Date: August 24, 1997
Title: Solomon’s Prayer of Dedication for the Temple
Text: 1 Kings 8:22-30
Solomon’s Prayer of Dedication for the Temple
A young boy had attended church with his father one Sunday morning. Later, before getting into bed that evening, the boy kneeled at his bedside and prayed, "Dear God, we had a good time at church today, but I wish you had been there."
When we gather at the House of God for various occasions we anticipate that God will be there… that He will meet us in our joys and needs… we anticipate that He will shepherd our souls and give us rest from the toil and burdens of day to day life.
On previous Sundays we heard about the Joy of King David as he danced before the Lord when the Ark of the covenant was brought to Jerusalem. God had denied David’s desire to build a Tempel for the Lord. And in 2 Samuel 7:11-13 God makes a covenant with David. The prophet Nathan, after a night of tossing and turning on his bed, came to King David in the morning and said:
11b `The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you:
12 When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom.
13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.
God had made it clear to David that a House built with human hands could not contain the Creator of the universe. Hands stained with blood and sin cannot construct a holy place that will contain the full revelation of God’s grace and wisdom. God cannot be boxed in. But He does want to live and rule in our midst. God wants to meet us and lead us in his ways. He wants His Name to be known to His people, that we may call on His Name in the time of need.
A generation had passed, and Solomon was granted the privilege of building a majestic temple to the Lord. He had used His political influence with Israel’s neighbors, and brought the most expensive materials to Jerusalem to build this beautiful House for God. At the completion of the great building project King Solomon stood before God with His people and offered a prayer of dedication for the House of the Lord.
I want to read a part of the prayer from 1 Kings 8:22-30
The prayer continues to invoke God’s righteous judgment when a man wrongs his neighbor. It also asks for God’s mercy when Israel is defeated by an enemy because of sin. Solomon continues to pray for the times when the heavens are shut up and it doesn’t rain. He prays for times of famine and plagues. He prays also that God may hear the cries of the foreigners in their midst. And repeatedly the plea is that God would not turn a deaf ear to His people when they repent and pray for mercy.
Similar prayers of dedication have been prayed by countless faithful people throughout the ages at the time of a special dedication to the Lord. Words of praise and adoration are spoken in honor and anticipation of the One who will bless His people.
In a conversation about this topic someone reminded me of the fact that countless prayers of dedication were spoken to bless some of the most majestic cathedrals in Russia. “And today”, he added, “many of the churches are nothing but rubble. Not one stone is left on top of the other.” Churches, Cathedrals, Temples built with human hands - and also destroyed by human hands.
In a way that reminds us of the Temple in Jerusalem, built to give God a dwelling place among His people. Built in honor and worship of the Most High God. And yet, destroyed several times over. My friend added, “That doesn’t mean that the prayers were not sincere.” I’m sure they were honest prayers. Yet, the Name of the most High God cannot be contained in a building.
In verse 25, Solomon reminds the people of God’s promise to his father David: 25`You shall never fail to have a man to sit before me on the throne of Israel, if only your sons are careful in all they do to walk before me as you have done.
Did you catch the little phrase? “If only your sons…” How many times in History do we know of some great acts of God through a faithful servant, which was undone by the careless or arrogant actions of his descendants. Blessings turn into curses when God’s people forget.
When we neglect to remember the mighty acts of God in the lives of our predecessors, we throw away the Name of God and turn the focus of worship on ourselves rather than God. God doesn’t live in buildings made of brick and drywall and wooden crosses. God lives in the hearts of those who believe and obey… The challenge for us is to make certain that our sons and daughters, and their children after them, will walk in the ways of our God. That they will remember God and not merely a place dedicated to His honor.
With Solomon we confess that our temples and our shrines cannot contain the fullness of God. The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built! Yet, it is here where we gather as your covenant people to hear your Words of grace and acceptance. 30 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.
Hear, and forgive! Yes, Lord forgive our stubborn pride. Forgive our forgetfulness. Forgive that we hold ourselves in higher regard than our neighbor. Forgive our attempts to box you in. Forgive our narrow view of our God who has created the whole universe. Forgive the way we treat the foreigners who dwell in our midst! Forgive!
We must be careful that we do not confuse our buildings, built with human hands, with the One whom we wish to meet in them.
Our church buildings ought to helps us to focus our lives on God. We gather to worship God. We come to hear His Word, and to receive His grace, forgiveness and love. We come to learn and to grow in our pilgrimage with our Lord. We come to build each other up and rejoice that God is in our midst, and that He is alive and active in our lives.
We gather in this temple as God’s people, frail and helpless as we are. And we know that we are going to be met by the healer of our souls. Whatever the occasion that brings us here, God is with us, when we anticipate meeting Him with our hearts bowed low, and our praises sent soaring. God hears and forgives us, even now as we pray and hear His word.
God has come to meet us in the temple of our hearts. Let us therefore offer our hearts in a spiritual act of worship and dedication to God. And let us walk every day with the assurance of God’s indwelling in us.
Chuck Colson writes about an inscription on a church in England – In the year 1653, when all things sacred in the kingdom/ Were either profaned or demolished,/ This church was built . . ./ To do the best of things in the worst of times. This prayer reminds us that, when conditions seem absolutely hopeless, Christians have great opportunities. This dedication reminds us of the calling of the Body of Christ to bring healing and hope into a hurting world.
Karl Barth writes in Dogmatics in Outline that “The Church runs like a herald to deliver the message. It is not a snail that carries its little house on its back and is so well off in it, that only now and then it sticks out its feelers. Where the Church is living, it must ask itself whether it is serving this commission or whether it is a purpose in itself.”
When we feel sometimes like the little boy, that church was fun, but we wish God would have been there, we are invited to check our hearts and see if we’re missing out on God’s blessing and purpose for His people.
David W. Foley wrote a beautiful poem, which encourages us to anticipate meeting God in church.
I love to step inside a church,/ To rest, and think, and pray;/ The quiet, calm and holy place/ Can drive all cares away./ I feel that from these simple walls/ There breathes a moving sound/ Of sacred music, murmured prayers,/ Caught in the endless round./ Of all that makes our human life:/ Birth, and the union blessed/ Of couples at the altar wed,/ And loved ones laid to rest./ Into my soul this harmony/ Has poured and now is still,/ The Lord's own benediction falls/ Upon me as I kneel./ Once more, with lifted head, I go/ Out in the jarring mart,/ The spring of gladness in my step,/ God's peace about my heart.
God wants to live in the temple of our Being and to hear the music of a soul that is in harmony with it’s Creator. God want to meet us and share our lives with us.
May our lives be a living prayer of dedication to Him.