If My People...
Billy Graham once asked a university professor what he thought man's greatest need was. The professor considered it carefully, then said: "I could give you a variety of answers all the way from tax relief to disarmament. I may surprise you, because I am not a religious man, but I believe the greatest need we have at this hour is a spiritual awakening that will restore individual and collective morals and integrity throughout the nations."
Jeremiah 18, especially verses 7-10, demonstrates how God deals with any nation in judgment according to the way it responds to Him. In essence, He says, "I warn you of judgment, but if you will change, I will withhold the judgment. If I have promised blessing, and you disobey, I will withhold the blessing. I will deal with you according to the way you respond to Me."
In 2 Chronicles 7:12-14, God gave this principle to Solomon immediately after Solomon had finished building the temple. In verse 13, God warned of judgment if the people disobeyed, giving three examples.
- Weather: "When I shut up heaven and there is no rain ..."This speaks of destruction.
- Insects: "When I ... command the locusts to devour the land ..." This symbolizes that which devours.
- Disease: "When I ... send pestilence among My people ..." This warns of death.
J. Oswald Sanders said, "When wickedness develops into extraordinary proportions, God meets it with extraordinary measures."
However, verse 14 is God's promise of mercy: "If My people who are called by My name ..." The Hebrew says, "My people upon whom My name is called." At that time, God was speaking to Israel. Today God is dealing with His church. The Church is God's people upon whom His name is called. So this verse applies to us as God's people today.
Notice that God holds His people accountable for their land. While we tend to blame the non-church-going people for the problems in the world, God says, "The problem is not with them; it's with you. If I can deal with you, I can handle the situation." He always begins with His people. First Peter 4:17 states, "The time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God." In the great revival that swept Wales in 1904, God raised up a young man named Evan Roberts. God used him to spearhead a revival that changed the whole nation and history of Wales. Evan Roberts had a slogan, "Bend the Church and bow the world," meaning, if the Church will bend, the world will bow.
God continues in 2 Chronicles 7:14 by giving four conditions, which we must meet, and then, His three responses. Revival, like any spiritual reality, involves human personality. As E. M. Bounds puts it, "Men are God's method." So, here are the four conditions on our part.
- Humility. "'If My people ... will humble themselves ...'" This means confessing our insufficiency and calling on God's sufficiency. Psalm 51:16-17 says, "You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart--these, O God, You will not despise." Andrew Murray said that humility is the first great lesson in the spiritual life. He prayed, "It is impossible for me, my God; let there be an end of the flesh and all its powers, an end of self, and let it be my glory to be helpless." Psalm 9:12 tells us, "He does not forget the cry of the humble."
- Prayer. "'If My people ... will ... pray ...'" "To pray" means "to beg for favor that we do not deserve." God's favor is not based on our merit, but on His mercy. This was the plea for restoration in Daniel 9:17-19: "Now therefore, our God, hear the prayer of Your servant, and his supplications, and for the Lord's sake cause Your face to shine on Your sanctuary, which is desolate. O my God, incline Your ear and hear; open Your eyes and see our desolations, and the city which is called by Your name; for we do not present our supplications before You because of our righteous deeds, but because of Your great mercies. O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and act! Do not delay for Your own sake, my God, for Your city and Your people are called by Your name." D. L. Moody declared, "Every great movement of God can be traced to a kneeling figure!"
- Seeking. "'If My people ... will ... seek My face ...'" This means to develop a right relationship with God. When Lord Tennyson was on his deathbed, friends at his bedside asked, "Is there anything you wish?" With solemnity, he replied, "Yes, a new vision of God!" Psalm 27:8 says, "When You said, 'Seek My face,' my heart said to You, 'Your face, Lord, I will seek.'"
- Turning. "'If My people ... will ... turn from their wicked ways ...'" When Mr. Moody went to England on his first evangelistic mission, he preached grace. On his second trip, he preached repentance because he found that unless there was a genuine turning away from known sin in a person's life and thought, there would be little permanency of change. He himself said, "I sometimes think it is about time to give up preaching to the ungodly and preach to those who profess to be Christians. I'd rather wake up a slumbering church than arouse a sleeping world.""To turn" means "to break, repent, and withdraw," and "wicked ways" means "bad, naughty, and wrong." A little Zulu girl, who had given her heart to Christ, prayed, " O Thou Great Chief, light a candle in my heart that I may see the rubbish, and sweep it out." James 4:8 reminds us, "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands ... and purify your hearts."
Mark Hopkins said, "Our prayer and God's mercy are like two buckets in a well; while the one ascends, the other descends." Here are God's three responses.
- Hearing. "I will hear from heaven."
- Forgiveness. "I ... will forgive their sin." Proverbs 28:13 admonishes, "He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy."
- Healing. "I ... will ... heal their land." "To heal" means "to cure, to repair, to mend by stitching, thoroughly make whole, remove the pestilence and drought from our midst, and turn back the enemy."
God says, "If My people will do four things--humble themselves, pray, seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways--then I will do three things--hear, forgive, and heal." Our four things and God's three things equal the biblical number for perfection--seven. But our four have to come before God's three.
In Nottingham, England, is the Wesleyan chapel where General William Booth was converted. It is a sacred shrine for Salvationists. One day, a man dressed in the uniform of the Salvation Army entered the chapel and asked the caretaker, "Can a man say his prayers here?" "Of course he can," was the ready reply. The man knelt and poured out his heart to God, pleading, "O God, do it again! O God, do it again!"
"Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You? Show us Your mercy, Lord, and grant us Your salvation" (Psalm 85:6-7).
Enrichment Magazine, Fall 1999.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version.
J. Oswald Sanders, Robust in the Faith ( Chicago: Moody Press, n.d.), 126.
Derek Prince, "God's Judgment in the Here-and-Now," New Wine Magazine, January 1978, 27.
E. M. Bounds, Power through Prayer (Chicago: Moody Press, 1979), 7.
Andrew Murray; quoted in Christian Clippings, January 2000, 16.
D. L. Moody; quoted in Walter B. Knight, Knight's Master Book of Illustrations (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1956), 489.
Lord Tennyson; quoted in Walter B. Knight, Knight's Master Book of Illustrations (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1956), 725.
D. L. Moody; quoted in Vance Havner, In Times Like These (Old Tappan, N.J.: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1969), 86.
Walter B. Knight, Knight's Master Book of Illustrations (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1956), 368.
Mark Hopkins; quoted in Billy Graham, Till Armageddon (Waco, Tex.: Word Books, 1981), 153.
Bible Expositor and Illuminator, Vol. XXXVII, Second Quarter, 1966, 89.