1774, 2 Chronicles 7:14, Abigail Adams, Congress, Continental Congress, forgiveness, God and Country, Grace Bible Church, Independence Day, John Adams, Journals of the Continental Congress, Loyalty, Pastor Tim Senter, patriotism, Samuel Adams, September 16, Sermon on the Mount, trials, worship in prayer
This message is part of a series entitled, “God Tries His Children”. To see all of the messages in this series, please click here.
Last week we discussed a test of continuing purity. We talked about Joshua and his challenge to Israel to remain pure as they entered into a purified land. God cleansed Canaan to provide a place for Israel, a place where 12 tribes numbering over 2 million could reside. God’s intent was to provide a place where buildings already existed, vineyards, and olive groves and other tangible heavenly gifts were available. God’s challenge was two-fold. First, He asks Israel to honor the great treasure. This was a tremendous miracle to deliver Israel into a land prepared for immediate occupation with comfort, and use for survival. What a glorious thing. Second, this is a starting point in purity. It is up to us to maintain purity. The Israelites were not supposed to intermarry or adopt any religious practices from the previous occupants. They needed to strive for continuing purity in worship and life. All these challenges hinge upon our choices. God does not force us to obey. He gives what He desires and asks us, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” He shows His love to us by providing for our salvation and provision. He gives us His word as a guide to purity and stands with us every step of the way to encourage continuing purity.
Much of our nation today claims to be driven by the rule of Law. Our legal guide is our Constitution, the supreme law of the land. What we should come to terms with as a nation is that our Constitution also has a supreme guide, the Bible the very Word of God. America has to invite God back to her to see her land healed.
We turn to a somewhat familiar text today 2 Chronicles 7:14. We have enjoyed exposition of this text from various people over the last few years. To me, all these expositions have been instructive, encouraging and enlightening.
Understand, this text was selected long ago and is not connected to the highly charged political atmosphere we currently enjoy. It simply coincides with our preaching series and applies to the July 4th festivities we celebrate this week.
Let us read a letter from our history. I have a copy of this is a letter in my office. It is from John Adams to Abigail Adams September 16, 1774. We should note that prayer was regular in the Continental Congress. However, denominational tolerance was not. Many, struggled to accept other denominations for much the same reasons as we do today. Congress began to ask how any one clergy could represent the great variety of denominations present in Congress. They had grown to a great number. In this letter, John Adams, Sam Adams’ cousin, records the events for his beloved Abigail.
“Having a Leisure Moment, while the Congress is assembling, I gladly embrace it to write you a Line.
When the Congress first met, Mr. Cushing made a Motion, that it should be opened with Prayer. It was opposed by Mr. Jay of N. York and Mr. Rutledge of South Carolina, because we were so divided in religious Sentiments, some Episcopalians, some Quakers, some Aanabaptists, some Presbyterians and some Congregationalists, so that We could not join in the same Act of Worship.-Mr. S. Adams arose and said he was no Bigot, and could hear a Prayer from a Gentleman of Piety and Virtue, who was at the same Time a Friend to his Country. He was a Stranger in Phyladelphia, but had heard that Mr. Duche (Dushay they pronounce it) deserved that Character, and therefore he moved that Mr. Duche, an episcopal Clergyman, might be desired, to read Prayers to the Congress, tomorrow Morning. The Motion was seconded and passed in the Affirmative. Mr. Randolph our President, waited on Mr. Duche, and received for Answer that if his Health would permit, he certainly would. Accordingly next Morning he appeared with his Clerk and in his Pontificallibus, and read several Prayers, in the established Form; and then read the Collect for the seventh day of September, which was the Thirty fifth Psalm. -You must remember this was the next Morning after we heard the horrible Rumour, of the Cannonade of Boston.-I never saw a greater Effect upon an Audience. It seemed as if Heaven had ordained that Psalm to be read on that Morning.
After this Mr. Duche, unexpected to every Body struck out into an extemporary Prayer, which filled the Bosom of every Man present. I must confess I never heard a better Prayer or one, so well pronounced. Episcopalian as he is, Dr. Cooper himself never prayed with such fervour, such Ardor, such Earnestness and Pathos, and in Language so elegant and sublime-for America, for the Congress, for The Province of Massachusetts Bay, and especially the Town of Boston. It has had an excellent Effect upon every Body here.
I must beg you to read that Psalm. If there was any Faith in the sortes Virgilianae, or sortes Homericae, or especially the Sortes biblicae, it would be thought providential.
It will amuse your Friends to read this Letter and the 35th. Psalm to them. Read it to your Father and Mr. Wibirt. -I wonder what our Braintree Churchmen would think of this?-Mr. Duche is one of the most ingenious Men, and best Characters, and greatest orators in the Episcopal order, upon this Continent- Yet a Zealous Friend of Liberty and his Country.
I long to see my dear Family. God bless, preserve and prosper it.
Clearly, this exposition and prayer over the 35th Psalm had tremendous effect on our Continental Congress. September 1st, British soldiers raided a gunpowder supply depot near Boston. This was very alarming to the colonists and caused them to take great precautions to better protect these types of supplies,. They also began stockpiling them where possible. Though use of cannons (cannonade) may have been a reference to a skirmish, the action was significant and warranted careful consideration. Would they engage in war with England or not? Adams noted the visible effect this Psalm had on his comrades. Every man present was filled with pride, strength, and a steeled resolve, courage only possible from the Heavenly Father. Adams was so moved by the event, he encouraged Abigail to ask her father, a minister, about the psalm. Many say the exposition and prayer of this psalm in our gathered congress solidified the decision to engage England for freedom.
We should long for the days when we can again see hearts of men and women in Congress Assembled receive conviction and courage from God’s Word. The Scriptures can unify and provide resolve to Godly obedience, humility and a desire to seek His strength simply by exposition and prayer. From this new humble and prayerful position, our leaders can turn from their wickedness, and encourage others to turn toward purity as well. What a glorious day this will be when we humble ourselves before the Lord as a nation once again.
The great news is that God can do anything. We can see those days again. Today people scoff even display a disdain for God and His Word in our government buildings, offices and functions. However, we can see again the greatness of America reborn through humility, prayer and submission unto God in our lives and our governance. We are not talking about theocracy, but the balance between the guiding principles in scripture and the life we live as believers in Christ displayed as a national testimony to the world. We are talking about tests of loyalty to God and country. We will consider three things today with respect to national unity. The people, the tests God gives them and the grades He issues.
I. The People (2 Chronicles 7:14a)
“If” is a big word. Many have concluded that the small two letter word “if” has sometimes saved nations. It has also caused their downfall. “If” can talk about life, or death. Many soldiers’ stories have concluded, “If that bullet had been a millimeter to the right I would have died.” If indicates something is missing or there could be another circumstance. If shows us there is a hole in there or change is possible somewhere. In the case of the scriptures today, “if” is conditional. Here, “if” can indicate a lack of certain things can have bad results. Alternatively, “if” these things exist the land prospers (vv17-18).
When the scripture talks about “my people” in this verse it can only mean one thing, all people of any nationality that God calls to seek His presence. Looking over the whole of scripture, Egypt prospered under Joseph because they submitted to God with him. Nineveh prospered after Jonah witnessed to them and they “believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.” The King of Nineveh submitted to God (Jonah 3:5-10). The qualifier, “which are called by my name” are those, like the Ninevites, that God calls upon. The Medes and Persians under Darius the King prospered as he commanded that all his people fear and worship the God of Israel (Dan 6:26). People called by God are His people. Where they worship Him, pray to Him and humble themselves before Him He heals and prospers their lands.
Just as the Jewish place of worship was open to all, so should God’s house always be. All those who humble themselves and seek His face can be recipients of His blessings. Some say this only indicates believers. Just as non-Israelites had “their land,” we too live in a land outside of Israel. America can receive this promise as God’s people seek Him.
The people are those who identify with Jehovah, Yahweh, the God of the Bible, children of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. God promises to assess these people and their dedication to Him in very specific ways. Ultimately, His people have to recognize Him as God, call upon Him and repent. The people have to want Him in their lives.
These people are loyal to God and loyal to the nation that they serve. People desire only the best for their nation and its leadership. Where possible, they encourage leadership to seek counsel in the Scriptures and before the Lord. We cannot divorce loyalty to country from loyalty to God. Our country prospers through God’s mercy and long-suffering.
II. The Tests (2 Chronicles 7:14b)
Humility, prayer, supplication and goodness are the elements of spiritual life that God monitors and grades. God regularly evaluates His people based on these practices.
Humility is the first marker. In Exodus 10:3 God asks Pharaoh how long he will refuse to humble himself. God is in the process of destroying all of Egypt. “If” Pharaoh were to humble himself and release Israel, all plagues would stop, Egypt would prosper. God humbles us through tests and trials. He also uses them to strengthen us. Without them we would be weak. The scripture promises God will hear your cries and heal your land from Heaven.
God promises grace to the humble in James 4:6. In 4:10, He will lift you up in your humility. In 1 Peter 5:6 scripture tells us God will exalt the humble. Where we regularly find condemnation for the haughty, proud and overbearing, He promises to lift up and bless the humble. Humbling ourselves before God is where we first find God’s pleasure.
Prayer is the next test. Since we know the originator of strength, we should also know how much we need Him in our lives every day just to survive. Our first thoughts in the morning should be to reach out to Him and thank Him for another day to serve in His grace. We should be instant in prayer whether first thing in the morning or walking in the way (Rom 12:12). I know I gain great comfort in talking to God. I talk with Him both in regular times and spontaneously throughout the day. What a joy to have such a personal and abiding relationship with God.
The regularity with which we seek God’s presence is the next test. We should continually beseech the Lord and ask Him to be there in all things and present all things before Him. We should want Him present when we succeed so we may praise Him. His presence is a comfort when we fail for He will encourage us to continue. God wants to be with us in times good or bad. His greatest desire is to see us succeed. Seek His face. He wants you with Him. He gave you His Son so you could be present with Him. That shows how much He loves you.
God is pure and holy. He cannot condone sin or be present with sin. In order for us to be with God, we too must turn from sinful activities, repent and seek a new course of action in our lives. Repentance, not asking for forgiveness, but actually turning from wickedness is our next test. God will give us the power to do so; all we need do is ask (Matt 7:7; Luke 11:9). If we ask first for humility and the strength to repent from our wickedness, we can hardly be asking for wrong things, in our own lusts or outside His will (Jam 4:3). Ask for help to turn from your wickedness, sin and strife. Seek God’s goodness and desire that in your heart. Ask God to help you replace the worldliness with godliness. He will answer those prayers.
When we consider the marks we might earn in these areas, we should consider the fact that this passage is talking about a nation. With God, our efforts individually can have great power. Our encouragements to others of this nation that include God’s guidance and strength also carry power. When God hands out grades with respect to this verse, His grading system encompasses the whole country. Though we are not individually responsible for our nation, we are responsible for our individualism. We can have an effect and we should do all we can for the Lord to give us good grades. He will strengthen you.
Loyalty to God involves recognition of our place before Him, prayer to Him for worship, and seeking His face to glorify Him. As with the people’s dedicated worship, one cannot skip tests and expect to receive a passing grade. God measures our loyalty through the tests He gives us. This is why He begins this verse “If.” However, He never leaves us to endure alone nor does He expect perfection. He encourages dependence in Him for His glory.
III. The Grades (2 Chronicles 7:14c)
Grades are pass-fail. Pass does not mean perfect. If that were the requirement, we would never succeed. In our nation’s beginnings, we had many rabble-rousers in our midst. There were atheists and wicked people committing evil acts throughout the colonies. The taverns were profitable. Not everyone came to know Christ even with the government’s encouragement. We could hardly estimate the number of Americans who humbled themselves, prayed and fasted to God when Congress asked the nation to do so (Thanksgiving Proclamations here). However, much if not most of our leadership did. Their humility before God and encouragement to seek Him also pulled many toward the doors of the assembly. Could we say that the preponderance of the nation humbled themselves, prayed, sought His face and turned from their wickedness? Yes, I believe we could because our land’s wounds were healed and God prospered us.
What we know was that God is involved in every step of the engagement to build our nation, and He is there with every step you take. God stayed assassin’s hands to preserve George Washington. God has provided for this country, strengthened its armies and provided for its people. With God all things are possible. Therefore, the blessing of our grade is in the enablement from God. He gives us what we request. He encourages when we ask for encouragement. He gives us strength when we seek it. He is always with us. He is a great God.
With passing grades God hears our prayers. A passing grade results in forgiveness of sin and healing of a land. We need to encourage the people of the United States to unite before God. We do not need 100%, although God could do that as He did in Nineveh and other places. What a glorious thing it would be to see great hordes of people turn to God in prayer. We need to encourage godly leadership.
Loyalty to God and country cannot be one or the other. Our history has proven that when we band together and seek God’s face, humble ourselves and pray we succeed; He hears our prayers and heals our lands. Our nation needs God and His Word.
[i] John Adams letter to Abigail, dtd 16 September 1774, written from Philadelphia. Italics mine.