16” Bind up the testimony; seal the teaching among my disciples. 17 I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him. 18 Behold, I and the children whom the Lord has given me are signs and portents in Israel from the Lord of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion. 19 And when they say to you, “Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,” should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living? 20 To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn. 21 They will pass through the land, greatly distressed and hungry. And when they are hungry, they will be enraged and will speak contemptuously against their king and their God, and turn their faces upward. 22 And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness.” (Isaiah 8:16-22)
A much quoted portion of Scripture concerning a nation’s repentance towards God is 2 Chronicles 7:14. “14 If 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.” It was the LORD’s response to King Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the Temple of God in Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 7:1-10) and is part of the broader context of 2 Chronicles 7:11-21.
The doctrine contained in 2 Chronicles 7:11-21 is almost completely unique in and of itself. It features the conditions for God’s forgiveness of a nation’s sin. This includes (1) humility; (2) prayer; (3) longing for God; and (4) repentance.
These four qualities were lacking in the Nation of Judah in the 8th century B.C. during the ministry of Isaiah, the prophet. Instead, the people of Judah were proud, they sought out and worshiped false gods of their own making, and were unrepentant.
Instead of humbly seeking the LORD during time of national difficulty, they became enraged against God and spoke contemptuously of Him. The refused to accept the truth of God’s Word, from God’s spokesperson.
Therefore, Isaiah bound up and sealed the scroll containing the testimony of impending judgment. Why? First, it was to ensure that nothing would be added to, or taken from it. Two, to imply that it related to distant events, and was therefore to be a sealed and not understood testimony (Isaiah 6:9, 10), except in part among God’s disciples.
In a similar vein to Isaiah 8:16-22, Joel 2:12-13 says, “Yet even now,’ declares the LORD, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting…weeping, and…mourning; and rend your hearts….’ Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.”
Dr. R. C. Sproul explains that, “Those who have been gifted with circumcised hearts repent when the Lord, through His prophets and Apostles, calls them to turn from their sin. But the call must go out, for God ordinarily works through the preaching of His Word; thus, Joel calls for deep and thorough repentance in Joel 2:13–17. He grounds this call to repent in God’s revelation of His mercy and willingness to relent over the disasters He has announced (see Ex. 34:6–7; Jer. 18:5–8). At the same time, Joel’s call to repentance lacks any hint of presumption. Although God’s people can always be confident that He will forgive them when they turn to Him in heartfelt repentance (2 Chron. 7:14; Luke 15:11–32), even the healing that He promises does not always mean that we will escape the earthly consequences that flow from our sin. Joel 2:14 reflects this point, as the prophet leaves it up in the air as to whether God’s forgiveness might include other undeserved blessings.”
May each nation today, and its citizens, take to heart the oracles from two ancient Jewish prophets. The truth they speak continues to resound in our own day and age.
Soli deo Gloria!