2 Chronicles 7:14 - If my people...?

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Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Excellent article. I use this verse every time I teach hermeneutics as a lesson in common misuse of scripture.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

jimcarwest's picture

This article makes a solid biblical case for interpreting 2 Chron. 7:14, with primary application to Israel.  But as one must accept in studying Scripture, there may be more than one spiritual application, even though there is one primary interpretation.  Christians do have a responsibility to society, even while they go about evangelizing the world, and that responsibility is to be "salt" as well as "light."  The ministry of the Holy Spirit in this age of grace is one of restraining evil as much as redeeming sinners.  Too often some Christians have made evangelism their only prerogative, but I would remind us that a balanced approach to sinners is "soup, soap, and salvation."  The "soap" part might apply to standing against  evil and corruption in society and government because the growth of evil in those spheres do affect the freedoms related to propagating the gospel.  Shall we go so far in being correct in our interpretation of 2 Chron. 7:14, that we must believe that we may not claim God's blessing on our land if we turn to Him in repentance and faith? 

 

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

But Jim, the promise only has one, direct application to Israel. There is nothing in the passage to indicate it is a transferable promise for anyone else.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Wayne Wilson's picture

I'm confident that if any people follow the the prescription in this text, they will see God's blessing on their nation. There are plenty of Scriptural and historical examples. 

jimcarwest's picture

Are you willing to apply this rule to all the promises made in the OT solely to Israel?  Seems to me like you'd be eliminating a lot of spiritual help and hope for Gentile believers.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Jim,

This is a basic rule of hermeneutics. We abuse scripture when we try to make it say something it never tried to say.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Jim's picture

EZ solution: differentiating between interpretation and application:

  • Interpretation: "my people" in the context = Israel. "On the twenty-third day of the seventh month he sent the people away to their tents, joyful and glad of heart for the good that the Lord had done for David, for Solomon, and for His people Israel" (vs 10) & "I will uproot them from My land which I have given them"
  • Application: God blesses obedience. I don't think there would be much debate about this!

 

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Jim,

You can't arbitrarily apply a specific promise made to Israel to someone else.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Jim's picture

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:

Jim,

You can't arbitrarily apply a specific promise made to Israel to someone else.

I'm not.

I'm not saying: "if [every Christian in American] 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  [America]"

What I could easily say, were I to preach that passage, is that there is a principle that the one who follows the Lord will experience the Lord's blessing (Psalm 1). (I observe that it may not be a material blessing!)

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Jim wrote:

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:

Jim,

You can't arbitrarily apply a specific promise made to Israel to someone else.

I'm not.

I'm not saying: "if [every Christian in American] 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  [America]"

What I could easily say, were I to preach that passage, is that there is a principle that the one who follows the Lord will experience the Lord's blessing (Psalm 1). (I observe that it may not be a material blessing!)

That's my point. You agree you have no basis to use the verse exactly as it is written in order to claim that God guarantees to heal America, but this passage simply doesn't say what you are claiming. You are ripping a promise out of its contextual moorings and essentially resorting to an allegorical approach to interpretation because it doesn't actually say what you are trying to teach from it. There's no basis to even claim a principle at this point, since the passage itself gives no indication of expanding the promise beyond the specific context. Your process could be used to make any passage say almost anything you want it to. "God said thus and so, but He really meant it to also mean this and that." It defies a literal hermeneutic. There are passages that teach the principle you claim, and you are free to teach those. But you are not free to alter God's message to suit your use.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Jim's picture

It's not allegorical to say:

  • At the dedication of the Temple 
  • Solomon did and said ... 
  • Solomon prayed
  • God's glory filled the Temple
  • The people worshipped
  • At the end of the feast, Solomon privately prayed
  • God answered and promised
  • 2 Chron 7:14 ...

^^^^

 |  | |  |

That's exegesis

Here's a takeaway from this text ... We must commit our way to the Lord and he will bless us (Psalm 1) for our dedication

^^^^

|  | |  |

That's application

TylerR's picture

Editor

A text has only one single meaning; that is hopefully the consensus among conservatives:

A fundamental principle in grammatico-historical exposition is that the words and sentences can have but one significance in one and the same connection. The moment we neglect this principle we drift out upon a sea of uncertainty and conjecture (Robert Thomas, quoting Milton Terry)

As Jim noted above, there is one single meaning but many applications. Can 2 Chr 7:14 be applied to America as a nation? I don't think so. Americans, as a corporate group, are certainly not people called by His name!

Is it correct to apply this text in a general sense to saved individuals? You know, repent and return to God and be forgiven, etc? I don't think so; the emphasis is on collective Israel. The point is perfectly sound, but I'd look elsewhere for a text to apply to individual reconciliation.

On a sidenote, I'm pondering this exact same thing with Ezekiel's vision of the dry bones (Eze 37). The vision is speaking of the future restoration of Israel, but there is also a marvelous picture of individual salvation as God restores the dry bones to life. Can I really make a sermon on individual salvation from this passage, or should I just go to Eph 2 instead? I better decide quick!

 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

jimcarwest's picture

Basically, one could argue that most everything spoken or revealed in the OT was part of God's covenant with Israel.  Many promises in the Psalms were specifically for David (e.g. Psalm 51), yet they have significance for all believers.  Holding to an extreme literalism, as seemingly postulated by some on this blog, would this mean that nothing would be spiritually applicable to NT believers?  I emphasize again that there is a difference between interpretation and application -- one primary interpretation and possibly more than one personal application.  I think this has always been the view of those who follow a literal method of interpretation.  What God says to Solomon in 2 Chronicles 7 may have spiritual application for any people, not just for Americans.  There is a promise for acknowledging God, a judgment for abandoning God, a renewal for repentance, and a restoration for returning to follow God's ways.  Of course, there is no longer only one place where His name is honored and only one place where he hears the prayers of His people.  Even that covenant with Solomon was conditional.  The one place could be destroyed.  The dynasty could be terminated.  Even so, national humility and repentance toward God are principles that God promises to bless, not just for Israel, but for any people.  Nineveh is one example of this principle.  Numerous revivals in history, such as the Welsh Revival and two Great Awakenings in America show this principle at work.  I pity the minister who excludes 2 Chron. 7 as having no application for our time.

jimcarwest's picture

There are some elements of 2 Chron. 7 that can only mean one thing and be interpreted for only one occasion.  There are other aspects of that event, however, that may be applied to God's dealings with any people.  One well-known literalist, Charles Ryrie, says this in commenting on the passage: "This well-known verse (7:14) states God's requirements for blessing: humility, prayer, devotion, and repentance."  The question we are really debating here is whether the observance of these spiritual exercises carry with them a guaranteed promise of physical blessing.  I think in all honesty one would have to conclude from history that God has often, but not always kept this promise in every situation.  He has allowed His children to suffer persecution, deprivation, and death even when they called on Him out of a sincere heart. So, yes, some aspects of the 2 Chron. 7 passage -- the guarantee of material blessings-- were only intended for Israel. 

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Jim wrote:

It's not allegorical to say:

  • At the dedication of the Temple 
  • Solomon did and said ... 
  • Solomon prayed
  • God's glory filled the Temple
  • The people worshipped
  • At the end of the feast, Solomon privately prayed
  • God answered and promised
  • 2 Chron 7:14 ...

^^^^

 |  | |  |

That's exegesis

Here's a takeaway from this text ... We must commit our way to the Lord and he will bless us (Psalm 1) for our dedication

^^^^

|  | |  |

That's application

Jim,

Do you believe your "takeaway" is the intent of either the human or Divine author of the passage? I think you have many verses in scripture, particularly in the NT but not exclusively, that were intended to convey this very idea to us. I don't think this passage is on the list. I left a church some years back when the new pastor made a habit of teaching thins that were theologically sound in themselves but not derived from the passages he was using (among other problems). This was one of three items I detailed, first to him and then in a letter to the deacons, explaining why I was leaving. Why not use the passages that were clearly intended for the purpose you desire instead of stretching something that doesn't fit?

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Jim,

How would your application work in other passages like Deuteronomy 7:2? Would you tell believers we should have annihilated the Iraqi's once we conquered their army? Or maybe an everyday takeaway like you used in 2 Chronicles, so believers should not just complete a financial victory against opposing companies, but they should also utterly destroy any company God permits them to overcome in business and wipe their "citizens" (i.e. employees) off the face of the earth completely? This is where I am struggling. How do you decide which statements from God given to specific people in specific circumstances with specific conditions and specific outcomes you can borrow and which ones you cannot?

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Wayne Wilson's picture

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:

Jim,

How would your application work in other passages like Deuteronomy 7:2? Would you tell believers we should have annihilated the Iraqi's once we conquered their army? Or maybe an everyday takeaway like you used in 2 Chronicles, so believers should not just complete a financial victory against opposing companies, but they should also utterly destroy any company God permits them to overcome in business and wipe their "citizens" (i.e. employees) off the face of the earth completely? This is where I am struggling. How do you decide which statements from God given to specific people in specific circumstances with specific conditions and specific outcomes you can borrow and which ones you cannot?

Chip, with respect, I don't think this advances your argument. Deut 7:2 would be just like dietary laws. We have a clear command from Christ to love our enemies, and do good to them, just as we have His clear word that all foods are clean. 

 

 

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Wayne, Israel also had commands to love their neighbors which were suspended in this instance. The point remains that we have a definitive word from God. How do you tell which ones you can "grab" for today and which ones you cannot? If you like, we can use any direct statement by God as the example. How about Joshua 3:8? Should we all go stand in the middle of the Jordan for God to reveal His hand on our lives? The point is the same since we are all priests today.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

jimcarwest's picture

You might try out that "Jordan" thing, Chip, and soon find out that God doesn't work that way on a regular basis.  The NT also makes it sufficiently plain that we are not to physically destroy our enemies, but rather to pray for them, forgive them, and do good unto them.  That seems to show the difference between what God commanded Israel to do toward certain populations and how we are in treat them.  How do you know which to take literal and which not to take literal? Well, a direct command to an individual or a people that bears the stamp of divine pronouncement would be a guideline.  Take for example Paul's advice to Timothy to "take a little wine for they stomach's sake and thine often infirmities" not to be a general permission to use alcohol.  Dr. Ironside used to say that to base permission for alcohol consumption on that verse would require (1) that your name be Timothy, and (2) that you suffered from dysentery that might result from impure water.  Most people understand that such a specific guidance is not intended for general consumption.  Follow the tenor of Scripture.  How did the principals in each case understand it?  Are there Scriptures that provide additional guidance and wisdom principles. For example, it is generally understood that dipping seven times in the Jordan River does not cure leprosy.  A little common sense provides insight.  I didn't say that knowing when to apply a passage is always easy or foolproof. 

Wayne Wilson's picture

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:

Wayne, Israel also had commands to love their neighbors which were suspended in this instance. The point remains that we have a definitive word from God. How do you tell which ones you can "grab" for today and which ones you cannot? If you like, we can use any direct statement by God as the example. How about Joshua 3:8? Should we all go stand in the middle of the Jordan for God to reveal His hand on our lives? The point is the same since we are all priests today.

 

Chip, I have a high regard for you, but you usually argue so much more effectively.  Jesus' command to love one's enemies goes beyond the command to love one's neighbor.    But let's stay with Deuteronomy since you chose that example.  You yourself pulled Deut 7:2 out of context since it addresses specific peoples to be destroyed by Israel (7:1).  Even in Deuteronomy, the command in chapter 7 is not the normative means of war. That is given in chapter 20, and actually, historically speaking, that has been closer to actual practice among Christian nations.  The law is holy. righteous and good, and it is from God.  It is His wisdom for a holy society.  Israel was called for a specific purpose, absolutely.  The church is not a nation, but sometimes by God's grace, Christianity has great sway over nations through leaders and elected representatives.  When looking for national guidance, the Old Testament gives principles of godly governance.  It is entirely reasonable for godly people in power in the church age to draw principles from the Old Testament. 

Do you think God would not forgive and bless a land whose people repented of their sins and turned to Him?     

Mentioning Joshua 3:8 is kinda silly. Obviously the command is referring to a one time historical event.  Any reader would understand that, and that's why a text like that is not used as a general principle as 2 Chron 7 often is.  2 Chron 7 is setting forth a normative prinicple...for Israel, yes, but does that mean there is no point of application to other nations or peoples?  I don't think so.

I agree with you we cannot "claim" promises made to Israel.  It is obvious the church has a different purpose than Israel, the church not having a national identity.  But are there principles to inform us about how God acts in the world?  Certainly!  Paul says these things were written for our instruction.  I know I'm not going to persuade you about this.  I get the impression you have a bee in your bonnet over this application issue...so much so you left a church over it.  But I think you should give a little more grace to those who make fair application of Old Testament texts based on righteous principles and God's revealed character.   

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

First Wayne, you are right. This was a half-hearted attempt to make my case. I am trying to keep up with the thread in snatches at work, and I am talking small steps farther and farther afield confident that my point was clear. Sorry about that.

 

Let's rewind back past my poor, misguided examples to the original topic. I do think God would be pleased by a nation experiencing revival. I don't think you can apply 2 Chron 7:14 to America as a nation or individuals on their own. It doesn't teach that. It is a specific directive with a specific promise made to a specific group. It is not a principle message, but a clear, specific message. I don't see America anywhere in prophesy, so I don't believe America will be healed and restored even if a national revival does take place. That's just one reason why this verse doesn't fit with this application. All I am saying is that we ought to preach what each text actually says. If you want a redemptive message, find a redemptive passage, and save this one for it's intended message.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Wayne Wilson's picture

That is a gracious response.  I agree that we should not regard ourselves as a covenant nation, but I see throughout Scripture that God judges Gentile nations on principles of righteousness.  "Righteousness exalts a nation, and sin is a disgrace to any people." 

I just think it's fair to draw the conclusion that if the recording of judgments on Israel are given "for our instruction" (1 Cor. 10:11), then a record of national repentance is for our instruction as well.  That's all.

pvawter's picture

Chip,
If you were preaching through the book of Deuteronomy, what would you do with this verse? Is there any application you could make to a modern congregation that would be true to the text in your mind?

pvawter's picture

Sorry Chip,
I meant Chronicles, not Deuteronomy.