Saturday, July 22, 2006

A prophetic prayer

Here is a really interesting prayer by Solomon, spoken at the dedication of the temple
"When they sin against you--for there is no one who does not sin--and you become angry with them and give them over to the enemy, who takes them captive to a land far away or near; and if they have a change of heart in the land where they are held captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captivity and say, 'We have sinned, we have done wrong and acted wickedly'; and if they turn back to you with all their heart and soul in the land of their captivity where they were taken, and pray toward the land you gave their fathers, toward the city you have chosen and toward the temple I have built for your Name; then from heaven, your dwelling place, hear their prayer and their pleas, and uphold their cause. And forgive your people, who have sinned against you.
2 Chronicles 6.36-39
I find this remarkable. Solomon foresaw the captivity that was hundreds of years in the future, and Daniel, reading this passage, prayed this prayer during the exile in Babylon (Daniel chapter 9).

So what does this mean for us today? I don't want to say that the Babylonian exile foreshadows some event for the United States, but let's consider this. The Israelites were led to the Promised Land; they sinned; they (2 tribes out of 12 anyway) went into exile in Babylon. The founders of our country were led (they would say) to North America, and then what? What sins did
the children of Israel commit that we haven't? Is there not a widening gap between rich and poor in our country? Have we not undertaken military adventures and killed thousands of innocent civilians? Do we not ignore the living God and pursue false gods (including, but not limited to, money, fame, and accomplishment)?

And what might that say about some future captivity for us?

Or, if we don't today consider the Promised Land to be a physical place, perhaps we could consider "captivity" as metaphor of a personal period of depression or futility, which I think we all get to sooner or later. And in that depressed, futile "place" we could consider that prayer of confession: "Lord, I have sinned, I have done wrong and acted wickedly," and we could turn back to God, not to dictate terms to him, but in true surrender.

Because whether physical or metaphysical, the "Promised Land" doesn't seem to be a long-term earthly condition; our plans doesn't always work out the way we would like. Some were stoned, some were sawed in two, some were killed by swords. (Hebrews 11.27)

But what we can be confident of is this: that God will accomplish his purpose. He will make us better people than we are today, if we are willing.

posted 2006-07-23, revised 2007-08-25 with suggestions from the lovely Carol

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