Several weeks ago, Pastor Matt gave the campus pastors inspiration for a New Year’s Eve weekend service focused on prayer. Something he said stuck with me: “Forget what we’ve done, forget what we’re doing…we need God to move…I want our church to get on our knees and pray.” Yes and amen, pastor!
The idea here is clear: if we want God to move, we need to pray. And this is biblical. The passage that forms the structure of this weekend’s service is 2 Chronicles 7:14-16 (NLT):
Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. My eyes will be open and my ears attentive to every prayer made in this place. For I have chosen this Temple and set it apart to be holy—a place where my name will be honored forever. I will always watch over it, for it is dear to my heart.
If… Grammatically speaking, this 2-letter word typically forms the beginning of a conditional statement. In this translation, the “then” that typically follows the “if” is not present, but it is implied. If my people who are called by my name…then I will…
Understanding conditional statements such as this in scripture is important because we spend a lot of time waiting on God to move in our direction, on our behalf, to bless us or show us the way or answer our prayer. And this, too, is biblical (see Isaiah 40:31, ESV). But, a lot of times, I believe God is waiting on us to move in his direction. One of my favorite examples of this is a crucial exchange between Moses and God as the Israelites are stuck between two impossibilities: the Egyptian army behind them and the Red Sea ahead of them. The Israelites are freaking out, Moses is telling them to chill out, and then this: “The LORD said to Moses, ‘Why do you cry to me?’ Tell the people of Israel to go forward” (Exodus 14:15, NLT). This was not the time to wait on God. This was the time for them to move forward in faith, per the instruction God had already given them.
So, how do we move forward as we anticipate 2018? In the 2 Chronicles passage, we are to move toward God by a) humbling ourselves (i.e. recognizing that God is God and we are not); b) praying; c) seeking his face (i.e. becoming aware of the presence of God in and around us); and d) turning from our wicked ways (i.e. repenting from our sins). If we do this, then we can be sure that God is always faithful to do his part. Whatever follows the “then I will…” is as good as done. And who doesn’t want God to “hear from heaven, forgive their sins, and restore their land?”
However, there is one very significant difference between the context for the 2 Chronicles passage and where we stand today. In 2 Chronicles, King Solomon was leading the Israelites in a dedication ceremony for the first, magnificent temple built in Jerusalem. This was to be the singular, unique space for the presence of God to manifest and dwell. The Hebrew word shekinah captures this concept. As followers of Jesus, we experience a grand and mysterious reality that words simply cannot articulate: our physical bodies are now the temple of the Most High God.
This brings beautiful, New Testament meaning to verse 16: “For I have chosen this Temple and set it apart to be holy—a place where my name will be honored forever. I will always watch over it, for it is dear to my heart.” God has chosen us. God has set us apart to be holy. We are the very place where the name of Jesus is to be honored forever. God will always watch over us, for we…are dear to his heart.
As Sandals Church moves toward God in prayer this weekend, are you ready to humble yourself, pray, seek his face, and turn from your wicked ways with us? Then, we will see God move in and through us, the temple of the living God. And what a sight to behold that will be! Let’s do this, church.