Last summer, my church participated in Call2Fall, a well-intentioned call to pray for our nation’s leaders. There were two problems I had with the whole thing as a worship leader at the church. First, we should be praying for our leaders every time we gather. Second, the primary impetus for praying was the infamous 2 Chronicles passage, ripped from context. I drew up the following document and submitted it to my pastor for his review, detailing my concerns for using the 2 Chronicles passage out of context. I was subsequently allowed to rewrite the text for the flyer, which was to Pastor Dave’s (and the elder board’s) credit.
2 Chronicles 7
Solomon, having completed the building of the temple (ch. 5), blesses the people and prays to God that the covenant of the people might be renewed (ch. 6). It is the covenant of the law (cf. 6:26, etc.) which is being renewed, a covenant which was in place to serve as our guardian until Christ came and which was never the basis of God’s forgiveness (Gal. 3:24).
Solomon references that all sin and that through repentance acceptance is attained (2 Chr. 6:36-40), but who can repent with His whole heart? None but Christ can obey the Father perfectly, so the law here is functioning as a renewed curse until Christ comes (see Galatians 3). The conditional passages following in God’s response to Solomon’s prayer are conditional for the specific people at the specific time. God is addressing a temporal salvation through a temple which prefigures Christ (John 2:19-21).
The verse in question (7:14), is not even a complete sentence in the ESV and others. It is merely ¾ of a statement which God makes, setting up its own context. So the conditions on which the forgiveness discussed are contingent upon the actions (by God) set forth in verse 13. Taking the promise out of that context does not allow God to give promises on His own terms.
Motivating God’s people to pray this side of the cross can be done using the greater section of this text. It clearly shows that, even though tied to a specific time and place, God is willing to hear the prayers of His people and that this willingness does not come from their ability to keep the law, but rather through the fact that He has purchased them. God calls them “my people” throughout Exodus, even before He has marched them out of the land of captivity. As such, they have God’s attention.
Today, we continue to have God’s attention through the Son’s intercession for us (Hebrews 4:14ff). We are likewise commanded to pray for those in authority (1 Timothy 2:1-4). This is an exhortation which comes on the heels of Paul’s statement of the Gospel (1 Tim 1:12-17), and must therefore be taught in a Gospel context, not simply a law-exhortation.
The three valid uses of the law (to govern society, to convict of sin, and to reveal to the believer what a good work entails) are not even touched when a promise is taken out of the Bible and claimed for one’s own. Instead, a law is proclaimed which God Himself did not address to us in this time and place which we know because when the entire passage is quoted (or even merely verse 13), the conditions for the promise in 14 are not what we’re dealing with. This misuse of the law simply brow-beats the listener into doing what is commanded, rather than the exhortation which is used in 2 Timothy, which gives the listener the precise context for praying for one’s rulers. This is why exhorting people on the basis of the 2 Tim passage is preferable to that of the 2 Chronicles passage.
Remember: the three most important rules of biblical interpretation are context, context and context.