Date: November 13, 2016
Bible Text: II Chronicles 7:11-16 |
Intro: There’s no question that this nation is living in troubled times. On the other hand, this nation has always lived in troubled times --- and so has every nation around the world.
There has always been wars between some countries. There has always been people who have been victims of violence and injustice. The private lives of political leaders seldom match their public faces. This world has always been populated by flawed human beings --- and that includes every elected leader.
In times of trouble, God’s people we read about in the Old Testament had to learn some sobering lessons. They learned that the wisdom and direction they needed could only come from God. They learned that, as a covenant people of God, they often turned their backs on God and denied doing so when they did.
They learned that God would eventually get their attention through the problems they were experiencing; problems they brought on themselves. They learned that God’s judgement were often in the form of the problems that plagued them.
The most important lesson they learned was that God would always heal, restore, forgive, and bless the lives of His covenant people --- but only if they were willing to do what we read about in our scripture reading of II Chronicles 7 ---
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.
- When God blesses a nation
II Chronicles 7 focuses on the blessings God had bestowed on Israel. In response to those blessings, King Solomon built a temple to honor the God Israel worshipped.
Even Hiram, King of Tyre, whose nation worshipped many gods, knew that Israel’s God had blessed that nation of God’s people. In II Chronicles 2:11, in a letter Hiram wrote to Solomon, he acknowledged God’s special love for Israel and in v. 12, this is what Hiram wrote in his letter to Solomon ---
Praise to the Lord, the God of Israel, who made heaven and earth! He has given King David a wise son, who is endowed with intelligence and discernment.
In I Kings 3, God told Solomon that He would give him anything he asked for. In v. 9, Solomon said to God --- “Give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong.”
This story suggests a timeless principle for our nation’s leaders to follow. God blesses a nation through her leaders when those leaders seek wisdom or discernment from God.
In Psalm 33:18, we read --- “The eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him.” The history of the U.S. is a story of how God has blessed this country --- in spite of the many sins that this nation has been guilty of --- such as the scourge of slavery.
But, before we “pile up” on this country for that sin, let’s remember that most, if not all countries have been guilty of that same sin against humanity.
During the time of this country’s participation in slavery, tribal leaders in some African countries sold their people to England and the U.S. as slaves. In this country, Indian tribes turned men from other tribes they defeated in battle into slaves. Slavery has been a practice all over the world and it continues today --- because there’s money to be made in the business of slavery.
Not long ago, the AP ran a story about a man from Myanmar who was sold into slavery to a captain of a fishing ship from Thailand where he endured a hellish life as a slave for 22 years before he was able escape.
The AP reported that Thailand earns $7B a year from a seafood industry that runs on slave labor from the poorest parts of Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.
We can buy seafood from those countries in supermarkets such as Wal-Mart. Think about that next time you go shopping. And let’s also remember one important fact about this country and slavery. I recently read that we are the only nation in history that fought a war to end slavery.
- The cost of freedom
The war to end slavery was costly to this nation. It cost Abraham Lincoln his life. That history still haunts us today. An important lesson history teaches us is that freedom does not come without a cost --- a truth our ancestors fought and died for.
How costly was that freedom? The men who signed the Declaration of Independence knew the answer to that question. Five were captured by the British, tortured and executed. Carter Braxton of VA, a wealthy farmer and trader, saw his ships sunk by the British Navy. He sold his possessions to pay off his debts and died in rags.
Thomas McKean was so hounded by the British he was forced to move his family constantly. He served in Congress without pay. All his possessions were taken from him and he died in poverty.
At the Battle of Yorktown, the British General Cornwallis, took the home of Thomas Nelson, Jr. for his headquarters. Nelson urged General George Washington to open fire on his home, which was destroyed --- and he died in poverty. Francis Lewis’s wife was jailed by the British and she died within a few months.
John Hart was driven from his wife’s bedside as she lay dying. Their 13 children had to flee for their lives. His fields and gristmill were destroyed. For over a year, he lived in caves in a forest, only to return to find his wife dead. He never saw his 13 children again because a few months later --- he died from exhaustion.
The story of those brave men and their families highlight how important our ancestors valued the gift of freedom that God has blessed this country with. But, what happens to a nation when it turns its back on God, as some believe is happening in this country?
III. When a nation turns its back on God
I and II Chronicles mirror what we read in I and II Kings, where Israel is portrayed by her prophets as a nation in rebellion against God. And how did Israel respond to that dismal picture of her? She killed some of her prophets who God had raised up.
When Israel began to rebel against God by murdering her prophets and acting as unjustly as the pagans surrounding them, that’s when God began to withdraw His blessings from His people and showered them with His righteous judgment.
And if that nation was going to experience God’s blessings restored to her, she would have to pay the cost that comes with spiritual renewal. And what was that cost?
- Four requirements for spiritual renewal
God answers that question in II Chronicles 7:14, where He gave Israel four requirements that produce spiritual renewal. The first requirement for spiritual renewal is humility. In II Chronicles 7 God told Solomon --- “If my people will humble themselves.”
The second requirement for spiritual renewal is prayer. God told Solomon --- “If my people will pray.” Many of Solomon’s prayers were in the form of confessions.
Just prior to our passage of Scripture, he confessed, not only his sins, which were many, but the sins of the nation, which also were many, and he made that confession to God, and that’s when God made His promise of spiritual renewal to Solomon.
The third requirement for spiritual renewal is to seek God, who told Solomon --- “If my people will seek me.” God wanted Israel to seek Him because He wanted that nation to experience the spiritual renewal He promised?
The fourth requirement for spiritual renewal is repentance. God told Solomon --- “If my people will turn from their sins.” If Israel would do that --- if Israel would confess and repent of her sins as a nation, this is what God said He would do --- “Then I will hear from heaven and will forgive and heal.”
Concl: In closing, let me ask you a question. If the unrest in this country symbolizes God’s judgment because of our sins, what are those sins? Does the answer depend on what Democrats or Republicans say? Does the answer depend on whether you are a liberal or a conservative?
Since the sins of a nation are committed by the citizens of a nation, then the question becomes --- what sins against God are we guilty of? When God pointed out the sin of Israel, He pointed to the sin of injustice --- and injustice, in any form, against anyone or group of people, is always a sin against God.
In what ways do you and I participate in the sin of injustice? What do we need to do to experience the spiritual renewal that God blessed Israel with when she acknowledged and confessed her sins? May each of us learn from Israel when she heard God say, “If my people will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their sins, then I will bring them spiritual renewal.” Amen.