Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Living Ethically in the Light of the Bible
Mark 15:1-15; Ephesians 1:1-14; Psalm 119:1-8; 1 Kings 8
Solomon dedicated his temple with a powerful prayer (also found in 2 Chronicles 6). Solomon prays that God will hear the prayers directed toward the temple. As happens with us, prayer often arises at times of crisis, when illness, suffering, or disaster strikes. Israel also had to grabble with the knowledge that these circumstances were the consequences of their sin. If God had sent these punishments, would be even listen to their prayers? Solomon is confident that he will.
Solomon begins by reflecting on God’s faithfulness. Bringing the ark into the temple, and seeing the cloud appear, would have reminded them of God’s faithfulness to Israel during the Exodus, even when Israel was unfaithful to him. Solomon recalls how God brought to fruition the promises he made to his father David (1 Kings 8:14-21, 24-26). Yet there is a proviso. The covenant of love is maintained for those who wholeheartedly continue in God’s way (v. 23) and who walk with the Lord (v. 25). We cannot expect God’s blessings if we turn our back on him.
Before focusing on the temple, Solomon reminds the people that it is merely an earthly structure (v. 27). Given who God is, no building on earth could possibly contain him. As amazing as it must have been to see the cloud of the glory of the Lord fill the temple, God did not live there. No building, no matter how beautiful or awe-inspiring, should take our focus away from the Lord himself. Solomon’s prayer focuses on the temple, but heaven is mentioned over a dozen times. God dwells in the heavenly realm, and that is where our attention should be directed. While we pray on earth, God dwells in heaven, and it is from there that he hears our prayers.
Solomon then prays with humility. In spite of the magnificence of the temple he has built, he knows that God’s presence there is a gift from God. Neither he nor the people deserved this. Solomon then turns to praying about the various calamities that would occur. The list is not arbitrary, but goes through the punishments warned of if Israel sinned (Deuteronomy 28-29). At the same time, Deuteronomy 30 presents God’s promise of forgiveness and restoration if the people repent.
Thus prayer serves an important role in God’s purposes. Sin may lead to punishment, but this is not arbitrary retaliation. God has a purpose in punishment, wanting it to be redemptive. If the punishment leads to repentance, expressed in prayer, God may grant relief. We can trust God’s mercy as he deals with people according to their hearts, which only God truly knows (v. 39). Good can come from calamity if it leads people to fear the Lord, know his ways, trust his justice, and follow his commands.
Solomon’s prayer includes a remarkable section called the prayer of the foreigner (vv. 41-43). These are not God-fearers who were resident aliens in Israel. These foreigners had travelled from distant lands because of what they had heard about God and his loving arms stretched out towards them. This recalls the vision given Abraham and Sarah that Israel would be a nation that would bless the world (Genesis 12:1-3). Solomon asks God to grant whatever these people pray for – in order that all the peoples of the earth will know and fear God. Again, calamity can lead people to pray and have a redemptive purpose. In this way, the temple can be called ‘a house of prayer for all nations’ where foreigners will connect with the Lord and commit to love and serve him (Isaiah 56:6-7).