Through the Bible Reading Plan: 1 Kings 8, 2 Chronicles 5
27 “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built! 28 Yet have regard to the prayer of your servant and to his plea, O Lord my God, listening to the cry and to the prayer that your servant prays before you this day, 29 that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which you have said, ‘My name shall be there,’ that you may listen to the prayer that your servant offers toward this place. 30 And listen to the plea of your servant and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. And listen in heaven your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive. (1 Kings 8:27-30)
From 1 Kings 8:31-49, Solomon presents seven situations in which God’s people would find themselves in need and then turn to God. There are several things these seven situations have in common. First, there’s the inevitability of sin. Each stanza of the prayer begins with “when,” not “if.” The clearest expression of this is verse 46: “When they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—.” The Bible never shies away from portraying human beings honestly.
Second, these seven stanzas of Solomon’s prayer show the consequences of sin. Because of sin, Israel would be defeated by her enemies (v. 33); suffer drought (v. 35); as well as famine, blight, locusts, warfare, and disease (v. 37). The Bible never says that every negative thing that happens to us is the result of sin. But it does teach that every sin carries with it negative consequences.
The final stanza prophetically anticipates the time when the people of Israel would be overrun and exiled. This would happen over four hundred years later; first when the Assyrians overthrew the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 BC, and then the Babylonians exiled the southern kingdom of Judah in 586. Sin brought consequences, which eventually brought the people to repentance.
Perhaps the most important thing the stanzas of Solomon’s prayer have in common is that each ends with some variation of the phrase “Hear in heaven, your dwelling place” (see verses 30, 32, 34, 36, 39, 43, 45, 49). Solomon has faith that God will indeed hear when we call out to Him. But Solomon is also reminding the people that although the Temple is dedicated to the Name of God, God does not live there. Go back to verse 27, where Solomon exclaims, “Even the highest heaven cannot contain you, much less the temple I have built.” These multiple reminders that heaven is God’s dwelling place would ensure the Jews would worship God at the temple, instead of worshiping the temple itself. Furthermore, it would give the Jews tremendous assurance when they were in exile that God was still present with them, even though Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed the temple. We have the same assurance today. We don’t have to come to church–make a pilgrimage to Israel—for God to hear our prayers of repentance. He meets us where we are, and He hears.
Solomon’s prayer of blessing praised the character of God. God gives rest to His people, and He is faithful to keep his promises (v. 56). He would be with the people just as He had been with their ancestors (v. 57). This is a promise we can bank on even to today, for the Lord does not change!
Notice that even our ability to be devoted to God comes from God Himself (v. 58). Left to our own devices, we are not able to obey God. But God’s abiding presence with us through the Holy Spirit enables us to live God honoring lives. Jesus taught His disciples that the Holy Spirit would teach them all things, remind them of all that Jesus had said, and convict them of sin (John 14:26; 16:8).
Even though the Solomon’s temple is long gone, believers today can be assured that God still hears, and we can still come to Him. We know this because He is in His heaven, and we ourselves are the temple of the Holy Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 6:19)!