"if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and...turn from their wicked ways...I will forgive their sin and will heal their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14

Certain verses of the Bible are clear, both in context and out of context. Some of them are mere statements of facts or explanations. Others are straight-forward directions or condemnations. Then there are the verses of the Bible that become clearer in context and with a deeper understanding of the culture. Without these pieces of information, the verse can be a little confusing.

This can be especially true with Old Testament chapters and verses. In 2 Chronicles there is a verse that reads, “ if my people who are called by my name 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” (2 Chronicles 7:14). 

Taken out of context, both within the chapter and the culture in which it was said, it can be confusing for some people. What does it mean to be called by His name? And does this verse apply to the current coronavirus pandemic that is sweeping the globe? Will God really heal our nation? Understanding what it means can help this verse be applied appropriately.

Does This Verse Apply to Today?

The world is experiencing a global pandemic and growing fears. COVID-19 is a disease that seems scary and not much is understood about it yet. But in the midst of this, the church can call out to God for healing of the sick, guidance for leaders, and strength for medical professionals, while pointing to God as the real solution for the world’s problems. God is in control. 

If we come to him in prayer and humility, he can and will “heal our land” as 2 Chronicles promises. Prayer, repentance, and calling on Him is always the solution, and He can heal this land if Christians obey Him, and reach others with the Gospel, so they can also turn to Him.

What Is the Context of 2 Chronicles 7:14?

Both 1 and 2 Chronicles are believed to have been composed at the same time, often presented as one book, but eventually split. It is easily comparable to 1 and 2 Kings in form and subject. However, scholars believe 1 and 2 Kings was written more contemporaneously to the events it records. In comparison, 1 and 2 Chronicles are generally presented as a retrospect.

1 Chronicles covers the history of Adam to David, and its successor covers the time from Solomon’s reign through the exile and the decree of Cyrus which stated, “‘Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The Lord, the God of heaven has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may the Lord his God be with him. Let him go up’” (2 Chronicles 36:23). 

Ezra, the prophet who guided the Hebrew people through the reconstruction of Jerusalem and the building of the second temple, is believed to be the author of these books.

2 Chronicles therefore covers the first temple period, its destruction, to the events that led to the construction of a new one. Prior to Chapter 7, where the quotation occurs, Solomon has built the temple, dedicated it in chapter 5, and prayed a blessing over it and the Hebrew people. After this moment where God addresses those who are in the new temple, the book details Solomon’s successes and failures as a ruler.

During the prayer in Chapter 6, Solomon asks God for mercy when Israel sins several times.  Examples of these requests for mercy include: 

- “If your people Israel are defeated before the enemy because they have sinned against you, and they turn again and acknowledge your name and pray and plead with you in this house, then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your people Israel and bring them again to the land that you gave to them and to their fathers” (2 Chronicles 6:24-25).

- “If there is famine in the land, if there is pestilence or blight or mildew or locust or caterpillar, if their enemies besiege them in the land at their gates, whatever plague, whatever sickness there is, whatever prayer, whatever plea is made by any man or by all your people Israel, each knowing his own affliction and his own sorrow and stretching out his hands toward this house, then hear from heaven your dwelling place and forgive and render to each whose heart you know, according to all his ways, for you, you only, know the hearts of the children of mankind, that they may fear you and walk in your ways all the days that they live in the land that you gave to our fathers” (2 Chronicles 7:28-31).

God gives his response in Chapter 7.

Who Are God's People That Are Called By His Name?

In 2 Chronicles 7:14, God is responding to Solomon’s request for forgiveness. He tells Solomon that He will forgive sin and heal the land if the people humble themselves, pray, seek Him, and repent. He also qualifies that the people who do this are, “my people who are called by my name.” 

Under the covenant in the Old Testament, God’s chosen people were the Hebrews, the descendants of Abraham. After redeeming them from Egypt, the Lord tells the Hebrews that, “The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” These are some of the people who are called by His name.

However, in the Old Testament there are individuals who were not Hebrews who called to God, and whom He counted as His own. These included: 

These are people who were brought into the family of God. Ruth becomes an ancestor to the Lord Jesus. Naaman even has a pestilence - leprosy - healed as a result of the faith he chooses to put in the God of Israel, just Solomon asked God to do in 2 Chronicles 6:28.

In the New Testament, even more people receive this blessing, and are called children of God. After Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, the gentiles begin to call on His name. They are forgiven, and Paul states, “But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the branches” (Romans 11:17). 

Anyone who places their faith in God and calls for His mercy, is someone who is called by His name. 

What Do We Have to Do to Be Forgiven?

One of the most amazing elements of this verse is that it shows the consistency of the character of God. There is no great discrepancy between His character in the Old Testament and the New Testament. He remains the same. He is ready and willing to forgive, and now, Jesus Christ has paid the price for our sins. There is no need for sacrifices in a temple once an individual goes to God in faith.

The directions from God in this Old Testament verse reflect the actions that people take today to accept Jesus Christ as their savior. God said the people must humble themselves. They must be willing to concede they cannot save themselves or change their circumstances in their own power. People can no more save themselves from their sins than they can stop a famine or a hurricane, but they must be willing to admit this fact.

Then He tells the people to pray. Jesus reiterates the importance of going to God in prayer saying, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13). 

Finally, in 2 Chronicles God specifies the people must turn from their wicked ways. To turn from evil is one of the more literal definitions of repentance, a key component of the believer’s relationships with God. In 1 John 1:9 it says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Striving to cease wickedness and be more righteous is crucial. 

Individuals can do this for salvation, a concept with which modern believers are very familiar. In 2 Chronicles God is telling the Israelites they could do this as a people-group when they commit sins and make mistakes. He had done this in their history before this moment, and would do it again.

What Does It Mean for God to Heal Our Land?

God heals in many ways. In the context of 2 Chronicles 7, healing the land means saving the people of Israel from enemies, plague, or other disasters brought on by their decision to turn away from Him. He can also heal people physically from illnesses and injuries. He heals people spiritually by redeeming them from their sins, and helping people move past emotional or psychological scars over time.

When God sends rain to a parched area suffering from a drought, He has healed the land. The term can also refer to a group of people changing their culture en masse away from worldliness and back to godliness. Any of these is an application of this idea. 

How Can We Live Out This Verse?

As believers, it is important to strive every day to repent of wrongdoing and strive to be more Christ-like. Part of living out God’s plan means doing the things He told the Israelites to do in this verse.

Matthew 18:20 states, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” The church is called to come together to pray in the same way the Israelites called to God in the temple centuries ago. In the face of trials, difficulties, and even natural disaster and diseases, God’s people can go to Him in humility and call out to Him for deliverance.

Sharing the Gospel is also a key part of this process, because the more people turn to God for their salvation, the more there are turning to Him, asking for Him to heal the land.

Sources

Dunn, James D.G. and John William Rogerson. Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2003.

Walvoord, John. F. and Roy B. Zuck. The Bible Knowledge Commentary. USA: SP Publications, Inc., 1985. 

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/gordonimages

Bethany Verrett is a freelance writer and editor. She maintains a faith and lifestyle blog graceandgrowing.com, where she muses about the Lord, life, culture, and ministry.