The Temple Dedicated
By Charles E. McCracken
But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built! Yet regard the prayer of Your servant and his supplication, O LORD my God, and listen to the cry and the prayer which Your servant is praying before You today: that Your eyes may be open toward this temple night and day, toward the place of which You said, ‘My name shall be there.’ 1 KINGS 8:27-29
TODAY’S TEXT: 1 KINGS 8:22-58
The euphoric celebration surrounding the dedication of the temple suddenly hushed as King Solomon stood to speak to the people of Israel. It was the day after the 7-day celebration of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles). For another seven days, the nation would celebrate the dedication of the temple. He first addressed the nation with a reminder of God’s faithfulness followed by a lengthy prayer of dedication that provides insight into what made the temple of Jehovah unique.Solomon was not bound by convention or a stoic formality as he addressed the throngs gathered in the courtyard of the temple in Jerusalem. Like his father, he was transparently authentic. Now, Solomon turned toward the altar. In a submissive act, he knelt on the platform built for the occasion and raised his hands toward heaven. In this position symbolic of humble expectancy, he prayed.
Solomon began with a heartfelt expression of gratitude to God for His faithfulness. God had kept His promise. Solomon affirmed, You have kept what You promised Your servant David my father; You have both spoken with Your mouth and fulfilled it with Your hand, as it is this day (1 Ki. 8:24).
In Solomon’s mind, this was no time for self-aggrandizement before the people; God would be—must be the focus.
God promised David the temple would be built; and, God was responsible for bringing the promise to fulfillment.
Contrary to what you might expect, Solomon did not ask God to dwell in the temple. He knew better. He prayed with the understanding that, Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built! (v. 27).
This was a concept unique to the nation of Israel. The surrounding cultures viewed their respective temples as the dwelling place for their deities. Unlike Israel’s neighbors who worshipped lifeless idols that were confined to a physical structure, Solomon and the nation of Israel served YHWH—the living God.
Solomon’s prayer reflects the unique purpose of the temple in God’s relationship with the nation of Israel. Solomon entreated God,
listen to the cry and the prayer which Your servant is praying before You today: that Your eyes may be open toward this temple night and day, toward the place of which You said, ‘My name shall be there,’ . . . And may You hear the supplication of Your servant and of Your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. Hear in heaven Your dwelling place; and when You hear, forgive (vv. 29-30).
In a few short sentences, Solomon profoundly reveals the reality of God’s grace as it relates to the purpose of the temple.
The temple was a place of prayer (Is. 56:7; Lk. 19:46). And, Solomon petitioned God to be attentive to the prayers offered in connection with temple worship.
Solomon was acutely aware of the sin nature and concedes, for there is no one who does not sin (1 Ki. 8:46). The temple was God’s provision for man’s propensity to sin. The temple stood as a testimony to God’s willingness to forgive.
Notice the remainder of Solomon’s prayer where he emphasizes examples of supplication that could now be offered at the temple. Four highlight the need for repentance for 1) personal transgression, 2) sins resulting in Israel’s defeat in battle, 3) sins that occasioned drought and 4) sins that caused plagues in the land—all of which are consequences of sin.
Whether suffering God’s chastening personally or as a nation, Solomon encouraged the people to come to the temple (vv. 31-51). Thirteen times, he asks God to hear the prayers of His people and six times he entreats God to respond with forgiveness.
Three more examples are supplications requesting 1) mercy for God-fearing foreigners, 2) victory in battle and 3) national restoration after exile.
Solomon’s prayer concludes with an urgent plea for God to hear His people when they call to Him in prayer from the temple (v. 52).
The temple was not a shrine. The temple was the one place on earth where people could approach God.
While the elements of Solomon’s prayer are unique to the temple and God’s relationship with Israel, an overriding principle is evident. God hears our prayers and offers forgiveness to those who approach Him in genuine repentance. As Christians, we also have assurance that, the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers (1 Pet. 3:12). Take advantage of the opportunity to talk to God in prayer today!
© Charles E. McCracken 2016, text content only. Repost/Reprint with permission from the author.