Q. I cringe when I hear Christians claiming Old Testament promises like Jeremiah 29:11 and 2 Chron. 7:14 because it seems they were specifically for Israel often at a specific point in time. People want to claim Israel’s benefits, but not their judgments! Is it wrong to claim promises such as those listed above? How can we discern what was for Israel alone vs. what can apply to us today? Is it based on personal vs national promises? I’m confused.
A. I think the best way is to take a careful look at the context. For instance, Jeremiah 29 is a letter God had the prophet write to the exiles in Babylon, telling them to settle in, build houses, plant gardens, and wait for Him to bring them back because He had plans for their future, and to not listen to the false prophets among them. It was obviously written to them and for them in their time.
As for 2 Chron 7:14, which American Christians are so fond of using, America is not God’s people, called by His name. It’s that part of the Church that dwells in America that are His people. Besides, the Church has no land on Earth. First, a large part of the Church lives outside America and second, our citizenship is in Heaven (Phil. 3:20). Therefore this passage can’t be meant for us.
By considering the context of a passage, you can usually tell who its intended recipients are. If it doesn’t seem to be directed at a specific people for a specific time, then I think we’re free to appropriate it for ourselves.