12 God appeared to Solomon that very night and said, “I accept your prayer; yes, I have chosen this place as a temple for sacrifice, a house of worship. 13-14 If I ever shut off the supply of rain from the skies or order the locusts to eat the crops or send a plague on my people, and my people, my God-defined people, respond by humbling themselves, praying, seeking my presence, and turning their backs on their wicked lives, I’ll be there ready for you: I’ll listen from heaven, forgive their sins, and restore their land to health.
As we discussed in last week’s lesson, after Solomon concludes his prayer in 2 Chronicles 6:12-42, God accepts both the prayer and burnt offerings by sending divine fire from heaven which consumes the burnt offerings. After the worship service concludes, later that night the Lord appears to the king again acknowledging the acceptability of Solomon’s prayer, and confirming the Jerusalem temple as a house of sacrifice and worship. In verses 13-14 God’s response to the prayer mirrors the scenarios that Solomon addressed while praying. In 2 Chronicles 22-28, Solomon specifically requests God’s forgiveness through petitions concerning the lack of rain (v. 26), and locusts and plagues (v. 28) that descend upon the people due to their sinful behavior.
In verses 13-14, God responds to instances of drought, blight and disease by declaring four ways that Israel can invoke God’s action on their behalf. These four behaviors are principles of repentance, which become recurrent themes in the culminating chapters of the book of 2 Chronicles. Further, God specifically acknowledges and reaffirms Solomon’s assertion of Israel as “your people,” by responding with the phrase of ownership: my God-defined people in the Message, or “people who are called by my name,” in the New Revised Standard Version. This specifically underscores that regardless of her sins and shortcomings, “Israel was still the object of God’s care and claim.” The four behaviors outlined by the lesson texts and presented as conditional statements are:
1. Humility. First, the Lord says the people must respond by humbling themselves. If Israel acknowledges its sin, spiritually prostrates itself before God—in an outward and inward act of humility—God will forgive their sin and be moved to action on their behalf.
2. Prayer. Second, the Lord says the people must communicate with God through prayer. If Israel prays to the Lord, and forsakes its disobedience, then God will forgive their sin, and be moved to action on their behalf.
3. Authentic Worship. Third, the text says the people must seek God’s face. Seeking God’s face is a euphemism for coming into God’s presence through authentic worship and searching for God with all one’s heart. According to Allen, the prophet Jeremiah refers mentions this type of authentic worship in his letter to the exiles in Jeremiah 29:13-14.
4. Repentance. Fourth, the text says the people must repent from their sins and stop the wicked behavior that will cause calamity to befall Israel.
If Israel does these four things, and keeps covenant faithfulness, then God will hear their prayers, forgive their sins, and reverse any blight, disease, drought or other disasters that might happen to Israel.
15-18 From now on I’m alert day and night to the prayers offered at this place. Believe me, I’ve chosen and sanctified this Temple that you have built: My Name is stamped on it forever; my eyes are on it and my heart in it always. As for you, if you live in my presence as your father David lived, pure in heart and action, living the life I’ve set out for you, attentively obedient to my guidance and judgments, then I’ll back your kingly rule over Israel—make it a sure thing on a sure foundation. The same covenant guarantee I gave to David your father I’m giving to you, namely, ‘You can count on always having a descendant on Israel’s throne.’
In verses 15-16, the text says God is watching both day and night to hear the prayers that as they are offered in the temple. Because God has chosen Israel, God also chooses and sanctifies the temple. God perpetually attunes the Divine ear to Israel’s cries. Just as praise waits for God in Psalm 65:1, God waits for Israel. For contemporary Christians this portion of the lesson is a cause for celebration. God declares that the Divine is ever waiting to hear our prayers, answer our cries and reorganize the natural and supernatural realms to come to our rescue. Verses 17-18 God reaffirms the Davidic covenant. If Solomon lives in worshipful obedience to God’s guidance, then God will support and sustain him upon the throne. In fact, a Davidic king will continually occupy the throne if they heed God’s word and covenant principles.
19-22 “But if you or your sons betray me, ignoring my guidance and judgments, taking up with alien gods by serving and worshiping them, then the guarantee is off: I’ll wipe Israel right off the map and repudiate this Temple I’ve just sanctified to honor my Name. And Israel will be nothing but a bad joke among the peoples of the world. And this Temple, splendid as it now is, will become an object of contempt; tourists will shake their heads, saying, ‘What happened here? What’s the story behind these ruins?’ Then they’ll be told, ‘The people who used to live here betrayed their God, the very God who rescued their ancestors from Egypt; they took up with alien gods, worshiping and serving them. That’s what’s behind this God-visited devastation.’”
In verses 19-22, the text explains the negative consequences of betraying covenant relationship with the Lord. Again, couched in the conditional language of Ancient Near Eastern covenants and treaties, the Lord says if Solomon and his sons betray the covenant by worshipping foreign gods, then the Lord will punish the king. Further, if the people ignore their covenantal responsibilities, they too will reap the negative consequences. God will punish them as well and possibly invalidate the covenant; terminating the relationship between the Lord and Israel. For the Chronicler, who is overly concerned about the importance of Israel’s worship and their identity as covenant people, these stern warnings hint at the exile that comes in 587 BCE. The text says if Israel turns its back on God, it will become a bad joke, the temple that was just dedicated will become a ruin, and their reputation as God’s people will be devastated. People will say that God delivered Israel out of bondage and they repaid that liberation with betrayal.
Ultimately, these final verses remind Christians that our reputation and the reputation of God is at stake when we willfully disobey God’s word and ignore the responsibilities of covenant relationship. People will rip the name of our God to shreds! They will discount all of God’s goodness, God’s faithfulness, God’s forgiveness—God’s character—because we do not have our stuff together. Do we want to diminish the name of our God? Do we want to bring shame upon the God who has delivered us out of our places of bondage? Do we want the world to look at our mess and say our God is messed up? If we respond negatively to these queries, then the only way we can prevent this from occurring is to seek God’s face.
1) See Leslie C. Allen’s “The First and Second Books of Chronicles: Introduction, Commentary and Reflections” in The New Interpreter Bible Commentary Volume X (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2015) p. 920.
2) See Benjamin Liebelt’s translation of H.P. Mathys’ article, “1 and 2 Chronicles” in John Barton and John Muddiman’s The Oxford Bible Commentary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001) p. 287.
3) See Liebelt’s translation of Mathys p. 287 and Mark A. Thronveit’s article, “2 Chronicles,” in The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2003) p. 617.
4) Liebelt, p. 922.
5) Allen, p. 925