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2 Chronicles 7:14-16
What is your favourite story?
You’ve heard the stories. Elijah says, “NO RAIN until I give the word!” And it stops raining for years. Then he shows up again, challenges King Ahab’s prophets to a pray-off, “You pray to your gods, I’ll pray to mine!” After 850 prophets make fools of themselves, lonely Elijah prays to His God (your God) asking for fire from Heaven.
Fire falls and burns up the altar, the wood, the sacrifice and everything within a 3 metre radius. Then Elijah turns to King Ahab and says, “You best have a quick bite to eat and head home in your chariot, I hear a mighty rainstorm coming!” And it does.
These are the stories you grew up on. But they don’t represent what happens when you take your sacrifice to the priest. There’s no fire from Heaven. The forgiveness seems empty - like a land without rain for too long.
This is how it was, for generations, and the people began to believe the stories were just that - stories, not reality. Maybe God worked like that in the ancient past through His prophets, but that was a long time ago. And it doesn’t happen anymore. Not in our land.
Solomon was building a temple. But, there hadn’t been one for a very long time. What difference would it really make when the temple was finished? Would the God of the stories really return?
Today, many of us feel like those ancient Israelites. We go to church every week. Stories are told. Stories about a God who came to Earth and lived and died to save lost humanity. It’s a good story and we love to hear it, and sing about it, and bring our children to learn about the God who forgives.
But, that’s not the reality we see. People are selfish. People are grumpy. People hold grudges. And yet, when they talk about this God who saves people, they say - the stories say - that the people who believe in this Jesus are like Him. They love. They forgive. They would rather die than see people get hurt. And we begin to believe the stories are just that - stories, not reality. If it did happen, it doesn’t happen anymore. Not in our land.
But, when the temple was ready, God said, “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. My eyes will be open and my ears attentive to every prayer made in this place. For I have chosen this Temple and set it apart to be holy—a place where my name will be honored forever. I will always watch over it, for it is dear to my heart.”
Prophets and Kings, 128