I have been reading through my Bible this year, it has taken me all year to read only to 2 Kings! I am not well disciplined, but I also have to stop some days and marvel at what I am reading as God’s word affects my life. The following was one of those days when I had to put fingertip to screen. I wrote it to share at coffee morning.
So, we start with reading God’s word:
1 Kings 8:27-30 NIV
“But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built! Yet give attention to your servant’s prayer and his plea for mercy, Lord my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence this day. May your eyes be open toward this temple night and day, this place of which you said, ‘My Name shall be there,’ so that you will hear the prayer your servant prays toward this place. Hear the supplication 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.”
Solomon is speaking here before the people to God. They have finished building the temple and the ark of the covenant has been placed in the holy of holies. This passage is in a prayer of dedication for the temple and it was said after a cloud had descended into the holy of holies, and the Glory of the Lord had filled the temple. And so, Solomon said in vs12-13:
“The Lord has said that he would dwell in a dark cloud; I have indeed built a magnificent temple for you, a place for you to dwell forever.”
In our passage, Solomon asks a realistic question:
“But will God really dwell on earth?
He gives reason for his thought pattern:
The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!
He has a realistic knowledge of God. He knows His God. And so, he comes with a humble request to the God who is vast beyond our comprehension.
At first reading, it seems he was asking a lot, but he was only asking for one thing... forgiveness. Listen again:
give attention to your servant’s prayer and his plea for mercy, Lord my God.
Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence this day.
May your eyes be open toward this temple night and day, this place of which you said, ‘My Name shall be there,’ so that you will hear the prayer your servant prays toward this place.
Hear the supplication 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.
Yes, he was asking God to hear, pleading with him to hear... sometimes we can pray like that... Lord look, listen to me, hear my prayer... not because we think he isn’t listening but because we are humbled that he is there listening, this great and mighty God in heaven is listening to you and me.
Listen to what Solomon prays later on in vs 38-40:
And when a prayer or plea is made by anyone among your people Israel — being aware of the afflictions of their own hearts, and spreading out their hands toward this temple — then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Forgive and act; deal with everyone according to all they do, since you know their hearts (for you alone know every human heart), so that they will fear you all the time they live in the land you gave our ancestors.
God knows our hearts, and yet is still willing to hear, to forgive, and to act.
Now this side of the cross...after we have humbly asked for forgiveness through the death and resurrection and ascension of Jesus, what happens next?
Yes, you receive forgiveness, but we also receive God. We read that Jesus said in Matt 10:40:
“If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”
And in 1 Cor 3. The Bible speaks of those who believe as being a living temple:
16Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
Aren’t you humbled by that reality? If you are a Christian, someone who the Bible describes as being ‘in Christ’, God dwells in you by His Spirit, God the Holy Spirit. Elsewhere we read that we are God’s handiwork, he is making us as it were into a holy magnificent temple, set apart for Him. Solomon thought the temple he built was where God would dwell forever.
At Christmas we speak of Emmanuel, God with us. At Easter we know Jesus died and rose, and after 40 days he ascended into heaven. Yes, he did...but the reality is... He is still with us for He lives in every believer, Jesus said he would send another comforter to his disciples, another means ‘the same as’. God dwelt on earth in the person of Jesus and He still dwells on earth in every believer by His Spirit.
In the same chapter after Solomon had finished his prayer of dedication, we read in v54:
When Solomon had finished all these prayers and supplications to the Lord, he rose from before the altar of the Lord, where he had been kneeling with his hands spread out toward heaven.
Jesus lives in heaven. He lives to intercede for us before God’s throne. Solomon was praying before the alter where many animal sacrifices had just been made to God. We do not need an alter because we can come boldly through the one sacrifice, Jesus. We pray in God’s presence knowing that He will hear our prayers because of Jesus, for His name’s sake. Remember, in the first passage it said ‘my name shall be there’
We are His Holy temple and every believer bears His name. O, let us live in the reality of all that means as we remember Emmanuel, God with us, this Christmas time because His eyes are open toward this temple night and day.
If you are not yet a believer, you too can receive Jesus into your life today. You know what to ask for, forgiveness. And may you make the first verse of this song your prayer:
Holy Spirit, living breath of God,
Breathe new life into my willing soul.
Let the presence of the risen Lord,
Come renew my heart and make me whole.
Cause Your Word to come alive in me;
Give me faith for what I cannot see,
Give me passion for Your purity;
Holy Spirit, breathe new life in me.
Holy Spirit, come abide within,
May Your joy be seen in all I do.
Love enough to cover every sin,
In each thought and deed and attitude.
Kindness to the greatest and the least,
Gentleness that sows the path of peace.
Turn my strivings into works of grace;
Breath of God show Christ in all I do.
Holy Spirit, from creation’s birth,
Giving life to all that God has made,
Show Your power once again on earth,
Cause Your church to hunger for your ways.
Let the fragrance of our prayers arise;
Lead us on the road of sacrifice,
That in unity the face of Christ
May be clear for all the world to see.
Keith Getty & Stuart Townend