Summary: 2 Chronicles 7:14 shows the road back for a nation or an individual that has strayed from the will of God.
Finding The Way Back
Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister
First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO
Introduction: The Discovery Channel sometime ago carried the story of a group of spelunkers or cave explorers. When we lived in Rolla years ago, we used to go caving. Ours were short treks into the underground world. We might go for a half hour or so before the cave ended. We did find one three-story cave filled with spectacular rock formations. Our little caves were scary enough—the darkness, dampness, and bats—especially the bats! I can’t imagine crawling on your belly for hours or diving into water to go under a rock wall and hope to emerge on the other side alive. That’s what real cavers do.
The cavers on TV did something else very important that we never found necessary. They marked their trail. The dark underground passages came be confusing at best. In the darkness every passage looks alike. The explorers would leave rocks or markings to show the right path back out. In certain places, they would string a rope or fine line through the passage. To return to the surface, they merely followed the line or the marks back in the direction they had come.
There’s a parable in there some place. It is easy to get lost in the darkness. We drift or wander from God. Finding our way back can be confusing. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone marked the trail back for us? Our text—2 Chronicles 7:14—does just that. It marks the way back for those who have become lost in the darkness.
There’s another important dimension to this text as well that is important for this time of the year. I am sure all of us are concerned about the drift of our nation. The older among us have witnessed lots of changes in our lifetimes, much of it not good.
Several years ago, William Bennett, one time US Secretary of Education, began to compile what he called The Index of Leading Cultural Indicators. Business people had long used economic statistics to track the well-being of our nation. Bennett was convinced that there is more to life than money and possessions. I think I have heard that somewhere else before! Bennett gathered the numbers that track other issues in American life. Here is part of what he discovered. His first studies were done about fifteen years ago. If anything, the darkness has increased.
Since 1960, while the gross domestic product has nearly tripled, violent crime has increased at least 560 percent. Divorces have more than doubled. The percentage of children in single-parent homes has tripled. And by the end of the decade 40 percent of all American births and 80 percent of minority births will occur out of wedlock.
The United States leads the industrialized world in murder, rape and violent crime. At the same time, our elementary-school students rank at or near the bottom in tests of math and science skills. Since 1960, average SAT scores in our high schools have dropped 75 points.
In 1940, teachers identified the top problems in America’s schools as: talking out of turn, chewing gum, making noise and running in the hall. In 1990, teachers listed drugs, alcohol, pregnancy, suicide, rape and assault.
Most of us are all too aware of the reality those statistics describe. The question is—is it too late for our nation to turn around? What is the path back? Our text provides an answer to those questions. It was first addressed to another people in another time, but the principles still apply today.
Note how 2 Chronicles 7:14 divides into three parts—the people, the path, and the promise.
The People: “If my people, who are called by my name, . . .” The immediate reference is to the nation of Judah, the remnant of God’s special people. We can, by application see principles that relate to the church, Christian individuals, and to any group or nation that desires to have a personal relationship with God. But we dare never forget that the first context was to Judah.
To be God’s people is to be in a personal relationship with him. Judah was more than a geographical or political entity. Judah was a nation called and blessed by God. The Living God here promises to make that temple his special place. He wasn’t limited to it. Solomon knew that. God affirms that throughout the Scriptures. But here he would enter into a special relationship with them.
“MY” speaks not so much of ownership and possession as relationship. God knows his people and they know him. To be “called by his name” is to proudly own and affirm that relationship.
But relationship always means responsibility. This principle is often lost in our discussion of faith. Verse 13 makes this clear with the startling warning of divine judgment and punishment. “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, . . " It is not “if” but “when.” God knows his people will stray. He knows he will someday need to send judgment, but he still enters into this special relationship with them.