The Place of Corporate Repentance
2Chr. 7:12 ¶ Then the LORD appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: “I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice.
2Chr. 7:13 When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people,
2Chr. 7:14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
2Chr. 7:15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place.
2Chr. 7:16 For now I have chosen and consecrated this house so that my name may be there forever; my eyes and my heart will be there for all time.
2Chr. 7:17 As for you, if you walk before me, as your father David walked, doing according to all that I have commanded you and keeping my statutes and my ordinances,
2Chr. 7:18 then I will establish your royal throne, as I made covenant with your father David saying, ‘You shall never lack a successor to rule over Israel.’
So often the focus of this scripture is on verse 14, but it is interesting to look at the paragraph in total. This response to Solomon's prayer by God is not immediate. Solomon has to wait for quite a period of time for this answer from God, and God sets up an expectation regarding the entire community of faith. The children of Israel are called to be God's holy people and as a people they are to be different from all the others of the earth. God makes provision for non-Israelites to be a part of the holy people, if they will serve God. The very existence of a holy people of God on the earth is evangelistic. The presence of God among them and God's care for them would be a light, drawing all men to God. This was God's intent for these people. Therefore when the corporate people of God do not follow God's commands and are disobedient, there will be consequences. These consequences included drought, locust infestation, and other types of pestilence. But note -- the consequences were corporate. All of these are not consequences for a single individual, but the entire people of God suffer for corporately not being the people of God.
Now God brings them to the necessary understanding of corporate repentance. As God's holy people, as his called-out ones, they are to humble themselves before him, and seek his face. Therefore there is a cry that goes out to God, one in which there is the desire for a restored relationship with God. But it doesn't end with prayer, the people, as a whole, must be called to action. True repentance includes a change in behavior. The wicked actions must be left behind and only then will God accept this true sacrifice of repentance and the corporate healing will occur.
God promises that he will be attentive to the prayers that are offered in the Temple. If only people will cry out to him -- he will hear! Not only will he hear, but his eyes and heart will be present in the temple as well, so that God can see our actions, and with his heart sense and know our motivations.
Finally God gave instruction to Solomon -- the leader of this corporate body. With his role came great responsibility. He was to be the shining example for all the people to follow. His life, his daily practices were to be completely and totally dedicated to God -- he was to keep all of God's statues and ordinances. And if he did this, the personal promise was that his family line would remain over Israel forever.
We, especially in American, tend to view our faith in a very individualistic fashion. In this scripture we find both the individual and the corporate. There was the responsibility of King Solomon, as an individual, to maintain the faith and to be an example to his people. At the same time there was the sense that corporately the Israelites were the holy people of God.
I think we must be careful to not interpret this scripture today in nationalistic terms. In the Old Testament, the children of Israel were the ones who were called to be God's Holy people. But Jesus came and ushered in a new kingdom, the kingdom of God, into which all people had the potential to be grafted. Jesus established the Church to be the bride of Christ. Therefore, instead of looking at this scripture in terms of a nation, now, as we live in the era of the new kingdom, we must interpret it in light of the Bride.
Corporately the people of God, the Church, the Bride of Christ, are to be God's holy people. Corporately we are to live our lives in such a way that God's presence in the midst of us. And the world should be drawn to God's holy people because the world sees God's hand of care upon them. But could it be that the Church has not always been a faithful representation of the presence of God to the world? Does his glory truly fill the Church, or might we find churches with walls but no shekinah presence inside? If so, might there be a place for corporate repentance as the people of God.
I believe that even in Solomon's day there were those who were seeking the face of God on a regular basis. This core group of individuals could help to draw the corporate body of faith into the direction in which God was calling them -- to seeking his face and asking for forgiveness. Today I believe that God has already called a core group to begin to pray for the corporate repentance of his church. They are humbling themselves and praying and seeking his face. But as the people who carry the label "Christian" we must also turn from our wicked ways. The statistics for things such as divorce, pornography and child molestation should not be the same in the church as they are in the world; and yet they are! It was not the responsibility of the people in Solomon's day to point fingers at the neighboring pagan communities, but it was the responsibility of the people of God to live holy lives.
Today we are not called to turn a nation to God, we are called to turn the Church back to God! This is where we must begin -- this is the corporate body that so desperately needs to be seeking the face of God. And if the body of Christ, corporately, and globally would humble themselves, pray and turn from their wicked ways, then the nations of the world would be changed! There is a place for corporate repentance. Maybe we need to begin with admitting that the holy people of God have not always lived as the holy people of God. May we then seek his face, ask for forgiveness and turn from our wicked ways. Then we will see the healing which we so desperately need!
Lord, please forgive us for when we've put the spotlight on others and failed to look at our own need for you. Amen.