Summary: if judgment comes upon the land - who's fault is it?
This sermon is indebted to the work of Crawford Loritts and a sermon he preached at a mission conference in Norfolk, VA March 1992.
This Is Who We Are, Part 3
Our Place in the Land
There is a new breed of detective show today. One with more brain and less brawn. These cops are no Bruce Willis, surviving impossible odds by wits and a smidgen of luck. The cops I'm thinking of don't give us cute little catch phrases like "Yippe Kai Yeah!"
The cop I'm thinking of is more of a super-sleuth. He or she is known as a profiler. A profiler is a breed of cop that arises out of our need for some way to combat the latest evolution of evil, the serial-killer. Profilers are specifically trained to think with the criminal mind, to place themselves in the shoes of the perpetrator. Their tools are the clues of a crime scene -- the resources used to commit the crime, the victim selected, the evidence left purposely by the criminal to serve as his calling card. From these clues the profiler recreates the crime and then reasons back to what type of person might perform such an act. With the right information, these super-sleuths can give you the approximate age, the ethnicity, probable motive and some of the background of the criminal. All this, simply from piecing together the circumstances of the crime scene.
In the last ten years or so and as recently as this past September, I've heard a lot of the leaders in popular Christianity make proclamations which makes me think of them as profilers for God. Theological profilers, if you will. They watch the horror of September 11 and begin to instantly interpret it as an act of an angry God. Anthrax tainted mail slithers its way through our society on its way to prominent targets, and it is deemed God's judgment. Then in reverent tones they say "If America doesn't repent soon God's going to have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah." They cry out for America to repent. Turn back before the wrath of God comes to rest upon our land. It's time for revival! All the while forgetting that now we see as through a darkened mirror.
And I say, wait a minute. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for revival sweeping the land. I live for the day when I come to church and have to lay on my face in the aisle because the presence of God is so thick, it is the only acceptable form of worship. I am pro-repentance! As a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ, it's a prerequisite. But I want to examine this judgment thing. Instead of simply looking at the circumstances of earth and trying to read into them the truths of heaven, I say let's take a deep breath, pause for a moment and see if the Scriptures can illumine our counsels with wisdom. Instead of dusting the events of the day for the fingerprints of God -- looking for some clue which can tell us what he's up to -- let's go back to the one place where he has recorded his thoughts already, the Bible.
In 2 Chronicles 7:11-16, we find a rather peculiar story. A story that speaks of what can be thought of as a disturbing pattern. I want to spend this morning exploring this pattern -- what it signifies and what it means for us. To do this we need to look at three things. The first is answering the question "Why was the book of Chronicles written?" That completed we then need to answer a second question. "What events lead up to the story in the text?" In other words, what's the context? And finally, we'll explore how the pattern we find impacts us today by asking, "Who's God speaking to?"
Our text this morning, comes out of one of only two books in the Scriptures that records all of human history from creation to the time of the author. In the original text, first and second Chronicles are one book and looking at the two combined is like standing over a time-line and seeing all of history in one glance. The chronicler accomplished this by making the first nine chapters of 1 Chronicles a genealogy that stretches back to Adam. The other book that does this is the Gospel of Matthew.
The reason Chronicles covers such a broad scope is because it was written to answer some huge questions for the people of Israel as they were coming out of exile. It was written for those who were returning to the Promised Land after the Babylonian captivity, when Cyrus decreed that the temple should be rebuilt. The remnant of Israel was returning to a land that was stripped of its former glory known under Solomon and it was kingless, without an heir to David's throne. It seemed as if all the promises of God were null and void. So they naturally asked, "Does the covenant remain? Are we still God's people? Or are we godless?"