Yet regard the prayer and plea of Your servant, O LORD my God, so that You may hear the cry and the prayer that Your servant is praying before You today.
i.e., to rulers of thought in literature and science. How heavy the responsibility of those who use their kingliness to lead men from God into the dreariness of scepticism; how glorious the powers they may employ to exalt the Lord our God. Solomon is a proof that wisdom is better than knowledge. On this occasion he prayed as the representative and leader of others. A prayer so prominent in Scripture, so remarkable in circumstances, so acceptable to God, deserves consideration, that we may see its elements. It presents the following characteristics:
I. GRATEFUL ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF THE PAST. "In everything give thanks" (1 Thessalonians 5:18). "By prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, make your requests known" (Philippians 4:6). "It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord" (Psalm 92:1). "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits" (Psalm 103:2.) Notice the causes of Solomon's thanksgiving:
(1) God's goodness to his father (ver. 24). Home blessings so wholly unmerited, so richly beneficial.
(2) Divine deliveranve from bondage (ver. 51). Egypt a type of sorrow, slavery to evil habit, etc.
(3) Separation and consecration for God's purposes (ver. 53). The honor of this. Its responsibilities. Its signs.
(4) Rest and quietude (ver. 56). "He hath given rest unto his people Israel." The blessedness of peace to a country, exemplified by the contrast between Solomon's and David's reigns. The freedom from harassing anxieties experienced by many is from God. The rest of heart, which may be ours amidst the distresses of life, is from Him. "Peace I leave with you" (John 14:27). "Heart quiet from the fear of evil" (Proverbs 1:83). See also 2 Corinthians 4:8. For all such blessings we should give God thanks.
II. CONFIDENCE IN THE PROMISES. (See ver. 29 as example.) Show how the patriarchs ever reminded God of His promises. Illustrate also from the pleadings of Moses and the prophets. Prove from Christ's own words that the promises are renewed and enlarged for us, and that only on them cat. our expectancy of blessing be founded. The utility of prayer cannot be demonstrated by reason, but by revelation. In the spiritual realm we know Divine laws by Divine declaration, the truth of which is confirmed by the experience of those who fulfilling the required conditions, test them. "Ask and it shall be given you" (Matthew 7:7) is a promise. But appended to it is the requirement of faith. "Without faith it is impossible to please God" (Hebrews 11:6). "According to your faith, so be it unto you." See also James 1:5-7; Matthew 21:22, etc.
III. ENLARGEMENT OF HEART (ver. 41, "moreover concerning a stranger," etc.) The prayer is remarkable on the part of a Jewish king. Give evidences of the narrowness and selfishness of the nation. We might expect this feeling in all its intensity on such an occasion as the consecration of this temple. But Solomon's sympathies overflowed national prejudices. The tendency of prayer is to enlarge the heart. Christians pray together who never work together. They who are nearest to God's throne are nearest to each other. As we pray, our yearnings go further afield, and we think kindly of the erring, pitifully of the lost, forgivingly of the wrong doers.
IV. LONGING FOR THE GLORY OF GOD. Solomon's chief wish in regard to the temple is expressed in verse 60, "that all the people of the earth may know that the Lord is God, and that there is none else." Our Lord's prayer is like Solomon's in this, that it ends in an ascription of "the kingdom, and the power, and the glory," to God. So with all true prayer. It ends in praise. See how David, in the Psalms, prayed himself out of sadness into joy; out of confession into thankfulness and praise. If we ask something for ourselves, or for others, it should be with the implied wish that it may be granted or withheld, as may be, for our welfare and God's glory. The yearning of each Christian should be that of the Lord Jesus, "Father, glorify thy name." - A.R.
But will God indeed dwell on the earth?I. THE TRUTH OF THE ASSERTION ITSELF. That God must of necessity be omnipresent; 'tis to be observed that if being or existence be at all a perfection, it will follow, that in like manner as continuing to exist through larger periods of Time, so also extent of existence through larger portions of space, is the having a greater degree of this Perfection. And as that Being, which is absolutely perfect, must with regard to duration be Eternal; so, in respect of greatness, it must like. wise be immense. Otherwise its perfections will be limited; which is the notion of imperfection; and, by being supposed to be finite in extent, the perfection of its power will as totally be destroyed, as it would be, supposing it to be temporary in duration. For as any Being, which is not always; at the time when it is not, is as if it never was; so whatever Being is not everywhere; in those places where it is not, is as if it had no Being in any place at all. For no being can act where it is not, any more than when it is not. Power, without existence, is but an empty word without any reality; and the scholastic fiction of a being acting in all places without being present in all places, is either making the notion of God an express contradiction, or else a supposing Him so to act by the ministry of others, as not to be Himself present to understand and know what they do. It cannot but be evident, that He who made all things, as He could not but be before the things that He made, so it is not possible but He must be present also, with the things that He made and governs. For things could not be made without the actual presence of the Power that made them; nor can things ever be governed with any certainty, unless the Wisdom that governs them be present with them. Whatever arguments therefore prove the Being of God, and His unerring Providence, must all be understood to prove equally likewise His actual omnipresence. He who exists by necessity of nature, 'tis manifest must exist in all places alike. For absolute necessity is at all times and in all places the same. Whatever can be absent at any time, may be absent at all times; and whatever can be absent from one place, may be absent from another; and consequently can have no necessity of existing at all. He therefore who exists necessarily, must necessarily exist always and everywhere: that is, as he must in duration be eternal, so he must also in immensity be omnipresent.
II. TO OFFER SOME PARTICULAR OBSERVATIONS CONCERNING THE NATURE AND CIRCUMSTANCES OF THIS DIVINE ATTRIBUTE.
1. The excellency of the perfections of God does not consist in impossible and contradictory notions, but in true greatness, dignity, majesty, and glory. The eternity of God does not consist in making time past to be still present, and future time to be already come, but it consists in a true proper everlasting duration, without beginning and without end. And in like manner the Immensity of God does not consist in making things to be where they are not, or not to be where they are, but it consists in this; that whereas all finite beings can be present but in one determinate place at once: and corporeal beings even in that one place very imperfectly and unequally, to any purpose of power or activity, only by the successive motion of different members and organs; the Supreme Cause on the contrary, being a uniform Infinite Essence, and comprehending all things perfectly in Himself, is at all times equally present, both in His real essence, and by the immediate and perfect exercise of all His attributes, to every point of the boundless immensity, as if it were all but one single point. 'Tis worthy of observation, that this right notion of the omnipresence of God, will very much assist us to form a just apprehension of the nature of that Providence, which attends to and inspects, not only the great events, but even the minutest circumstances of every the smallest action and event in the world: Even that Providence, without which not a sparrow falls to the ground, and by which the very hairs of our head are all numbered. There is a certain determinate number or quantity of things, which every intelligent creature, according to the proportion of its sphere of power and activity, is able to attend to. And by this we may judge, that as creatures of larger capacities can observe a much greater number of things at one and the same time, than beings of a lower rank can imagine it possible they should, so God, who is present everywhere, can with infinitely greater ease direct and govern all things in the world at once, than we can attend to those few things which fall within the compass of our short observation.
3. As the beams of the sun are not at all soiled by the matter they shine upon, and as the purity and holiness of the Divine nature is not in the least diminished by beholding all the wickedness and moral impurity which is acted in the world, so the omnipresent Essence of God is not at all affected, by any natural impurity of things or places whatsoever; it being the superlative excellency and prerogative of His nature, to act always upon all things everywhere, and itself to be acted upon by nothing. All the sensible qualities of matter are merely relative to us in our present state, depending on the frame of our bodily organs, and not being anything really inherent in the things themselves. We behold only the outward surfaces of things, and are affected only by the various motions and figures of certain small parts of matter, which, by the help of microscopes, appear even to us to be really very different in themselves from what our senses represent them; and to a spirit, which sees the inward real essences of things, and not the external sensible images which affect us, they have no similitude at all with our imaginations.
4. The true meaning therefore of God's being in heaven, is to express His height and dignity, not in place, but in power: It being only a similitude drawn into common speech, from the situation of things in nature. As the heavenly bodies, the sun and stars, are high above us in place, and all earthly blessings depend on the sun and rain and the descent of kindly influences literally from above, so, by an easy figure of speech, whatsoever is above us in power, we are from hence used to represent as being above us in place.
III. SOME USEFUL INFERENCES FROM WHAT HAS BEEN SAID.
1. By this character of omnipresence, the true God of the universe is distinguished from all false deities; and the vanity of idolatry, made plainly to appear. The gods of the nations pretended to be but gods of particular countries; as the gods of Henah, Ivah, and Sepharvaim (2 Kings 18:34). Or, of particular parts of the same country; as gods of the hills, and not of the valleys (1 Kings 20:28).
2. If God is omnipresent, from hence it follows that he is to be worshipped and reverenced everywhere, in private as well as in public. Honour is to be paid Him, not only by angels before His throne in heaven, and by the congregation publicly in His Temple on earth, but also by every man singly in his most private retirements.
3. From the consideration of God's being omnipresent, it follows that His power (as well as knowledge) is unlimited; to Be everywhere relied on by good men, and to be feared by bad. As there is no time, so neither is there any place, where He is not at hand to protect His servants (Psalm 46:1).
(S. Clarke, D. D.)
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