Summary: How do we seek the healing in a land of so much? God’s answer comes at the dedication of His temple in the darkness of Solomon’s night.
Gallup Poll surveyed Americans this past Easter and discovered that 12% of Americans have no religious identification and the number of those claiming some linkage to Christianity is at 77% down from 91% in 1948. Seventy-seven percent is not too bad but Gallup doesn’t do a very good job in making distinctions between those who merely walk into a church and those who have experienced a new life with Jesus Christ.
George Barna has shown his skill in taking the pulse of the church in the US for years. April 2 of this year he published a new book titled The Seven Faith Tribes: Who They Are, What They Believe, and Why They Matter. The tribes Barna identify are the seven tribes include Casual Christians, Captive Christians, Mormons, Jews, Pantheists, Muslims and Skeptics. In a radio interview about this book he was asked about the "tribe" labeled Casual Christians. Barna defines these folks as those who perceive their Christianity as "faith in moderation. It allows them to feel religious without having to prioritize their faith. Christianity is a low-risk, predictable proposition..., providing a faith perspective that is not demanding. A Casual Christian can be all the things that they esteem: a nice human being, a family person, religious, an exemplary citizen, a reliable employee and never have to publicly defend or represent difficult moral or social positions or even lose much sleep over their private choices as long as they mean well and generally do their best. From their perspective, their brand of faith practice is genuine, realistic and practical. To them, Casual Christianity is the best of all worlds; it encourages them to be a better person than if they had been irreligious, yet it is not a faith into which they feel compelled to heavily invest themselves." If that’s not disturbing enough Barna says that this represents about 66% of the adult population in the U.S.
So why start a Fourth of July sermon with statistics? Look at our scripture again. A huge celebration had taken place. For a week offerings were made, so many that the entire center court was set aside to accommodate the offerings. When this is done and the people are dismissed God appears to Solomon at night not with the Shekinah Glory of cloud and pillar of fire but with that presence that is unmistakable and intimate.
It would be great if we could say that God’s word applied only to the nation of Israel but we can’t. We too, are God’s people, united to him through Jesus the Christ. We are the Body of Christ and the adopted daughters and sons of God. So when God talks about His people we need to hear what he is saying.
Before I get into this let me say that I do not believe everything bad that happens is God’s punishing someone or some nation. Anything that happens from losing a well-loved pet to Hurricane Katrina happens with God’s awareness but I am VERY slow to assign them as judgment on a family, person or nation. The reason for that is because God’s punishment was satisfied on the cross. Those who believe in Jesus don’t face punishment but salvation. Now, having said that, God is still the God who establishes princes, kings and nations and God is the one who hardens the heart of Pharaoh and destroys nations and people.
This passage begins with a very positive note. God has accepted the temple as a place in which his fullness will dwell. He is not ONLY there but he will reside there. Then God let’s Solomon know something about the people which he already knew. There would be times when God would punish or discipline Israel. Notice God says, "When I" not "If I". God knows us better than we know ourselves. His correction would include drought, pests and disease. All of which designed to remind the people that there is no room for casual Jews in YWHW’s Israel.
If this is forgone conclusion that God is going to have to take steps to correct His people what is the answer. Verse 14 says "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 sin and will heal their land." It is a very simple conditional sentence with some far-reaching consequences.
What is humility? Ever see two dogs start a fight. One will roll on its back and expose its belly as a sign of submission. Humility describes being conquered, enslaved, subdued or to bend the knee to a superior. Humility exposes us to one who is superior to us. The world puts little value on humility except among the great.