A CALL TO PRAYER
2 Chronicles 7:11-16
Introduction: If you were living in Key West, Florida and heard the news that a Category 5 hurricane was heading your way how would you respond? After weathering the hurricane when you return to your home of three decades only to find out it is ruined, what would you do? We all have watched with shock some heart wrenching scenes of such devastation. These pictures caught my attention as they seem to convey the mixed responses of people to tragedy.
Peoples responses are generally based on either fear, pragmatism, and or faith. Many have headed the warning and moved into shelters, hotels, friends and relative’s homes. Others took pragmatic approach, stored up food, water, gas etc. and were ready to brace the storm. Yet others no matter what happens could not seem to get over their foolishness. I don’t know what to make of headlines like this one, “Damage heavy on Key West, but booze still flows.” Hurricane Irma took power, water and cellphone service, but she couldn't take this tiny island's party spirit — or the cold Coors Light.
Many concerned people both in Florida and around the world took their position in prayer and interceded on behalf of Key West. At hope Church, we prayed that God would decrease Irma’s intensity to a Category 1 or send it back to the ocean. After praying I kept watching the news. I was relieved and praised God when I heard that it was reduced to a Category 2 storm and then to a Category 1 tropical storm. As if that was not bad enough, can you imagine what would have happened had it not changed its intensity and actually landed on Keys west as a Category 5 Hurricane? How could anyone explain, why it has suddenly changed its direction? As we speak millions are without electricity and running water. Food supplies may be running out. Many are struggling to terms with the aftermath. Let’s continue to pray for God’s mercy and his provision.
Let’s pray that many would turn to Christ during this crisis.
When we see these back to back biblical portions natural disasters, terrorist attacks from within our own backyard, and a looming nuclear war threat, what goes through your mind? Have we gone too far from God as a nation? Have you wondered who sends these natural calamities? Maybe you are going through a personal storm of some sorts. What should be our response when we encounter natural disasters and life-threatening situations? Let’s see how a battered nation dealt with these types of devastations. A CALL TO PRAYER. 2 Chronicles 7:11-16
Let me give you some context to this passage. 2 Chronicles covers the period from the beginning of Solomon’s reign (970 BC) to the Babylonian exile (586 BC). During this time, the Israelites desperately needed a new look at the past. Their ancestors had also been torn from home, beaten and dragged off in chains to serve as slaves in a foreign country.
In Babylon, a new generation grew up knowing little of the Israelite past: the covenant with God, the promised line of kings, the magnificent temple in Jerusalem. When captive Israelites were finally allowed to return home, they found a pile of rubble. The book of 2 Chronicles was written to those refugees who returned. For that dispirited group of people, the author recounted the glory days of Israel. He wanted to restore the Israelites faith, courage, confidence and bring hope to their future. Though this passage directly deals with the remnant Israel, but the lessons are applicable for our times as well.
I. GOD ALLOWS NATURAL CALAMITIES FOR A REASON.
Vs 13“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land or send pestilence among my people.” Whenever there is a natural calamity the environmentalists’ quick to jump in saying the cause is Global warming or Climate change. While some of these disasters can be attributed to absolute irresponsibility, some are beyond our understanding, explanation and control. In insurance circles these are called, “Acts of God.”
Therefore, let’s look to God this morning for some answers. The scriptures tell us that God has absolute power over nature. “Who is like you, Lord God Almighty? You, Lord, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you. You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them.” Psalm 89:8-9. “The Lord wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters. He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind. He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants.” Psalm 104:2-4
In the passage we read, God was saying to the Israelites that he had the power to shut up the heavens so that it won’t rain, or send locusts to eat up the crops and send plagues (like Ebola) that would kill thousands of people. If God is truly in control, He must be able to control weather events and natural disasters. The question then becomes if God is truly good, how could He allow so many people to die as the result of something under His control? God is not necessarily in the business of sending hurricanes, storms and earthquakes to torture people. But at times he allows these natural calamities for a reason. In some cases, he may use nature’s force to focus our attention on Him and the greatness of His power. I am reminded of a familiar story in the Bible, Jonah in the belly of a fish. But what landed him there in the first place, what lessons did Jonah learn from that horrible experience and what would he tell us about Gods greatness?
As we know out of disobedience, prejudice and the stubbornness of heart Jonah started to run away from God on a ship sailing to Tarshish. But God wouldn’t let him go away very far. The Lord sent a mighty storm on the sea, the ship was threatened to break up. The mariners were afraid and each began to pray to their god. Jonah was fast asleep in the lower deck of the ship. They came to him and woke him up and asked him where are you from and what do you do?
Listen to Jonah’s response, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” The men were exceedingly afraid.” Upon his suggestion, the mariners threw Jonah into the sea and God provided a Big fish that swallowed Jonah and the sea ceased from its raging. Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD.” After three days and nights being in the belly of the fish Jonah repented and prayed, then God commanded the fish to throw Jonah out on to the shore.
The key lesson here is you cannot run away from God too far, he will catch you. This story is a stark reminder to all of us to know who actually is in charge over the wind and the nature? When God allows a natural disaster to come our way is to draw our attention. He uses these calamities to show the world His power and teach his children obedience and prayer.
Coming to our context, the recent two back to back hurricanes, Harvey and Irma have left millions devastated. Many have lost their properties, and several lost their lives. Could it be that the Lord has allowed these two storms to bring our nation back to its knees? Could it be possible as a nation we have gone too far from worshipping the true and living God, and began to worship our own idols? It would have been more profitable if our president tweeted during these difficult times calling the nation to repent, pray to God and seek His mercy and favor. It is the responsibility of the leaders to send out a call of prayer during the natural calamities.
Can God prevent natural calamities from happening at a certain time and place? Has he done it in the past? The answer is a resounding yes! James 5:17-18 teaches, "Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit." Recently, we have seen God, how God decreased the intensity of the Hurricane Irma to a category one, otherwise it could have been much more of a catastrophe. What can actually move the mighty hand of God and avert a disaster? It is prayer! Not the kind of prayers we pray at our meal times. But prayers that come from a heart that is desperate, humble and repentant. God answers such prayers.
II. GOD ANSWERS THE HUMBLE AND THE REPENTANT.
Vs 14, “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.” You may have seen this verse or heard it quoted by pastors and preachers a like each time there is a huge crisis or natural calamity. This verse has often drawn me to my knees in repentance and prayer. This is a sure criterion, when it comes to seeing the gracious hand of God moving towards may it be a whole nation or individual, and experience His redemptive and healing power.
“It starts with my people, who are called by my name” It is a narrow promise but can have wider implications. Then, it was to the nation of Israel, but now it applies to all those who call themselves Christians or followers of Christ. As the saying goes that, “there are no atheists in the trenches” points to the fact that just about everybody in trouble prays to whoever might be there to listen. They cry for help. And sometimes, no doubt they are helped as they asked to be.
But Christians however have received a special call to prayer, have seen the power of God at work as a result of prayer. God is calling us to humble ourselves, repent of our sins and turn away from our wicked ways and seek his face and pray to Him. Then he will hear from heaven and forgive our sins and will heal our land. Do you think our country needs healing? How about you, and your family do they need healing? Does your marriage need healing?
During the service, we have heard a powerful testimony of Mercy, how God has reached out to her and healed her. We rejoice with her and give praise to God for her healing.
Our God is not the respecter of people. He can bring about a similar miracle in your life too. All you need to do is to repent of your sins and cry out to God from your desperate situation. God will hear your prayers and come to your rescue. There is a call of God going out not only to a few intercessors, but to all of his people to pray. Because the need is so great. My prayer is that we will hear his voice and commit ourselves to become the people of prayer. Amen