(First published here, in the Zimbabwe Sunday Mail Sunday 25th June 2017)
MISUNDERSTOOD BIBLE VERSES – Part IV: 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV)
“…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.”
When my friend sat down with the Sales Director – they were given an exciting promise: meet your sales targets for this year and we’ll make you a Sales Manager. They’d been struggling for sales in recent months and had been losing motivation, and this gave them the push they needed to up their game.
I was in sales too, I worked next to the person who had been given that great promise of promotion, I sold the same consulting services they did…but the promise wasn’t for me. In my case I didn’t have the same track record my colleague did and one year of busting my targets wouldn’t be enough. As the Sales Director pointed out to me on a later date, “I think you’d make a better Sales Manager than salesman…but you don’t beat your targets well enough for me to promote you”.
There would be no point my going to the Sales Director and saying to him, “Hey, you said, ‘If you meet your targets this year I’ll promote you’…but when I look at the transcripts you didn’t mention my colleague by NAME, so the promise has to apply to me. After all, we both have YOUR name – we’re both ‘Tim’s team’”.
I could have tried it I suppose, but he’d have just pointed out that he was obviously talking to Sarah and not me and I had no right to take him out of context like that.
The above quote has given rise to a dizzying array of internet memes, made it onto countless Pinterest boards and even by crafted into hangings for your home. All with the
intent of encouraging you to believe that whatever you think needs fixing about the country you live in, then if enough Christians would “pray and seek [God’s] face and turn from [wicked] ways”, then God will do as we’ve demanded…I mean asked of him.
But God wasn’t talking to Zimbabwe in 2017. Nor was he talking to the USA, or Great Britain, or any other country. He was talking to King Solomon almost 3,000 years ago about Israel, and at the time they didn’t need healing. Solomon had been praying in the previous chapter (2 Chronicles 6) that in the context of future events where God – under the old covenant of punishing the whole country when the whole country neglected the poor or worshipped idols – in that context, Solomon asked God for the prayers of believers to be answered with a ‘Yes’.
For some reason lots of people want to try and get leverage with God – as if such a thing
were possible. The hunt is on to find a promise that God made to someone, somewhere, sometime, and then hijack it for our own use. As if God would be confused or caught out by us claiming a promise we were never given, and give us what we wanted anyway. Or as if, as some people openly claim, any promise that God has given to anybody ever, is a promise that God has made to us.
So when we ‘claim’ God’s healing on our country on the basis of the above verse, or try to make other Christians feel guilty because the lack of healing is probably down to their being too wicked…then we’re like me going into Tim’s office asking for the promotion he promised to somebody else whilst blaming my colleagues for my own poor sales figures.
So what promise CAN we claim for healing? Many people across Zimbabwe are in a desperate situation, just as there are countless millions across the world who know nothing except grinding poverty and deprivation. Which promises of God can THEY claim?
Not for national “healing” anyway. God hasn’t promised it, so you can’t claim it.
Our relationship with God doesn’t work that way. He’s the creator of the universe and the Lord of all creation who will do what is best and allow what he allows according to His perfect wisdom and righteousness, and not according to our ability to fulfil or claim a contract with us that he never made.
Our hope when we pray for our broken and suffering people therefore, is not that God owes us one and we need to be good enough so we can claim it.
Rather, our hope is that God is not only righteous and holy but also patient, merciful, compassionate, kind and loving. So, we beg God to have mercy on our undeserving countries with its undeserving people. We plead with him to heal us from sickness, famine, poverty, homelessness and abuse. And we beg him to heal people from their own sin.
I didn’t deserve to become a Sales Manager so I didn’t, and there was no point asking for mercy.
Zimbabwe doesn’t deserve God’s healing – nowhere does – so let’s pray that God will have mercy.
You can follow/contact Paul Reynolds on Twitter: @PaulTReynolds