The “Butchered Bible Verse” series continues today with a very popular verse that is often heard in sermons around July 4th in America. As we approach the study of Scripture, we must be cautious to rightly handle God’s Word. As we read, study, apply, and preach the Word, we must always remember that the Bible is God’s Word – not the word of man. We have no right to mishandle it, misquote it, misinterpret it, or reinterpret it to fit our personal agenda. We must always avoid the trap of many small group Bible studies that ask, “What does this verse mean to you?” Instead, we should ask what this verse means to God and what did the original author who wrote under the inspiration of the Spirit of God intend?
2 Chronicles 7:14 – If my people who are called by my name 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.
Explanation of how the text is misused
As we’re getting near the summer, we can expect to hear sermons from preachers who, with good intentions, will cite 2 Chronicles 7:14 or preach an entire message on that single verse while applying it to America. Most of the time it’s an attempt to demonstrate the need for repentance in our nation. At times we hear of preachers who use this verse to call out our national position on abortion, and in most recent days, our President’s opinion about homosexual marriage. As we examine the text, it is abundantly clear that 2 Chronicles 7:14 is not speaking about America – the home of the brave!
Explanation of the text
The wrong application of 2 Chronicles 7:14 is to lift it out of its context and apply it to America or any other single nation. Anytime we attach a text of Scripture to America, we must be extremely cautious. Because in that act we are saying this is a reference to God’s promise for America when in reality – it isn’t. The key is found in two specific places in the text.
1. The verse begins by a key reference to “my people.” This is not a reference to all people in America or any other nation, because we know that by that phrase the Chronicler was referencing the people of God – specifically of Israel.
2. Within that framework, the people of God were under judgment for sin. This involved pestilence, drought, and exile from their land. It would be wrong to suggest that America is under judgment, as the children of God, and that God is calling us BACK to Him. For the most part, America has never known God, so God isn’t calling America to come BACK. If anything, God is commanding unbelievers in America to repent, but they don’t need a rededication card at the end of a service around July 4th, they need a new heart created by the Spirit of God, paid for by the Son of God, and accomplished by the will of God the Father.
A correct view would be to suggest that in a general sense – if the people of God in America would genuinely seek the face of God and call upon Him, while in a form of genuine repentance, we would see a great revival take place in our land. However, we can’t be promised that it will solve America’s problems. The truth is, much of the problems that America faces is due to the unbelievers and their desire to live according to the lust of their flesh and the passions of their heart. The true church in America is smaller than the unbelieving population. While a revival is needed in our land, what we truly need is a great awakening of genuine salvation. The former may lead to the latter, but only by the grace of God.
It is not biblically accurate for preachers to stand in pulpits and claim that 2 Chronicles 7:14 is a promise of a total healing of America. Even if the true church in America remains faithful, God may still judge America. We must remember that Americans are not God’s people. In a large sense, the people of America are the enemies of God. Just to clarify – so as to not sound like Westboro Baptist – the large population of unbelievers in America are the enemies of God as the Scripture says (James 4:4; Romans 8:7; Ephesians 2:2-3; John 8:44). The church in America belongs to God, but in all reality, that number is much smaller than we like to believe.
May God be pleased to send a heaven sent revival to His church in America and a glorious awakening of genuine salvation among unbelievers. Let that be our prayer. There is nothing wrong with American Christians who are proud to be Americans, but we must remember – the the grace of God is not reserved for America alone. Patriotic Americans have a right to be proud of our nation and thankful for freedom, but we must remember that being a patriotic American is not the same as possessing faith in Jesus and acceptance of the gospel of Christ.