A Response to Dr. Russell Moore’s Article
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.