The fires in Australia, the locusts in Africa and now a world wide plague. Is God trying to tell us something? In 2 Chronicles 7:13 it says that God will withhold the rain, causing fires, and He will send locusts, billions of locusts on the Horn of Africa, and He sends a plague, Covid-19. Does this mean we need to all repent in order for God to remove these natural disasters?
Can we take Old Testament passages and apply them to us today? This is a question that comes up every year with my 11th graders in a New Testament Epistles class. What applies from the Old Testament? Why do we pick and choose some commands to follow and not others?
A lot of Christians are unaware of this dilemma at the least, and at the most use a poorly taught paradigm of interpretation. Some Christians believe nothing applies, because we have a New Covenant, some believe everything applies because it is God’s word as a whole, and others pick and choose what they want to apply as it fits their theological framework.
Essentially all three of these methods are incorrect and can lead a person further away from truth, not closer to it. If nothing applies, then why does the New Testament rely so heavily on the understanding of the Old Testament? You cannot understand the context of the New Testament authors’ commands, stories, or theology without first understanding what they believed to be true about God from the Old Testament.
If everything applies than there are hundreds of commands that we are breaking. The easiest example is that we are not following through on any sacrificial offerings as commanded by Moses to the Israelites. One might rebuttal by claiming that Jesus is the final sacrifice and those offerings are no longer needed.
You would be correct and have moved yourself into the third category of interpretation that some things apply and some things do not. This is where we should be theologically, but there remains an even bigger problem, which is cherry picking commands without sound reason, doctrine, biblical interpretation, or consistency.
Not all commands and promises from the Old Testament apply to us and there are even some that apply to Jews still but not to Gentiles. Another simple example is with circumcision. The first century church had to make a decision about how gentiles are to enter into the New Covenant after Pentecost. It caused so much debate that the first church council was convened in Acts 15 (48 AD) to decide this problem. What applies from the Old Testament? Should gentiles get circumcised as a sign of their covenant with God as the Israelites have done for centuries.
Peter speaks to make a firm declaration of how the Old Testament command should be applied now that faith in Christ has come. Peter exclaims to the council:
“Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?” Acts 15:10, ESV
The yoke he is referring to is circumcision (see verse 15:5). Circumcision was a command and symbol given to Abraham in Genesis 17 of God’s promises to Abraham and his descendants. The church decided that day that gentiles (non-Jews) who come to faith do not need to be circumcised. This is a huge decision and changed everyone’s understanding of what now applied and what did not.
Paul elsewhere has to deal with this continued problem of people trying to tell non-Jews who come to faith that they need to be circumcised. Galatians 5:6, 1 Corinthians 7:19, and Romans 2:29 are several other examples.
What does all this have to do with the Apocalypse?
For many years people have looked to 2 Chronicles 13-14 as a message to America. It has come up again in recent circles because of some recent correlations of events. God speaks to King Solomon after the dedication of the Temple and says many things, one part is this:
“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…”
Then God continues to tell Solomon that if they repent, he will forgive them and heal their land.
There is this idea that if America would repent then he would find favor on us and bless us. However, a problem arises when we look at the opposite and say, “These bad things are happening because God is withholding his blessings and punishing us.”
Does God punish nations as we have designed them and set arbitrary boundaries for them? God clearly told the Israelite nation what land was theirs for settling and specifically where to build the Temple where He would be worship in. Why would God uphold this command for American citizens who have set their own national boundaries not specifically stated by God?
You might say, it’s not referring to borders but to people and I would say it’s both. He says both, “My people” and “their land.” Are we God’s chosen people as the Israelites were? If so, then shouldn’t we be following the commands given to the nation of Israel?
I hope you see this problem. America is not equivalent to Israel; especially when there is a place still called Israel with Jews living in it. God is still seeking his people and wanting them to repent and turn to Jesus.
It is very hard to apply 2 Chronicles 5:13-14 out of the context of all of 2 Chronicles. God does not punish us as a nation, we punish ourselves with the choices we make. Covid-19 is not God’s intentional punishment while at the same time withholding his help because we as a nation have not repented.
We live in a world that is decaying, things are moving toward disorder. Each new disease is a reminder that the world is imperfect and paradise is something we look forward to. There will come a time when Jesus will usher in a new Heaven and new Earth free from any pestilence, plague, disease, or pain.
This world is not our home, Paul says to the Ephesians, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; 21 who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself,” (Ephesians 3:20-21, NASB).
What we can gain from 2 Chronicles 7:13 is that there is something prophetic for the nation of Israel today that they could and should listen and we pray they do. It is a grave injustice to God, God’s word and to the work of Christ on calvary to apply this verse in any other way.
In the next post, we will look at specific passages about End Times and are we living on the brink of Armageddon waiting for Jesus to Return?
In Truth & Love,
Matthew J. Diaz