2 Chronicles 7:14
“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 will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sins and will heal their land.”
There are many Churches and groups of praying Christians who have heard the cry of God’s heart through this verse and have responded with a desire and a willingness to lay down their own agenda and follow after His. Since the very early days of Living Waters, this has been a key verse, in terms of how God has challenged us. We have sought to die to our own sinful desires and seek after Him in a way that we have never done before.
This verse contains three promises – that God will hear from heaven, forgive our sins and heal our land. If ever there was a time when we needed God’s mercy, forgiveness and healing, it is now. There are four things that God requires of us, things that will result in the fulfilment of those three promises. They are:
- Humble themselves
- Seek My face
- Turn from their wicked ways
1. Humble themselves
The word used for humble here, Kana, is to bend the knee. There is a strong sense of choosing to bend the knee – rather than having that position forced. It does not refer to fasting – which one perhaps would expect to be. In fact none of the eight words which are translated humble have any sense of fasting. However, Psalm 35:13 says ‘Yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth and humbled myself with fasting’. So it is very much a recognised way of humbling oneself.
It would be impossible to fast all the time, so in what other ways can we humble ourselves? Well, at the very core of this instruction is self sacrifice. We live in what has become a very self-centred society. ‘Be good to yourself’ is the maxim by which the world would live. But there is no Scriptural support for such a precept. It has been suggested that when Jesus commanded us to ‘love your neighbour as you love yourself’ (Matthew 22:39) He intended us to love ourselves first and then to love our neighbour in the same way. However, this is not consistent with His other teaching in the Bible. His exhortation to love our neighbour was surely based on the fact that we do not neglect the needs of our own body. We are quick to satisfy hunger, thirst and the need for rest. We are very aware of our own needs. As Christians, we should have our eyes open to the needs of those around us and respond where we are able. Humbling ourselves is putting aside our needs, wants and desires in order to follow the instructions of our Lord – and He, as always, is our perfect example. In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus cried out to God (Mark 14:36) “Abba, Father,” He said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from Me. Yet not what I will, but what You will.” He knew the cost of what had been required of Him and trembled as He faced that path. But He laid aside His own desires and preferences to enable us to be reconciled to His and our Father.
So in practical terms, what does this mean? Our lives are full of choices and whenever we face a choice, we need to bear in mind those words that have become so famous What would Jesus do? We can choose to be the hands, voice and feet of Jesus in this dark and needy world or we can choose to sit by and watch as people suffer and perish without Jesus.
The word used for prayer here is specific to intercession. Intercession is purely and simply making a plea on behalf of another. This does not include petition (praying for our own needs), repentance (seeking forgiveness and a change of behaviour) or worship. All these are essential parts of the believer’s life, but in order to see God’s promise of hearing us along with His forgiveness and healing, we must intercede on behalf of our neighbours. Again, as a result of the selfishness of our society, we have become hardened to the plight of those around us. We excuse ourselves by saying, ‘they make their own choices’ or ‘it’s their fault’ but in reality as Christians in an evil society, we must enter fully into the war that is waging in the heavenlies and by intercession we can do this.
It is easy to become fraught by guilt when trying to pray regularly for people, and having a list can seem very much an unnecessary burden. However, self-discipline is one of the fruit of the Holy Spirit and we must be prepared to apply ourselves – it will take time and determination. Also, we can expect God to show us ways of praying for people that turn what could be a burden into a joy. The first and most important necessity is that we make ourselves available – in whatever way God prompts us to do.
3. Seek My Face
There is much talk, in groups of people and in songs about seeking God’s face but how do we do it? There is really no great mystery. Satan would have us believe that it is a hard thing to seek His face but it isn’t hard. It does take discipline, which is probably an unpopular word just at this time!
The work seek that is used here means look for earnestly. Not just a one-off quick look but much more intense. It incorporates searching for by any method but particularly through worship and prayer. The focus is on Him – not on our needs and us. We are seeking His face – not His hands, for Him to help us or provide anything for us, although we acknowledge His great provision for us! – but His face.
What do you see through someone’s face? It shows you their character; it shows you their mood and their state of mind. To look into someone’s face is to know them more deeply. You can know about someone by seeing what they do. By viewing the paintings of an artist, you will see something of that person’s character. However, the only way to really know them as a person is to spend time with them. We can learn something of God’s character through the acts that He has done – both historically and in our own lives. But to know Him as a person will only come from spending intimate time with Him.
So, the theory is pretty easy to understand, but what about the practical – HOW do we seek His face.
Well, there are a few things to remember before beginning:
Humility is vital. We can enter boldly into the Throne room but only by the Blood of the Lamb! It is essential that we don’t “think of ourselves more highly than we ought”! (Romans 12:3)
Obedience is also vital. This is part of standing aside – putting what we think of as important to one side and not preferring ourselves, but preferring one another and, most importantly, preferring God! We can’t expect God to show up on our terms. We have to be prepared to sacrifice things that we feel are important for the one thing that is more important than anything else. To have a face to face encounter with the God of the Universe is surely not a small thing.
Finally time is also vital. We can not expect to allocate five minutes of our time to seek God’s face and require that He show up in that time. Earnest seeking remember, doesn’t mean a quick ‘Hi God – what is on Your heart’ but TIME spent in prayer and worship with a wholehearted desire to meet Him face to face.
We sometimes sing the song that says: ‘And I will seek Your face with all of my heart, And I will seek Your face with all of my mind And I will seek Your face with all of my strength for you are my God.’ It is of course true that in order to seek His face, our whole lives must be affected. We can not expect to see God face to face if we are unwilling to live our lives in the way He is calling us to live. That means bringing our desires into line with His desires – our heart. Bringing our thoughts into line with His thoughts – our minds. And using our strength in a way that honours Him. There is an interesting progression here – the things that are on our heart will soon become the things on our mind. What we think about is reflected in our actions.
It is true to say that whatever we spend our energy, our thoughts and our desires on is our God.
4. Turn From Our Wicked Ways
Walking with God is not a passive thing, as the previous three instructions have made fairly clear. The first and greatest commandment is found in Matthew 22:37 ‘Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
2 Chronicles 12:14 says ‘[King Rehoboam] did evil because he had not set his heart on seeking Yahweh’. So the first and most fundamental thing to say about turning from our wicked ways is that it involves and requires much more than stopping certain things. It involves a deliberate change and decision of the heart to seek God. There is no such thing as neutrality when it comes to God. (See Matthew 12:30)
Secondly, there is no room for mixture. 2 Chronicles 8:11 says, ‘Solomon brought Pharaoh’s daughter up from the City of David to the palace he had built for her, for he said, “My wife must not live in the palace of David king of Israel, because the places the ark of Yahweh has entered are holy.”’ Solomon was aware that it was unsuitable for his wife to dwell in the Holy City. Even whilst all the building and dedication of the Temple was taking place, an unholy influence had significant voice into his life. He tried to put her out of the way, so to speak, but she wasn’t out of the way at all. 1 Kings 11:4 – 5 says, ‘As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to Yahweh his God, as the heart of David his father had been. He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites.’ Again, this shows that there can be no neutrality. His association with his wives resulted in him growing cold towards Yahweh, which in turn led to his worship of abominable gods.
Unholiness can not be put in a safe place in our lives. the only safe way is to banish it entirely. To turn from these wicked ways and seek wholly after God.