Forgive our sin, heal our land

2 Chronicles 7:12-16:

… 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 will forgive their sin and heal their land.

We hear this verse quoted all the time … and especially since Covid started: “… if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face … then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”  But this is only an excerpt, a portion.  There is a bit missing, and also missing is the entire context in which the passage was written.

In the first chapter of 2 Chronicles God appears to Solomon and asks him, “What shall I give you?”  God was asking King Solomon, “If you could ask me for anything you want, what would you ask for?”  Solomon had a golden opportunity: he could ask for riches, for power, for beautiful wives, for honor … for anything and everything he wanted!  It looked like the perfect opportunity for self-seeking, but in reality it was the perfect opportunity for Solomon to show his heart and his true character.

How does the king respond?  “You have shown great mercy to David my father, and have made me king in his place. Now, O Lord God, let Your promise to David my father be established, for You have made me king over a people like the dust of the earth in multitude. Now give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people; for who can judge this great people of Yours?” (2 Chronicles 2:8-10).

Rather than ask anything for his own benefit, Solomon asks the Lord for wisdom and knowledge for the benefit of his people – no, for God’s people, whom the Lord has given him stewardship over.  The Lord is well-pleased to grant his request, and to add to wisdom “riches and wealth and honor, such as none of the kings have had who were before you, nor shall any after you have the like” (2 Chronicles 2:12).

After this King Solomon began work on the temple, its furnishings, and all its content.  When it was finished he had the Ark of the Covenant brought into it, and in a humble and powerful prayer of dedication King Solomon asked the Lord to bless the temple and to respond to every request raised to Him in the place.  It was in response to this prayer that the Lord spoke the words we are so quick to quote:

Then the Lord appeared to Solomon by night, and said to him: “I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice. When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence 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 will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer made in this place. For now I have chosen and sanctified this house, that My name may be there forever; and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually.” (2 Chronicles 7:12-16)

Hear what God is saying through this to His people, both then and now:

I have caused you to build this temple – in the new covenant His Church – to the glory of My Name, and I have chosen this place for My house where you offer true sacrifices to Me (there is a reason the Mass is called a sacrifice!).  So when you forget Me and seek your own pleasure, comfort, and position; and when I send trials and difficulties, droughts or plagues or pestilence among you to get your attention; when you acknowledge and confess your sin; and when you turn away from that sin and come before me with a changed heart; THEN I WILL HEAR FROM HEAVEN AND FORGIVE YOUR SIN AND HEAL YOUR LAND.  I’m not moved by your weeping and wailing and moaning … but My eyes are forever open and My ears are forever attentive to your honest, humble, and contrite prayers in this place … and when you do this I will run to forgive and rescue your changed heart and heal your ravaged land!

If you wish to see the world changed; if you wish to see the circumstances around you change; if you wish to see life and growth and healing in yourself, your family, and your nation … look first inside yourself; look inside your family; look inside your nation.  And before you pray that others humble themselves, that others pray and seek God’s face, that others turn from their wicked ways … make sure you have first done all these things yourself.

Word of God: speak!

Non nobis Domine+

by Fr. Dana Jackson

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