heard his prayer and has chosen the place for himself as a temple for sacrifices. The Lord then said to Solomon, “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 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 I will forgive their sin and will heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:13-14).”
The promise in 2 Chronicles 7:14 is for the people of Israel. It is an affirmation of the covenant that the Lord made with Abraham long ago. We do well to recognize the context to this formula and not jump to false conclusions. God is speaking to Solomon and to the people of Israel, not 21st century Americans. I’ve seen the verse quoted in memes and on bumper stickers. We need to be cautious in drawing such conclusions from the context.
If verse 14 is for the people of Israel, what can we learn from it? First, we can recognize that such formulas are part of Scripture and can be recognized for our benefit. Second, in Scripture, we recognize that God wants us to approach him in the ways we read in verse 14. Consequently, I’m going to highlight the four parts of the formula found in verse 14 and see how we can learn and apply them to our lives.
I. “If my people…humble themselves…” The first thing we notice is that these admonitions are for God’s people. They aren’t for non-believers. If they were for non-believers we could quickly discount them as not applying to us. If you are a believer, these admonitions are for you. God is calling his people to humble themselves. The first thing we can do is become a humble people. God detests the prideful ones. Pride and arrogance lead to disaster. Peter tells us, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5).” Being humble means that we bow low before God and recognize who he is and who we are. Jesus once said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3).” Proud people don’t recognize their spiritual poverty. Humble people recognize their spiritual poverty. They recognize that they don’t have it all together. They know that before God they are spiritually lacking. While pride focuses on oneself; humility focuses on the Lord God.
A good illustration of pride and humility is found in Jesus’ story of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. I’m sure you have heard this before. Two men went to the temple to pray. One was a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. Jesus is contrasting one of the holy men of Israel with one of the bad guys. Tax collectors were bad guys who cooperated with Rome and ripped off the people. Pharisees were those who worked hard to obey and live out the 612 Jewish laws. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: “God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get (Luke 18:11-12).” In contrast, the tax collector stood at a distance, would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast as he said, “God have mercy on me, a sinner (Luke 18:13).” Actually, one can translate the Greek as the tax collector called himself, “the sinner.” This story highlights humility and contrasts it with arrogance and pride. Jesus tells us that the humble tax collector was the one who left the temple justified before God. The first thing we can do is humble ourselves before God.
II. “If my people…pray…” The best praying we can do is praying with humility. God rejects the prayers of the proud and the arrogant. When we pray correctly, we are in communication with the Lord God. We cannot get right with God unless we are in communication with him. Relationships thrive on good communication. When communication is lacking in a relationship, the relationship deteriorates. In prayer we recognize God’s sufficiency and reject our self-sufficiency. Much of our culture tells us to rely on ourselves alone. One writer commented, “Praying to God reveals the foolishness of trying to solve our problems in the world’s ways.” We do well to seek God’s help, assistance and resources rather than rely on our own self-sufficiency. James tells us that, “The Prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective (James 5:16b).”
We do well when we come to the Lord in prayer to begin with an honest confession of our sin. It’s good to be honest with God rather than to deceive ourselves that we are sinless. The older I get the more I recognize my sinfulness and I recognize that humankind is steeped in sin. We cannot cure our sinfulness with the various worldly methods. We do best when we come before the Lord in prayer and honestly confess our sin. The Lord wants us to be in prayer with him and that’s an occasion when we can be honest with him about our needs.
III. “If my people…seek my face…” When I first heard the expression, seek God’s face, I did not understand what it meant. I recalled that in the Old Testament people thought that to see God meant immediate death. That’s not what this is talking about. Seeking God’s face means that we want to be in a close personal relationship with him. We have a desire to be with God. Too often we seek God’s hand—seeking what he can do for us. Seeking his face means seeking his power and presence in our lives. And as we seek his face, we will more and more see who he is—merciful, loving and holy. We can seek his face through prayer and through reading the Bible.
IV. “If my people…turn from their wicked ways…” Remember that God is speaking to his people, not non-believers. It’s hard to hear God tell us to turn from our wicked ways. Perhaps we don’t recognize any wickedness in us. One thing I know is that being a man or woman of strong faith means constantly turning from the things that distract us from God and turning back to God. In English, we call that the act of repenting. It means turning around or doing a spiritual about face. It is the act of changing direction. The Christian life is a constant spiritual about face. It means we turn from the pathetic moral values of our culture and turn to God. Repentance is an act of will. We don’t do it because we feel like doing it but we do it in order to be obedient to the Lord. One writer commented that “repentance is the baseline from which a new foundation can be built.” And that foundation is Christ Jesus, our Lord.
The formula we find in 2 Chronicles 7:14 is one of those “If…then” ones. If God’s people live out the four admonitions then there is a holy promise. If we do what he wants us to do, then he will hear from heaven, and will forgive our sin and heal their land. Certain blessings result from being obedient to Him. Down through the millennia we have learned that obedience to the Lord leads to blessings from the Lord. While we are not obedient just to get the blessings, blessings do follow. Above all we have the blessing of salvation, new life in Christ Jesus and eternal life in heaven.