Sunday, 4 May 2014

(125) May 5: 1 Kings 8-9 & Luke 23:39-56

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­­
As you read consider the significance of the temple itself.

To ponder:
A longer post today as these prayers are critical to what follows. The events crescendo as the ark is brought from the City of David to its place in the nearby temple. It’s a sign of God coming to live in his new his house, and of his “covenant” symbolised by the tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments within it (8v9). All is done fittingly (8v1-5). The Cherubim’s wings stretching over the ark remind us of the Cherubim guarding the way to the presence of God in Eden (Gen 3v24). As the High Priest could only enter the Most Holy Place on the day of atonement, the visibility of the carrying poles from the Holy Place may be mentioned to show its presence could constantly be verified by those there. We read the cloud of God’s “glory” then filled “the temple” (presumably the Holy and Most Holy Places), so they couldn’t perform their functions. God had arrived!
            Solomon then declared the temple was God’s house forever and blessed the people. He saw God fulfilling his promise to David in his actions, and praised him for it (8v15-21). Likewise, as we build the church we fulfil Christ’s promise that God will build it. We are his means.
            Standing before the altar and spreading his hands to heaven, Solomon then prayed, affirming there is no God like the LORD in his keeping his “covenant of love” with those who “wholeheartedly” continue in his way. This implies he kept his promise to David because of David’s wholeheartedness, affirming the covenant never required perfection.
            On the basis of David’s example, Solomon then prays God would keep his promise to have his descendents forever sit on the throne provided they too “walk before” God. Affirming the provision for forgiveness within the covenant, Solomon then acknowledges that the temple could never contain God who actually dwells in heaven, but prays that it would be a focus of prayer directed to him. Israel always knew God was far bigger than the elements of their religion.
            Anticipating Israel’s failure to keep the law, Solomon prays God would distinguish between the guilty and innocent when an oath is taken before the altar on any matter, that he would forgive and restore the nation when praying after being defeated in battle because of their sin, that he would forgive and teach the nation when praying because they are experiencing famine for their sin, and all other manner of judgements (8v37-38). Critical is God dealing with each man according to his “heart.” This shows the mere show of prayer is not enough. Solomon also prays that he would answer the foreigner who prays towards the temple, so that “all the peoples of the earth” may know and fear God, and that he would hear his own people when they pray towards the temple for help in war. His prayer then prophetically anticipates what would later be. He prays that when Israel sin (as all do) and are taken away as captives, but repent “with all their heart,” praying towards the temple, that God would forgive and cause their conquerors to show mercy, with the inference that God would cause them to return just as he brought them out of Egypt. We look in prayer to Christ as God’s temple, for his mercy and action. Moreover, even as unbelievers do, they may be brought through the answers to acknowledge him too.
            Solomon began on his feet and finished on his knees (8v54), blessing the assembly with affirmation that “not one” of God’s promises through Moses has failed. He then prayed God would never forsake the people but turn their hearts to him, remember Solomon’s prayer, and so uphold the cause of him and the people so that the whole earth may know that the LORD is God. Solomon therefore sees God’s response to his prayer critical if his purpose for Israel is to be fulfilled. Here he foreshadows Christ’s prayer that his followers would be sanctified and united so that the world would know God had sent him (John 17v23). We should pray it too.
            With hundreds of thousands of offerings the temple was then dedicated with a fourteen day feast (8v65 and 2), with the people sent away joyful. How much more should we be in our access to God through Christ.
              Sometimes after all this the LORD then appeared again to Solomon, affirming he had heard Solomon’s prayer, reaffirming the need of obedience in him and his sons if the promise to David was to be fulfilled, and warning he would cut Israel off from the land and “reject the temple” with all its significance for his presence and blessing if they commit idolatry. This would cause the nation to be ridiculed “among all peoples.” This is significant when we consider Solomon’s later fall. And his failure is hinted at in the straining of his relationship with Hiram, who has represented the nations (9v10-14), and with the report of his wealth, horses and wife (Deut 17v16-17) within the account of building. Nevertheless, we read he kept the “temple obligations” (9v25).

Praying it home:
Thank God for his readiness to hear our prayers through Christ. Pray that we would turn to him to give us wholehearted hearts of obedience, to forgive our sins, and to help us when in need.

Thinking further:
8v8 says the poles of the ark could still be seen in the temple “today.” However the book ends after the exile suggesting it was written after the temple was destroyed and ark lost. The verse therefore shows that what we are reading must have been written earlier, before being included in a later work, or having later history added to it.

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