Summary: Solomon had a vision that included all the peoples of the earth. He realized that God’s house wasn’t only for the covenant people, but for the seekers of the whole world as well. Nothing can contain God. He is big enough to handle all of our problems.
How would you like to be remembered?
Some of us want to be remembered with just a simple tombstone, while others want to be remembered for who they were and what they did in life. King Solomon wanted to be remembered as the person who built the temple. The reading we heard from 1 Kings 8:22-30, 41-43 earlier in today’s service is part of the prayer of dedication of the temple.
There had been talk of building a temple to the glory of God for quite some time. The Israelites believed that the Lord God dwelled in a tent. When the Israelites were wandering through the desert and living in tents themselves, it only made sense for the people to regard God as also dwelling in a tent. By living in a tent, God was able to travel everywhere that the people did. Wherever the people wandered God could travel with them. The people no longer lived in tents out in the desert. Instead they lived in houses in villages and towns. It just did not seem right for God to dwell in a tent when the people enjoyed all the comforts of living in houses. It was only appropriate for God to have a permanent dwelling place as well. It was Solomon's goal to build a temple.
In his prayer of dedication, Solomon referred to the promise God made to his father David, a promise David revealed to Solomon on his deathbed. That promise was expressed in conditional terms in Psalm 132, where God promised that if David’s descendants kept his covenant and the testimony that he would teach them, they would sit on David’s throne forever. Unfortunately, by the time the temple was dedicated, Solomon had already broken God’s requirements. Solomon married one of Pharaoh’s daughters and made sacrifices and burned incense in places where pagans worshiped and people were unfaithful to God.
Solomon was not perfect, and neither was his father David. Both of them represent all of us because we are not perfect. Like Solomon and David, we have a sin-filled nature. We do things that do not please God, but God can still use us to do his work as long as we allow God to live in us through the Holy Spirit.
God’s name represents all that he is, but he can’t be confined by the temple because he is everywhere. He transcends places and things. For example, one of the reasons why God didn’t allow David to build the temple was because David’s desire was to confine God to a physical building. Solomon built the temple knowing that God is present everywhere. Also, Jesus was limited by his physical body in that he could only be in one place at a time, but the Holy Spirit can be everywhere and with everyone at the same time. God Iives in the hearts of all believers. He wants the whole world to know, love, worship and serve him. We are to make intimacy with God our #1 priority.
Solomon’s famous wisdom was reflected in his prayers at the dedication of the temple. He wants God’s name (and hence God’s presence) to be present in the temple so he would hear the prayers of the people and respond by acting with justice. The building of Solomon’s temple reminded the people that obedience-wholehearted devotion to God-is required to experience the blessing of God’s presence.
Solomon knew that the splendour of the temple was small compared to the size of God. Solomon had a vision that included all the peoples of the earth. He realized that God’s house wasn’t only for the covenant people, but for the seekers of the whole world as well. Nothing can contain God. He is big enough to handle all of our problems, regardless of their size.
The temple was built for both the Jews and the Gentiles. Foreigners were welcome in the Court of the Gentiles. The temple became a house of prayer for all nations. Foreigners, or people who are different from us, reveal who we are as a community. They measure the spiritual maturity of a person and community. They carry potential evangelism to Israel and the world. They are a warning in a too-settled community that sometimes forgets about a partner on a spiritual journey.
David had the desire to build the temple, but the work was actually done by Solomon. Was David frustrated when God blocked his plans? Yes he was, but he did not let that stop him. David prayed, sacrificed, toiled and kept the vision of the temple before the people. He trusted in God to bring something good out of his frustration. Without David’s determination, the temple would never have been built.
In many churches today people are discussing the style and content of their worship. The leadership of our own parish had a similar discussion earlier this year when the decision was made to use the different liturgies that are in use throughout the worldwide Anglican Communion. We must remember that the intended audience for our worship is God and not any particular group. God is the host, and we are there to worship him. He makes us at home in his presence through his grace, mercy and peace. God welcomes us and our neighbours regardless of whether or not they are church members.