Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com. In this week’s lesson Solomon may be in a Temple dedication service, but worship, prayer, and praise is the focus. In Solomon’s dedication prayer he seeks God’s blessings making nine specific petitions to God. I can’t stress enough that this is a worship experience. Solomon and the people experience a theophany – that is the visible manifestation of God. God has made God’s self visible in the thick cloud that filled the Temple. Solomon faces the Temple raises his hands toward heaven and begins to pray his prayer of dedication. He knows exactly who he is praying to. Solomon is praying to the creator of the universe, who already owns all and knows all. Solomon has no basis upon which to request anything except God’s beloved mercy. As he prays he makes known his nine petitions and leads the people in prayer before God’s presence. Some of the ideas surrounding this week’s text include the terms:
This is the third lesson of four from 1 Kings eighth chapter. The background of the previous two lessons revolved around:
- The similarities between 1 and 2 Chronicles and 1 and 2 Kings
- How Chronicles uses Kings as a source
- How Kings covers almost 400 years of history
- When each edition of Kings was written (pre-exilic and during the exile)
- How Kings is a theological interpretation of the Monarchy and of the kings of Judah and Israel until the reign of Ahaziah
- And a brief explanation of God’s dwelling places
In this week’s background I focus on the major divisions of 1 Kings and what dedication means.
The New Interpreter’s Study Bible explains “1 and 2 Kings can be divided into three mains sections: the reign of Solomon (1 Kings 1:1-11:43); the divided monarchy (1 Kings 12:1 – 2 Kings 17:41); and the Kingdom of Judah (2 Kings 18:1-25:30).” The focus of unit two of our study is dedicating the Temple so I’ll only highlight the first of the three major divisions.
The reign of Solomon did not start with a smooth transition from his father David. When King David was old “Adonijah exalted himself saying I will be king” (1 Kings 1:5). Joab (David’s nephew) and the priest Abiathar supported Adonijah but the priest Zadok, Benaiah, the prophet Nathan, and David’s own warriors did not side with Adonijah (1 Kings 5-8). Of course high drama ensues between the competing camps. In this struggle for power the winner is not who would ordinarily have succeeded. After interventions from Nathan the prophet and Bathsheba, Solomon one of the younger sons of David, is anointed King and ascends to the throne.
Before his death King David gives Solomon instructions, including who to kill and who not to kill (chapter 2). After David dies, Solomon consolidates his power, prays for wisdom, and becomes famous for his wisdom all before building the Temple.
Solomon builds the Temple according to the instructions given to him. The NISB notes “the construction began in the month of Ziv (april – may). The Temple was 90 feet long, 30 feet wide, and 45 feet high with three rooms: The vestibule or entrance was 30 feet by 15 feet, the nave, also known as the holy place was 60 feet long; the inner sanctuary, also known as the Holy of Holies or the Most Holy Place was 30 feet long, 30 feet wide, and 30 feet high, a perfect cube. I encourage you to watch the “Temple” YouTube video created by The Bible Project. It does a good job explaining aspects of God’s temple.
Many years after the death of his father King David, King Solomon is in the process of dedicating this newly built Temple. Westminster’s Dictionary of Theological Terms define dedicate as “to consecrate or set apart for a specific use or function. Often used in a religious context to indicate the devoting of life and energies to a specific vocation, task, or service.” The specific use of this new Temple would be the permanent home of God. It would be the place for God to dwell among and with the nation of promise and covenant. Solomon knows that regardless of how magnificent, grand, and opulent this new Temple is, it is all useless if God does not inhabit the Temple.
The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary explains “in the Old Testament people who were set apart included all israel (Exodus 19:5, 6), the priests (Exodus 29:1-37), the altar in the Tabernacle (Num. 7:10-88), silver and gold (2 Sam. 8:11)” as well as other people and things. Today we dedicate buildings, people, and things that have been set apart for the service and use of God.
Our focus last week was how God keeps God’s promises and God honors God’s covenants. This week Solomon prays a prayer of dedication as we continue in the dedication service surrounded with worship, praise, and prayer. Some important words to consider from this text include:
Review of Last Week and How it Connects to This Week.
In last week’s lesson Solomon spoke to the assembled congregation in the midst of a worship experience. Solomon gave a speech that reminded the congregation of his father King David’s heart. He reminded them that it was his father’s heart’s desire to build a house for the LORD God of Israel. God may have made the covenant with King David but Solomon was now the King standing before the nation of Israel to make that dream a reality. Finally, after many years Solomon had secured a permanent place for God to dwell. Even though it took many years for Solomon to achieve, God keeps God’s promises and God honors God’s covenants. Solomon honored God, acknowledged his father and he blessed (or salutes) the people in this worship experience. God occupied the Temple in the presence of a thick cloud and the dedication continued. Townsend and Boyd’s commentary title this week’s lesson “Solomon’s Dedication Prayer”. Standard Lesson Commentary titles this week’s lesson “Solomon Seeks God’s Blessing”. The scripture text comes from 1 Kings 8:22-30, 52-53.
What Takes Place in This Passage:
The Lesson opens at Chapter 8 verse twenty-two. Solomon stands as he begins his prayer of dedication. Keep in mind that Solomon is the King. He is not the high priest, nor a Levite nor a priest. Yet he is leading the gathered leaders, officials, elders, and people of the nation. He is standing before the Altar of the LORD which is outside the Temple. Even though he is King, he still has no place inside the Temple. As Solomon stands, he spreads forth his hands toward heaven. This is a worship experience! Solomon and all the people have just experienced a theophany – the visible manifestation of God to humans. They know that God is in their presence. God has manifested God’s self in the thick cloud and now Solomon stands up, raises his hands toward heaven and begins his prayer of dedication.
In verse twenty-three Solomon begins his prayer addressing God with words that could never be more true. He says “O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth beneath.” God is above all, in all, omnipotent and omniscient. God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and God’s ways are not our ways. Truly there is no god and no one, that can compare to the God Solomon has just experienced. Solomon acknowledges that God keeps God’s covenants and God’s love is steadfast or unchanging.
In verse twenty-four Solomon’s prayer mentions the Davidic covenant. He talks about how God made the covenant with God’s servant David and how God promised with God’s own mouth to fulfill the covenant. Solomon acknowledges that the covenant is fulfilled that day by God’s hand. The NISB explains that “the Davidic covenant declared that the LORD chose David to be king and had chosen David’s city to be the location of the Temple.”
In verse twenty-five Solomon makes the first of nine petitions in his dedicatory prayer. He prays that God would honor the Davidic covenant and forever have a descendant of David on the throne of Israel. But also notice that he says “if only your children look to their way, to walk before me as you have walked before me.” In other words, Solomon recognizes that in order to have this blessing that THEY had to keep God’s commands. In Solomon’s prayer there are obligations and responsibilities that must be adhered to by the people of Israel.
In verse twenty-six Solomon continues by saying “let your word be confirmed, which you promised to your servant, my father David.” Solomon is simply saying O LORD God, do what you said you would do. Or let it be the way you said it would be.
Solomon begins verse twenty-seven with a rhetorical question. He asks “will God indeed dwell on the earth?” Solomon knows who he is praying to. He knows that God is the creator of the heavens, the earth, and all that dwells therein. He acknowledges that even with all of its glory, majesty, and opulence, this temple as great as it is can not contain God of all creation.
In verse twenty-eight Solomon pleads the case for another of the nine petitions he mentions through verse fifty-three. Here, Solomon asks God to hear his prayer. He says “that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house.” In other words, whenever God’s people are praying toward this Temple that God would hear their prayer. In my own prayers I often ask God to hear my prayer and move on my behalf. I get the same sense from this prayer of Solomon. He wants God to hear not only his prayer but the prayers of all of Israel and be their God protecting and delivering God.
Verse twenty-nine begins with “that your eyes may be open.” In previous verses Solomon spoke of God’s hand and God’s mouth. Now he gives the uncontainable God of creation eyes. This is called anthropomorphism. Westminster’s define it as “the attribution of a human quality to God, such as “eyes,” “hands,” or “arms.” It uses analogous and metaphorical language (Gen. 3:8, Ps 18:15).” Again, Solomon knows who he is praying to. But sometimes, mere words are inadequate to express what God can and should mean to us. He wants God’s “eyes” to be open to the Temple so that God can see the worship and hear the prayers of God’s own people as they pray and worship at the Temple. Solomon declares this because this is the place where God has set God’s name.
In verse thirty Solomon again pleads for God to hear his prayer and the prayer of God’s people when they pray toward the Temple. But note that he continues “hear in heaven your dwelling place.” All of the people of Israel have spent enormous amounts of resources to create this Temple specifically as a symbolic place for God to dwell. Solomon is not confused. He knows that the God of the universe cannot be contained in a mere building built with human hands. So he asks God to hear their prayers even in God’s dwelling place in heaven.
The lesson skips to verses fifty-two and fifty-three where Solomon again anthropomorphizes God by saying “let your eyes be open”. Solomon has made his requests known to God in prayer. In this close of his prayer he pleads again that God would hear his prayer and the prayers of the people of Israel. In the verses before fifty-two he made nine petitions to God. He closes by again asking God to hear his prayer.
Solomon offers a prayer of dedication. In his prayer he makes nine petitions but I think Solomon understood that even with all of the magnificence of the Temple and all of the gold and silver and wealth of the Temple and of his own personal wealth, that he still had nothing with which to bargain with God. Solomon knew who he was praying to. He knew that he could only plead on the basis of God’s beloved mercy. Likewise we can’t bargain with God. We have nothing with which to bargain. God already owns it all. The Temple was a magnificent and beautiful edifice set apart for service to God. But in all of Solomon’s petitions he still knew that it would be God and only God if any of them came to pass. We can ONLY plead on the basis of God’s beloved mercy.
Key Words (not necessarily in the text, but good for discussion):
Altar- The raised place on which sacrifices were offered in the Old Testament period. In many churches, a raised table as the place where the bread and wine of the Eucharist are consecrated.
Dedicate – To consecrate or set apart for a specific use or function. Often used in a religious context to indicate the devoting of life and energies to a specific vocation, task, or service.
Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas:
1. Dedicated to You.
2. Laying it all before God.
Solomon makes nine petitions in his prayer of dedication. On what basis did he believe God would answer his prayer?
Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:
Next week, again, we continue in the same chapter and pick up where we left off. As we study the final lesson of Unit Two with its theme of “Dedicating the Temple of God” we will study Solomon’s blessing. The lesson is titled “Solomon’s Blessing” and “Solomon Anticipates Praise”. The text is taken from 1 Kings 8:54-61.
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