January 19, 2016

FOR WHOM THE BELL PEALES:

Sorry, the Bible doesn't promise to make America great again (Russell Moore. January 14, 16, Washington Post)

[T]he fact is 2 Chronicles 7:14 isn't talking about America or national identity or some generic sense of "revival." To apply the verse this way is, whatever one's political ideology, theological liberalism.

This verse is a word written to a specific people - the people of God - who were coming home from exile. They were coming home from a time in which they were dominated and enslaved by a foreign power. At a time when they needed to be reminded of who they were, who God was and what he had promised to do, this passage was given to them to point them back to Solomon's reign, reminding them of what Solomon did when he built the temple, the house of the Lord, the place of the gathering of the worship of God.

After all, it seemed as though the house of David was gone. It seemed as though even after a new temple was built, it wasn't the "real" temple, because it's not what it was before. The questions that God's people were asking at this point were, "Where is God? What is our future as the people of God?"

When God said to them, "If my people who are called by name," he was specifically pointing them back to the covenant that he made with their forefather Abraham. At a specific point in their history, God had told Abraham about his descendants, saying "I will be their God" and "They will be my people." That's what "My people" means.

God reminded a people who had been exiled, enslaved and defeated that a rebuilt temple or a displaced nation cannot change who they were. They were God's people and would see the future God has for them.

If we don't understand the question of who we are, first and foremost, as the people of God, then we are going to miss this. If we take this text and bypass the people of God, applying it to America in general or the Bible Belt in particular, as though our citizenship as Americans or Australians or Albanians is the foundation of the "covenant" God has made with us, the problem is not just that we are misinterpreting the text; the problem is that we are missing Christ.

When we apply texts like this to the nation, apart from the story of Scripture, we do precisely what the prosperity gospel preachers do.

The prosperity gospel teachers are drawn, after all, to passages from Deuteronomy and elsewhere promising material and physical blessing for those who are obedient, and material and physical curses for those who are disobedient. The message is that those who obey God's word will abound with money and health, while those who disobey will face poverty and illness. They misuse the word of God, though, by abstracting the promises of God from Jesus Christ. He is the one who, obedient to God, receives God's blessing, and he is the One who, bearing the sins of the people, receives God's curse (Gal. 3). To apply these to the people directly, bypassing Christ, is to preach a false gospel of approaching God apart from a Mediator (1 Tim. 2:5). A prosperity gospel applied to a nation is no more biblical than a prosperity gospel applied to a person.

Posted by at January 19, 2016 5:58 PM

  

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