If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways,
The verse above comes after King Solomon had finished the Temple in Jerusalem. He and the people celebrated its completion for twenty-three days, with offerings and sacrifices, music and praise. It was a joyful time, and God had made His presence known by causing fire to come down from heaven to consume the burnt offerings (2 Chronicles 7:1). His glory filled the Temple, and because it did, even the priests who were dedicated to Him could not enter the Temple.
Try to imagine what that was like. Fire came down from heaven, and this fire represented the glory of God. It completely filled the Temple, and everyone there saw it bowed their faces to the ground and worshipped God. Imagine how you would be feeling if you had been there. Indeed, you would be afraid. Fire from heaven is not a normal thing you see every day. You would also be in awe. You would be grateful because, as a person in that era, you would know about the gods of the other nations, and you would now be comparing them to the Most High God. And you would realize without a doubt that there was only one God, and all the rest were fake. You would also feel loved because the God of the universe had blessed your people by showing favour to you. The honour, the implications of that alone, would be overwhelming. Would you ever be able to get off your knees?
But the day came when the celebrations ended, and King Solomon sent everyone back to their homes. That night, God came to him and told him He had heard his prayer (2 Chronicles 6). He reminded Solomon that He had chosen the Temple as a place for Himself, a house of sacrifice. Then He said:
When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, 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 I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer made in this place. For now I have chosen and sanctified this house, that My name may be there forever; and My eyes and
King Solomon knew that if he or the people sinned against God from that point forward, they would need to humble themselves, pray, seek God and turn from their sin for God to hear them and forgive them. Notice that the verse does not say "If I shut up heaven," but "When I shut up heaven," meaning that bad things would continue to happen in the world despite being His chosen people.
We know sin has consequences, and as history and the Bible would reveal, King Solomon led his people into sin by worshipping other gods. Because of Solomon's sin, those who served as kings after Solomon continued to sin. Because they did not repent, God did what He told Solomon He would do if there was unrepentant sin in the land:
But if you turn away and forsake My statutes and My commandments which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods, and worship them, then I will uproot them from My land which I have given them; and this house which I have sanctified for My name I will cast out of My sight, and will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples.
Unrepentant sin cannot go unpunished, but God would set a new plan in motion in His infinite mercy. He placed the punishment meant for all people on the shoulders of one man. His name was Jesus. He took our sin upon Himself and crucified it on a cross. By His stripes, we are healed (Isaiah 53:5) and forgiven. He became the sacrificial lamb for all people. But it wasn't something to take for granted or a "get out of jail free card." We are still required to humble ourselves, pray, seek God and turn from our sin. Jesus, Himself said in John 14:6, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
Today we live in an unrepentant world that has thrown the offering of salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord back in the face of God. In fact, many in positions of church leadership who profess to know the Lord are, like Solomon, leading their congregations astray. The church has lost its way from those who preach false doctrines to celebrity preachers caught in sex scandals to the unbiblical and unholy evangelical view of sex. Some churches don't even bother to hide their beliefs. They don't believe God is the only way, all while still continuing to preach from the pulpit. Still, others have given themselves over to full-blown idol worship. (FYI - they are singing about the goddess Sophia. Sophia in Greek means wisdom. She is honoured as a goddess of wisdom by Gnostics and some neo-pagan, New Age, and feminist-inspired Goddess spirituality groups. Her statue is still standing in a temple in Ephesus).
To these churches, God's Word no longer stands. Like the people during Solomon's day, the church is to set an example of faith in God and love toward others. We are not to approve of sin nor participate in it. Jesus did not condemn the woman caught in adultery but told her to "Go and sin no more." Why is the church not following His example? We know from today's verses that unrepentant sin cannot go unpunished. The day of the Lord is coming soon. How will He find His church? Will we agree that God's Word is the same yesterday, today and forever and, therefore, living our lives in obedience? Or will we be so worldly that He won't recognize us?