Monday, February 15, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 15. Solomon's Prayer

Prophets And Kings
Day 15
Solomon's Prayer

The temple is completed and the ark sits in the Most Holy place. Now Solomon prays a bootiful prayer to the Lord at the dedication of the temple.

1 KINGS 8:22-61
"Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in front of the whole assembly of Israel, spread out his hands toward heaven and said: 'Lord, the God of Israel, there is no God like You in heaven above or on earth below---You who keep Your covenant of love with Your servants who continue wholeheartedly in Your way. You have kept Your promise to Your servant David my father; with Your mouth You have promised and with Your hand You have fulfilled it---as it is today.'" (1 Kings 8:22-24) This is a lovely pattern of prayer, beginning with thankfulness for who God is and what He has done. It's so much easier to confidently bring our current requests to God when we look back at all the answered prayers.

"Now Lord, the God of Israel, keep for Your servant David my father the promises You made to him when You said, 'You shall never fail to have a successor to sit before Me on the throne of Israel, if only your descendants are careful in all they do to walk before Me faithfully as you have done.' And now, God of Israel, let Your word that You promised Your servant David my father come true." (1 Kings 8:25-26) We know that David's descendants did not stay true to God and we know that Israel and Judah had several wicked and idolatrous kings. But the Lord has reserved for Himself a King of the line of David who will sit before Him on the throne of Israel, and His reign will last forever.

"But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain You. How much less this temple I have built! Yet give attention to Your servant's prayer and his plea for mercy, Lord my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that Your servant is praying in Your presence this day. May Your eyes be open toward this temple night and day, this place of which You said, 'My Name shall be there,' so that You will hear the prayer Your servant prays toward this place. Hear the supplication of Your servant and of Your people Israel when they pray toward this place. Hear from heaven, Your dwelling place, and when You hear, forgive." (1 Kings 8:27-30) We see Solomon's humility here in his admission that God does not and cannot dwell only in this magnificent temple. Glorious as it is, it's nothing compared to the glory of God. Nothing is fine enough for Him, not even the very best man can do, but Solomon entreats Him to accept with mercy the feeble attempts of man to honor Him. And God does accept our hearts' desire to honor Him. He gazes down on our weak efforts which must look to Him kind of like those pictures we put on our refrigerators: stick figures drawn by children who haven't learn to color inside the lines yet. He looks proudly like a loving Father upon these efforts and blesses them because He sees our hearts.

Solomon now enters into intercessory prayer for the people of the nation, the importance of which we must never underestimate. Our own nation and its rulers and its citizens need our prayers. "When anyone wrongs their neighbor and is required to take an oath and they come and swear the oath before Your altar in this temple, then hear from heaven and act. Judge between Your servants, condemning the guilty by bringing down on their heads what they have done, and vindicating the innocent by treating them in accordance with their innocence." (1 Kings 8:31-32) Solomon, wise as he is, knows that even he cannot always tell if someone is lying under oath. But God, the righteous Judge in heaven, knows the truth of every matter and so he asks the Lord to judge accordingly. There are crimes that are unsolved in our world today. The legal system often lacks enough evidence to bring someone to trial. There are cases in which no likely suspect has ever been developed. There are parents who have to get up morning after morning without knowing who took their child or where their remains even are. God will judge all these things even if our justice system cannot, "For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil." (Ecclesiastes 12:14)

"When Your people Israel have been defeated by an enemy because they have sinned against You, and when they turn back to You and give praise to Your name, praying and making supplication to You in this temple, then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of Your people Israel and bring them back to the land You gave to their ancestors. (1 Kings 8:33-34) Solomon wasn't looking on his nation while wearing rose-colored glasses, believing they cannot fall. He appears to look prophetically into the future to times when Israel would be taken captive and removed from her land, but He also trusted God to bring her back. 

"When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because Your people have sinned against You, and when they pray toward this place and give praise to Your name and turn from their sin because You have afflicted them, then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of Your servants, Your people Israel. Teach them the right way to live, and send rain on the land You gave Your people for an inheritance." (1 Kings 8:35-36) He knew the people would sin against God and that God would have to bring affliction upon them in order to turn them to repentance. It is believed that King David authored Psalm 119 which says in verse 67, "Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word." Sometimes we go astray and if lesser measures don't work to turn us from our sin, the Lord takes us to the woodshed. He afflicts us in  mercy. And like a Father who says, "This hurts me more than it hurts you," we are assured by the prophet Isaiah that God feels the same way, "In all their affliction He was afflicted." (Isaiah 63:9)

"When famine or plague comes to the land, or blight or mildew, locusts or grasshoppers, or when an enemy besieges them in any of their cities, whatever disaster or disease may come, and when a prayer or plea is made by anyone among Your people Israel---being aware of the afflictions of their own hearts, and spreading out their hands toward this temple---then hear from heaven, Your dwelling place. Forgive and act; deal with everyone according to all they do, since You know their hearts (for You alone know every human heart), so that they will fear You all the time they live in the land You gave our ancestors." (1 Kings 8:37-40) Solomon knew the Lord would bring plagues on the land because of the plagues of sin in people's hearts.

"As for the foreigner who does not belong to Your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of Your name---for they will hear of Your great name and Your mighty hand and Your outstretched arm---when they come and pray toward this temple, then hear from heaven, Your dwelling place. Do whatever the foreigner asks of You, so that all the peoples of the earth may know Your name and fear You, as do Your own people Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears your Name." (1 Kings 8:41-43) Solomon prays not only for the people of Israel but for all who would join themselves to Israel's God. Though the Lord chose Israel out of all the nations of the world to be His special people, He never intended to exclude the other nations. He intended to bring salvation to other nations through Israel. All along it was God's master plan to save both the Jews and the Gentiles. Both Jews and Gentiles were complicit in the death of Jesus on the cross; both Jews and Gentiles are invited to share in His resurrection.

"When Your people go to war against their enemies, wherever You send them, and when they pray to the Lord toward the city you have chosen and the temple I have built for your Name, then hear from heaven and their prayer and their plea, and uphold their cause." (1 Kings 8:44-45) Solomon asks God to be with the armies of Israel whenever He sends them to battle. This illustrates something I consider to be very important: We need to make certain we are acting in God's will before we ask His blessing on our actions. Often we step on out and do something that we want to do, expecting God to fall in line with our plans. It doesn't work that way. Some of the worst messes I've ever made is when I've gotten ahead of God, when I've chosen a course of action without making certain that it's the will of God.

"When they sin against You---for there is no one who does not sin---and You become angry with them and give them over to their enemies, who take them captive to their own lands, far away or near; and if they have a change of heart in the land where they are held captive, and repent and plead with You in the land of their captors and say, 'We have sinned, we have done wrong, we have acted wickedly;' and if they turn back to You with all of their heart and soul in the land of their enemies who took them captive, and pray to You toward the land You gave their ancestors, toward the city You have chosen and the temple I have built for your Name; then from heaven, Your dwelling place, hear their prayer and their plea, and uphold their cause. And forgive Your people, who have sinned against You; forgive all the offenses they have committed against You, and cause their captors to show them mercy; for they are Your people and Your inheritance, whom You brought out of Egypt, out of that iron-smelting furnace." (1 Kings 8:46-51) God answered this prayer by bringing His people back from Babylon. After she fell to Rome and was scattered from one end of the earth to the other, all may have seemed lost, but God answered Solomon's prayer by making once again a sovereign nation of Israel in 1948. 

"May Your eyes be open to Your servant's plea and to the plea of Your people Israel, and may You listen to them whenever they cry out to You. For You singled them out from all the nations of the world to be Your own inheritance, just as You declared through Your servant Moses when You. Sovereign Lord, brought our ancestors out of Egypt." (1 Kings 8:52-53) Solomon implores the Lord to remember that out of all the nations on earth, He chose Israel to be His people. He called a faithful man named Abram out of Ur of the Chaldees, a man who worshiped the one true God instead of the idols of the Babylonians, and from him created a great nation. Solomon reminds the Lord how far He has brought them and asks Him to keep on being their Protector and Redeemer.

"When Solomon had finished all these prayers and supplications to the Lord, he rose from before the altar of the Lord, where he had been kneeling with his hands spread out toward heaven. He stood and blessed the whole assembly of Israel in a loud voice, saying: 'Praise be to the Lord, who has given rest to His people Israel just as He promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises He gave through His servant Moses. May the Lord our God be with us as He was with our ancestors; may He never leave us or forsake us. May He turn our hearts to Him, to walk in obedience to Him and keep His commands, decrees and laws He gave our ancestors. And may these words of mine, which I have prayed before the Lord, be near to the Lord our God day and night, that He may uphold the cause of His servant and the cause of His people Israel according to each day's need, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God and that there is no other. And may your hearts be fully committed to the Lord our God, to live by His decrees and obey His commands, as at this time." (1 Kings 8:54-61) God has not always answered our prayers the way we wanted them answered, but someday when we stand before Him we will truthfully declare, "Not one word has failed of all the good promises He gave". God may not give us what we want all the time but He will always give us what He promised and He will always give us what is good. We will stand before Him and thank Him for upholding our cause according to each day's need. As King David said in Psalm 68:19, "Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens." He has given us our daily bread. He has daily borne our burdens. His mercies are new every morning.

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