The King of Kings in the Books of Kings
May 15, 2016 :: 1 Kings 8:1-66
And we’re back to our new sermon series that we’re calling “The King of Kings in the Books of Kings.”
We’ve had three message in this series so far.
In the first message, King David passed on the throne to his son King Solomon.
In the second message, King Solomon asked the Lord for wisdom and the Lord gave it to him in spades. In his wisdom, Solomon set up a kingdom in Israel like there never had been and never has been since.
And last time we were in this series, King Solomon built as the crowning achievement of his wisdom a glorious temple for the Lord.
Do you remember that? The temple of the king?
All of that gold and shining splendor?
Chapters 5, 6, and 7 of 1 Kings were full of those details of this fantastic temple being built for the glory of God.
Now in chapter 8, this temple is going to be dedicated. It’s the grand ceremony to dedicate the temple. The grand opening ceremony of this unparalleled building.
I think that this event is the absolute highest point in the story of Solomon, and in many ways, the highest point in the history of the Old Testament!
If we had to decide at this moment if Solomon was a thumbs up or a thumbs down king, we would give him 3 thumbs up at this moment. He is at his all-time best.
The prayer that Solomon prays at the dedication of this temple is some of the wisest things he ever says. And that saying a lot.
You know how we said last time that the point of the temple of the king is not the temple of the king but the king of temple?
Well, Solomon understood that.
Solomon got it. He understood at this moment Who his God really was.
And it’s revealed in his prayer of dedication of the temple.
Solomon understands that his God, the LORD, is the incomparably great King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
The temple has been completed. It has taken 7 years.
And now it’s time to open it for business. To dedicate it.
And if this building is like no other building, this ceremony of dedication is like no other ceremony of dedication.
Every college graduation commencement going on around the nation this week is nothing compared to this.
The inauguration of our new US president next January is nothing compared to this.
This is a phenomenal worship service attempting to be worthy of the King of Kings in dedicating His unique temple. Chapter 8, verse 1.
“Then King Solomon summoned into his presence at Jerusalem the elders of Israel, all the heads of the tribes and the chiefs of the Israelite families, to bring up the ark of the LORD's covenant from Zion, the City of David.”
Do you remember the ark? What did it stand for?
It was like a movable throne to symbolize the presence of God among His people.
And it contained the two stone tablets with the 10 commandments on it standing for the whole of the covenant that God had made with His people.
And it was going to come up and rest in the Holy of Holies.
Do you remember how David brought it up to Jerusalem and the trouble he had when he did it wrong? Solomon learned from that. V.2
“All the men of Israel came together to King Solomon at the time of the festival in the month of Ethanim, the seventh month. [A enormous number of people. Enough to be able to say that the whole country was there. “All the men of Israel”] When all the elders of Israel had arrived, the priests took up the ark, and they brought up the ark of the LORD and the Tent of Meeting and all the sacred furnishings in it. The priests and Levites carried them up, and King Solomon and the entire assembly of Israel that had gathered about him were before the ark, sacrificing so many sheep and cattle that they could not be recorded or counted.
The priests then brought the ark of the LORD's covenant to its place in the inner sanctuary of the temple, the Most Holy Place, and put it beneath the wings of the cherubim. [Remember those?] The cherubim spread their wings over the place of the ark and overshadowed the ark and its carrying poles. These poles were so long that their ends could be seen from the Holy Place in front of the inner sanctuary, but not from outside the Holy Place; and they are still there today. [When this was written down for the first time. You can fact check it, the author is saying. This happened. This actually happened. V.9]
There was nothing in the ark except the two stone tablets that Moses had placed in it at Horeb, where the LORD made a covenant with the Israelites after they came out of Egypt.”
Can you imagine this moment?
All of those sacrifices?
Leading up the ark to the temple and then placing it in the Most Holy Place.
All of those people crowded around?
And what does God think?
Is He pleased? Will He show it? Will He show up?
“When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the LORD. And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled his temple. Then Solomon said, ‘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.’”
God showed up!
Just like He did in Exodus chapter 40 when Moses built the tabernacle.
God shows up in this mysterious cloud.
I think it’s interesting that He is both present and still hidden.
Isn’t that interesting?
He shows up in a glory cloud, but you don’t see Him face to face.
He’s still mysterious even as He reveals Himself.
He’s holy, holy, holy.
And He’s come to dwell with His people.
And Solomon knows that this a big moment and he makes a big speech. V.14
“While the whole assembly of Israel was standing there, the king turned around and blessed them. Then he said: ‘Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, who with his own hand has fulfilled what he promised with his own mouth to my father David. For he said, 'Since the day I brought my people Israel out of Egypt, I have not chosen a city in any tribe of Israel to have a temple built for my Name to be there, but I have chosen David to rule my people Israel.'
‘My father David had it in his heart to build a temple for the Name of the LORD, the God of Israel. But the LORD said to my father David, 'Because it was in your heart to build a temple for my Name, you did well to have this in your heart. Nevertheless, you are not the one to build the temple, but your son, who is your own flesh and blood–he is the one who will build the temple for my Name.'
‘The LORD has kept the promise he made: I have succeeded David my father and now I sit on the throne of Israel, just as the LORD promised, and I have built the temple for the Name of the LORD, the God of Israel. I have provided a place there for the ark, in which is the covenant of the LORD that he made with our fathers when he brought them out of Egypt.’”
That is all very true. Solomon has hit the nail on the head.
God has kept His promises. All of them.
Land, Offspring, Blessing, Temple. King.
And now Solomon’s prays the prayer of dedication. V.22
“Then Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in front of the whole assembly of Israel, spread out his hands toward heaven and said: ‘O LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below...”
God is incomparable.
The LORD is unique. He stands alone.
He is in a class by Himself.
He doesn’t just break the mold. There is no mold for Him.
Solomon gets it exactly right when he says, “O LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below...”
That’s not hyperbole. He’s not exaggerating.
God is stands in a category of His own.
There is no God like Yahweh!
And that comes out in the rest of Solomon’s prayer, big-time.
As we read it, I’ve got four major headings to place God’s incomparableness under.
The Lord is INCOMPARABLY faithful. V.23
“O LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below [why?]–you who keep your covenant of love with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in your way. 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.”
I love that. Do you see what he does with mouth and hand in verse 24?
“with your mouth you have promised and with your hand you have fulfilled it...”
There is no disjunction between what God has said and what God does.
Mouth to hand.
There is no one as faithful as the Lord.
God always, always, always keeps His promises.
... And you know what? That’s unique!
The other so-called-gods of the ancient world could not be counted on in this way.
And neither are the gods of today so dependable.
And you and are certainly not, either.
How many have been let down by somebody this week?
How many have let somebody down this week?
Maybe in large ways and maybe in small ways, but none of us is completely faithful.
... But the Lord is.
With his mouth he promises and with His hand He fulfills it. Every time and right on time.
Do you need to hear that today?
The Lord is incomparably faithful. So trust Him.
That’s what Solomon does. Because the Lord has been faithful, He now prays for the Lord to be faithful. V.25
“‘Now LORD, God of Israel, keep for your servant David my father the promises you made to him when you said, [2 Samuel 7] 'You shall never fail to have a man to sit before me on the throne of Israel, if only your sons are careful in all they do to walk before me as you have done.' And now, O God of Israel, let your word that you promised your servant David my father come true.”
Do you see how he prays based on God’s word?
Do you we do that? Do we pray the promises of God?
Some people think that because God has promised something, there is no need to pray about it. But the opposite is actually true. God invites us to pray His promises back to Him.
“You said you would, Lord! So please do it!”
“I’m holding You to Your promises. I’m expecting You to act!”
God is faithful.
But He’s also uncontainable. V.27
Solomon asks, “‘But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!”
Do you see why I’m saying that Solomon is at his best?
Yes, God is going dwell on earth. He’s going to live in this temple.
But not really!
He doesn’t fit in this box. This beautiful golden box.
He doesn’t fit on earth.
He doesn’t fit in the heavens! With the clouds and the birds.
He doesn’t even fit in highest heavens with the sun, the moon, the stars!
Solomon gets it.
At this moment in Solomon’s life, he gets it.
He gets how big and free and uncontainable God is.
You can’t put God in a box.
You can’t put God on a leash.
God cannot be controlled.
God cannot be tamed.
God cannot be contained.
He is incomparably uncontainable.
God will not be used.
God will not be manipulated.
Even though God has condescended to take up residence in this temple, the people of Israel should not assume therefore that everything they do will be blessed no matter what or that God only loves them and not others in the world who don’t have the temple or that they now have God by the tail.
God is so much bigger than that!
Do you need that reminder today? That God is bigger than the highest heavens?
That means that God is bigger than any of your problems.
And we just learned that He’s faithful to all of His promises.
On Wednesday nights at Prayer Meeting, we’ve been learning to pray using the Lord’s Prayer as our guide.
And this last Wednesday, we thought about that phrase, “Our Father IN HEAVEN.”
And we read this verse. “The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!”
That’s the God whom you are praying to when you pray rightly.
Not some genie in a bottle.
But a Father above the heavens!
Isn’t that encouraging?
This is a strange prayer for the dedication of a temple, isn’t it?
Because it’s not really about the temple of the King. It’s about the King of the temple.
And how inadequate this temple is!
As amazing and glorious as this temple was, like the first thing that Solomon prays is that, “I know it’s too small.”
And “I know that it doesn’t do You justice.”
And “I know that it does not control You.”
... And yet.
And yet the very next thing Solomon says is that He asks and expects that this uncontainable God will hear and answer prayer. V.28
“Yet give attention to your servant's prayer and his plea for mercy, O 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.”
He goes from saying that God is too big to live here to saying this same God listens to pleas and prayers.
In other words, the Lord is incomparably:
You might think that because God is so big that He wouldn’t have time for little guys like you and me. Maybe Solomon but not you and me.
But Solomon thinks BECAUSE God is so big He can listen to us.
God is listening.
God is attentive.
God is personal and accessible.
Now, at this time in redemptive history, Solomon asks that his temple be a kind of focal point for focusing on God in prayer.
Almost like a earthly headquarters for God’s throne.
You can pray wherever you are, but Solomon says, “Use this temple as a focal point for those prayers.” Praying at or towards this temple will be like a direct line to the heavenly throne room.
Did anybody ever do that in the Bible? Sure. Daniel does, right? When Daniel prays with his windows open where he does he face? Towards Jerusalem.
Now, you can see how this temple might become a problem, right? How it might become an idol itself for the people?
It wouldn’t have to be, but they do fall into that problem from time to time.
The point, however, is that God is listening.
God isn’t just up there somewhere minding His own business.
He is accessible. He is listening to His people’s prayers.
Do you need to hear that this morning?
Even though there is no earthly temple to pray towards today, God is still listening. He still hears. His eyes are open to you.
Do you pray? Are you praying?
I think we talk about praying more than we pray. I know I do.
This God that Solomon is praying to is listening. His ears are open to you.
More now than ever because of the work of Christ on the Cross.
Ephesians 2:18 says that through Jesus we have access to the Father by one Spirit!
Prayer isn’t just for super kings at the dedication of the temple.
It’s for you and me.
Did you notice what Solomon asked God to do at the end of that prayer?
“And when you hear...what?”
Forgive. Solomon knows that God will have to be forgiving of His people because they are sinners. God may keep His promises, but His people will not always.
Forgiveness is the theme of the whole rest of the prayer. He’s just getting warmed up, but that’s what he asks for again and again from here to the end.
It’s because Solomon knows that God is incomparably:
Starting in verse 31, Solomon gives 7 “for instances,” 7 examples or case studies of when God would need to be merciful to His people.
They are all drawn from covenant. You can find the examples in Deuteronomy, especially chapters 28 and 31.
These are problems that Israel will probably fall into, and will need God’s help. V.31
“‘When a man wrongs his neighbor and is required to take an oath and he comes and swears the oath before your altar in this temple, then hear from heaven and act. Judge between your servants, condemning the guilty and bringing down on his own head what he has done. Declare the innocent not guilty, and so establish his innocence.”
Do you see what’s going on?
Somebody has done wrong, but the evidence is lacking. You can’t tell by looking.
Even Wise Old Solomon with his cut the baby in half tricks can’t solve this one.
So he comes to this temple and there is prayer at this temple, and Solomon says, “Hear from heaven and act.” Be merciful on your people by bringing true justice. Show us who is in the wrong and who is in the right.
Notice that you pray at the temple, but God answers from where? From heaven.
The second one is bigger. More mercy needed. V.33
“‘When your people Israel have been defeated by an enemy because they have sinned against you, and when they turn back to you and confess your name, praying and making supplication to you in this temple, then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your people Israel and bring them back to the land you gave to their fathers.”
Number three. V.35
“‘When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because your people have sinned against you, and when they pray toward this place and confess your name and turn from their sin because you have afflicted them, then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your servants, your people Israel. Teach them the right way to live, and send rain on the land you gave your people for an inheritance.”
This is how God promised to deal with His people back in Deuteronomy. They had a special covenant with God. If they obeyed, there would be blessing on Israel. If they disobeyed, there would be curses fall on them.
Solomon says, “Be merciful!”
Number Four. V.37
“‘When famine or plague comes to the land, or blight or mildew, locusts or grasshoppers, or when an enemy besieges them in any of their cities, whatever disaster or disease may come, and when a prayer or plea is made by any of your people Israel–each one aware of the afflictions of his own heart, and spreading out his hands toward this temple–then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Forgive and act; deal with each man according to all he does, since you know his heart (for you alone know the hearts of all men), so that they will fear you all the time they live in the land you gave our fathers.”
You know us. You know us so well.
You know what’s in our hearts!
Forgive and act.
And not just for us. But also for those who are not like us. Number 5. V.41
“‘As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of your name–for men will hear of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm–when he comes and prays toward this temple, then hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and do whatever the foreigner asks of you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your own people Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears your Name.”
Solomon knows that God is not just the God of Israel.
He’ll be the God of any and all who call on Him in faith.
He’s a missionary God.
He wants the peoples of the earth to know His name and fear Him like we do.
That’s why He’s given us the Great Commission. Like we talked about last week.
Go and make disciples of all nations.
Number six. Verse 44.
“‘When your people go to war against their enemies, wherever you send them, and when they pray to the LORD toward the city you have chosen and the temple I have built for your Name, then hear from heaven their prayer and their plea, and uphold their cause.”
Be merciful. And last, number 7. V.46
“‘When they sin against you–for there is no one who does not sin–and you become angry with them and give them over to the enemy, who takes them captive to his own land, far away or near; and if they have a change of heart in the land where they are held captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their conquerors and say, 'We have sinned, we have done wrong, we have acted wickedly'; and if they turn back to you with all their heart and soul in the land of their enemies who took them captive, and pray to you toward the land you gave their fathers, toward the city you have chosen and the temple I have built for your Name; then from heaven, your dwelling place, hear their prayer and their plea, and uphold their cause.
And forgive your people, who have sinned against you; forgive all the offenses they have committed against you, and cause their conquerors to show them mercy; for they are your people and your inheritance, whom you brought out of Egypt, out of that iron-smelting furnace.
‘May your eyes be open to your servant's plea and to the plea of your people Israel, and may you listen to them whenever they cry out to you. For you singled them out from all the nations of the world to be your own inheritance, just as you declared through your servant Moses when you, O Sovereign LORD, brought our fathers out of Egypt.’”
What’s he talking about?
He’s talking about the possibility, the fearful possibility of EXILE.
Of the undoing of the promises. Of the land being taken away from them. And them being taken away from the land.
At the very moment, the highest moment in Old Testament history, Solomon recognizes the very real possibility of exile because of Israel’s unfaithfulness.
And He pleads with God for mercy.
Based on the priory mercy of God. Because God had saved them before. From Egypt.
Because these people were (v.51), God’s people and God’s inheritance.
Not because they deserved it. They certainly didn’t.
And they wouldn’t, if God sends them into exile.
But because God is incomparably merciful.
He is gracious and abounding in mercy.
That’s Who God is.
God is just. He is righteous. He is justice itself.
But He is also incomparably merciful.
A second Exodus would still be possible. Even if they went into exile.
And of course, if you know the story, you know that they do.
What a prayer! What a God to pray to! V.54
“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.”
Isn’t that interesting? When he started this prayer, he was standing. But apparently by the end he’s on his knees. Was it the weight of what He was praying? V.55
“He stood and blessed the whole assembly of Israel in a loud voice, saying: ‘Praise be to the LORD, who has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised [FAITHFUL!]. Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses. May the LORD our God be with us as he was with our fathers; may he never leave us nor forsake us. [ACCESSIBLE] May he turn our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways and to keep the commands, decrees and regulations he gave our fathers. And may these words of mine, which I have prayed before the LORD, be near to the LORD our God day and night, that he may uphold the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel according to each day's need [MERCIFUL], so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.
But your hearts must be fully committed to the LORD our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands, as at this time.’
Then the king and all Israel with him offered sacrifices before the LORD. Solomon offered a sacrifice of fellowship offerings to the LORD: twenty-two thousand cattle and a hundred and twenty thousand sheep and goats. So the king and all the Israelites dedicated the temple of the LORD.
On that same day the king consecrated the middle part of the courtyard in front of the temple of the LORD, and there he offered burnt offerings, grain offerings and the fat of the fellowship offerings, because the bronze altar before the LORD was too small to hold the burnt offerings, the grain offerings and the fat of the fellowship offerings [UNCONTAINABLE].
So Solomon observed the festival at that time, and all Israel with him–a vast assembly, people from Lebo Hamath to the Wadi of Egypt. They celebrated it before the LORD our God for seven days and seven days more, fourteen days in all.
On the following day he sent the people away. They blessed the king and then went home, joyful and glad in heart for all the good things the LORD had done for his servant David and his people Israel.”
What a prayer!
What an incomparably great God.
Messages in this Series