Sadly, this is how many Christians read and/or apply II Chronicles 7:14. But that is not what it says. Rather, in Scripture we read the following:
When Solomon had finished the temple of the Lord and the royal palace, and had succeeded in carrying out all he had in mind to do in the temple of the Lord and in his own palace, the Lord appeared to him at night and said:
“I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices.
“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
(II Chronicles 7:11-14)
As we look at this passage, we’ll discover several key elements that dramatically change the meaning from what is commonly inferred by even the most well-meaning preachers or politicians. Let’s start with a little context. Solomon has just finished building the temple of the Lord, and has offered a prayer of dedication (see chapter 6) that we’ll look at a bit later. It is in response to this prayer that God speaks to Solomon, and that is paramount to our understanding and application of this promise.
Let’s start by taking notice of whom God is speaking in verse 14. He says, “if my people, who are called by name . . .” It should be obvious, but I’ll state it anyway: this is NOT talking about the United States of America. We need to be very careful when we study Scripture that we don’t take a promise made to a person or group of people and make blanket applications to us today. We also need to beware of doing the inverse—only applying biblical promises to biblical people in biblical times. Instead, what we should do is study these promises and their context. Some of them are directly applicable to us today. Others, while revealing God’s character and typical methodology, aren’t.
So who are “my people, who are called by name?” For clarity, read Solomon’s prayer of dedication (II Chronicles 6:14-42) in which he says, “your people Israel” six times. The Hebrew word used is ‘am·me·ḵā, and it is found 77 times in the Old Testament, primarily to refer to the people of Israel. But interestingly, it is the same word used in Daniel 12:1 to refer to all Christians. Now, in the context in II Chronicles 7, God is clearly speaking of the people of Israel. The promise is to them, and it is in direct response to Solomon’s request. The oft-quoted verse 14 doesn’t stand on its own; rather, it is part of a sentence that begins in verse 13. Compare what we see there (“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people”) with Solomon’s requests (II Chronicles 6:26, 28). In short, Solomon asked that when ‘am·me·ḵā (“your people”) were punished for their sins and then repented, God would relent and deliver them. And God, in His response, agreed to do exactly that.
What we have here is, essentially, a covenant between God and His people. That brings up two questions. First, is the covenant still intact? And second, have the parties changed? We know from Scripture that God does not change and that His word does not change. I think it is safe to infer then, that, while God made a specific promise to Solomon, He will deal similarly with His people today. That raises the obvious question, who now are God’s people? I promise you, no amount of scouring the Scriptures, nor the Constitution nor Mayflower Compact (brilliant documents that they are), will lead you to an answer of the good ol’ U.S. of A. And before you forward this post to all your Israeli friends, let me propose that the Hebrew ‘am·me·ḵā (and its equivalent in II Chronicles 7:14, ‘am·mî, meaning “my people”) best corresponds with II Peter 2:9-10:
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Paul writes similarly in Ephesians 2:19:
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household.
Scripture also teaches that the Gentiles have been grafted into Israel and Paul repeatedly writes that there is no difference any longer between Jew and Gentile, but that faith in Jesus Christ is what makes a person a child of God—what makes them “my people.” Therefore, if we’re going to apply the promise of II Chronicles 7:14 today, we need to apply it to the Church. That has some rather serious implications, because God’s promise of deliverance was contingent upon several things. Read it with me again:
[I]f my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
The promised forgiveness and healing is not dependent on Hollywood celebrities humbling themselves, politicians seeking God’s face, and homosexuals and abortion advocates turning from their wicked ways. Rather, it specifies my people (‘am·mî)—Christians—as the ones that need to model humility, that need to pursue Almighty God, that need to turn from sinning and from tolerating sin. This isn’t to say that America doesn’t have its problems and isn’t in need of spiritual revival, or that God won’t respond to those who penitently seek him. But we err when we make this promise patriotic and start seeing it as a solution to get America back on track.
Please keep one other thing in mind. The promised deliverance includes forgiveness of sins and also the healing of the land. God’s people in II Chronicles had a specified piece of land that belonged to them. God’s people today—even the ones living in America—do not. So it would be a misapplication of the promise to say that if the Church “gets its act together” that God will, for lack of a better term, make America great again. That may very well happen—the darkness may retreat as the light grows brighter. Our culture (and thus our politics and laws) might be transformed as the Church is renewed. But it is also possible that the healing will be internal. It may very well be that American culture will continue to decay, that society will slide farther and farther away from God, but His people will be revived and transformed.
Don’t get me wrong in all this. I hope and pray that America—both as individual people and as a collective entity—will turn to God, trusting and following Him and His ways. But the focus of II Chronicles 7:14 isn’t on America; it is on those “who are called by my name”—that is, Christians. Nor is the end result a renewed and restored America; it is a renewed and restored Church. And that just might have an eternal impact on America and “even to the ends of the earth.”
 II Chronicles 6:21,24,25,27,29,32
 Psalm 102:25-27; Malachi 3:6; James 1:17; Hebrews 13:8
 Numbers 23:19; Psalm 33:11; Hebrews 6:17;
 Romans 11:17-21
 Romans 3:22 and 10:12; Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11
 Romans 3:22; Galatians 2:16 and 3:26; Ephesians 2:8-9;
 Philippians 3:20