No One Said It Would Be Easy.
2 Chronicles 7-8, 2 Thessalonians 3
As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. – 2 Thessalonians 3:13 ESV
God had chosen to dwell among His people. That is the significance of the events recorded in chapter seven as Solomon and the people dedicated the newly completed temple. God even told Solomon, “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice” (2 Chronicles 7:12 ESV). The temple was going to be a place in which the people of God could come to find forgiveness for their sins and receive cleansing from God so that they might continue to enjoy His presence among them. The people recognized the incredible fact that God had chosen to bless them and grant them the unique privilege of having Him dwell among them. But God’s presence was not guaranteed. There were conditions involved. His continued presence among them was going to require certain attitudes and actions on their part. Solomon would enjoy the blessings of God as long as he remained faithful to God. The people would experience the power and presence of God as long as they made Him their sole object of worship and adoration. But it wasn’t going to be easy. In the words God spoke to Solomon, He made it perfectly clear what His expectations would be regarding the king and his subjects. He knew there would be times of sin and unfaithfulness. He knew there would be periods of time when He would be forced to punish His people – “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” (2 Chronicles 7:13 ESV). And then those times came, God told Solomon exactly what the people were supposed to do. “…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” (2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV).
What does this passage reveal about God?
God didn’t say, “IF my people sin.” He said “WHEN my people sin.” The existence of the temple and the reality of the sacrificial system was ample evidence that God knew His people would sin. He had provided the means by which they could seek and find forgiveness and restoration. But there was more to the sacrificial system than mere ritual and religious rule keeping. God gave them four requirements for experiencing His forgiveness and healing: First, he required that they humble themselves. They must come to Him with an attitude of humility, not pride. Coming to God requires that we admit our weakness and acknowledge His power. God hates pride. James reminds us, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6 ESV). An attitude of humility expresses our understanding of who we are in comparison to God. When we come before Him humbly, we are letting Him know that He is God and we are not. Secondly, God said that if they want to experience His forgiveness and healing, they must come before Him prayerfully. Prayer is an act that expresses dependence. When we pray, we are telling God that we love Him, but also that we need Him. When we pray to God, we are coming to Him with our hands out, having let go of all else we had been clinging to and asking Him to meet our needs. Prayer is a way of expressing our dependence upon and need for God. But then, God told Solomon that they must also seek His face. This expression conveys the idea of seeking to please God. To seek God’s face is to desire His favor. When we sin, it is as if we force God to turn His face from us, because God is holy and cannot abide by or tolerate sin in His presence. But when we humbly admit our sins and prayerfully bring them before God in confession, seeking to do what is right in His eyes, He turns His face toward us. We must desperately desire God’s favor more than anything else in the world. We must seek to please Him, not just seek His forgiveness. Finally, God told Solomon that there must be change. The people must turn from their wicked ways.” In other words, they must repent. Seeking God’s forgiveness for sin must be accompanied by an acknowledgement that our sin was wrong. Repentance is not just a remorse of regret for having gotten got with our hands in the cookie jar. We must admit that what we have done was wrong and turn from it.
What does this passage reveal about man?
IF the people of Israel will do these things, God says, “then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV). Humility, prayer, seeking to do what pleases God and turning away from displeases Him brings forgiveness and healing. But God knew that man was predisposed to pride, independence, seeking to please himself and an unwillingness to turn back to God. So He gave them the consequences associated with disobedience and a refusal to humbly, prayerfully repent. “But if you turn aside and forsake my statutes and my commandments that I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will pluck you up from my land that I have given you, and this house that I have consecrated for my name, I will cast out of my sight, and I will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples” (2 Chronicles 7:19-20 ESV). Their refusal to come to Him in humility, prayer, seeking His face, and turning from their wickedness, would result in a removal of His favor, the destruction of His temple and their removal from the land He had so graciously given them. And when that day comes and the nations marvel at why this has happened, God gives the reason: “Because they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers who brought them out of the land of Egypt, and laid hold on other gods and worshiped them and served them. Therefore he has brought all this disaster on them” (2 Chronicles 7:22 ESV).
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
As a believer in Jesus Christ, I enjoy forgiveness for my sins – past, present and future. Because of my relationship with Christ, I stand before God as righteous. But I must never take that relationship for granted. John tells me, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 ESV). There is still a need for me to come to God, humbly seeking His face in prayer, confessing my sins, admitting my need for Him, and willingly turning away from my open rebellion to Him. I cannot arrogantly expect God to bring me healing and forgiveness when I am living in sin and openly disobeying His will for my life. As Paul told the Thessalonian believers, I must not grow weary in doing good. As the New International Version translates that verse, I must “never tire of doing what is right” (2 Thessalonians 3:13 NIV). Living the Christian life is not easy. God never said it would be. Sin will always be a constant reality in my life. Pride will be a constant companion. Seeking independence from God will always be a temptation. Turning from sin will prove difficult to do. But I must not grow weary in doing good. To do good is to seek God’s face and desire His favor. I don’t do it to earn brownie points and work my way into His good graces. Jesus Christ has already restored me to a right relationship with God once and for all. But as a child of God, I should desire to live for Him and to conduct my life in such a way that it expresses my love and appreciation for Him. Humility, prayer, seeking God, and turning from sin are expressions of my love for Him. Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians is an encouraging reminder to me. “May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ” (2 Thessalonians 3:5 ESV). I must never forget God’s love and Christ’s example of faithful, unwavering obedience to His Father. I must not grow weary in doing good.
Father, help me to never lose sight of Your incredible love or Your Son’s marvelous example of humility, prayerfulness, obedience and righteousness. He lived His life to please You. May I continually learn to do the same thing. Not to earn Your favor, but to express my gratitude and love. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men