1 Kings 8:22-53 No God like the Lord

Our prayers are often dull and lifeless.  We may perhaps be praying for perfectly proper things, yet the prayers never really touch our hearts.  To encourage ourselves in prayer we can turn to some of the great prayers recorded in Scripture, uttered by the enabling of the Lord.  One fine example is the prayer of Solomon at the dedication of the temple.  We turn now to consider 1 Kings 8:22-53 No God like the Lord.

1. The God who fulfils

The prayer is about the glory of God and Solomon’s requests are meaningful only because of the kind of God he is.  Our prayers must always focus on the Lord.  At the heart of the prayer is the fact that God is incomparable – ‘there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below’ (v23).  He alone is God everywhere in his creation.  In prayer we need a view of God that is as big as he is.  ‘To whom then will you compare God?’ (Isaiah 40:18).  The contrast is often drawn in the OT between idols who can do nothing and the Lord who acts.  In this case, ‘you who keep your covenant of love with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in your way’ (v23).  The Lord is the God who fulfils his covenant.  In particular, he fulfils his covenant promises to David (2 Samuel 7) as Solomon notes in v24.  He looks also to the future regarding the promise of a son of David always on the throne – a promise fulfilled in King Jesus – ‘For all the promises of God find their Yes in him’ (2 Corinthians 1:20).

2. The God who hears

Solomon ponders the transcendence of the Lord (v27), knowing he cannot be confined to a building, but must also consider the immanence of the Lord.  He is near to his people and on that basis Solomon prays ‘give attention to your servant’s prayer and his plea for mercy’ (v28).  God hears and answers his people’s prayers.  Solomon considers various occasions when a plea for mercy will be needed (v31-45) – the need for justice, various calamities.  These are in fact covenant curses upon a disobedient people (Leviticus 26, Deuteronomy 28) and so are calls for repentance (v24).  They may pray in expectation that God will forgive since he is committed to his people in covenant.  When we sin we can and must cry for mercy to the God who hears, claiming the promise of 1 John 1:7.  There is good news in v41-43 regarding the foreigner who hears of the Lord and prays to the Lord and is answered ‘so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you’.  It is a big vision for the spread of the knowledge of the Lord.

3. The God who restores

Solomon envisages the worst case in v46ff where Israel’s sin leads to exile in ‘the land of their conquerors’ (v47).  Even at the lowest point there is hope – if they repent and plead with the Lord (v47) he will forgive them because they are still ‘your people and your inheritance’ (v51).  It is by grace that the covenant Lord forgives.  That is our hope when we sin and backslide grievously – ‘with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption’ (Psalm 130:7).

1 Kings 8:1-21 The Lord is in this place

There are some days we will never forget, whether days of hardship or sadness, or days of joy that will always stay with us.  We may delight to remember times of success, family occasions or spiritual high points.  Solomon’s dedication of the temple was a day which those present would never forget.  We turn now to consider 1 Kings 8:1-21 The Lord is in this place.

1. The ark

The first stage of dedicating the temple is the bringing in of the ark (v1-9).  The date is significant.  The festival (v2) is probably the Feast of Tabernacles/Booths which recalled Israel’s wilderness journey after the Exodus.  Deuteronomy 31:10-11 also shows that every 7 years the feast included the reading of the Law – it was a time of covenant renewal and an appropriate time for the dedication of the temple.  They ‘bring up the ark of the Lord’s covenant’ (v1).  Crucial is the significance of the ark:

            (i).  Covenant.  It is ‘the ark of the Lord’s covenant’ (v1,6).  It is the token of his presence among his people (Leviticus 26:12).  God’s people are bound to him in covenant, also under the New Covenant in which we stand.

            (ii).  Atonement.  The ark is in ‘the Most Holy Place’ (v6) where the High Priest went once a year with the blood of the sin offering on the Day of Atonement, sprinkling the blood on ‘the atonement cover’ for the forgiveness of sin.  It foreshadows the sacrifice of Christ – ‘a propitiation by his blood’ (Romans 3:25)

            (iii).  Law.  Only the two tablets of the Law remain in the ark (v9).  This is the law of the covenant – Exodus 20.  The basic principle is ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments’ (John 14:16).  Obedience is the mark of covenant faithfulness.

2. The cloud

When the ark has been placed in the Most Holy Place, ‘the cloud filled the temple of the Lord’ (v10), as at the completion of the Tabernacle (Exodus 40:34).  Thus ‘the glory of the Lord filled the temple’ (v11) – an overwhelming manifestation of the presence of the Lord.  The ark contains the revelation that the Lord has given about himself, but the cloud tells us that much remains concealed from us (see Deuteronomy 29:29).  There is always the need for humility and reverence on the part of God’s people.  We are thankful for what he has revealed, but realise he far exceeds our understanding.

3. The blessing

Solomon turns now to bless ‘the whole assembly of Israel’ (v14).  He speaks in the name of the Lord as God’s king.  There is a historical narrative of how the temple came to be built (v15-21), making clear it is the Lord’s work.  He ‘fulfilled what he promised’ (v15), again recalling the covenant with David (2 Samuel 7).  The Lord ‘kept the promise he made’ (v20) – he is faithful.  The Messiah fulfils all that the temple stands for – ‘all the promises of God find their ‘yes’ in him’ (2 Corinthians 1:20).  No promise can fail.

1 Kings 7:13-51 The beauty of holiness

We worship in very plain buildings.  As descendants of Scottish Reformers we reject elaborate church buildings and furnishings.  What then are we to do with the description of Solomon’s temple?  Is it of merely historical interest or does it have spiritual significance?  We turn now to consider 1 Kings 7:13-51 The beauty of holiness.

1. The supremacy of the Lord

What – or who – matters most to Solomon?  Some see in his 13 years spent building a palace and 7 building the temple a self-centred outlook.  This does not seem to be justified by the text.  The space given to the description of the temple is much greater and it is adorned with the richest of materials.  It is clear that the Lord’s glory is foremost in Solomon’s mind.  At this point he is an example of Matthew 6:33 ‘seek first…’

2. The worthiness of the Lord

The design of the temple demonstrates Solomon’s view of God.  Though no building can be entirely worthy of him (8:27), the king does what he can to acknowledge the worthiness of the Lord – all the materials are the best available and no expense is spared.  This is a visual reminder of who the Lord is – ‘you are worthy…’ (Revelation 4:11).  The lives of the covenant people are to show his glory – 1 Corinthians 10:31.

3. The faithfulness of the Lord

The 2 bronze pillars were about 34 feet high and free standing.  Their names are profoundly significant:

            Jakin means ‘He will/may he establish’.  The word is used several times in the covenant with David (2 Samuel 7:12, 13, 16).  This pillar speaks of the unbreakable promise of the covenant Lord that upholds the temple and the kingdom.

            Boaz means ‘In him is strength’.  The Lord will perform his work of covenant mercy despite the frailty of his people, even Solomon.

            Both point to the Messiah who will by God’s power establish the Covenant of Grace.  What is depicted in the temple is fulfilled in Christ.

4. The holiness of the Lord

Everything in the temple gives a strong impression of purity.  In ‘the Sea’ (containing some 11000 gallons) the priests cleansed themselves and in the ‘bronze basins’ (v38) the sacrifices were washed.  Christ’s blood performs true cleansing (Hebrews 9:14)

5. The beauty of the Lord

Why is all the decoration included (see e.g. v18, 29)?  It is not essential, but is a token of the beauty of the Lord.  The highest revelation of his beauty is in Christ – John 1:14, and into that glory we are being changed (2 Corinthians 3:18).