It is vital that we worship God individually and in families, but God’s people also need times of corporate worship, in congregations and in wider assemblies. These can be occasions of great encouragement. There is much we can learn from an occasion like the dedication of the temple despite differences from our New Testament context. We turn now to consider 1 Kings 8:54-66 Blessing and dedication.
1. Blessing the people
So far Solomon has been engaged in intercession with the Lord (v54) – now the service continues, but in a new direction. ‘He stood and blessed the whole assembly of Israel’ (v55). The focus is still on the Lord, looking back and also forward to the future:
(i). Rest. This is a rich aspect of God’s redemptive plan, as seen in the covenant promise to David (2 Samuel 7:11). God has given ‘rest’ (v56), ultimately fulfilled in the saving work of Christ – ‘I will give you rest’ (Matthew 11:28).
(ii). Presence. ‘May the Lord our God be with us’ (v57). This is richly realised in the ministry of the Son incarnate – ‘Never will I leave you’ (Hebrews 13:5).
(iii). Obedience. God’s people have the responsibility of making the covenant response of obedience – v55 – the evidence of our love for God (1 John 5:3).
(iv). Support. Solomon is conscious of the constant need for God’s provision (v59). They will receive ‘according to each day’s need’ – as requested in Matthew 6:11.
(v). Witness. There is a big vision not confined to Israel – ‘all the peoples of the earth’ (v60). Unbelievers will see what the Lord is like from observing his people. In the NT Christ is ‘the light of the world’ (John 9:5), as are his people (Matthew 5:14).
2. Dedicating the temple
(i). Sacrifice. Central to the dedication is the offering of abundant sacrifices – v63. Each kind of sacrifice has a significance. There are ‘fellowship offerings’ (a meal together, sharing in spiritual things), ‘burnt offerings’ (tokens of total dedication to the Lord) and ‘grain offerings’ (bloodless tokens of thanksgiving). Christ has fulfilled all of these offerings, enabling fellowship, complete dedication and thanksgiving. These are all to be reproduced in his people by his grace.
(ii). Joy. A mark of the lives of his people is joy. This is evident at the dedication of the temple as the people observe a double festival (v65) – the Feast of Dedication followed by the Feast of Tabernacles. Note ‘they went home joyful and glad in heart for all the good things the Lord had done’. There is a place for sorrow in the believer’s life, especially over sin, but the dominant note is joy. ‘Rejoice in the Lord always’ (Philippians 4:4). As knowledge of God grows, so does our joy in him.