Hear the plea of Your servant and of Your people Israel when they pray toward this place. May You hear from heaven, Your dwelling place. May You hear and forgive.
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.
When thou hearest, forgive.
I. THAT ALL MEN ARE SURE TO NEED FORGIVENESS: that whatever differences there may be among them in other respects, they all agree in this, that they are sure to need forgiveness. Now, what is forgiveness? Forgiveness implies that a man has done something that is wrong — some wrong that is especially directed against some other being — and so which might justly excite the being wronged to regard the wrong-doer with an unfriendly and angry feeling, and seek to inflict punishment upon him: but that the being wronged resolves to pass by the offence done him — to blot it out from recollection, so far as may be — to cherish no angry spirit towards the offender, and to take no vengeance upon him for that which he has done.
II. THE CHIEF THING WHICH BEINGS LIKE US OUGHT TO ASK FOR IN OUR PRAYERS, IS THE PARDON OF OUR SINS. Solomon seems to have thought that there was nothing which men needed so much; nothing which it was so important that they should get; nothing which included and meant so much. It was of this, no doubt, that our Blessed Lord was thinking, when, alluding to something which He did not name, but which all would understand, He said, "One thing is needful." For see what is meant by being an un-forgiven sinner. It means that a man has the anger of the Almighty God resting upon him. It means that the creature, weak, helpless, dependent, is at enmity with the Creator, without whose aid he cannot draw a breath, move a limb, live a moment. It means that the word of the True is solemnly plighted to destroy him: that the power of the Almighty is solemnly engaged to destroy him. It means that he is one of those, concerning whom God has declared that when they leave this world, they must enter into a place of infinite and never ending woe and wretchedness; and there dwell through eternity still under the burden of His wrath. That is what is meant by being a sinner, not forgiven; it means that everything is wrong! And what is meant by being forgiven? It means that everything that was wrong before, is now set right. It means that everything that was ban before, is now made good. It means that God, before an enemy, is now a friend. It means that God, formerly the angry Judge, is now the reconciled and gracious, Father. It moans that God's true word, formerly plighted to destroy us, and God s Almighty power, formerly engaged to destroy us, are now plighted and engaged to preserve and bless us.
III. GOD IS THE ONLY BEING WHO CAN FORGIVE, in the large and full sense of that word. Yell will remember, when I say this, the remark of the Scribes and Pharisees when our Saviour told a certain man that his sins were forgiven: they said, "This man blasphemeth: who can forgive sins but God only?" And they said what was true, if Christ had been a mere man. No one but God can forgive sin. And it is quite easy to show you how and why it is so. For, you know quite well, an offence can be forgiven only by the person against whom it was committed. Now all sin is in its essential nature, something committed against God; and therefore it can only be forgiven by God. There is a striking illustration in Scripture of this great truth, that sin especially consists in wrong done to God — that its great aggravation consists in this — and that when the conscience is awakened, the thing that weighs most heavy on a man s heart is, that he has sinned against God.
IV. PRAYER IS THE WAY TO OBTAIN THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS. You see Solomon looked forward to days when sinful beings should, under the consciousness of guilt, employ the natural and recognised means for getting that guilt forgiven. He took it for granted, that when men felt they needed forgiveness, they would pray to God to forgive them: and so he himself, in anticipation of very many prayers which would be offered for pardon, says, "Hear Thou in heaven Thy dwelling-place; and when Thou hearest, forgive." But indeed it is so plain that when you want anything from God, the right way to get it is to ask for it: this is so completely the dictate of common sense, that the matter needs no enforcement or illustration.
(A. K. H. Boyd.)
(N. A. Hillis, D. D.)
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