Davids dream of a temple for Yahweh is now completed by his son Solomon. At the dedication of this temple which would become the center of worship for all Israel, Solomon makes a prayer to God which is one of the finest prayers recorded anywhere.
Bahrcomments, "The dedication prayer...belongs to the finest pieces of the Old Testament.... There is not a prayer to be compared with this in all pre-Christian antiquity. Had we nothing belonging to Jewish antiquity but this prayer, it would alone suffice to attest the depth, the purity, and the truth of the Israelitish knowledge of God and of salvation, over against the religious ideas of all other peoples."
I want to examine this prayer and see what it can teach us about God.
Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread forth his hands toward heaven.
Solomon stood before the people and lifted his hands toward heaven. Solomon seems to be unafraid to express his emotions to God in front of all these people. From the prayer, it seems he is speaking straight from the heart. Whenever we pray, let us not be influenced by the presence of others. Let us also pray straight from the heart and not be afraid to express ourselves in whatever manner we feel comfortable.
This verse tells us Solomon spread forth his hands toward heaven. There is a Disciples minister on our Internet discussion list who likes to close her messages with this quote from Hildegard of Bingen as part of her e-mail signature, "...I raise my hands aloft to God, that I might be held by God, just like a feather which has no weight from its own strength and lets itself be carried by the wind."
Sometimes we are afraid to express our feelings toward God in public, but Solomon was not. In fact, I think he couldnt contain them. God had helped him complete the dream of his father. As he beheld the finished product he was overwhelmed with the sense of Gods majesty and greatness. He could do nothing less than pray with his deepest feelings.
And said, O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like thee, in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to thy servants who walk before thee with all their heart, who hast kept with thy servant David my father what thou didst declare to him; yea, thou didst speak with thy mouth, and with thy hand hast fulfilled it this day.
Solomon mentions a few things about God that would be good for us to remember. He says that God keeps his covenant with his people. Do you realize that God will keep his promises to you?
There used to be a bakery downtown that had been located there for 50 years. When they finally closed their doors, they commented that in all that time they had never had a written contract with the landlord. Their word was their bond. It used to be a persons word was their bond. But now when we hear stories like this, we say how unusual. But Gods promises are always kept. He never breaks his word.
He has promised he will never leave you, he will never forsake you. Believe his promises and know that God will keep his covenants. Then Solomon says that God shows steadfast love to his servants. Do you realize that God loves you more than you can imagine?
In verse 24 Solomon looks at the structure of the temple and realizes that God has kept the promise he made to David, his father, so many years ago. Perhaps God has made a promise to you. You may feel that the years have gone by and nothing has come of it. But remember, God keeps his promise. It took great effort and long years of hard work on Solomons part to see his fathers project completed. But as he stood beholding the beautiful temple, he realized how God had been with him throughout the whole process. Perhaps there were times when he thought it would never be completed. But now the day has arrived that the temple is built and Gods word is fulfilled.
Now therefore, O Lord, God of Israel, keep with thy servant David my father what thou hast promised him, saying, "There shall never fail you a man before me to sit upon the throne of Israel, if only your sons take heed to their way, to walk before me as you have walked before me." Now therefore, O God of Israel, let thy word be confirmed, which thou hast spoken to thy servant David my father.
From the fulfillment of this one promise, Solomon prays for the other promises made by God to David and his children. After we have seen God fulfill one of his promises to us, it is easier to believe that he will keep the other promises. Our experiences teach us faith. When we see small miracles in our life, it is easier to believe God for larger miracles. It is no coincidence that Jesus was the son of David and will one day sit on the throne in Jerusalem ruling over the world.
But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain thee; how much less this house which I have built!
This is an amazing statement coming from the person who built a house to receive Gods presence in Israel. Even though he built the temple and understood God would use this edifice as a place of blessing and center of worship, yet Solomon understood that God could not be contained in such a building. God could not even be contained to dwell on the earth because even the heavens and the highest heavens could not contain God.
This is a statement beyond the understanding of most people of Solomons day. The gentile nations worshipped small wooden and gold idols, and yet Solomon understood that even the universe could not contain God. Even Christians today sometimes make God a small God. How many times do we limit God in our understanding?
This concept is so beyond the human experience that it is impossible to explain without divine revelation. Solomon, even though the wisest man on earth, could never have come up with this concept by himself. It is so beyond all knowledge, perception, and wisdom of this world. As Solomon prayed this prayer, he received a divine understanding of the greatness and vastness of God that few humans can really comprehend.
Do you realize how vast God is? Do you realize that he is bigger than your problems?
Yet have regard to the prayer of thy servant and to his supplication, O Lord my God, hearkening to the cry and to the prayer which thy servant prays before thee this day.
Solomon is awe-struck by the greatness of God, and realizes how unimportant he really is. Even though he is the ruler, he is wealthy, he is one of the great leaders of nations, he humbly asks God to have regard for his prayer. God does hearken to our cry and does hear our supplications. Even though God is busy running a whole universe, he still finds time to care about us and meet our needs.
We have had our two grandchildren with us for the past few days. Our granddaughter is four and our grandson is two. Whenever we watch them for a few days, it gives us new appreciation for our daughter-in-law. As my wife told me after the first full day, "Dont tell me that a young stay-at-home Mom doesnt put in a full days worth of work!" No matter how busy a Mom gets, she always has time for her children. That is even more true for God.
Can you pray as Solomon prayed? Do you understand that God hears your prayer and will meet your needs? Do you realize that God loves you as much as a king or a person of wealth or a famous ruler?
That thy eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which thou hast said, "My name shall be there," that thou mayest hearken to the prayer which thy servant offers toward this place.
Solomon understood that God would hear his prayers night and day. There is never a time when God is too busy or too far away to hear the cry of one of his children. Solomon prays that Gods eyes would be open night and day toward the prayers lifted up from the temple in Jerusalem. Today we could ask God to hear the prayers from his church. But if we will stop and think about it, we realize that God now makes his temple in the heart of believers. So just as he would hear the prayers from his temple in Jerusalem, and just as he hears the prayers lifting up from churches every Sunday, so also God hears the prayer from the temple of our heart. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:16, "Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?"
We are Gods temple. And Gods eyes are open to our prayers night and day. So what is it that you need from God? He hears you. What is it that has you troubled and anxious. God will hear you. What is it that has broken your spirit? God will hear you? Do you need healing of the mind or the body or the spirit? God will hear you. His eyes are always open.
And hearken thou to the supplication of thy servant and of thy people Israel, when they pray toward this place; yea, hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place; and when thou hearest, forgive.
Finally, Solomon understood that more importantly than answering our prayers was Gods forgiveness. Solomon knew that even though he had done a great and mighty work in building the temple, even he was in need of constant forgiveness. So he asks God every time you hear someone praying, forgive.
Bahrremarks, "The prayer for forgiveness is joined to the prayer for hearing...because man, who is full of sin and guilt, can only hope for the acceptance of his prayer when his sins are forgiven; every answer to prayer rests on the sin-pardoning grace of God."
You may not feel worthy to enter into the throne room of God to make your supplications known. You will never be good enough to deserve Gods mercy. We all need forgiveness. No matter what awful things you have done or how unworthy you may feel, know that God still hears your prayer. He forgives and he answers because he loves you.
This study on 1 Kings 8:22-30 © 1999 by David Humpal, all rights
Bahr: Langes Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, Kings, pg. 103, Zondervan Publishing House
Pray On by Adam Baum, Our Daily Bread, October 23
Bahr: Langes Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, Kings, pg. 99, Zondervan Publishing House