Jun 06-07, 2020
Rev. Simon Lee, Senior Pastor RCAC
Dear brothers and sisters of RCAC,
Our 43rd Church Anniversary Celebration this year (2020) is going to be very different because of the COVID-19 pandemic. On such occasions we usually “celebrate” and the theme is usually “thanksgiving.” But how can we “celebrate” when we have seen so much suffering and death over the last few months not only locally but around the world? While we hope and pray that everything will be back to normal or come to a new normal, let us not miss out on the lessons we can learn from this pandemic. On our anniversary this year, I would like us to reflect upon this using the story of the dedication of the temple which Solomon built for the Lord (II Chronicles 5-7). There are a few lessons for us to remember and apply to our present situation:
- God of heaven and earth cannot be contained by an earthly temple. (6:18)
King Solomon asked the rhetorical question, “But will God indeed dwell with man on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, how much less this house that I have built! “(6:18) In his prayer of dedication, Solomon prays humbly before God,
“O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven or on earth, keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to your servants who walk before you with all their heart, 15who have kept with your servant David my father what you declared to him. You spoke with your mouth, and with your hand have fulfilled it this day. “(6:14-15)
We can see that Solomon in his early days was truly a God-fearing King and he recognized God’s faithfulness and power. His genuine humility before God and his deep awareness of His greatness is evident in v. 18. Here we learn that God is both transcendent (everywhere and above all) and at the same time immanent (presenting Himself locally while not limited to it).
Yes, God has blessed RCAC and His presence in our Church is evident in all the blessings He has bestowed upon us over the past 43 years. But we should remember that God is not present only in the Church building. We maybe are so used to identifying our Christian life with what goes on within the four walls of our Church that we do not know how to connect with God and each other when we cannot return to the Church building. So the pandemic actually has opened up the opportunity for us to realize afresh that the church building is not the Church, and God is everywhere, and the Church is you and I. Indeed the Kingdom of God is within us.
- God however has chosen to “localize” Himself to the temple and care for his people. (6:20)
For our sake, God has placed Himself in “this house” and “this place,” (6:20) even though heaven is his dwelling place! This is done so that we can go to “this house / this place” to pray to Him. “This house” exists as a house of prayer, where we know prayers are answered. This is what the Scriptures tell us:
“19Yet have regard to the prayer of your servant and to his plea, O Lord my God, listening to the cry and to the prayer that your servant prays before you, 20that your eyes may be open day and night toward this house, the place where you have promised to set your name, that you may listen to the prayer that your servant offers toward this place. 21And listen to the pleas of your servant and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. And listen from heaven your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.”(6:19-21)
Solomon specified 7 scenarios (examples) where God will care for His chosen people, and especially relevant to us at this time, when they experienced disease or other disaster (6:28-31) as follows:
28 “If there is famine in the land, if there is pestilence or blight or mildew or locust or caterpillar, if their enemies besiege them in the land at their gates, whatever plague, whatever sickness there is, 29whatever prayer, whatever plea is made by any man or by all your people Israel, each knowing his own affliction and his own sorrow and stretching out his hands toward this house, 30then hear from heaven your dwelling place and forgive and render to each whose heart you know, according to all his ways, for you, you only, know the hearts of the children of mankind, 31that they may fear you and walk in your ways all the days that they live in the land that you gave to our fathers.”(6:28-31)
Yes, God will listen to our prayers made in out-stretched hands in his House when we are in dire situations of sickness and other disasters, because He (Christ) is “God with us” (Immanuel). God is the same yesterday, today and forever. He will definitely answer our prayers today too.
- God promised to hear their (our) prayers and “heal their (our) land” (7:14).
We read, “12Then the Lord appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. 13When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, 14if my people who are called by my name 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. ” (7:12-16).
The chronicler outlines for us four steps of repentance that will lead God to forgive and restore us. We find that each of these is taken up at appropriate places in the later narrative of Chronicles, marking the amazing interventions of God. The four steps of repentance towards forgiveness and healing and restoration are:
- humble themselves, (attitude of repentance). Have we humbled ourselves?
- pray, (posture of repentance). Do we live a prayerful life?
- seek my face, (surrender in repentance). Have we surrendered our will to God and seek His?
- turn from their wicked ways. (action of repentance). What actions of surrender have we taken?
“Heal their land” includes deliverance from drought and pestilence as well as the return of exiles to their rightful home (6:38). This comes when they repent before God. Healing comes through our repentance before God. If healing is what we want, have we taken these steps, in our attitude, posture, surrender and action? The pandemic is God’s call to us to go back to Him.
This promise is for the chosen people, the people of Israel. But God has promised to bless generally all those who obey Him (e.g. Ps. 1; Matt 6:33; Gal. 6:7-8). May we learn from the current pandemic and celebrate our Church’s anniversary this year by coming humbly to our Lord Jesus Christ, the head of the Church, in repentance for having kept Him at a distance. May we then truly celebrate because the Lord has promised “healing,” to us all at RCAC, both personally and as a Church. Christ is risen, He is risen indeed! He can heal us, both now and forever! Amen.
Your servant in Christ,
Rev. Dr. Simon Lee