Rev. Michael Kumm
1 Kings 8:22-43
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
King Solomon, son of the beloved King David, was on his knees and extending his arms in a gesture of eager supplication….Coram Deo - BEFORE GOD. This was a man, who became King at a young age, to whom God in a dream said, “ask for what I will give you.” But who did not ask for wealth, nor health nor anything for himself, but asked God for wisdom…to discern what is right. And God granted it. This man, who has now received the gift of wisdom above all others….kneels Coram Deo - BEFORE GOD. But why, why would such a man…a KING…the Wisest of Kings…kneel Coram Deo? He’s dedicating a temple. A house built to honor and worship Yahweh, the ONE true God.
The altar he kneels before was 30 feet wide, 30 feet long, and 15 feet high (2 Chron. 4:1), and was used for burning the sacrificial animals as offerings to the Lord. Appropriately, Solomon’s prayer, seeking God’s attentiveness and His forgiveness when the people sinned, was spoken at the place where atonement was effected through sacrifice. Approximately a millennium later, Jesus, who gave Himself as the ultimate sacrifice, emphasized that the temple was a “house of prayer” as God himself spoke of old through the prophet Isaiah.
Solomon began his prayer by acknowledging God’s uniqueness: “O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to your servants who walk before you with all their heart,” Solomon described God’s uniqueness not only in acknowledging Him as the “One True God”, but also in terms of His faithfulness in keeping His covenant with “servants who walk before you with all their heart”. Note here….the word “heart” appears in the singular with the plural possessive “their.” This construction calls attention to the corporate nature of the covenant community. As individuals, they were many, but their confession was one. Such as with ONE heart and ONE voice we confess our faith. Here, at the dedication of the temple was ONE faith, ONE body, Coram Deo, BEFORE GOD.
Solomon focused on the reality that God was far too great and glorious to dwell in the temple he had built. The phrase “heaven, the highest heaven” refers to the vastness of heaven, which still couldn’t contain God. The temple Solomon built was, by comparison, infinitely inferior in size and scope to heaven so why would God would listen to the prayers made in this place? But, Solomon’s acknowledgment of the temple’s inadequacy enabled him to trust God’s past dealings with His people as a guide for future relationships. God would listen to the prayers because of His greatness, not because of the temple’s greatness. You see, God didn’t need the temple; rather, the worshipers at the temple needed God and that is exactly why we are in this place today. A temporary temple that we may gather as one body and one voice and one heart, Coram Deo. We need God.
Solomon directly petitioned God to listen to his prayer and to hear the cry and the prayer he was offering that day. The king made his request by twice referring to himself as God’s servant, as he was on his knees, realizing he could approach God only in a posture of total humility and servitude. Yet God could be expected to listen because He had promised to David that this house would be built and He knew its inadequacies before the first stone was put in place. Solomon continued to plead for the Lord to hear his prayers and the prayers of His people. He asked the Lord to reply graciously when His people turned to Him in prayerful confession and repentance. When Solomon finished praying, the Lord in fact responded with a promise to be present and to hear the prayers offered to Him by humble people (1 Kings 9:3; 2 Chron. 7:14).
Solomon specifically requested God’s attention to prayers at times when a person sinned against his neighbor, when Israel was defeated by an enemy, when there was drought, and when there was famine (1 Kings 8:31-37). He then offered a general plea for God to respond to whatever prayer or petition anyone … might have. At this point in his prayer, Solomon was concerned primarily with the prayers from God’s people Israel. Interestingly, he mentioned the same prayer posture of spreading out his hands but replaces the earlier phrase “toward heaven” (see 8:22) with the words “toward this temple.” This wording probably indicated Solomon’s belief that the temple was the supreme place of God’s presence on earth. Even those who couldn’t travel to Jerusalem and stand in the temple court could pray toward this temple.
Solomon explicitly asked the Lord to hear, forgive, act, and repay. He believes the Lord is a God who actively interacts with people. He hears their prayers. He alone can forgive their sins. Once God hears and forgives, He will act in the best interests of His people in accordance with His divine will. Prayer is never just a spiritual transaction; prayer has real implications in the daily realities of our lives. When God acts, we’re affected in tangible ways. Solomon’s request for God to repay captures the idea of the fuller phrase “repay the man, according to all his ways.” The request to repay is important because it guards against the idea that people can sin all they want and then have their sins forgiven just by praying to the Lord, only to return to their sins. Because God knows every human heart, He knows whose prayers are offered in genuine repentance, humility and sincerity.
Solomon included “the foreigner who is not of Your people Israel” in his prayer (8:41-42). This acknowledges the Lord’s promise to Abraham concerning all the earth’s peoples (Gen. 12:3) even the Gentiles. Later, Isaiah recorded the Lord’s desire to welcome all people to know Him and to pray to Him (Isa. 56:6-7), thus His house would be called “a house of prayer for all nations.”
Solomon prayed for the Lord to hear the prayers of the foreigner as the prayers of His own people. He believed that when God heard the prayers of foreigners, all the people on earth would come to know the Lord’s name and fear Him. Solomon also believed the other nations would know this temple he had built was called by the Lord’s name. This strong association of the temple with the Lord’s name marked Solomon’s dedicatory prayer as the fulfillment of God’s promise to Moses to choose a place for His name to dwell (Deut. 12:5,11,21). Even after this prayer, the people of Israel would associate the temple in Jerusalem as the place to go to keep the Lord’s command to appear before Him at the Feasts of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles (Ex. 23:14-17).
The Temple has equal importance today as we gather, not from all nations, perhaps, but all parts of our country, a variety of congregations, individuals with one confession as one body with one heart, Coram Deo. We come to receive His gifts... as like the nation Israel, we need God.
We come several times a day to this temple, a place free from distractions of the world, humble in heart, repentant of our sins to receive the very means of God’s grace in His Word and the Sacraments of Holy Absolution; Holy Baptism and the Holy Supper. He gives, we receive as the old hymn confesses, “nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling.” In this Temple we confess, that is we speak back what God has spoken to us; we sing His praises, hear His Word and preach Christ and Him crucified and receive with boldness and confidence the ultimate gift given with these simple words: You are forgiven for all of your sins...
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Created: August 10th, 2011