David and Solomon, Part 6

Solomon’s reign as King started off so well, thanks to this:

Now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” (1 Kings 3:7-9 | NIV84)

That’s a marvelous prayer that leaders of men ought to pray every day. And God’s answer is equally marvelous:

The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for–both riches and honor–so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. And if you walk in my ways and obey my statutes and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.” (1 Kings 3:10-14 | NIV84)

Solomon had it made. But as his father King David made clear: Success hinged on his son’s wholehearted obedience to the Word of the Lord. History tells us that in less than twenty years, King Solomon went from a devout, God-fearing, God-glorifying man to a man who served idols. 1 Kings 3:15 takes on a whole different meaning when we know Solomon’s history:

Then Solomon awoke–and he realized it had been a dream. (1 Kings 3:15a | NIV84)

And maybe that’s how he took it – just a dream.

The importance of the Temple

Solomon’s one big accomplishment was the building of the Temple in Jerusalem.

Solomon gave orders to build a temple for the Name of the Lord and a royal palace for himself. (2 Chronicles 2:1 | NIV84)

Why was building the Temple such a big deal for Solomon (and his father, David, for that matter)? First, remember when Chronicles was written. Ezra wrote it just after the Babylonian exile ended. The exiles who had returned to Jerusalem found most of it ruins and the Temple was razed to the ground. Their return to their homeland was predicated on rebuilding that Temple. But some Israelites had no interest in doing that, according to the Biblical literature of that time, Haggai, Zechariah, and Ezra. Many of these former exiles were disheartened with the state of Jerusalem. Some were intimidated by other nations that didn’t want them to rebuild their Temple. Ezra, in an effort to encourage his people, used history. He drew on David and Solomon as examples to follow. If the people of that generation could do it, then so could they.

Another reason for Ezra’s interest in the Temple and his stressing the King’s involvement in its construction was in the Messianic hope. Many of the OT prophets saw that the hope of Israel was in the coming of a promised King, a Messiah, who would subdue their enemies and bring peace to the world. We see this hope in God’s promises made to David and Solomon. Especially in David, we see the characteristics of God’s Messiah, but he was not that King. And David’s kingdom, and later his son’s, prefigured to some degree the kind of kingdom that was to come.

Solomon worships God

By any standards, Solomon was a great King. Actually, it was a perfect storm of circumstances that allowed Solomon to be as great as he was. David had built and established a very large and stable kingdom. When Solomon took the throne, there was relative peace throughout the ancient Near East, as the major players at that time were also at peace for a variety of reasons. In the main, Israel and Judah were left pretty much alone by outside forces. It was left to Solomon to organize and build on what David had built. Part of that was the Temple.

But who is able to build a temple for him, since the heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain him? Who then am I to build a temple for him, except as a place to burn sacrifices before him? (2 Chronicles 2:6 | NIV84)

It wasn’t just duty alone that moved the young king to build the Temple. His letter to Hiram makes that clear. The magnitude of the project weighed heavily on the King’s heart. He, unlike David, saw the Temple not as a place to contain the God of the universe, but as a place where he and the people could gather to enjoy and celebrate His presence.

Hiram’s reply to Solomon is, to say the least, surprising.

Hiram king of Tyre replied by letter to Solomon: “Because the Lord loves his people, he has made you their king.” And Hiram added: “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who made heaven and earth! He has given King David a wise son, endowed with intelligence and discernment, who will build a temple for the Lord and a palace for himself. (2 Chronicles 2:11, 12 | NIV84)

Even in Solomon’s day, there were Gentiles who recognized the God of Israel as the Creator and the Sustainer of all things. This was something Ezra’s dispirited people, centuries later, needed to remember. And it also serves to foreshadow what it will be like during the Millennial Kingdom and the reign of the final Son of David:

And many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the Lord Almighty and to entreat him.” This is what the Lord Almighty says: “In those days ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.’” (Zechariah 8:22-23 | NIV84)

When the Temple was finally built and dedicated, the Lord showed His acceptance of Solomon’s project by taking possession of His House.

…and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God. (2 Chronicles 5:14 | NIV84)

God’s presence in the Temple was positively overwhelming. This verse tells us something very significant about God. This was the day when God condescended to appear as a cloud that filled a space built for Him by man. God, the Almighty ruler of the universe, showed how much He cared for His people by allowing Himself to display His limitless glory in such a way as man could look upon it. And here we are, also His people, able to enjoy that exact same presence, as the Lord fills us, not a building, with His Himself.

In Solomon’s words of dedication, he reminded the congregation of everything that had been accomplished – the existence of Israel and the building of the Temple – was by God’s choice. Verses 5 and 6 seem to at least hint that sometimes God does new things in the midst of His people:

Since the day I brought my people 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, nor have I chosen anyone to be the leader over my people Israel. 6 But now I have chosen Jerusalem for my Name to be there, and I have chosen David to rule my people Israel.’ (2 Chronicles 6:5-6 | NIV84)

Solomon’s prayer drives home the point that God is present among His people and He hears them when they pray and call out on His Name.

He said: “O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven or on earth–you who keep your covenant of love with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in your way. (2 Chronicles 6:14 | NIV84)

We can learn about God by reading Solomon’s exquisite prayer in this chapter. For example, consider the words of verse 20, because they are very significant:

May your eyes be open toward this temple day and night, this place of which you said you would put your Name there. May you hear the prayer your servant prays toward this place. (2 Chronicles 6:20 | NIV84)

God’s Name, said Solomon resided in the Temple. What that means is found back in verse 18:

“But will God really dwell on earth with men? The heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built! (2 Chronicles 6:18 | NIV84)

In spite of verse 20, Solomon knew full well that God could not be contained in a building; that He didn’t dwell in the Temple the way we live in a house. God was indeed present in the Temple – that cannot be disputed. But the whole universe couldn’t contain Him – that is also indisputable. In this prayer, Solomon reveals two big attributes of God. First, He is transcendent; nothing in the world can limit Him in any way. He is not bound by the laws that govern our existence. The laws of time and space don’t apply to God. And yet, at the same time, God is also here! He is present among His people. To the people of Solomon’s day, God was truly present among them and especially accessible at the Temple, because His “Name” was there. When Biblical writers refer to “His Name,” they are referring to the tangible, genuine presence of God; in other words, if you wanted to pray to Him and feel His attentive presence, you could do that at the Temple.

No wonder we think of Solomon as wise! He knew, or rather God revealed to Him, that God dwells in heaven, hears the prayers of His people offered at the Temple because His Name dwells there (verse 21). God’s presence is seen as such a reality that even when His people prayed merely facing the Temple from a distant land, God would hear from heaven”at the Temple.”

…and if they turn back to you with all their heart and soul in the land of their captivity where they were taken, and pray toward the land you gave their fathers, toward the city you have chosen and toward the temple I have built for your Name; then from heaven, your dwelling place, hear their prayer and their pleas, and uphold their cause. And forgive your people, who have sinned against you. (2 Chronicles 6:38-39 | NIV84)

Talk about prophetic insight. We don’t know if Solomon knew the full extent of his words, but they certainly and unfortunately did come to pass. By the way, Daniel did exactly what Solomon prayed: He opened his windows toward Jerusalem when he prayed from his home in Babylon. By his time, of course, Solomon’s Temple was but a memory. Still, as Solomon promised, Daniel’s prayer was heard from heaven.

The Temple of God in Jerusalem was Solomon’s greatest ever achievement. It was a visible representation of God’s presence among His people. But it was also a sort of missionary endeavor. The Temple was only for Israel – the whole world was to take notice and come to Jerusalem. A stranger could come and meet God there.

You and I don’t have a physical temple in which we meet God. God dwells within each of His people today – His presence is the promised Holy Spirit. You and I pray today, in Christ’s Name, because He has made a way for us to be in God’s presence continually. He has made peace between us and God by shedding His blood, and God meets us today right where we are.




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