The temple of the Lord in Jerusalem was finished and Solomon once again called an assembly of the people of Israel. The temple was filled with a cloud such that the priests and Levites could not do their work and the glory of the Lord appeared, just like He did on Mount Sinai. And although David’s son had built a physical temple for the Lord to dwell in, the time would come when God would build David an eternal house or dynasty. And with David’s permanent dynasty would come a permanent relationship with His people. This of course points us directly towards Jesus. The reading today centers on dedication and praise. Solomon blessed the people by recalling what the Lord had done. The Lord, with His hands fulfilled the promises He had made to King David. This is a reference to the covenant promise the Lord had made with David, the promise of both a place for His name to dwell and for David to be an earthly ruler over God’s people. Solomon, as David’s chosen heir, had lived to see God’s words of promise come true. God had made Solomon king and built the temple. Solomon may have hired Phoenician craftsmen, but he also knew that the entire project’s success lay with the Lord and that His hands had really done the work.
When the Lord said He had chosen Jerusalem this does not refer so much to the city as a political capital as it was for David and Solomon. This was a place for God’s name. God named and claimed Jerusalem as His dwelling. The angel of the Lord had stood in that very spot with his sword drawn. It is the spot where David had built an altar to the Lord to offer up peace offerings and burnt offerings for his reconciliation to the Lord because of his sin in calling for a census. The threshing floor, now the spot where the bronze altar stood, had been a place of judgement. Now it was a place of grace and forgiveness. Ornan the Jebusite had owned the threshing floor and the land around it and he offered it to King David but David knew he could not use the spot for offering to the Lord unless he had expended his own personal resources for it. A true sacrifice to the Lord required labor and investment on David’s part. So, think about this. There was a three year drought in the days of Elijah and when Elijah called on the Lord fire fell from the sky and consumed the offering. After David bought the threshing floor and land from Ornan and built an altar there, fire fell on that offering after three days of a plague. David typically went to make offering on the altar at Gibeon but he was now afraid to go there because the Lord had sanctified the spot that was once Ornan’s threshing floor. Now David knew that as long as the ark remained in Kirjath Jearim and the Mosaic tabernacle was at Nob and Gibeon, it was impossible for worship to be carried out in the manner originally intended. David had taken a major step towards that by bringing the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem and placing it in a tent he had provided on Mount Zion. And in a way totally unseen by anyone, the temple of the Lord, the house of God and the altar of burnt offering would be built on the threshing floor of Ornan. And we read today that when Solomon had finished praying, once again the fire of the Lord fell from heaven.
Solomon acknowledged that Yahweh is a God like no other God. He alone made a covenant with His people and kept it. This was unheard of in the religious traditions of all the other nations. We see God’s covenant and mercy here and the word for mercy means loyalty. It means that God is faithful to His servants…those who walk before Him with all their hearts. Solomon also marveled that God kept His promise and made him king. But he also knows that part of God’s promise depended on God’s people obeying God’s law. ONLY if David’s sons took heed to their way would they enjoy the full benefits of God’s favor. Solomon prayed that his people would stay faithful. God would be faithful to them. But, no matter what their choice would be, God would carry out His ultimate plan to send the Messiah. The temple was God’s dwelling place in the sense that it gave people a place to pray to the living God. But God could not and cannot be contained within the four walls of a building. The fact that Solomon asks
that God hear from heaven underscores God’s transcendence. Solomon has many supplications for the Lord in his prayer. It is fairly prophetic in nature. He asks God to forgive when people have sinned and come to the temple to offer a sacrifice for atonement. Solomon asks that the Lord hear when His people have been defeated because they sinned against the Lord, and he asks that the Lord send rain after He has disciplined His people with drought, famine, plague, disease or insect invasion. He asks that even the foreigner who has come to the Lord’s house would come to know the Lord as the one true God. Solomon makes a special point to acknowledge that the people will sin against the Lord because all people sin. He is hoping that the people will recognize their sin and ask for forgiveness. Last but not least, Solomon asks that God would keep His eyes and ears open to the prayers offered. These qualities were different than all the idols of Israel’s neighbors who though they had eyes and ears they were sightless and deaf.
When the fire from heaven fell and consumed the offerings the people saw in God’s glory the acceptance of both king and temple. These were the two central elements of God’s covenant with King David. The feast they were celebrating was the feast of tabernacles. It began on the 15th day of the seventh month and continued on through the 22nd day of the month. This feast always ends with an eight day assembly and when Solomon sent them away it was most likely to the booths they stayed in during this festival. When all this was accomplished the people went home and the Lord appeared to Solomon a second time. He told Solomon He had heard his prayer. God reviewed the petitions of Solomon’s prayer and said they would be answered but there were conditions. In a verse that is just as valid for today as it was in Solomon’s day these are the conditions. “If my people who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” God wants His people to be humble, to confess. We are called to pray or repent. And part of repentance is turning away from that which has caused you to sin. We are called to turn back to Him. And if we do these things, God will hear, forgive and heal.
The Lord challenged Solomon to remain faithful to Him and to the laws of the covenant so he could enjoy the benefits of God’s blessings. The conditions for God’s blessing on David and his line did not extend to to the ongoing existence of that dynasty. The covenant promises to David were unqualified. The Lord had told David that if his son, that is Solomon, sinned he would be disciplined but the Lord’s mercy would not depart from him, and David’s house and kingdom would be established forever before him. Solomon might sin and be disciplined but God’s promise would stand. David’s dynasty would go on. When we reach 7:19 the word you here is plural. The Lord wasn’t just calling Solomon to be faithful. He was calling all of Israel to remain faithful to Him. And if not, they would become an object lesson for other nations who would see the temple laying in ruins and understand the clear message about sin and its cost. And we know sin and idolatry would be the downfall of the nation of Israel.
Chapter eight is a condensed version of the transactions between Solomon and Hiram, king of Tyre. Life went on after the temple and palace were completed and Solomon set about building more things and accumulating more possessions and wealth. He also acquired more and more wives and concubines. The land of Ophir is most likely in south Arabia, possibly Yemen. Some of the finest gold in the world was found there. Sheba was more than 1,000 miles south of Israel, again near Yemen. Solomon was world famous for his knowledge and wisdom and people traveled far and wide to meet him and ask him questions. The fact that the Queen of Sheba blessed the Lord was not a confession of faith. It was the language of politeness in the ancient world. Visiting dignitaries routinely praised the god of the hosts nation. However, the queens statements about God’s love of Israel were true. We end the reading by noting that King Solomon surpassed all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom. He ruled in Jerusalem over Israel for 40 years and died. He was buried with his father and his son Rehoboam succeeded him. Very soon life as Israel knew it would change drastically.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W