There’s been quite a bit of debate over a popular Bible verse that has received increased media attention over the past year, mostly due to Vice President Mike Pence’s numerous mentions of it in political speeches.
The verse in question? 2 Chronicles 7:14, which reads, “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.”
As Faithwire previously reported, Pence frequently invoked the verse on the campaign trail — and he even decided to take his oath of office on Ronald Reagan’s Bible, placing his hand on that specific scripture.
But some critics have taken aim at Pence as well as others who would use the verse as a clarion call for Americans to turn back to God, with these critics saying that the scripture’s original context doesn’t allow for the text to extend to the U.S.
Despite that ongoing theological discussion, Steve Gaines, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, recently penned an opinion piece in which he encouraged Christians to appeal to 2 Chronicles 7:14 — but he offered up some important context.
“To be clear, these are God’s words spoken to Solomon, King of Israel. Likewise, the ‘land’ referred to was the land of Israel,” Gaines wrote. “When the Israelites sinned against the Lord, He would send the plagues mentioned in verse 13. But if they responded by humbling themselves, praying, seeking God’s face and turning from their wicked ways, God would hear from heaven, forgive their sin and heal their land.”
The SBC head went on to say that the New Testament repeatedly points back to the Old and that, as 2 Timothy 3:16 notes, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” He also noted that Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:11-12 that the history of Israeli rebellion in the Old Testament could offer assistance and guidance to Christians later on.
“Is America Israel? No. Is God an American? No,” Gaines continued. “But can warnings and promises to God’s people in the Old Testament be applied to Christians today? Absolutely.”
In the end, he concluded that it’s totally appropriate for Christians to “obey the spirit of this text” to humble themselves, pray and seek God in an effort to find forgiveness. Of course, not everyone agrees with this sentiment. Christian website GotQuestions.org explains has some of the context surrounding the overarching debate:
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 concluded, 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, it’s clear that 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. You can explore those questions and points of discussion here.