© 2003, J.W. Carter
The passage of scripture in this study is found to take place when Solomon and the people of Israel had just completed the building of the Temple in Jerusalem. Many years of preparation and building went into the task. Solomon's father, David first desired to build the temple to the Lord when he was engaged in building his own palace. David's desire to build a permanent temple to replace the mobile tent was sincere and motivated by a desire to honor God. Though he did start gathering materials, God told David that because he was a man of war (and other reasons), it would not be his place to build this temple, but rather the building would be completed by his son, Solomon. Solomon inherited the throne of Israel and with it the peaceful state of the kingdom. We now find that the temple has been completed, the various furnishings have been installed, and the temple is ready for use. However, before putting the temple to its intended use, Solomon gathered together all of the people of Israel who could attend, and in the presence of all Israel, dedicated the temple to God.
Solomon's program of dedication started with a prayer that recognizes God's faithfulness in fulfilling his promises, receiving prayer, and granting forgiveness. Solomon was moved, not only by the fulfilling of God's promise, but by the filling of the temple with His presence in the form of the cloud. God had demonstrated his presence with the children of Israel through the pillar of fire by night and pillar of cloud by day that stood over the temple ever since the nation left Egypt. Once each year, on the day of atonement, the pillar would descend into the temple and consume the sacrifice. On this day, a day other than the day of atonement, the pillar descended into the temple. This had to be a tremendous blessing and encouragement to Solomon as he was about to dedicate the temple that God has now clearly approved.
And Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands toward heaven:
Solomon's prayer was a public prayer. Prayer is communication with God, and whether we pray to him personally or on the behalf of those around us, God is pleased when his children do so. 2 Chronicles 6:13 notes that Solomon stood upon a small bronze platform that stood about 4 - 5 feet high, a stage from which he could be seen and heard by the people. When we think of public prayer, many people would sit or stand together and bow their heads with their hands lowered. This was not the attitude of prayer that was used in ancient Israel. He stood facing the group of people and lifted his hands toward the sky, presumably with is palms outward, and his face turned skyward with open eyes.
In this posture, Solomon was standing before God as a representative of His people. Likewise, when one prays in public, one is a representative of the people who are also attendant to the prayer. Many people are afraid of praying in front of a group, but there is little rational reason for such fears. Prayer is simply talking to God. When praying in this representative fashion, one simply talks to God of what is on his/her heart and what is on the hearts of those being represented. We often may be impressed by eloquent speakers, but God is impressed only by the sincerity of the heart. The simple, passionate, prayer of sincerity is meaningful to God, to the one praying, and those being represented. The most eloquent prayer spoken without sincerity lacks such value to God. There was little theological dogma behind the attitude of Solomon's prayer. His stature and the raising of the hands was accepted by the people (Isa. 1:15), and quite practical when applied to the context of the situation.
And he said, LORD God of Israel, there is no God like thee, in heaven above, or on earth beneath, who keepest covenant and mercy with thy servants that walk before thee with all their heart:
How did Solomon start his prayer? Rather than following some religious dogma or ritual, we seen in Solomon's words the true thoughts of his heart. His first words are of praise and adoration as Solomon recognizes that God is the one True God and there is no other, and he expresses his understanding of the faithfulness of God to keep his promises and demonstrate mercy to those who love Him. Solomon's example is instructive, as he opens his prayer with adoration. Sometimes we want to pray, but simply do not know where to start. The demonstration of a sincere heart that praises God is certainly a good start. Effective prayer necessitates humility. When we recognize God for who He is, we cannot position ourselves at or above His level, as many would do. When we truly recognize the magnificence of the God who created all that we experience, we can only be awed by His greatness, and come to understand our insignificance. True humility will have a hard time understanding why such an awesome God would even be interested in the life of one insignificant person. Yet, we know that God loves every person whom He has created, holding them above all other beings on the earth, and for that we give Him praise and adoration.
Who hast kept with thy servant David my father that thou promisedst him: thou spakest also with thy mouth, and hast fulfilled it with thine hand, as it is this day.
As we learn of Solomon, we find that he held a great appreciation for what God had done through and for his father, David. He knew that his father was simply a man who was blessed by God, a man who recognized that blessing, and a man who loved God for it. He respected his father as the King of Israel and was humbled by the gravity of the responsibilities that his position held. He also knew that his father, like himself, was merely a man who was subject to his own bent towards sin, and yet God was faithful to His promises to David even when David fell short. God is faithful to demonstrate forgiving love (hesed) towards a repentant sinner (Ex. 43:6-7).
Solomon uses the common anthropomorphisms of God's mouth, and God's hand. He uses them to show his understanding that God is faithful to accomplish (with His hand) that which He promises (with His mouth.) What are some of the promises that we rely on? Many scripture verses describe God's promises to those who love Him, including most significantly an everlasting and abundant life (John 10:10) with Him. God also promises eternal separation from Himself for those who do not turn to Him in faith. Jesus' "sermon on the mount" (Matt. 5-6) expresses many of God's promises, including His promise to care for the true and basic needs of those who love Him. Solomon has seen this fulfilled in the life of his father, and now in himself, and for that Solomon praises God.
Therefore now, LORD God of Israel, keep with thy servant David my father that thou promisedst him, saying, There shall not fail thee a man in my sight to sit on the throne of Israel; so that thy children take heed to their way, that they walk before me as thou hast walked before me.
After words of prayer, adoration, and thankfulness, Solomon's prayer becomes even more personal as he recognizes God's faithfulness was demonstrated towards his father, and God had promised that same faithfulness towards those who would continue to sit on the throne. Solomon had witnessed that God was faithful to His promise with David and remembers that the promise was also inclusive of those who would follow him. However, the promise to David included a requirement that he be faithful to God. Solomon knew that God's promise of blessing was predicated by Solomon's own obedience. "This day" implies clearly that God sees himself in the same state as David, and recognizes his responsibility both for his own behalf, and that of the nation of Israel, to remain faithful and obedient to God. It should not take the descending pillar of fire for those who love God to be sensitive to their need to remain dedicated to Him. This scripture passage is a good reminder to us to perform a "dedication check." Is our heart like Solomon's? Or, have we wandered from God? Have we placed a wall of distance between ourselves and God that has been built by disobedience or neglect? If so, it is a good time to pause and pray to God asking for the forgiveness that He promises as we turn back to him, dedicating ourselves to a closer walk with Him that will be characterized by prayer and obedience.
And now, O God of Israel, let thy word, I pray thee, be verified, which thou spakest unto thy servant David my father. 27But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?
Ancient cultures had a very localized view of their gods. They did not understand any concept of omnipresence, where God exists everywhere. God created this universe for His own pleasure and holds it in His great (anthropomorphic) hands. There is no place in this creation where God does not exist. God is also omnitemporal, whereby there is no moment in time from the beginning of creation through the end of the age, where God is not there. Solomon understood this, though most of those in his culture did not. Solomon did not believe, as many did, that the temple was God's one abiding place, the sole place where God lived. How could any building contain God? How can one person's heart contain God? God's presence is everywhere, and God demonstrates His presence in many ways. God has ordained that those who love Him would come together to worship Him, and He promises to be with them when they do, without regard to the limits of any building or buildings. However, God had demonstrated his presence in the tent of meeting for over 500 years, and He had promised to similarly bless Solomon's temple as the central point of Israelite worship with His presence. The descent of the cloud prior to this dedication was such an indication.
Where can the presence of God be contained? As Solomon states, there is no place that can contain God. Where is God present? We know that God is present everywhere. Still, we see God's glory present in the temple in a very graphic way as the pillar of fire moves from over the tent of meeting to over the temple as it is filled with the cloud. God demonstrated His presence and his blessing of Solomon in a mighty way. Still, it is instructive to note that the pillar of fire that represented God's presence left the temple many years after it was built when Judah was taken into captivity in Babylon by Nebuchadnessar. 400 years of darkness ensued when the pillar of fire no longer consumed the sacrifice laid on the altar on the day of atonement. However, the glory of God came back with the angels as they announced Jesus' birth. Jesus then testified, "I am the light of the world," as He was the demonstrated presence of God (John 8:12). When Jesus commissioned His believers to their task of evangelism, He said to them, "You are the light of the world" (Matt. 5:14). God's presence is now demonstrated in the heart of every believer through the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
Yet have thou respect unto the prayer of thy servant, and to his supplication, O LORD my God, to hearken unto the cry and to the prayer, which thy servant prayeth before thee to day: 29That thine eyes may be open toward this house night and day, even toward the place of which thou hast said, My name shall be there: that thou mayest hearken unto the prayer which thy servant shall make toward this place.
God's faithfulness to hear the prayers that people lift to Him is an example of His great love and grace. No person deserves God's attention, and Solomon understands this. God does not hear our prayers because He must, nor does He do so because we can demand it. It is only because of God's faithfulness to the promise that He has made to us that He will hear our prayers:
If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14.)
Solomon recognizes that God has condescended to allow Solomon to build this temple as a meeting place for the faithful and a demonstrated dwelling place of God's Holy Spirit and asks that "thine eyes" would be continually on the temple. That is, Solomon asks that Gods' presence would not depart. God remained faithful to answer Solomon's prayer. God's presence was in the temple as long as the people worshipped there in sincerity and in truth.
Likewise, God has promised that He will never leave one who has turned to Him (Heb. 13:5). There will be times when we will turn from God to our own ways, demonstrating faithlessness and disobedience, yet God will never leave. His Holy Spirit will not forsake the spirit of one who has committed themselves to Him. Even though we permit sin in our own lives, God will not leave us. Consider Paul's statement of faith:
For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. (2 Timothy 1:12.)
And hearken thou to the supplication of thy servant, and of thy people Israel, when they shall pray toward this place: and hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place: and when thou hearest, forgive.
It is Jewish tradition to face towards Jerusalem when they pray. We see in this passage that Solomon, in supplication, asks that God would hear the prayers of those who pray to Him and when He does, to forgive them for the sins for which they are repentant. Solomon still recognizes that God's dwelling place is in heaven, even when people will be praying towards the temple, or praying in it. We see in 2 Chronicles 7:14 that God promises to forgive those who (1) humble themselves, or put away their self-centered pride and recognize God for who He is, (2) pray, (3) seek God's face, or sincerely desire to practice obedience, and (4) turn from their sin, or repent, THEN God promises to forgive them of their sins. Forgiveness of sin is not automatic. Forgiveness comes from God as a promise that is predicated on our repentance. Still, however, it is a promise on which we can rely. Consequently, it is necessary that we remain humble, that we continue to pray, and that we continue in obedience to Him as we repent from our sin. Solomon prayed of God's faithfulness to this promise and of the need for the people to be obedient.
Verses 31 - 53 record Solomon's continuing prayer as he lists several very specific instances of cycles of sinful disobedience and repentance, asking God to forgive the repentant sinner. We know from God's promise that He is always faithful to forgive. Solomon understood the necessity of living a life that is dedicated to God and the blessings that come from such a life, and desired that the nation would turn from its wicked ways so that they also could know that blessing. God never changes, and His plan for mankind never changes. Just as was the case with Israel, God's plan for man is unchanged. He is present with man, and will be faithful to forgive those who pray to him and in repentance seek that forgiveness. The dedication of the temple was a time of renewed recognition of God and a renewed dedication of Israel to Him. Let us, like Solomon, look at our own lives, and seek God's forgiveness for our sins as we turn from them and back towards a life that is dedicated to Him.
Patterson, R.D., and Austel, Hermann J. (1988). 1 & 2 Kings. The Expositor's Bible Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House. pp. 82-89.