Hurricane Harvey dropped a year’s worth of rain on the Houston area in just a few days. Texas governor Greg Abbott called it “one of the largest disasters America has ever faced.” The National Weather Service said, “This event is unprecedented, and all impacts are unknown and beyond anything experienced” (emphasis mine throughout).
After this devastation, Governor Abbott called a day of prayer. On September 1, President Donald Trump signed a proclamation for a National Day of Prayer. Thousands of people, if not millions, surely responded to these requests.
But then, just days later, Hurricane Irma crushed the Caribbean islands and the East Coast of the United States. It was the largest-ever hurricane to strike from the Atlantic Ocean.
Soon after that, Hurricane Maria obliterated Puerto Rico.
More than 100 people died in these hurricanes, and we sustained hundreds of billions of dollars in damage.
When we see horrific crises like these, we have to honestly ask ourselves an important question: Is God answering our nation’s prayers today?
If you look in the Bible, you’ll see absolute promises from God to answer our prayers. And if you look at America’s history, you see many examples of answered prayer. This is a historical fact you can prove (sidebar, “God Has Responded to Past National Days of Prayer”).
In this case, though, it seems clear that God did not answer those prayers. Why not?
If you closely study your Bible, you will see that prayers alone are not enough.
After disasters, people often say and sing, “God bless America.” But is God blessing America?
A Misquoted Bible Verse
Many in America consider this a religious nation. When crises arise, people often turn to the Bible and to God for solace.
We saw this tendency in the days just before Hurricane Harvey struck. America was reeling from a race-related confrontation in Charlottesville, Virginia, between white nationalist groups and so-called anti-fascist groups. It exposed the terrible divisions that are growing among the American people. I wrote about this in my article last month, “Charlottesville Violence—The Real Danger Is Invisible.”
In response, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence quoted a Bible verse. It is a verse that he has used in multiple interviews, in several campaign speeches, in at least one campaign advertisement and on other occasions since the election. Other leaders used it after the hurricanes that devastated parts of America.
The verse is 2 Chronicles 7:14. It is the verse on which the vice president swore his oath of office: “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.”
Here again we see a focus on prayer as a solution to America’s problems. But there is a serious problem with how Vice President Pence has been quoting this scripture. On all these occasions, he intentionally left out “turn from their wicked ways” and “forgive their sin”!
The way he says it sounds nice to religious Americans, but he leaves out the most important part—the part that actually shows how to heal America’s deadly division!
This one verse alone shows that prayer alone is not enough. If you want God to “hear from heaven” when you pray, then there is more to the equation! It also requires that we humble ourselves, seek God’s face, and turn from our wicked ways.
Mr. Pence clearly does not want to tell Americans that they could be guilty of sin and wickedness—and that they must repent! Even many Americans who consider themselves Christian would reject such a message, and reject him.
Other religious Americans are making this same misquotation. Religious leaders were present with President Trump in the Oval Office when he signed the day of prayer proclamation. The pastor who led the prayer also referred to 2 Chronicles 7:14. He did include the phrase “forgive their sin,” but like the vice president, he omitted “turn from their wicked ways.”
Jesus Christ commands us to live by every word of God (Matthew 4:4)—not by our own versions of God’s words!
This intentional misquotation of 2 Chronicles 7:14 is doubly destructive and tragic because the words they are leaving out are the words America needs most! Americans desperately need to hear these corrective words because repenting and turning to God is the only way people in this cursed, dying nation can be saved!
‘Return to Me!’ Says God
The Prophet Amos showed us how to receive answers to and results from our prayers.
There is a lot of evidence that Amos is a prophecy for this end time. (Request a free copy of my booklet The Lion Has Roared for proof.) And notice who it is specifically directed at—you can see it in Amos 4:5: “you, O ye children of Israel.” Do you know who “Israel” is in prophecy? If you don’t, you won’t know to whom this is addressed. Herbert W. Armstrong’s book The United States and Britain in Prophecy proves conclusively that the most prominent descendants of ancient Israel, and the nations most directly spoken of in prophecies about “Israel,” are America and Britain. (We will send you a free copy of this book upon request.) When Bible prophecy discusses Israel, it is referring primarily to them. These modern nations have a history with God.
Notice how precise this prophecy, directed at America today, gets: “And also I have withholden the rain from you, when there were yet three months to the harvest: and I caused it to rain upon one city, and caused it not to rain upon another city: one piece was rained upon, and the piece whereupon it rained not withered” (Amos 4:7).
Harvey and Irma flooded Houston with over 50 inches of rain, and torrents of water filled cities across America’s southeast. At the same time, the West Coast was parched, and fires were scorching millions of acres! It was exactly as God prophesied through Amos!
This prophecy does more than tell us that such disasters will occur. It tells us why they are occurring—and how to prevent them from continuing!
When such calamities strike, God expects us to seek Him. This means prayer, but also much more. Read verses 8-11. These verses foretell of intensifying curses, and state four times: “… yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord.” God keeps repeating this crucial point!
Certainly we must pray—but we must also return to God! Returning to God requires real, tangible action.
Warnings From Our Creator
Amos’s prophecy continues: “Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel. For, lo, he that formeth the mountains, and createth the wind, and declareth unto man what is his thought, that maketh the morning darkness, and treadeth upon the high places of the earth, The Lord, The God of hosts, is his name” (Amos 4:12-13). Note that! God creates the wind that propels hurricanes! He has power over the elements. And also, He knows what human beings are thinking. What a mighty Being!
God is using these natural elements in ways intended to turn us to Him. He doesn’t want to see us suffer these calamities. But if we fail to heed, He warns that worse curses will come. The opportunity to respond is closing fast.
This is clear from a prophecy in Amos 8: “Then said the Lord unto me, The end is come upon my people of Israel; I will not again pass by them any more” (Amos 8:2). This is the time we are in now: The end is come. God “will not again pass by”—this is our last chance to heed His warning!
Amos develops this theme in the third chapter of his prophecy: “Hear this word that the Lord hath spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying, You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities” (Amos 3:1-2). Again, the modern-day nations of Israel—chiefly America and Britain, and also the Jewish state called “Israel”—have a unique history with God. He was once their King! And He holds these nations accountable in a way that He does not yet hold Russia or China or Japan or the Arabs in the Middle East or the African nations or anyone else. (Again, The United States and Britain in Prophecy will explain this to you.) God has a wonderful plan for all those nations as well, which will come into effect at a future time (e.g. 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9).
But God does not punish without warning first. “Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?” (Amos 3:6). God is blowing a trumpet of warning. His prophecies of curses on our nations are already coming to pass, and should cause us to fear Him.
“Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets. The lion hath roared, who will not fear? the Lord God hath spoken, who can but prophesy?” (verses 7-8). God is like a roaring lion! His message is fearsome. Will we listen?
Devastation is coming to those who don’t heed God’s warning. Yet through the terrible trials and tests prophesied to befall Israel, our people will finally come to know God.
The God Who Blesses
Many people will pray to God. But how many will obey Him and allow Him to rule them? Very few.
The Prophet Amos even reveals that most of the people in God’s own Church—who make up what the Bible refers to as spiritual “Israel”—have turned away from Him. You can see this in Amos 2:11-12: “And I raised up of your sons for prophets, and of your young men for Nazarites. Is it not even thus, O ye children of Israel? saith the Lord. But ye gave the Nazarites wine to drink; and commanded the prophets, saying, Prophesy not.”
Yes, God has a strong message of prophecy—intended to warn and to help His people. But those He instructed to proclaim that message refused to do so! Ninety-five percent of God’s own Church has rebelled and now refuses to prophesy! Colossians 2:19 says that these people are “not holding the Head,” speaking of Jesus Christ! Christ should be our Head—our Lord and Master! If you lose your head, you are in grave danger!
When he was writing about God, the Prophet Amos used the word “Adonai” 25 times—more than the other 11 minor prophets combined. This word means “Headship,” “the Head,” or “the God who blesses,” according to the Companion Bible. Amos discussed a lot of negative prophecies, but he kept reminding himself of the great God behind the punishments—the God who sometimes sends trials and tests to humble us and to move us to get to know Him. When you understand their purpose, even God’s difficult prophecies are inspiring and uplifting! God is a God of love. He only sends chastening to inspire us to return to Him.
“Hear ye this word which I take up against you, even a lamentation, O house of Israel. … For thus saith the Lord unto the house of Israel, Seek ye me, and ye shall live“ (Amos 5:1, 4; see also verse 6). God delivers bad news, but if we respond the right way, we will live forever!
“Seek him that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night: that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: The Lord is his name” (verse 8). This is exactly what we saw in these recent hurricanes: God brought trillions of gallons of water out of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean and poured it on American cities! He would much rather use water to grow our crops and give us prosperity, but we must listen to Him. He has to get our attention if He is going to give us eternal life and rule over the entire universe.
“For I know your manifold transgressions and your mighty sins …” (verse 12). This is why God punishes us with hurricanes! We could pray and not even get close to God if we are not obeying Him. When we are involved in transgressions and sins, then God will not listen to or answer our prayers (Proverbs 28:9; Isaiah 1:10-15; 59:1-2). We must repent and return to God to reap tremendous blessings.
“Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live: and so the Lord, the God of hosts, shall be with you, as ye have spoken” (Amos 5:14). Clearly, God wants you to live! He wants every human to live an abundant life (John 10:10).
An Unbreakable Promise
Study the context of the verse that America’s vice president and others have misquoted. God gave that promise as He accepted the temple that King Solomon had dedicated to Him. God said, “If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people; 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” (2 Chronicles 7:13-14).
These leaders not only leave out parts of verse 14, they totally omit verse 13, which says that God will actually cause destruction to come on the land! They also leave out verses 19-22, where God says that if Israel turns away from God, He will bring “all this evil upon them” and even “pluck them up by the roots out of my land which I have given them,” sending them into exile.
Vice President Pence and other American Christian leaders, writers and everyday people apply this passage (at least the positive parts) to the United States. Many others—including many American Christians—disagree: They say this passage only applied to Israel, a long-gone ancient kingdom. But that is not true. God preserved this passage for 3,000 years because these verses—every word of these verses—continue to apply to the modern descendants of ancient Israel!
The book of Chronicles is not just a leftover record of what God told an ancient king. It is primarily for our time! And it is primarily for three end-time nations of Israel: America, Britain and the Jewish state. America and Britain received the birthright promises of unmatched national abundance. The Jewish state called Israel received the scepter promise of a royal dynasty that God promised would endure until the return of Jesus Christ. (This is all explained in The United States and Britain in Prophecy.) The promise in Chronicles—and the warning—is for our day!
In 2 Chronicles 7:14, the wonderful, loving God tells us exactly how to avoid national suffering, division and destruction. He makes an unbreakable promise: If we turn from our sins, He will heal us! This applied in the ancient past, it applies to the dangerous present, and it applies to the glorious future! God does promise to heal our land. But the people must heed His warning. The minds of the people must be healed!
Curses and Captivity
We can learn what is ahead for the modern descendants of Israel by looking at what happened to our ancestors. Solomon and many people in his kingdom did turn away from God to a significant degree, but the Bible indicates Solomon repented. After Solomon died, the sin and wickedness continued, the kingdom split, and the two sides, Israel and Judah, nearly went to war. They both continued to sin against God, although Judah had a few righteous kings who did lead the people to righteousness—and healing and blessings. But the people continued to turn back to sin, and they were cursed. They suffered numerous wars and even went to war against each other at times. Finally, Israel was conquered by the Assyrian Empire, and its sinning people were plucked out of their land. Later, Judah was conquered by the Babylonian Empire, and its sinning people were also plucked out of their land.
“And them that had escaped from the sword carried he away to Babylon; where they were servants to him and his sons until the reign of the kingdom of Persia” (2 Chronicles 36:20). National sin leads to national curses, which lead to national captivity—both historically and presently!
Verse 21 points out that this catastrophic national tragedy for Judah “[fulfilled] the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah.” God had sent a prophet to warn Judah that their sins were leading to captivity. Jeremiah told them how God would heal their land, but they would not listen. Their leaders convinced them that God would save them, but the people did not turn from their wicked ways—so God did not heal their land.
But notice this: The book of Jeremiah is specifically addressed to Israel (Jeremiah 2:4; 3:12; 4:1; 5:15, etc). This is significant, because Jeremiah lived in Judah, and actually witnessed Judah’s destruction at the hand of Babylon. Yet his book was not primarily for Judah. It was for Israel, and ancient Israel had been destroyed and taken captive in 721 b.c.—several decades before Jeremiah was even born! Jeremiah never delivered his message to ancient Israel because it no longer existed as a nation.
The reason for this is that Jeremiah’s prophecy is for our nations today, the descendants of ancient Israel: America and Britain! These are warnings that God wants us to “consider”—which means understand thoroughly—”in the latter days,” the end time! (Jeremiah 30:24).
We must take these warnings seriously! We need God to hear us and to answer our prayers! Continuing in our ways and twisting His Word to fit our preferences is not the way to ask Him to save us!
Raising the Ruins
The land that God gave to the tribes of Israel was taken away from them because of sin. It was made desolate, and people from other nations conquered it. But God had not forsaken the descendants of Israel forever.
“Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, All the kingdoms of the earth hath the Lord God of heaven given me; and he hath charged me to build him an house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his people? The Lord his God be with him, and let him go up” (2 Chronicles 36:22-23).
These are the last two verses of the Old Testament (in its original form), and they are incredibly hopeful verses!
Bible scholars are befuddled by these two concluding verses of Chronicles. They are exactly the same as the first verses of the book of Ezra. So, they rearranged the books, placing Ezra after Chronicles.
Chronicles centers around David’s throne, which Jesus Christ will rule from when He returns to the Earth. Ezra, who wrote the book, is trying to get us to focus on Jerusalem—the future headquarters of the Earth and the universe! (Request my free booklet The Book of Chronicles to understand this inspiring truth.) Look to the future! What a perfect transition to the New Testament.
After being freed from slavery, the Jews returned to Jerusalem, constructed the second temple, and built a wall around the city. God healed their land and allowed them to raise the ruins—a type of God’s Work today and of the healing that will soon spread across the planet and throughout the entire universe!