READ – 2 Chronicles 7:11-22
Though the book of Chronicles is unfamiliar territory to most people, 2 Chronicles 7:14 is one of the most oft-quoted verses in all the bible – “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.” You’ll find this verse printed over the backdrop of an American flag or a map of the United States. While a proper application of this text will lead us to pray for our country, this passage is a message not addressed to the USA, or any country, but to “my people.” It’s a message to the believing community in any nation/place calling them to a renewal of humility.
In essence, God is saying here, “Don’t spend your energy looking at and pointing out what we might see as the issues, problems, wickedness "out there" (in any culture) but instead focus on living with humble awareness of your own issues, problems and wicked ways.” This kind of humility brings renewal and healing to a believing community and turns them into agents of healing to the world.
SUMMARY: God promises renewal to the humble. A posture of humility before God is the place where we experience healing in our disappointments, doubt and difficulties.
WHY WE NEED A RENEWAL OF HUMILITY
What is humility? Humility is living with an acute awareness and full ownership of our weakness, limitations and sin. It’s admitting to yourself, others and God that the 3 “F’s” are personally true for you - “I am a finite, fragile, fallen human being.” Culturally, we are suffering from a severe drought of this kind of humility. In her article, How Humility Will Make You the Greatest Person Ever, Vicki Zakrzewski writes, “Our culture places so much value on external accomplishments, appearance, and self-aggrandizement—all things that are ephemeral at best—that even a small display of this quiet virtue can make one feel like a drowning man coming up for air.” Our culture of division, self-promotion and constant finger pointing makes humility all the more difficult but all the more necessary.
2 Chronicles 7 also highlights the kind of people who most need a renewal of humility. Before telling us what God said to Solomon in a dream it says (v11), “All that Solomon planned to do in the house of the Lord and in his own house he successfully accomplished.” We know from other sources that 13 years passed between the completion of the temple (v10) and the completion of Solomon’s palace (v11). This means God waited 13 years to answer Solomon’s prayer in Chapter 6 and picked this exact moment to appear to him in a dream – when he was “successfully accomplished” to deliver a message about humility. Why? Those who are successful and accomplished most need a renewal of humility. The more successfully accomplished we are, the harder for us it will be to remain humble. Even if we haven’t arrived at success or what we hope to accomplish, the more our lives are driven by the need to be successfully accomplished, the harder it will be for us to be humble.
HOW WE LEARN HUMILITY
2 Chronicles 7:14 shows us two ways we learn humility. 1) Hardship – In verse 13 God answers Solomon’s prayer asking for God to hear his people when they call out to him amid hardship and suffering. God says when hardship comes, even from his hand as discipline, it comes as an opportunity to learn the humility which leads to healing. Though not all hardship is a direct result of our sin and pride, in all hardship we are meant to learn humility. Hardship is often the only way God can get to the root of our pride – to make us let go of our illusions of power, self-importance and self-reliance. 2) Prayer - When we are living in a posture of pride, our prayers are focused on asking God to bring success to our plans and to help us accomplish our goals but not much beyond that. 2 Chron. 7:14 describes the kind of prayer where we learn humility - we humble ourselves and pray and seek God’s face. Humility is learned when we come face-to-face with someone greater, smarter, better, more successful, and more powerful than us. This is what happens in prayer that seeks God’s face. We encounter the holiness, greatness and glory of God. Before God’s face no human being can remain standing in pride but is forced to the ground face-down in humility.
HOW WE ARE HEALED THROUGH HUMILITY
2 Chronicles 7:14 tells us that the end goal of humbling our selves is our healing. The Hebrew phrase for healing here is a “comprehensive phrase for the restoration of all God’s purposes for his people.” (Martin Selman, 2 Chronicles) Humbling ourselves places us in the posture where God brings comprehensive healing to our lives. The message of Christianity is that the secret to comprehensive healing is to be brought lower than we’d ever want to go and there to find that God will lift us higher than we’d ever ask for. How does this work?
The answer is found in verses 19-22. There God describes how he will teach people humility when they turn away from him in pride. In love, God will shock them into humility through exile and the destruction of the temple. He’ll take them to a place where they are crying out, “Why?” The shocking destruction of Solomon’s temple points to an even more shocking exile and destruction – the abandonment and disaster of the cross. In John 2:19, Jesus foretells his death by saying, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” He is the greater temple. The cross is God’s shocking jolt for the whole world that is meant to force us to ask, “Why?” and to lead us into his healing grace.
1. The cross brings us low – It shows us that because of our pride we should be cast out, abandoned, left to the disaster of a life apart from God. Instead Jesus was cast out when He cried out, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” The cross shows us we are more prideful, sinful, broken, weak and limited than we could ever know or would ever want to admit.
2. The cross lifts us up – On the cross Jesus says I will be cast out, abandoned and bear the disaster of judgment in your place, for you. The cross show us we are more valuable, loved and important to God and his purposes in this world than we would ever dare dream.
The shock of the cross is that we deserve exile and destruction, but Jesus chose to take these in our place. When we humble ourselves, we see our pride for what it is and are brought low. But, even more shockingly, there we find God stooping low to lift us up and heal us by his gracious love.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
1. What about the sermon most impacted you or left you with questions?
2. Which of the 3 F’s do you most struggle to own and admit is true for you?
· FINITE (I am limited in my knowledge, abilities, time, energy, capabilities; more limited than I want to admit.)
· FRAGILE (I have brokenness, hurt and pain; I have more brokenness/hurt than I want to admit.)
· FALLEN (I am a sinner. I am a bigger sinner than I’ll ever know or care to admit to myself or others.)
3. Do you see any ways your success and accomplishment (or drive to be successful and accomplished) prevents you from living in a posture of humility? How so?
4. It was said in the sermon that humility is the distinguishing difference between a genuine Christian and a nominal Christian. St. Augustine said it like this, “Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist, there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance.” How is humility the foundation of all virtues and change?
5. Read the quote below from John Stott. If God can use hardship to defeat our greatest enemy (pride) and introduce us to our greatest friend (humility), how should this change our view of hardship? Have you seen God work in this way in past hardships? Is there a present hardship in which God may be teaching you humility?
Pride is your greatest enemy, humility is your greatest friend. – John R.W. Stott.
6. In what ways do you feel you need to be brought low by the cross? In what ways do you need to be lifted up by the message of the gospel?