Grace A. Johnson
An Appeal to Heaven
Updated: May 15, 2021
2nd Chronicles 7, verse 14 states “‘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 is the first actual definition of an “appeal to heaven,” which is a phrase that was coined in the late 1600s and was used by General George Washington on what we now call the “pine tree flag” during the American Revolution.
The relevance of this phrase then and today has been argued throughout the years, but has basically been overlooked by the American public. A few years ago, my grandparents gave our family an “Appeal to Heaven” flag. It was only today that we finally had a flagpole put in and the flag raised.
The simplified meaning of the phrase “an appeal to heaven” is apparent. It means to call unto heaven and appeal for help. Many have said that because of its creator, British political philosopher John Locke, it has lost its value or else has none that is applicable to our world and government today. You see, Locke lived in England during the time of the Glorious Revolution and the reign of King James II. Our knowledge of the later revolt we call the American Revolution tells us that even then, in Britain and her colonies, the rule of the tyrant kings was oppressive and truly a heartless use of the legitimate power these kings had been granted.
In his Second Treatise of Government, Locke said, “And where the body of the people, or any single man, is deprived of their right, or is under the exercise of a power without right, and have no appeal on earth, then they have a liberty to appeal to heaven, whenever they judge the cause of sufficient moment. And therefore, though the people cannot be judge, so as to have, by the constitution of that society, any superior power, to determine and give effective sentence in the case; yet they have, by a law antecedent and paramount to all positive laws of men, reserved that ultimate determination to themselves which belongs to all mankind, where there lies no appeal on earth, viz. to judge, whether they have just cause to make their appeal to heaven.”
People have taken the singular four words—an appeal to heaven—out of context and applied it simply to prayer. Historians discredit that use, as Locke obviously intended this to refer only to government and politics.
What very few people these days—or perhaps even during Locke’s time—do not realize is how simple this concept is. They want to complicate it or simplify it even further to create confusion about the truth and the employment of the idea to “appeal to heaven.”
Appeal does not necessarily mean what we use it for today. It stemmed from a Roman metaphor, meaning to steer a ship to a particular landing, and came to mean in the late 14th century a legal term for calling upon a higher judge or court. Don’t envision a scene of a shiny red apple and its “appealing” appearance beckoning you. Don’t imagine a man groveling at the feet of his accuser, begging and pleading to be freed from his debt.
Imagine a positioned man looking upon the malfeasance of a lower judge or a corrupt court and then going out and knocking upon the door of the only one who knew the truth and could justly and righteously solve the problem.
Appealing is steering one’s life or situation into the hands of the only One Who is rightly appointed to handle it. The One Who has been given all power and authority, Who is higher than any man-made government or man-appointed earthly position. The One Who is higher than even the spiritual forces that appear to control the corruption.
To appeal to heaven means to recognize that what is happening within your own life or within the government is not right and that the things the officials and authorities are doing are outside of their jurisdiction and their power, and to turn around and find the Greater Authority Who has the right and has the power to step in and take the lead.
This applies to politics. This applies to life.
But this should not be the last resort. It should not be that when we “have no appeal on earth” that we finally turn to God. It should be a continual, everyday occurrence that we lift everything up to Him and surrender the good and the bad to His all-powerful, all-knowing hands.
If we cannot change the situation on our own or with the help of another person or earthly power, that is our fault.
It is only when we call upon His name and seek His face that change can occur. It is only in His power and with His authority that we can accomplish anything.
He already knows everything that happens within your life and within the situation. Benjamin Franklin said at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 in Philadelphia that “I have lived a long time, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth—that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?”
Our appeal should not be—cannot be—our unrighteous, wretched persons begging for His favor and His mercy. Our appeal can only be us, as children of God and joint-heirs with Christ, coming to Him and addressing our need for Him to come in and take everything. Everything does not always mean we receive what we believe is good or necessarily “for us.” However, it always does mean that what is right and just will happen and that His will shall be done.
In 2nd Chronicles, Solomon had just built the temple and consecrated it to the Lord and asked Him to dwell within it. Then the Lord came to him and said, in answer to his prayer, “I have heard thy prayer, and have chosen this place to myself for an house of sacrifice. 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. Now mine eyes shall be open, and mine ears attent unto the prayer that is made in this place. For now have I chosen and sanctified this house, that my name may be there for ever: and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually.”
As followers of Christ after the coming of the Messiah and the Holy Spirit, we are the temple. We have consecrated ourselves, sacrificed ourselves, and prayed for God’s Spirit to dwell within us. We are also His people, and now we have come to this time of drought, pestilence, and locusts—it is up to us to come to Him and admit our failure or the failure of our country as a whole and ask for His guidance.
Will you join me in appealing to heaven, along with the patriots of the American Revolution and the people of Solomon’s day? Will you humble yourself, seek His face, and turn away from wickedness? You cannot come unto His door otherwise, for He is the righteous Judge and Christ is our Defender.
“An Appeal to Heaven.” History is Fun, 15 May 2014, https://www.historyisfun.org/blog/appeal-to-heaven/
“Appeal (v.).” Etymoline, https://www.etymonline.com/search?q=appeal
Benner, Dave. “John Locke’s Appeal to Heaven: Its Continuing Relevance.” Tenth Amendment Center, 16 April 2017, https://tenthamendmentcenter.com/2017/04/16/john-lockes-appeal-to-heaven-its-continuing-relevance/
“The Constitution: God Governs in the Affairs of Men.” Our Lost Founding, https://ourlostfounding.com/the-constitution-god-governs-in-the-affairs-of-men/
(Originally published March 27th, 2020.)