Praise should not be divorced from obedience. To praise God and then not obey God is hypocrisy. That was the problem on Palm Sunday. On Sunday the crowd said, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matthew 21:9), but by Friday the same crowd said, “Let him be crucified!” (Matthew 27:22, English Standard Version). True praise got separated from obedience.
To ensure that this separation did not take place, God responded to Solomon’s dedicatory prayer of the temple with words of solidarity between blessings and obedience. God was willing to act on behalf of Israel in relation to his own name. But the corresponding part of the covenant was for Israel to obey God’s statutes and ordinances.
God has built certain laws into the universe. The law of gravity is no respecter of persons. The law of thermodynamics reminds us that things move from order to chaos—not the other way around. The law of harvest says that what one sows one will also reap (Galatians 6:7). The law of cause and effect says that if Israel obeyed God then she would be blessed by God.
Obedience Involves Turning
2 Chronicles 7:12-16
The Lord appeared to Solomon at night (2 Chronicles 1:7). The first time this happened, God granted Solomon’s request for wisdom. This time God warned Solomon to keep his statutes and ordinances. God had no interest in placing his name alongside people who did not obey him. Three times in our text the Lord reminded Solomon that he had chosen the temple in Jerusalem as the place in which his name would dwell (vv. 12, 16, and 20). God had consecrated it. This word means “made holy or sanctified.”
While God’s blessings for his people are not in a one-for-one relationship with obedience (he is always more gracious to his people than they deserve), turning to God in obedience does make a difference. Draught, locusts, and plagues should be reminders that God’s statutes and ordinances are being neglected (Deuteronomy 11:17; 28:21, 38). From a human point of view humility, prayer, and turning to God help ensure God’s healing of the land and help the nation avoid the kinds of plagues Egypt experienced (Exodus 15:26).
Obedience ensures that God’s eyes, ears, and heart will be attentive to Israel. One of the more familiar verses in the Old Testament is verse 14. The first word is if. God is so sovereign that he has built free will into the equation of how humanity and divinity get along. God’s people must do four things: humble themselves (bring low), pray, seek my face (request or inquire), and turn (return). Then God will do three things: hear (the famous word from Deuteronomy 6:4), forgive (pardon), and heal (the famous word “rapha” meaning to cure or repair). While this verse might apply to any people it was a unique promise given to Israel.
Obedience Involves Walking
2 Chronicles 7:17-18
Obedience is more than just avoiding bad paths. It also involves faithfully embracing God’s way. The Hebrew word for walk means “to go or to follow.” Solomon was to follow in the ways of his father. King David was less than perfect (2 Samuel 11), but he was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22), and he did repent in true contrition when he was convicted of his wrong (Psalm 51:17).
God promised to bless Solomon if he would observe (commit or keep) God’s decrees and laws. More than that, God would establish (raise or cause to stand) Solomon’s throne as he did with David. Solomon would experience the ongoing promise of God (2 Samuel 7:13, 16; Matthew 12:42). But he must walk God’s way.
Obedience Involves Forsaking
2 Chronicles 7:19-22
The formula is rather simple. If Israel chose to forsake (leave, depart, or abandon) God, God would forsake Israel. The challenge was given to Solomon because his leadership of Israel was crucial in this regard. Forsaking God’s statutes and ordinances for idolatry would produce five disastrous results. The first is deportation. Israel would be uprooted (plucked up or destroyed). The second is rejection. Israel would be rejected (cast down or hurt). The third is mockery. Israel would become a byword (proverb or riddle) and an object of ridicule (taunt or sharp cutting word). The fourth is destruction. The temple would become a heap of rubble. The fifth is desolation. Other peoples would be appalled (astonished or amazed) at Israel.
It is one thing for God’s people to know they have done wrong. It is doubly shameful for other people to know God’s people have done wrong. God redeemed Israel out of Egypt. Israel should act like it by keeping his statutes and ordinances.
Dr. Mark Scott teaches Preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri.
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