5/16/2020 7:52:52 AM
Bible Study: The Prayer of Solomon
The Prayer of Solomon at the Dedication of the Temple
Pious, well-meaning Christians have been encouraging one another during this time of absence from Church services by saying, “Remember, the Church is not a building!” Then, depending on what denomination or beliefs they have, they will highlight different aspects of our Christian life, of worship, of service to neighbor that we still can do. This is all well and good, but that opening quip is too dismissive. The Church is not just a building, but it is a building too. It is a house built for God to carry out the work- the Ministry- God has promised to perform in our midst and for our benefit. For we sacramental Christians (and Lutherans are that) the building is important even if it is not the end-all-be-all of how Christians worship or gather to receive the gifts.
Since today (May 17, the Sixth Sunday of Easter) is Prayer Sunday I want to study the great prayer that Solomon prayed when he dedicated the Temple, built according to God’s own divinely revealed plan- a building! It wasn’t unimportant. It was essential to Israel’s religion because it pointed forward to the Son of God dwelling in the flesh, dwelling in our midst, really present as He is to this day in the Real Presence, the real Bodily Presence of the Sacrament of the Altar.
The Prayer of Solomon is found in two places: 1 Kings 8 and 2 Chronicles 6. They are nearly identical, so I’ll be using 2 Chronicles 6, since it adds a little detail about the construction of a platform (think about it as our chancel) which would be high enough for sound projection and visibility, and also includes at the very end a quotation from Psalm 132, reminding us just how liturgical the Psalms are intended to be.
12 Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in front of the whole assembly of Israel and spread out his hands. 13 Now he had made a bronze platform, five cubits long, five cubits wide and three cubits high, and had placed it in the center of the outer court. He stood on the platform and then knelt down before the whole assembly of Israel and spread out his hands toward heaven.
-Imagine a king, a mighty, royal man to whom every member of the nation must bow and show honor, doing that himself! Bowing, kneeling, and lifting up his hands as a beggar asking his Sovereign for mercy and blessing. Solomon is leading by example!
14 He said: “Lord, the God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven or on earth—you who keep your covenant of love with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in your way. 15 You have kept your promise to your servant David my father; with your mouth you have promised and with your hand you have fulfilled it—as it is today.
-Solomon addresses God for who He is- the only God and the One who keeps His promises of love and faithfulness. He acknowledges the grace and goodness of God towards his father David.
16 “Now, Lord, the God of Israel, keep for your servant David my father the promises you made to him when you said, ‘You shall never fail to have a successor to sit before me on the throne of Israel, if only your descendants are careful in all they do to walk before me according to my law, as you have done.’ 17 And now, Lord, the God of Israel, let your word that you promised your servant David come true.
-The safest prayer to pray is asking a gracious and faithful God to keep His promises. Solomon asks this for his own sake, not to twist God’s arm. We do the same when we ask God to forgive us for Jesus’ sake. It is a call on God to keep His promises, but it is a reminder to us of what those promises are in the first place.
18 “But will God really dwell on earth with humans? The heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built! 19 Yet, Lord my God, give attention to your servant’s prayer and his plea for mercy. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence. 20 May your eyes be open toward this temple day and night, this place of which you said you would put your Name there. May you hear the prayer your servant prays toward this place. 21 Hear the supplications of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place. Hear from heaven, your dwelling place; and when you hear, forgive.
-Oh yes, God will dwell on earth with mankind in His Incarnation. He dwells bodily under the bread and wine now in the sacrament. We have something even more blessed and definitive than what Solomon and Israel had at their Temple.
-“Hear us” and “Forgive” why? Because the NAME of the Yahweh (Lord) has been put upon this place and these people, just as His name is on our Altar, our Church, and US in Holy Baptism.
I want you to read the rest of this prayer on your own, noting several things:
all the different petitions
the times “the Name” of God is invoked
the people’s focus and orientation praying towards the Temple wherever they may be
and the themes of humility/repentance and God’s forgiveness
2 Chronicles 6:22-23 – to preserve justice and innocence
2 Chronicles 6:24-25 – when sin leads to Israel’s defeat in battle
2 Chronicles 6:26-27 – when sin leads to a drought in Israel
2 Chronicles 6:28-31 – when other disasters and afflictions befall Israel – forgive!
2 Chronicles 6:32-33 – for the conversion of foreigners to the true religion of Israel
2 Chronicles 6:34-35 – when Israel enters into a just war
2 Chronicles 6:36-39 – when sin leads to captivity and then repentance
Let us conclude this Bible study with the final words of Solomon and the Psalm of David he quotes (Ps. 132:8-10)
40 “Now, my God, may your eyes be open and your ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.
41 “Now arise, Lord God, and come to your resting place,
you and the ark of your might.
May your priests, Lord God, be clothed with salvation,
may your faithful people rejoice in your goodness.
42 Lord God, do not reject your anointed one.
Remember the great love promised to David your servant.”