The Context, Then & Now

If My People...

Will Humble Themselves...

And Pray...

And Seek My Face...

And Turn from...

Then I Will Hear...

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Will Humble Themselves

In 2nd Chronicles 7:14 the Hebrew word that “humble” is translated from is kana. It means “to bend the knee; to humiliate, or vanquish—to bring down low into subjection… subdue.” 
Kana is used mainly in the Old Testament; let’s examine several passages in context:

'But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers, with their unfaithfulness in which they were unfaithful to Me, and that they also have walked contrary to Me,  and that I also have walked contrary to them and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if their uncircumcised hearts are humbled, and they accept their guilt- then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and My covenant with Isaac and My covenant with Abraham I will remember; I will remember the land.

Leviticus 26:40-42

So it was, when Ahab heard those words, that he tore his clothes and put sackcloth on his body, and fasted and lay in sackcloth, and went about mourning. And the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, "See how Ahab has humbled himself before Me? Because he has humbled himself before Me, I will not bring the calamity in his days. In the days of his son I will bring the calamity on his house."
1st Kings 21:27-29

So the leaders of Israel and the king humbled themselves; and they said, "The Lord is righteous." Now when the Lord saw that they humbled themselves, the word of the Lord came to Shemaiah, saying, "They have humbled themselves; therefore I will not destroy them, but I will grant them some deliverance. My wrath shall not be poured out on Jerusalem by the hand of Shishak.
2nd Chronicles 12:6-7

When he (King Rehoboam) humbled himself, the wrath of the Lord turned from him, so as not to destroy him completely; and things also went well in Judah.
2nd Chronicles 12:12

And the Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they would not listen. Therefore the Lord brought upon them the captains of the army of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh with hooks, bound him with bronze fetters, and carried him off to Babylon. Now when he was in affliction, he implored the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed to Him; and He received his entreaty, heard his supplication, and brought him back to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God.
2nd Chronicles 33:10-13

because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before God when you heard His words against this place and against its inhabitants, and you humbled yourself before Me, and you tore your clothes and wept before Me, I also have heard you," says the Lord.
2nd Chronicles 34:27  (spoken to Josiah)

Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem.  He did evil in the sight of the Lord his God, and did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet, who spoke from the mouth of the Lord.
2nd Chronicles 36:11-12

When I look at the verses above, I notice the following:

1.  Often, the leaders and people of Israel chose to humble themselves because of a direct, no–holds barred confrontation from God of their sin.

2. After two of the most wicked men in Scripture, Manasseh and Ahab, humbled themselves, they received mercy. (This gives us great hope!) 

3. The consequences of the refusal to humble oneself are severe, especially after receiving God’s warning. 

4. God hears those who “bow the knee.”

5. We must choose to humble ourselves. God doesn’t force us.

6. The act of humbling includes:

* Confession of sin and unfaithfulness to the Lord, and acceptance of guilt.

* Tearing clothes, wearing sackcloth, fasting, and mourning.

* Agreement that God alone is righteous.

* Prayer

* Tears and a tender heart.

I had to swallow hard when I read the components of the humbling process. Confession of sin isn’t too bad… as long as I don’t have to open up about something I’m embarrassed about, like a full blown act of selfishness or pride (okay, maybe confessing sins isn’t that easy). But mourning, sackcloth, fasting, and crying? These people were broken. This is no mere head exercise; they’re hurting.

What it took to get most of them to choose humility is frightening: God forcefully told them of coming judgment, and even then some didn’t get it.

“The fear of the Lord” comes to mind. So does the fear of my own stupidity. I could easily be one who needs “hooks and bronze fetters” before the message gets through. I can be dense, and proud; caught up in getting what I want as soon as I can get it. 

I am also fearful for the body of Christ. My main concern is that we’ve become so sophisticated, so packed with knowledge, so busy, that our hearts are hardened to the warning signs of God’s impending judgment that are all around us. We desperately need to hear what God is saying and humble ourselves. We need to be broken. 

Our culture wants to turn us into Christian marshmallows. Those who speak the truth, especially those who believe the only way to Heaven is through Christ, are branded as narrow-minded, mean, religious fanatics, or bigoted. Topics like sin, hell, and judgment are to be eradicated from cultural discourse.

We must be careful that the culture doesn’t dull our edge to the point where we know longer cut against the grain of the lies of this world. We must not go with the flow.

I hear often of the grace and mercy of God, and that’s good. Without God’s passionate love and mercy, we have no hope. And there is another side of the coin. God is powerful, majestic, and holy; He does not compromise with sin. When He condemns our sin, we must humble ourselves, listen, and obey.

I have heard it said that without the fear of the Lord, there is no fear of sin. When we have a healthy fear of the Lord, we will do what it takes to turn away from our sin quickly. Perhaps this is why God’s word calls the fear of the Lord “the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10, Psalms 111:10).

So what sin might the Lord want us to turn from?  

To find the answers we’ll fast forward to Revelations. In chapters two and three, the Lord provides a report card on seven churches; His words mirror our struggles today:

I have this against you, that you have left your first love. (To the church of Ephesus.)

I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. (To the church of Pergamum.)

Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. (To the church of Thyatira.)

I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. (To the church of Sardis.)

I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing'--and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked-- I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. (To the church of Laodicea.)

Although God rebukes and chastens those He loves, His purpose is not to condemn, but to restore. (And actually, there are rewards for those who humble themselves, but we’ll get to that later.)

Let’s look at the sin Christ confronted:

1. They left their first love.
The church of Ephesus had done many good works, and they refused to tolerate wickedness. It appears that on the outside they were a good church that did the right things. Yet in all their “doing,” the relationship with Christ was choked.

Matthew 22:35-38 gives us the greatest commandment:
Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him (Jesus) a question, testing Him, and saying, "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment.

Note how the “first and great commandment” has nothing to do with works.
Our relationship with God must come first, before ministry, family, work or pleasure. Today there are many Christians who are spinning their wheels “doing for God,” trying to please Him with their works when He just wants them to stop, sit at His feet as Mary did, and listen (Luke 10:39). They’re weary, and their hearts are dry. The joy of knowing God is gone, and life is drudgery. More dangerous than this, they’re starting to operate more from the flesh than the Spirit; which is a setup for moral failure.

Jesus provides the answer, and a warning in verse 5: 
Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place--unless you repent.

God is serious about His relationship with His people; He will not compete with other gods—including those of ministry or good works done in the flesh for the approval of others.

2. They did nothing about sexual sin.
In Revelations 2:14 & 20, the churches of Pergamos and Thyatira are confronted for not dealing with sexual sin in the church. “Jezebel” had been allowed to teach and seduce God’s people to commit sexual immorality.

Our church of today has allowed our pornified culture to corrupt the church, and we’re doing little about it. In a recent survey of 1000 pastors, 43% declined to estimate how many of their members might be viewing porn. This either ignorance or an ostrich mentality; either way, the results are the same—a church that is afraid to confront the truth.

Survey after survey shows that at least half of men in the church are viewing porn, in addition to at least 20% of women. This doesn’t include adultery, strip bars, promiscuity, or homosexuality.

Then there are the consequences of ruptured marriages and families, destroyed lives, hurting wives, children born out of wedlock, STDs, and lukewarm Christians who are in bondage to sexual pleasure.

The truth is that any church with half of its members engaged in sexual immorality is corrupt.

Corrupt churches don’t last long; in the end they lose their salt. Eventually, the nation implodes from moral depravity, which is what we’re on the verge of today—and is exactly why we need to follow the steps found in 2nd Chronicles 7:14.

We must confront the truth that the church is corrupt with sexual sin.

3. They were dead.
I don’t know which is more shocking about the church of Sardis: that God called them “dead,” or the depths of their delusion that they were right in His eyes.

Sardis was the ancient capital of Lydia, known for its trade and mining. Perhaps they had a nice building, consistent cash flow, and mid to upper-class membership.  

The church of Sardis “had a name,” meaning they had a reputation as a spiritually vital church. Other churches approved; perhaps they even wanted to emulate Sardis.

The essence of the problem is that man looks on the outside. We polish our reputations by focusing on the externals, such as the size of buildings and membership, programs, how people look and how nice they are, and what part of town they’re located in. We equate prosperity, “nice people,” and good works with God’s blessings.

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 
Hebrews 4:12

The Lord bores into the inner chambers of each person’s heart. What’s really there? Have they really “bowed the knee” in surrender of their lives to Him, or are they playing church to feel good about themselves?  Are they walking in obedience to God, or following their own “vision” for they want to do? Are they leading a double life, or do they follow Christ Monday through Sunday?

Most importantly, what’s their relationship with the Lord like? Do they really love Him with all their heart, mind and soul?

We must go beyond the Sunday smiles and get into what’s really going on in the heart of the church. As we do so we will discover the blind, the lost, and the hurting in our midst… and open doors to healing and restoration.

4. They were lukewarm; in danger of being “vomited out of God’s mouth.”
If this isn’t a “fear of the Lord” rebuke, I don’t know what is.

Like the church of Laodicea, the U.S. is prosperous. We have plenty of food, world class health care, unlimited opportunity, and freedom to worship and live our lives as we want. Many of us own or rent a house. Billions of dollars are spent on sports and recreation; we have an abundance of toys and gadgets to choose from. We have it made.

Or do we?

It’s easy to slip into a life of comfort. Church can be only about getting fed. The teaching of God’s word isn’t the problem, it’s when we’re so self-absorbed that life is “all about me.” In this context, church can be more about feeling good than true worship and love for God.

If we slip into a life of comfort for too long, our spiritual muscles atrophy. “As long as I have my Ipod… football on Sunday… can spend a few dollars on my hobbies here and there, I’m good.” We become content with the wrong things and cease to realize our desperate need for God, losing sight that we are “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.” We get flesh-y… and then enter the danger zone of pride. 

To such a church, God says I will vomit you out of my mouth. This is no empty threat; it’s an industrial strength threat of judgment. Churches that have “gone comfortable,” need to hear this warning. We need to be reminded that life isn’t about our stuff, blessings, or, especially, us. It’s all about our Creator and what He wants to do. 

Settling into the comfort zone is dangerous to one’s spiritual health, as this parable from Luke 12:16-21 shows:

Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: "The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, 'What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?' So he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry." ' But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?' So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."

When Jesus told the comfortable church they were on the verge of being spiritual vomit, it was because He loved them, and wanted to steer them back on course:

“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Let’s review the components of the humbling process:

* Confessing of sin and unfaithfulness to the Lord, and acceptance of guilt.

* Tearing clothes, wearing sackcloth, fasting, and mourning.

* Confession that God alone is righteous.

* Prayer

* Tears and a tender heart.

If we will humble ourselves by admitting the true state of the church today and allowing God to break us, we’re ready for prayer.

©Copyright 2013 Mike Genung
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