Humility Opens Doors
Text: 2 Chronicles 7:12-20
The times we live in are significantly affected by many events in our recent situations: earthquake in Mindanao, typhoon in Eastern part of Visayas, volcanic eruption of Taal and now an epidemic. We went from a hopeful and resilient society to a worried society, a careful society, a guarded society. The whole community is getting fearful and some are not so acquainted with what to do. But above all these, we know that life must go on.
Today, I will be sharing my own reflection about the prevailing concern of people these days. I personally choose this text to at least make a relevant message for us today. It’s a good thing that this is also the chosen emphasis of the choir.
Many questions may come into our mind, and maybe one of those questions is “Where is God these days?” for those who are directly or severely affected with the calamities and the epidemic, the feeling of being abandoned is a natural feeling and the usual response to all the negative experiences that we have experienced. As a pastor, this question is a sensitive question that needs a careful answer. And to add to it are existential questions like: “Why do innocent people die?” or “why do bad things happen to good people?”
To tell you honestly, I also struggle with those questions and confusions. When you are part of the crisis or in the situation, things are different. I am tempted to say “it is okay” but I can’t because I know there is so much to worry about. However it is always a challenge for us every day to make our questions make sense in our day-to-day living.
Now turn with me to the text in 2 Chron. 7:12-20, a very known verse to us because there are many songs and hymns written related to this text, and one of them is the song “Heal Our Land” by Jaime Rivera.
The texts speak about an encounter and revelation of God to King Solomon. God appeared to Solomon one night and said to him: “I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice. When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, 14 if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
The context is shortly after the dedication of the temple built by King Solomon. It was the time of the Feast of Tabernacles. At that dedication, people of Israel came before God in humility and gratitude. They worshiped the Lord with sincere hearts. In that dream God assured Solomon that He had heard his prayers.
Notice the two actions of God in this passage. First, God is the one who “shuts up heaven and there is no rain, commands the locusts to devour the land, and sends pestilence among his own people.” And second, God is the one who hears the prayers of His people, forgives their sin, and heals their land.
A question would be asked: Why would a God of love send pestilence upon His own people? This is now my struggle on this text. I am disturbed by what the text is trying to present.
I began to struggle in searching for an answer that maybe there is an underlying reason why God would allow all of this.
My concern for this reflection is on the response that somehow will bring relief to our troubled minds.
There is one act that God wanted Solomon to practice, and that is Humility. In verse 14, it calls Solomon and the whole nation of Israel to be humble: “If my people will humble themselves.” Why does God call for humility?
Knowing Solomon, we know him as the wisest king who started to build a temple during his reign. And with all his wisdom, he was able to expand his kingdom. Then God appeared to him, telling him of his promise and blessing together with the warning. Here it appears to me that Solomon was then warned of Solomon’s tendency to be arrogant because he has almost everything: wisdom, wealth, and power. God asks something from Solomon to ensure God’s blessings and providence. God then said, if my people will humble themselves, pray and seek God’s favor, God will surely hear their prayers. But there is a continuation of these verses, particularly in verse 19 where it says: if people will turn aside and forsake God’s commandments, then there will be consequences.
God then called Solomon to humble himself amidst all the victories and triumph he had as a king. Humility will ensure good things for him and his people. With humility, many good things will follow; it will open a lot of doors of blessings and opportunities. Because Humility as described in our biblical text is the first step to know God. What do I mean by this?
It is when you recognize that there is something in this life that is greater than our wisdom, our wealth and power. There will always be something beyond our control, something greater above all these. Amidst all that is happening right now in the world and the Philippines, we will all come to realize that we all need God. Amidst the high tech and advanced technology in this world, we are still vulnerable to the realities of life such as death because until now there is still no cure yet for the infection. Amidst the many questions of life, we are called to humble ourselves; we cannot have all the answers to our questions that even science and technology could not fathom.
In this time where there is so much fear and anxiety around us, our spirituality matters! Our faith in the existence and presence of God in this world teaches us that there is something bigger than all of these threats that we are facing these days. And that faith and hope help us see and feel that we are connected to something bigger than ourselves.
This somehow explains the resilience of many Filipinos amidst the different calamities that we face. Our strong spirituality has helped us to cope with the realities of life. Everyday, we wrestled with our different fears and the good news is that we have a God who continues to hear the prayers of the people.
No wonder God asked Solomon to humble himself first because that is the basic step to seek God’s presence in our lives.
But how can we feel the presence of God these days? We see and feel the presence of God in the lives of our medical practitioners who work frontline in our hospitals. We sense the presence of God in all the volunteers who work for better services to people. WE sense the presence of God in the lives of the people who have shared their resources for others. We sense the presence of God in the lives of our friends and loved ones who care for us.
Meaning to say, in times when we feel we lost our connection with God, look around you and see the people who love and care for you the way God cares for us. We will never run out of reasons and ways to discern God’s presence in our lives every day only if we are humble enough to recognize the presence of God through the people around us.
I am always touched by the way Filipinos work together in times of disaster and calamities. Indeed, our humility will open our eyes and hearts to notice God’s working presence in us each day.
Humility not only enables us to seek God’s presence, humility also calls us to be changed and be transformed. It opens doors of opportunities to recognize our sinfulness and disobedience to God. Solomon was reminded to seek humility rather than arrogance despite of what he has become. In our text today, God gave a warning to Solomon. Forgetting God and God’s way would result in destruction. But, take note, along with that warning was a promise. A promise that God will continue to hear their prayer and continue to forgive when they will humble themselves and turn from the wicked ways.
We cannot deny the fact that we human beings have contributed a lot to the destruction of our environment that have caused stronger typhoons. We also contribute to the increased risk and vulnerability of our country and community as well the fast spreading of the epidemic that have caused fear and anxiety especially to the most vulnerable in our society such as the poor. Our healthcare system is lacking and unable to give medical services to most Filipinos. The healthcare system must be one of the top priorities of our leaders. We must recognize our weakness and failure to do our part for the whole environment and humanity. Along with that recognition of our sins, we must turn to seek God’s favor and forgiveness through repentance. But the sad reality, we humans have a hard time admitting our faults and instead we blame others and exclude ourselves from accountability. Even Solomon tends to rely on his own power and forget his accountability as a leader of the people. We always have accountability toward the happenings in our society.
Now, if we have that humility in our heart, we continue to change for the better, we continue to open our hearts to the persuasion and guidance of the Holy Spirit of God.
Every day, we are challenged to humble ourselves before God. What is happening now in our community is a reflection to us on what we have done that adds to the worsening of the suffering of the people, and a challenge to continue finding the presence of God even in the midst of uncertainties.
We may be stirred and disturbed for this moment, but the assurance and promise remains the same. With all of these, may we find strength and security in God. Let us continue in our prayer, and believe there is a God who hears our prayer and heals our land. God is listening. “Ask and you shall receive. Seek and you shall find. Knock and the door will open.” Let us humble ourselves before God and continue in our journey of seeking God’s presence even in the midst of the uncertainties of life. Amen.