In this election season in Nigeria, if there is one verse I have heard quoted a lot, it is
“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.”
(2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV)
I sat down to look at this verse properly and I thought to share my thoughts on it in the hope that we will actually do what God would have us do to get the results we all seem to want – change in our country.
The first thing is that this verse cannot be taken in isolation. It is a continuation of what God was saying to Solomon starting from verse 12 but the main thing starts from verse 13:
13 If I shut up the heavens so that no rain falls, or if I command locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence and plague among My people, 14 and My people, who are called by My Name, humble themselves, and pray and seek (crave, require as a necessity) My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear [them] from heaven, and forgive their sin and heal their land.
(2 Chronicles 7:13-14 AMP)
It is noteworthy that God is speaking of a situation in which He brings hardship on His people because of their misbehaviour, kind of like a parent disciplining an erring child. So, before we can use verse 14, we need to accept that we, God’s people in Nigeria, have erred; we have sinned and have angered God. We need to accept that the bad leadership we have been experiencing and the outcomes of that are possibly God’s tool of discipline or His way to bring us back to our senses, as it were, like the prodigal son that got into such dire straits that he eventually ‘came to himself’ and viewed the situation for what it was, determined to get back into his father’s good graces. Let’s get honest with ourselves and with God as we ask ourselves if our lives are really salt and light in Nigeria; whether we are giving light to dispel the darkness or we are adding to the darkness; whether we as individuals and the body of Christ have been representing Christ in the marketplace daily, possessing our ‘vessels’ in holiness.
Test and evaluate yourselves to see whether you are in the faith and living your lives as [committed] believers. Examine yourselves [not me]! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves [by an ongoing experience] that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test and are rejected as counterfeit?
(2 Corinthians 13:5 AMP)
So if we agree that we, God’s children, have contributed to the darkness in the land, cheating, lying, stealing, slandering,….just as much as those without Christ do, we can then move to verse 14 for the solution which is in four parts.
1. We must humble ourselves:
Christians in Nigeria are some of the most arrogant people you will meet. Somehow, we forget that everything we are and do is by grace and that of ourselves, we are absolutely nothing! The only difference between me and an unbeliever is that by God’s mercy, He drew me to Himself and opened my eyes to see the sinner that I was, requiring a Saviour and subsequently receiving Christ as my Saviour and gradually surrendering my all to Him as my Lord. I didn’t earn it so why should I feel pride in it? We are but broken vessels put together lovingly by our heavenly Father and the only value we have is Christ in us. We ourselves are nothing. Whatever knowledge we have of God was given us by revelation and while we can boast that we know Him, we cannot boast of coming up with the knowledge ourselves.
Yet you do not know [the least thing] about what may happen in your life tomorrow. [What is secure in your life?] You are merely a vapor [like a puff of smoke or a wisp of steam from a cooking pot] that is visible for a little while and then vanishes [into thin air].
(James 4:14 AMP)
Let us accept we know only in part and that only by grace and that we are all works in progress as Christ is being formed continually, making us resemble Him more and more over time.
2. We must pray:
We think we pray and in a way, we do pray. I guess the question is: What do we pray for? Most of our prayers are selfish prayers for our needs and those of our immediate family. We see the things going wrong around us but we don’t bother to pray about these things. Yet we want a change. Nothing happens without prayer. In prayer, we agree with God for His will to be done on Earth (see the Lord’s Prayer). We work in partnership with God and our own role is prayer.
3. We must seek God’s face:
a. to go in search of: look for
b. to try to discover
The Amplified version of the Bible expands the work ‘seek’ to mean ‘crave, require as a necessity’, so it is not a casual looking for something but an earnest search.
We are specifically to seek God’s face. What does this mean? His ‘face’ often refers to His presence.
Like someone said, “Seeking God’s face means desiring to know His character and wanting Him—His presence—more than any other thing He can give us.” When we seek His face, we are searching to know His thoughts, His heart, His will not just for the sake of knowing it but so that we might make our decisions and choices in alignment with what pleases Him.
4. We must repent:
Repentance is not merely feeling sorry for wrongdoing but goes a step further to decide to turn from the direction in which one was heading to go in another direction. Since the cause of the whole calamity is our sins and our wickedness as God’s children, the solution is our repentance. This is highlighted by “I will hear [them] from heaven, and forgive their sin and heal their land”. Our repentance will lead to forgiveness from God and then, He will heal our land.
With God, there is no short cut. It’s His way or no way. If we really want a change, it will not come from our elections but from our returning to God, to worship Him in spirit and in truth and to love Him with all our heart, our mind, and our soul.