By Brock Bondurant
2 Chronicles 7:14 – 14if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
I believe in a God who answers prayers and fulfills promises – a God who sees the posture of our hearts.
His name is Yahweh, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness (Exodus 34:6). He also refers to himself as gentle and lowly – humble (Matthew 11:29). That’s right, the God of the universe, Creator and Sustainer of all things, is loving and faithful, humble enough to be attentive to the pleas and actions of the little image-bearers he created – even remembers his promises to them like the one above.
We ourselves are free to humble ourselves like our God. One version of our own humility is repentance – admitting our wrong and turning to walk in the other direction. Repentance is a humbled heart posture. We see the loving act of a gracious God and are moved to respond in humility.
In the book of Jonah, God sends his prophet (Jonah) to the city of Nineveh – a non-Jewish city built on wicked practices abominable in the sight of a good, loving God – to tell them of the coming judgment against the city. God lovingly warns them of what may be coming. Reluctantly, Jonah goes to Nineveh – “Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” he exclaimed (Jonah 3:4). The people believed Jonah, who had claimed to come in the name of the LORD. From the greatest to the least of them, they all mourned and fasted – including the king (3:5-9) – repenting, turning from their wicked ways. At the conclusion of his decree of repentance on behalf of the city, the king says, “Who knows? God may turn and relent” (v. 9).
And God did!
Did God lie? Was Jonah wrong about what would happen? No. God, humble and loving enough to pay mind to the hearts and actions of the people, relented and saved the city from his own right judgment.
God still views sin today the same way he did back in the time of Solomon when this promise of mercy (2 Chronicles 7:14) was spoken. Those of us in Christ have experienced this as we were offered eternal life when we believed the word of the Lord and repented from our former ways. But perhaps what is true of the individual is also true of a city or nation at large, like Nineveh.
We see God historically move in response to our heart posture as we repent and align ourselves with His will. I wonder, is there any saving without repentance? If the king of Nineveh didn’t call for the people to humble themselves and turn from their wicked ways, would God’s warning through Jonah have come to pass, the city destroyed? If the Prodigal Son didn’t turn his face towards home after a long period of unfaithfulness, would the Father have been able to run and meet him while he was yet a long way off (Luke 15:11-32)? If our hearts are not brought to repentance in response to God, is he able to save us? Or are we holding on to the very thing that keeps us from him?
I wonder these things as I look out at the culture around us, and inwardly at my own heart. Am I truly repentant for the ways I’ve strayed from the Lord and grieved the Spirit? Or do I just provide lip service to convince others, and myself, that I am living in right alignment with the heart of God?
As I look back at my past, I consider not just my actions or inactions but the posture of my heart. Am I truly sorry for the things I’ve done or not done; do I truly desire to move in the opposite direction? I wonder how much of an impact my repentance would have on the world around me. My relationships would look different. My presence within the body of believers might offer more than just lip service, but a truly humbled heart seeking the welfare of the people around me. Might even my city look different as I give myself over to the will of God and the ways of the Kingdom as a citizen of this land?
I’m not sure how much of an impact my repentant heart alone might have, but I think it just might make even a small difference. And would not even that be worth it?
If the people of God were to humble themselves and repent on behalf of the wrongs not only of society, but the Church as well, things may just begin to turn in the direction of the Kingdom around us. As followers of Christ make the turn within our own hearts, my soul yearns with excitement at the prospect of a healed land. We are not responsible for the healing; we are not responsible for the actions of anyone but ourselves. But collectively we can all do our part to see his Kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven, clinging to the promises of a God whose character never changes.
Let us all then humble ourselves for the renewal of all things. Let’s make the turn towards the Kingdom.