Keep My Statutes and Ordinances
March 25 • Bible Study Guide 4
Bible Background • 2 CHRONICLES 7:12–22
Printed Text • 2 CHRONICLES 7:12–22 | Devotional Reading • ISAIAH 58:6–12
Aim for Change
By the end of this lesson, we will: EXAMINE the harsh consequences of disobedience to God; REPENT of present-day idolatry and other behaviors that separate us from God; and COMMIT to lives of obedient worship.
One Saturday morning, Karen and her fifteen-year-old daughter, Jessica, awakened to learn that a tragedy had occurred overnight in a nearby community. Apparently a man with a gun walked into a restaurant and began to shoot people eating there. Every channel on the television reported this horrible story. Jessica had already seen it on Facebook before she came downstairs.
The look on Jessica’s face as she watched the news broke her mother’s heart. Karen could see from Jessica’s expression that she was very saddened and couldn’t understand why horrible things like this seemed to keep happening. When Jessica finally spoke she said, “Mama, when you were a kid, did awful stuff like this happen?” Karen thought for a minute before she answered and replied, “Honey, this world has always been filled with tragedies that break our hearts. When I was a girl, if Mama or Grandma heard some bad news, they would get on the phone and start praying with folks. If something really bad happened, we would go down to the church and the adults would pray together for hours.” Karen took Jessica’s hands and they prayed together, asking God to comfort the families who had lost or injured loved ones, to help the families to forgive the person responsible, and to show everyone the cure for this plague of violence in their community.
God continues to respond to those who earnestly seek Him and are willing to obey His commands. What is your plan for seeking God on a regular basis?
Keep in Mind
“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
Words You Should Know
A. Prayer (2 Chronicles 7:12) tephillah (Heb.)—Intercession or supplication made on behalf of a person or a situation.
B. Humble (v. 14) kana‘ (Heb.)—To subdue oneself in repentance, especially before God.
Unifying Principle—Get It Together. Living a just and merciful life requires people to sacrifice their own desires and thoughts. What are the consequences for not choosing to be just and merciful? God told Solomon that if he did not follow the Lord’s statutes and ordinances, then calamity would come upon the people and the Temple would be abandoned.
A. Seek deeper understanding of the meaning of the lesson by studying the Background Scripture and Devotional Reading in several different translations.
B. Complete Lesson 4 in the Precepts For Living® Personal Study Guide.
C. Be prepared to give an example of how God blessed you as a result of your obedience to Him.
O—Open the Lesson
A. Open with prayer. Remember to invite the Holy Spirit to lead your Bible study.
B. Read Aim for Change and the Keep in Mind verse.
C. Have your class read the In Focus story silently. Invite discussion.
P—Present the Scriptures
A. Have a volunteer read the Focal Verses.
B. Discuss the verses in light of Words You Should Know; The People, Places, and Times; Background; and In Depth sections.
E—Explore the Meaning
A. Answer and discuss the Search the Scripture questions.
B. Ask for volunteers to read Discuss the Meaning, Lesson in Our Society, and Make it Happen sections. Encourage discussion.
N—Next Steps for Application
A. Review the “H-P-S-R” (humble-pray-seek-repent) strategy of 2 Chronicles 7:14.
B. Ask students to prepare to give an account next week of how they utilized this strategy during the upcoming week.
C. Close in prayer.
For the Superintendent or Teacher
Theme: Keep My Statutes and Ordinances
Song: “I Will Come and Bow Down”
Devotional Reading: Isaiah 58:6–12
Daily Bible Readings
God Wants Activists Who Fast
Reconciliation Makes Gift-Giving Just
Treat Others Fairly with Compassion
Life is the Best Choice
Faithful Walking: Key to Solomon’s Rule
(1 Kings 9:1–5)
Dangerous Results of Unfaithful Actions
(1 Kings 9:6–9)
Results of Solomon’s Decisions and Actions
(2 Chronicles 7:12–22)
2 Chronicles 7:12 And the LORD appeared to Solomon by night, and said unto him, I have heard thy prayer, and have chosen this place to myself for an house of sacrifice.
13 If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people;
14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
15 Now mine eyes shall be open, and mine ears attent unto the prayer that is made in this place.
16 For now have I chosen and sanctified this house, that my name may be there for ever: and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually.
17 And as for thee, if thou wilt walk before me, as David thy father walked, and do according to all that I have commanded thee, and shalt observe my statutes and my judgments;
18 Then will I stablish the throne of thy kingdom, according as I have covenanted with David thy father, saying, There shall not fail thee a man to be ruler in Israel.
19 But if ye turn away, and forsake my statutes and my commandments, which I have set before you, and shall go and serve other gods, and worship them;
20 Then will I pluck them up by the roots out of my land which I have given them; and this house, which I have sanctified for my name, will I cast out of my sight, and will make it to be a proverb and a byword among all nations.
21 And this house, which is high, shall be an astonishment to every one that passeth by it; so that he shall say, Why hath the LORD done thus unto this land, and unto this house?
22 And it shall be answered, Because they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, and laid hold on other gods, and worshipped them, and served them: therefore hath he brought all this evil upon them.
2 Chronicles 7:12 Then one night the LORD appeared to Solomon and said, “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this Temple as the place for making sacrifices.
13 At times I might shut up the heavens so that no rain falls, or command grasshoppers to devour your crops, or send plagues among you.
14 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.
15 My eyes will be open and my ears attentive to every prayer made in this place.
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.
17 As for you, if you faithfully follow me as David your father did, obeying all my commands, decrees, and regulations,
18 Then I will establish the throne of your dynasty. For I made this covenant with your father, David, when I said, ‘One of your descendants will always rule over Israel.’
19 But if you or your descendants abandon me and disobey the decrees and commands I have given you, and if you serve and worship other gods,
20 Then I will uproot the people from this land that I have given them. I will reject this Temple that I have made holy to honor my name. I will make it an object of mockery and ridicule among the nations.
21 And though this Temple is impressive now, all who pass by will be appalled. They will ask, ‘Why did the LORD do such terrible things to this land and to this Temple?’
22 And the answer will be, ‘Because his people abandoned the LORD, the God of their ancestors, who brought them out of Egypt, and they worshiped other gods instead and bowed down to them. That is why he has brought all these disasters on them.’”
The People, Places, and Times
Locusts and Pestilence. When our Bible was written, locusts had significance beyond simply being insects. They were often thought of as a judgment sent from God (Exodus 10:4). They symbolized God’s displeasure and punishment because they were capable of destroying large areas of vegetation and depleting necessary food sources. Pestilence was thought to represent God’s judgment on Israel for her lack of obedience or for rebellion against God (1 Kings 8:37; Jeremiah 14:12; Ezekiel 5:12).
Rainfall. Rainfall is most abundant in Israel during the spring, known as the “latter rains,” and during the fall, known as the “former rains.” The greatest amount of rain falls between November and February. Abundant rainfall at the proper time was thought to be a blessing from God for obedience (Deuteronomy 28:12); conversely, lack of rain was considered to be punishment for disobedience (vv. 23–24). King Solomon prayed to God not only for protection against their enemies, but also protection against pestilence, sickness, and drought (2 Chronicles 6:26–28).
Can we conclude that God still sends or allows famines, pestilence, and sickness as judgment upon the earth? Why or why not?
The books of 1 and 2 Chronicles were written to the Jews returning from the Babylonian exile, as a record of Israel’s spiritual history. The same events are also recorded in 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings, but the perspective of Chronicles is predominantly spiritual, while the other accounts are more political. The significance of the different perspectives lies in the fact that the author, who was probably a priest, was more concerned with retelling the events that would encourage the newly freed exiles to stay close to God and avoid repeating the sins of the past.
In 2 Chronicles 6, during the dedication of the first Temple, Solomon prays to God on behalf of the people of Israel. Solomon begins his prayer by reminding God that he is David’s son and that God has promised to be faithful to David. This is reminiscent of how we pray to God in Jesus’ name. We depend on the righteousness granted to us by our faith in Jesus when we appeal to God in prayer, just as Solomon depended upon God’s promise of faithfulness to David.
In his prayer, Solomon asked God to honor every prayer made in or toward the Temple. He specifically asks God to forgive everyone who will repent and return to Him (2 Chronicles 6:21–24). Solomon knew poor rainfall, agricultural pestilence, and sickness were punishments for the people’s sins. God answers Solomon in 2 Chronicles 7:12–22.
Do you recall a time when answers to prayers were not immediate but you still chose to trust God?
1. God Appears to Solomon
(2 Chronicles 7:12)
2. The Judgment (v. 13)
3. The Cure (vv. 14–22)
1. God Appears to Solomon (2 Chronicles 7:12)
The Lord appeared to Solomon as He had done in the past at Gibeon (2 Chronicles 1:3–10). God assured Solomon that He had heard his prayer and would honor it. The house that Solomon had built had been approved by God, and He would place His name there.
Placing a name tag or stamp on something implies ownership. Through Christ, God has placed His name on each of us. We belong to Christ; we are called by His name (Christians). As we will see, wearing the stamp on the outside is not enough; God requires our complete dedication to Him, inside and out.
When God answers our prayers, how does it produce greater faith?
2. The Judgment (v. 13)
In verse 13, God refers to specific conditions that Solomon had mentioned in his prayer (2 Chronicles 6). These particular conditions, when they occurred, were thought to be punishments for disobedience to God. God lets Solomon know that He was attentive to the specific details of his prayer by mentioning drought, locusts, and pestilence, just as Solomon had.
As believers, we have every right to expect God to answer our prayers specifically and to address our needs in detail (1 Peter 3:12; Philippians 4:6–7, 19). As with Solomon, God expects our continued obedience to Him.
How has disobedience to God produced negative consequences in your life as well as others?
3. The Cure (vv. 14–22)
While God’s plan was to answer Solomon’s prayer and those of the people, a specific formula needed to be followed in order for God to remove His judgment and forgive their sins. This formula, “H-P-S-R,” is spelled out in verse 14 (humble, pray, seek, repent).
In God’s answer to Solomon, He tells him that if the people commit sin, leading to judgment, they would need to take specific steps to return to God’s favor. First, they would need to humble themselves, which not only means to physically bow before God, but also admit their wrongdoing. They would then need to pray for His mercy, seek and worship Him and Him alone, and turn from their wrongdoing. Only then would God answer their prayers and heal their land.
Thinking of God’s blessings as “conditional” is not an easy pill to swallow. However, 2 Chronicles 7:14 is clearly an “if-then” statement made by God. This applies to His people today as well. If we expect to experience the abundance of God’s blessings, we must first humble ourselves and confess that we need Him in every area of our lives. We must admit we are helpless without Him and be unwilling to place anything above Him. We cannot let our pride or fear of social pressure stand in the way of crying out to God when we need Him most.
Is there a time when being prideful hindered your reconciliation with God and others?
Search the Scriptures
1. Why did God mention rain, locusts, and pestilence (2 Chronicles 7:13)?
2. Why did God say He would bring judgment upon His people (vv. 19–20)?
Discuss the Meaning
True repentance begins with humility. God shows us His formula for repentance in this week’s lesson. How might we more accurately reflect our complete dependence upon God? How are we showing that we are still willing to accept His guidance?
Lesson in Our Society
Solomon must have been highly pleased to learn that God approved of the Temple he built for Him and that He heard his prayer. Even while He was pleased with Solomon, God spelled out His plan for repentance. As believers, we are righteous in God’s eyes by our faith in Jesus. However, we too must be reminded that God still expects us to obey Him. God is willing to heal our land if we invite Him back into our circumstances, pray for His mercy, get rid of any idols that we have placed above Him, and collectively turn from our disobedience.
There is no substitute for obedience, and we must remain steadfast when God’s statutes are being aggressively challenged on every level. In many African American communities, citizens are treated brutally by law enforcement officials. While it sounds impossible and even ludicrous to suggest, obedience to God requires us to forgive any type of wrongdoing. God will never ask us to do anything that His grace will not facilitate. However, it is up to us not to allow anger or bitterness to take root in our hearts. Surrender every emotion to God, commit to forgiveness, and He will heal your heart.
How can we facilitate healing and resist bitterness and help others do the same in the midst of mistreatment?
Make It Happen
• Identify one area of known disobedience in your life, ask God’s forgiveness, and repent.
• Reach out to a person with whom you’ve been angry or upset with recently and smooth things over.
• Ask God to show you hidden or subtle areas of disobedience in your life and pray for the wisdom and the will to correct them.
Follow the Spirit
What God wants me to do:
Remember Your Thoughts
Special insights I have learned:
More Light on the Text
2 Chronicles 7:12–22
12 And the LORD appeared to Solomon by night, and said unto him, I have heard thy prayer, and have chosen this place to myself for an house of sacrifice.
Here God appears to Solomon a second time. The parallel text for this vision is 1 Kings 9:1–9, and the first appearance is described in 1 Kings 3:5–9. This second appearance is in the form of a dream or nighttime vision. During this encounter, God tells Solomon that He accepts the Temple as His dwelling place and the new place of sacrifice. Just as God has confirmed His endorsement of the new Temple publicly through fire (2 Chronicles 7:1–7), He now privately confirms to Solomon that He has heard the prayer of dedication offered by His servant (2 Chronicles 6:12–42).
13 If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people; 14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
These verses describe the cause and effect relationship between obedience and God’s blessing, and apply specifically to His covenantal people, who at the time possess the Promised Land. First, God warns against sinfulness and apathy and encourages humility and repentance (vv. 14–15). Verse 14 is probably the most famous verse in 1 and 2 Chronicles; however, these verses should not be applied uncritically to modern times. God is warning Solomon and the people about what will happen to them (and to the land) if they do not repent. Yet, even though the immediate context of these verses refers to Israel, we can be assured that God responds to humble prayer in every age (2 Chronicles 6:32–33).
The warning for God’s people to humble themselves and “turn from” (Heb. shuv, SHOOVE) their evil ways contains an important lesson about repentance. It involves both turning away from sin and turning to God. God’s response to His people is forgiveness and healing.
15 Now mine eyes shall be open, and mine ears attent unto the prayer that is made in this place. 16 For now have I chosen and sanctified this house, that my name may be there for ever: and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually.
In these verses, God affirms His real presence in the Temple. He has chosen and sanctified the house. To “choose” translates from the Hebrew word bakhar (bah-KHAR), which holds the idea of testing something and selecting it for being the best. It can also be translated “to love.” To “sanctify” or “consecrate” translates from the Hebrew word qadash (kah-DOSH), literally meaning “to set apart.” God’s eyes, ears, heart, and name are attached to this holy place. The reference to the Temple as a dwelling place for the name of God is first found in Deuteronomy 12:11. These verses (like other Bible passages) use anthropomorphisms, which means attributing human characteristics to God. God is Spirit and does not have literal eyes, ears, etc., but anthropomorphic language helps the hearer of God’s declarations or reader of the text appreciate that God is personal. He relates to human beings in ways that we can understand. God is intimately connected to His people.
17 And as for thee, if thou wilt walk before me, as David thy father walked, and do according to all that I have commanded thee, and shalt observe my statutes and my judgments; 18 Then will I stablish the throne of thy kingdom, according as I have covenanted with David thy father, saying, There shall not fail thee a man to be ruler in Israel.
These verses are a warning to Solomon himself to walk with the Lord. The perpetuity of his kingdom is contingent upon his obedience. If Solomon or his descendants should turn away from God, then negative consequences will result. One would think that a man with as much wisdom as Solomon would have heeded God’s words. Unfortunately, Solomon did not continue in the wisdom and knowledge that he had received.
19 But if ye turn away, and forsake my statutes and my commandments, which I have set before you, and shall go and serve other gods, and worship them; 20 Then will I pluck them up by the roots out of my land which I have given them; and this house, which I have sanctified for my name, will I cast out of my sight, and will make it to be a proverb and a byword among all nations. 21 And this house, which is high, shall be an astonishment to every one that passeth by it; so that he shall say, Why hath the LORD done thus unto this land, and unto this house? 22 And it shall be answered, Because they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, and laid hold on other gods, and worshipped them, and served them: therefore hath he brought all this evil upon them.
These verses are a warning to Israel collectively to keep God’s commandments and forsake idolatry. The result of disobedience will be exile, ridicule, and destruction. The word used for “serve” in verse 19 is ‘abad (ah-VOD), from the same root as the Hebrew word for servant or slave. God warns them against becoming slaves to other gods. “Byword” (sheninah, shuh-nee-NAH) is always used in conjunction with “proverb” (mashal, mah-SHOL) and other words of warning and derision. Its root speaks of the sharp, cutting sting a byword has on its recipient. A proverb is used here in the regular sense, as a wise, moral saying uttered to teach a lesson. Israel’s downfall would be a lesson, a morality tale, to the rest of the nations of what happens when one disobeys God. Obedience to God leads to prosperity; disobedience leads to calamity. Since God is merciful, heartfelt repentance leads to forgiveness, healing, and restoration.
Say It Correctly