Vice-president elect Mike Pence’s decision to take his oath of office on Ronald Reagan’s Bible has captured quite a bit of attention, though even more intrigue has centered on the specific verse he plans to lay his hand on: 2 Chronicles 7:14.
If you’re unfamiliar, the scripture reads as follows: “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 will heal their land.”
You might be wondering what, exactly, the verse means, and how — if at all — it applies to America today. Christian website GotQuestions.org explains some of the context:
When approaching 2 Chronicles 7:14, one must first consider the immediate context. After Solomon dedicated the temple, the Lord appeared to him and gave him some warnings and reassurances. “The Lord appeared to him at night and said: ‘I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices.’ When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague 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 I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” […]
In context 2 Chronicles 7:14 is a promise to ancient Israel (and perhaps even modern-day Israel) that, if they will repent and return to the Lord, He will rescue them. However, many Christians in the United States have taken this verse as a rallying cry for America. (Perhaps Christians in other countries have done so as well.) In this interpretation, Christians are the people who are called by God’s name. If Christians will humble themselves, pray, seek God’s face, and repent, then God will heal their land—often a moral and political healing is in view as well as economic healing. The question is whether or not this is a proper interpretation/application.
The site concludes, though, that there is “no guarantee of national deliverance,” explaining that the U.S. doesn’t have “the same covenant relationship with God” that Israel had.
The site also noted that, in the case of the verse, Israel would be appealing to the Lord collectively and repenting as such — a “national repentance” of sorts, if you will. But if a smaller group of them were to do so, there wasn’t any indication in scripture that such an act would have saved the nation as a whole, according to GotQuestions.org.
Others have also pointed to the verse’s context to claim that it doesn’t apply to the United States and, thus, shouldn’t be framed or used in the way Pence and Reagan have used it. PJ Media’s Tyler O’Neil recently wrote:
In the context of an inauguration ceremony in the United States, this verse seems to promise that God will bless America if the people “humble themselves and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways.” This is inspiring, because God promises to hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.
Reagan himself swore on that verse, but there’s a big problem with doing so — that verse is emphatically not about the United States of America. In fact, if it were, the passage which promises God’s forgiveness and healing would also condemn the United States to defeat and exile at the hands of foreigners.
So, not everyone believes the verse applies to America, though the debate is certainly intriguing — and some actually would dispute the interpretations of GotQuestions.org, O’Neil and others.
For his part, Pence referenced the verse on the campaign trail, telling CBN News’ David Brody back in October that he believes America needs a spiritual rejuvenation, pointing back to 2 Chronicles 7:14 in making his comments.
“I believe in providence for the course of this nation but I think what animates Donald Trump is faith in God and faith in the American people,” he said at the time. “I think what we are seeing across this country is really a movement of the American people who are tired of being told this is as good as it gets.”
With all that said, the debate surrounding the verse is intriguing, leading to a series of questions.
Does the text apply solely to Israel or can it be a more sweeping sentiment: that if a nation turns to God, he will hear its prayers? Is Pence assuming a small cohort of Christians can change the nation’s trajectory, or is he hoping to see most Americans come along for a “great awakening” that pleads for God to fix the nation (even so, would that really guarantee that God would respond in the same way discussed in 2 Chronicles)?
These are all great and relevant questions, and, at the least, every Christian would agree that seeing more people pray and appeal to God would be a positive development. As for his inaugural plans, Pence explained in a press release why he planned to use Reagan’s Bible during the oath-taking.
“President Ronald Reagan placed his faith in a loving God and the goodness of our country. He set out to change a nation and in doing so, he changed the world,” Pence said. “In the march of history, Ronald Reagan’s time in office was limited, but his legacy inspired a generation and will continue beyond.”
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