A Response to Dr. Russell Moore’s Article

July 8, 2016

Dr. Bob Hadley | Pastor
Westside Baptist Church, Daytona Beach, FL

*This article is taken from Dr. Hadley’s website, sbcissues.com, and is used by permission.

Dr. Russell Moore has written an article titled “2 Chronicles 7:14 Isn’t About American Politics”. Moore’s article can be accessed by HERE. In the article, he laments the use of this great text on patriotic holidays. He writes, “In so many sermons, the ‘people’ referred to in the passage are the American people, and the ‘land’ is the American land. The meaning of the text is understood as an invitation to 21st century America to ‘return to God’ and then enjoy God’s blessing once again.” I will agree with the statement that “people” is not a reference to the American people and “land” is not a reference to Americans. 2 Chronicles 7:14 was not written about American politics.

My disagreement comes in Moore’s next statement, “But the fact is 2 Chronicles 7:14 isn’t talking about America or national identity or some generic sense of ‘revival.’ To apply the verse this way is, whatever one’s political ideology, theological liberalism.” I believe this text is probably one of the best references to revival in the Bible. Perhaps Moore’s criticism is part of this underlying current of criticism that American patriotism does not belong in the church. I disagree with that. The truth is, God did not ordain government and expect His people to remain insulated and isolated from it. Hope for America is not going to come from the White House; any hope or help is going to have to come from the church house.

While it is true 2 Chronicles was written to the people of the nation of Israel, one must remember God’s greater purpose for the nation was to be a light to the rest of the world. Psalm 33:12 says, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” With this I mind, the promise of God in 2 Chronicles is as applicable today as it was day it was written. One has to be careful in accepting Moore’s approach to this text because the same arguments can be made of all Scripture passages, including the Ten Commandments and the Great Commission. Jesus’ statements were made to Israel. Are we to dismiss those because they were addressed specifically to Israel as not applicable to the church today?

Here is the full text beginning at verse 12, “12 Then the Lord appeared to Solomon by night, and said to him: “I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice. 13 When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, 14 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. 15 Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer made in this place. 16 For now I have chosen and sanctified this house, that My name may be there forever; and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually. 17 As for you, if you walk before Me as your father David walked, and do according to all that I have commanded you, and if you keep My statutes and My judgments, 18 then I will establish the throne of your kingdom, as I covenanted with David your father, saying, ‘You shall not fail to have a man as ruler in Israel.’

There are actually 2 promises made in this text. The first was to the people who would come to the temple to worship the God of creation, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Verse 13 is an interesting verse. God knows that there will be times when He will bring judgment on His people because of their sin and rebellion. It is imperative that we understand that the primary purpose of this judgment is redemptive in nature. What is the redemptive remedy for this move on God’s part? Verse 12 gives us that answer. The truth is, God’s people, whether it be the nation of Israel in Solomon’s day or the church in our day, are all alike; we are rebellious more than we are righteous and God is still sending judgment to bring His people back to Him. Now, to try to make this text a message to America is one thing but to make it a message to the church in America is another. When the church in America turns to God in repentance, one of the benefits is its impact and influence in America or any nation where the church of God is planted.

In verse 17, God’s promise shifts from the people who come to the temple to worship Him to Solomon himself. God promised Solomon if he walked with God and keep His commandments, He would establish his throne forever as He had promised Solomon’s father, David. I believe the same is true of leaders today. Listen to the words David wrote in Psalm 1: “Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor  stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; 2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. 3 He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.” When leaders look to God, God promises His provisions to those who are obedient to Him and seek to walk with Him. To argue that this is not applicable today, is a sad commentary.

The truth is, Christians are called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. When our salt gets contaminated and our light contained, we need to turn to God and humble ourselves and pray and seek His face and turn from our wicked ways so that God in turn can hear our prayer from heaven and forgive our sin and in some manner begin a healing process for our land. Now that land may be our Jerusalem; it may be our Judea or Samaria and it may be beneficial to the uttermost parts of our world.

Moore makes a critical statement that itself is primarily baseless. He writes, “If we take this text and bypass the people of God, applying it to America in general or the Bible Belt in particular, as though our citizenship as Americans or Australians or Albanians is the foundation of the “covenant” God has made with us, the problem is not just that we are misinterpreting the text; the problem is that we are missing Christ.” While WHAT he says is correct, the implication is not because these messages are brought to the “people of God” (the church) by the men of God (the preachers). The messages, at least in most cases, are for the people of God to return to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ to come into His manifold presence (which was what God expected from the children of Israel when they came to the Temple to worship with their presence and their offerings) because where God’s presence is, there are His power and His protection and His provisions. Now, God’s protection and His provisions are not to be measured in material things; these provisions may or may not be given to us according to our expectations but they are part of God’s promises to those who endeavor to walk with Him.

Let me end with Moore’s final statement, “He is the one who tells us who we are and tells us where we are going, because He’s promised us, in the short term, a cross on our backs, and in the long term, a crown of life.” 2 Chronicles 7:14 serves us as well today as it did in Solomon’s day because “My people” is a direct reference today to those who have been saved by God’s amazing grace and His marvelous mercy made available to us by faith in the finished work of Christ at Calvary.

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Dave Marrandette

Bob, thanks for this. I like the common sense approach.

Rick Patrick

Well done, Bob. You are exactly right. While we can all agree with Moore’s description of the *context* of 2 Chronicles 7:14, many of us join you in arguing against his understanding of the verse’s *applicability* to our lives today. If we ever stop applying what God said in the Bible to our lives today, even though the specific details of our setting will necessarily be somewhat different from the specific setting of theirs, then we are in a great deal of trouble when it comes to understanding and obeying the timeless truths of scripture.

JIm Poulos

The Bible describes this present world as “this present evil age.” Gal. 1:4

If God’s people don’t even know the fight they are in they sure don’t have much of a chance to win it.

Every nation that ever existed lived and now lives under that label of ‘this present evil age,’ except “The Israel of God,” Gal. 6:16, which, from our perspective, is the Church.

The people in the group described in Gal. 6:16 are to be looking for the ‘age to come, eternal life.’ Luke 18:30

Muddling up the nations of this world with God’s people muddles up God’s Goals for His people and gives no hope to the people living under ‘this present evil age,’

    Rick Patrick

    Thank God no one is saying that America is Israel, but we are only saying that, in the same way Israel was called to humble themselves, repent and return to God, America stands in need of this very same humility and repentance. One need not confuse Israel with America to apply 2 Chronicles 7:14 in our present day.

    Jim Poulos

    Not American is Israel,

    An interpretation of Gal. 6:16 is that the Church, God’s people today, is the ‘Israel,’ God intended all along, not the United States. I know this may be controversial. It’s worth serious consideration.

    If this is the true interpretation (and the arguments are there) then the Church is God’s intended nation in this world and therefore within this nation, the United States.

    And if true, then that citizenship language of Phil. 3:20 “For our citizenship is in heaven…” becomes more relevant in all the surrounding mess,of ‘this present evil age,’ this Nation included.

      Rick Patrick

      And yet, regardless of any of these biblical interpretations, if Christians in America will humble ourselves, turn from our wicked ways, and prayerfully seek the face of God, then God will indeed hear our prayers, and, should He decide to grant them, we may very well experience forgiveness and healing in our nation of America, just as God promised the same for the nation of Israel.

      I suppose my point is, without necessarily claiming the very promise as our own, we can and should still: (a) humble ourselves, (b) turn from our wicked ways, and (c) prayerfully seek the face of God. This is what I mean by applying the verse to America today.

      Jim Poulos

      Yes Dr. Patrick,

      All of us need to work for the good of this nation, a nation that needs both forgiveness and healing, of which will only be found in Our Lord Jesus.

      Peace

Jim Poulos

The United States and the Baptist Church have almost a symbiotic relationship that they may never allow either to see clearly who each other is.

So many of the principles of liberty that characterizes this nation can find its roots in the Baptist Church.

Still, those Baptists who so influenced this country had a profound respect for the separation between the two, the Nation and the Church. And they worked hard to insure the nation respected that seperation.

Confusing that separation can only be a problem for both.

    Rick Patrick

    Agreed. The state should establish no official church. Let us keep these institutions forever separated organizationally. And yet, America’s churches happen to reside in America. So let us pray for revival within the hearts of Christians and within our churches and communities and states, and even within our entire nation—not that we would politically establish a religion, but rather, that true Christianity would flourish in America, resulting in God’s Hand of blessing upon our citizens and our institutions.

      norm

      Speaking of institutions, Rick, are we all aware of what’s happening in California regarding the religious freedom of faith-based academies?
      “A threatening and overreaching bill (Senate Bill 1146) is working its way through the California legislature. If passed as is, this bill would strip California’s faith-based colleges and universities of their religious liberty to educate students according to their faith convictions.”
      SOURCE: http://now.biola.edu/news/article/2016/jun/08/preserve-faith-based-higher-education/

        Rick Patrick

        Yes, it is tragic. The activist courts are ruling in such a way as to introduce meanings into our Constitution that were never there to begin with. Under the banner of “non-discrimination” they discriminate against people of faith.

norm

Curious that Moore is not correcting the scripture-twisting of some Calvinists who say “cosmos” means “elect,” or who preach irresistible grace w/o a single verse that states such.

Ben Stratton

Amen! The principles of 2 Chronicles 7:14 are just as applicable today as they were in Solomon’s day. God has not changed. If any church or any group of Christians within a nation will repent, pray, and turn back to God, then the Lord will hear and answer.

Thank you for writing this excellent article Dr. Hadley.

Greg Roberts

Nineveh was not mentioned in 2 chronicles either ;BUT
So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. 6 Then word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes. 7 And he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying,

Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water. 8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. 9 Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?

10 Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.

looks to me they prayed humbled themselves and turned AND God heard.

    Jim Poulos

    Greg,

    Your point is very good and I am going to add this to it.

    Nineveh would have never repented if Israel’s representative, Jonah, didn’t intervene.
    And you know what? Jonah, Israel’s representative, did all he could to avoid intervening.

    Today, the Church, is the representative of the ‘Israel of God’ to the Nineveh of today, the World.

    Bob Hadley

    Yes sir. Worked for Nineveh and it will work for America or ANY country that turns from their evil ways and to the Lord Jesus.

David Rogers

Often missing in the discussion of 2 Chr. 7:14 is the fact that, in context, “heal your land” does not refer to moral or spiritual renewal but to agricultural productivity.

    Bob Hadley

    David,

    Thanks for your comment but would not “forgive their sin” take care of the “spiritual renewal” and then “heal your land” mean bring some sort of prosperity to that nation SINCE they had repented and their sins had been forgiven? I would say that is contextually exactly what the passage is promising. The point is though, is this available to ANY nation or JUST to the nation of Israel?

Greg Roberts

Very good point David Rogers.

Stuart

Moore writes, “If we take this text and bypass the people of God, applying it to America in general or the Bible Belt in particular, as though our citizenship as Americans or Australians or Albanians is the foundation of the “covenant” God has made with us, the problem is not just that we are misinterpreting the text; the problem is that we are missing Christ.”

Hadley writes, “2 Chronicles 7:14 serves us as well today as it did in Solomon’s day because “My people” is a direct reference today to those who have been saved by God’s amazing grace and His marvelous mercy made available to us by faith in the finished work of Christ at Calvary.”

Seems like a lot of wasted energy considering the two positions are essentially the same.

    Bob Hadley

    Unfortunately, you missed the major point of the article. To suggest that those two sentences summarize the article is sad indeed for the article itself and its response to Moore’s is anything but “two positions that are essentially the same.”

Pastor Moose

When Paul writes in I Co. 9 “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,” he quotes from Dt. 25:4. Dt. 25:4 was written to an agrarian context yet Paul sees in hit a spiritual principle that transcends its original context. In my view, all Scripture is a reflection of God’s unchanging character. Behind every law is a principle and behind every principle is God’s character.

As another poster notes, Jonah called Nineveh to repent. They weren’t “God’s people” in the sense that the Israelites were. Dr. Moore’s hermeneutic doesn’t allow him to see the principle behind II Ch. 7:14. Nor does it allow him to see that God has a design for nations as much as He does for Israel, the Church, and the believer.

At one point in his essay, he writes:
“If nothing else, the question must be asked of this kind of sermon: Where should we “take America back” to? Do you mean back to the era of the Founders, or back to the 1950s, or 1980s? When, exactly, in America’s blip of an existence did everything fall apart?”

First, why does he mock the pastors who call America to repent? America has never been perfect as a nation. But there was a time when killing babies wasn’t legal. There was a time when sexual perversion was well, sexual perversion, and didn’t take precedence over religious freedom. There were times when the moral compass was far more functional than now. And is calling a nation to repent in sackcloth and ashes “precisely what the prosperity gospel preachers do.”

One of the saddest things in America is not the rot among the political parties and decay in society but that the vacuum of leadership among Evangelicals – there is no vision, no voice, and no valor.

    Brother Keith Hayworth

    Amen. Ten righteous people would have dramatically affected Sodom. Unfortunately, they did not exist. God’s people at all times do have influence on others. America has lost ground because Christians self-righteously avoided the political, cultural, legal and academic centers of influence. Now we are paying for the years the locusts have eaten.

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