Healing of the Land
2 Chronicles 7:14 "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."
Farmers’ suicide, rape, murder, increasing violence of all kinds, lawlessness, drug menace, racial and religious intolerance, endless problems are daily reported daily in the newspapers. What do we do when we hear about all these? Go into a desperate rant against the government or curse our ancestors for bringing our social structures to the brink of collapse? I understand each generation has to take the responsibility of itself. Rather than doing that we often keep the old baggage and add a few more items of our own making and pass them on to the next generation. If we need to see change or want to be change agents, we need to take the bull by the horn. No point in blaming anybody else. True, all these problems are not our making. But as the people at the receiving end here and now, it is our responsibility to find a solution. But the question is how do we go about it?
There are two ways to go tackle the problem. One, look for short term solutions and treat them like surface wounds. The result could be immediate relief and a feeling of well-being. But that can make us feel temporarily comfortable and in turn complacent. But the wound will be festering beneath the scab formed on the wound. The LORD talks about it this way: “They act as if my people's wounds were only scratches. ‘All is well,’ they say, when all is not well. My people, were you ashamed because you did these disgusting things? No, you were not ashamed at all; you don't even know how to blush!” [Jer. 8:11-12 GNB]. The second solution is to go to the roots of the problem and find a more permanent solution.
Many of the social problems have their roots outside the immediate circumstances. Many of them are a direct result of years or centuries of following a wrong philosophy. When one thinks of humans as divinely destined to be unequal from birth because that is the way God has created humans, it will have its social repercussions. Surely there are inequality of privileges from birth, but that is of human make and not from God. How do we treat the problem? Give the social discrimination a more attractive or politically correct name and shove it under the carpet. Once our leaders thought that by calling the socially exploited people ‘harijans’ [people of God] the problem would vanish. So also the handicapped people have become ‘differently abled’. What is shoved under the carpet will show a bump and will cause more people to stumble over it.
To really treat the wound one may have to go deeper and find the real cause of it. Even an emotional hurt cannot be treated with physical medication. But if the problem is of much deeper nature, a spiritual one, where do we start? Are the problems faced by our society only physical or emotional or are they spiritual? The Bible makes it clear that many of the social problems have spiritual roots. Spiritual problems can cause psychological and physical problems as well. This is true of individual humans as well as a society at large.
Jehovah’s instruction to the young King Solomon hits at the root of the problem and shows its solution. The change begins when God’s people begin to pray. But we can pray only when we are willing to acknowledge that our actions have been wicked. Or to be precise, we need to agree that God is right and we are wrong. As far as the social sickness of the country are concerned, we may say that we are not responsible. Our fathers have eaten the sour things and why are our teeth on edge? Any amount of blame game will not heal us. When our teeth are on edge, our first thought is to look for the dentist who can give us relief and get a root canal treatment or go for extraction. The dentist prescribes the treatment and not the patient. The doctor has already prescribed. We can have endless debate on whether it will work or not. But that will not give relief. The only way forward is to follow the instructions of the Physician.
As sinful humans, it takes a lot of humility to accept that we have been in the wrong. That is why Nehemiah’s prayer in this respect stands out. When he heard about the condition of his people in Jerusalem, he went into the closet and let his heart and eyes pour out the grief and he went into a session of confession. Was Nehemiah responsible for the happenings in Jerusalem? Or was he even remotely responsible for the exile of Israelites? He was most likely born in Babylon. I wonder if he had ever seen Jerusalem! He was a victim of the historical blunders of his ancestors. But that is not what he says before God: “I confess that we, the people of Israel, have sinned. My ancestors and I have sinned” [Neh. 1:6].
Nehemiah does not stop with confessions. He remembers the faithfulness of God in the past and seeks His guidance for further action. He is willing to take the responsibility to be a change agent. But he does not jump into an activist mode and start organizing morchas. He continues to spend time with God for the next four months and a plan of action emerges. The task is huge, it involves large organisational skills. Provisions have to be found. It needs people. Without the co-operation of the people on the ground, nothing can be achieved. They have to be motivated. It cannot be done from afar. One has to be on the spot to get a first-hand assessment of the situation. Governmental permissions are needed. Everything looks like insurmountable mountains. But when God is with us in it, the mountains vanish into the sea or He will give us mountaineering skills.
Do you feel like Nehemiah when we look at our own country? If you do, let's start where Nehemiah did. Cry before God for our country and confess the wickedness of our nation before God rather than blaming the politicians. Be willing to take up any responsibility that the Lord God wants to give you. Let us be change agents rather than onlookers.