1 Kings 8:38
may whatever prayer or petition Your people Israel make--each knowing his own afflictions and spreading out his hands toward this house--
Sermons
Because it Centralizes the Worship of the TheocracyE. De Pressense 1 Kings 8:38
The Dedication of the TempleC. S. Robinson, D. D.1 Kings 8:22-61
The Dedicatory PrayerJ. Parker, D. D.1 Kings 8:22-61
The Temple DedicatedMonday Club Sermons1 Kings 8:22-61
The Temple DedicatedS. J. Macpherson, D. D.1 Kings 8:22-61
The Praying KingJ. Waite 1 Kings 8:38, 39
One of the most remarkable features of this scene of the dedication of the temple is the place occupied, the part performed, in it by Solomon himself. He is the central figure, the chief actor. Both priest and prophet give place to him. The dedicatory prayer is a spontaneous effusion of his own devout feeling, and it is he who pronounces afterwards the benediction on the people. He stands before us here as a true type of that greater "Son of David," who is our Prophet, Priest, and King. There is a great deal in the tone of this prayer that betokens a soul fully alive to the solemn and momentous meaning of what was taking place in Jerusalem that day. It is not, indeed, to the service of the ancient Jewish temple that we should look for the most perfect models of devotion. New Testament revelations multiply and strengthen immeasurably our motives to prayer, enlarge its scope, open to us new grounds of assurance in it. "One greater than Solomon" has taught us how to pray, and revealed to us the path to acceptance in the merit of His own mediation. But as the life of religion in the soul of man is essentially the same in all ages, so the principles involved in prayer as the expression of it are the same. Two such rudimentary principles appear in this passage, viz., the sense of need prompting the suppliant to look heavenwards, and the recognition of something out of himself as the ground of hope for acceptance.

I. THE SENSE OF NEED, etc. It is the "plague of the heart" - the burden resting heavy there, the haunting sense of want or sadness in the secret soul, coupled with some kind of faith in Divine power - that moves men to pray. All true prayer is the utterance of these inward impressions. If much of our so called praying were subjected to this test, it is to be feared that it would be found very hollow and unreal, mere "words," a mere formal homage to custom - no deep, earnest, irrepressible longing of the soul inspiring it. Solomon begins to enumerate different calamities that may impel the people to pray, and then, as if overpowered by the mere vague, distant imagination of these possibilities, he says, "Whatsoever plague, whatsoever sickness," etc. How soon are we lost in the attempt to realize the manifold troubles of human life. We can understand and sympathize with individual griefs, but who can comprehend at all adequately the general sum of human woe, and take the weight of it sympathetically upon himself? Every man, however, knows where the universal evil specially touches himself. "Every heart knows its own bitterness." And with God there is both an infinite acquaintance with the whole and a special sympathy with each. There are some griefs that you lock up in your own bosom as secrets that none else must look upon.

"Not e'en the dearest heart, and next our own,
Knows half the reasons why we smile or sigh." But there is no grief you can conceal from Him. He became in the person of His Son "the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief," that we might feel how He follows us, or rather, goes before us, in every path of suffering. There is room in the great fatherly heart of God for us all, with all our burdens, and we can never measure the uplifting and sustaining power that comes to us by casting ourselves and them upon it - "In everything by prayer and supplication," etc. (Philippians 4:6, 7); "Cast thy burden upon the Lord," etc. (Psalm 55:22). But this expression, "to plague of his own heart," has a deeper meaning. It opens to us all the dark sad mystery of personal sinfulness, the moral disease that lurks within. There are times when the most careless, reckless spirit has glimpses of the unwelcome truth that this, after all, is the deepest cause of its disquietude. The multiform, mysterious evil of the world has its central root in the world's heart. Something of that "root of all bitterness" is in every human heart. Here lies the fatal mischief. It is not the tribulations of outward life, it is yourself you have most reason to mourn over. Not so much from them, but from something in yourself you have need to pray to be delivered. Christ always taught, By word and deed, the vital connection between the external calamities and the internal "plague." He took upon Him our sicknesses and sorrows, not only to show us how they may be nobly borne, but that He might bring His power as the Great Physician of souls to Bear upon the seat of our deadly disease, and by the efficacy of His blood might heal and save us all. Go penitently in His name to the mercy seat with the "plague of your heart," and you shall be redeemed from it.

II. THE RECOGNITION OF SOMETHING OUT OF ONE'S SELF AS THE GROUND OF HOPE. This essential element in true prayer is suggested by the words, "And shall stretch forth his hands towards this place." An interesting view is here given us of the relation of the temple to the individual religious life of the people. It was intended to be a witness to the unseen, a help to faith, an incentive to all holy thought and feeling. It stood through all the changes of time, the shifting lights and shadows of the world around it, as an impressive symbol of the "everlasting covenant." It enshrined the "sure mercies of David." Within its hallowed enclosure were gathered the sacred historic records and relies, and the types and shadows of "better things to come." It told both of what God had done and what He had promised - the monument of the glorious past, the prophecy of the brighter future. There was deep meaning, then, in the suppliant "stretching forth his hands towards that house," as expressive of the attitude of his soul towards that which it symbolized. When some lonely worshipper in a distant corner of the land, some patient sufferer, some soldier in his agony on the field of battle, some captive, like Daniel, in a strange country, directed his eyes towards the holy place, it was a sort of pathetic appeal to God's own faithfulness, a silent but eloquent plea that He would not forget His covenant, would fulfil the hopes that He Himself had awakened, and not for their sakes alone, but for His own truth and mercy's sake, would hear and save. In all this the temple was a type of something nobler, diviner than itself. The temple was the shadow, the substance is in Christ. "In him are hid all the treasures," etc. The cross of Christ, in which all the promises are confirmed and sealed; the cross, which is both the altar of the Redeemer's sacrifice and the throne of His sovereignty, is the shrine of "truth and grace" to men. The glory alike of the past and of the future is centred, focussed there.

"All the light of sacred story
Gathers round its head sublime," and from it there streams forth an ever-brightening radiance into the otherwise dark futurity. It stands the connecting link between heaven and earth, the meeting place of God and man, the key to all human history, the basis of our immortal hope. Here, then, on this central object alike of Divine and human interest, must the eye of the suppliant be fixed. It is that pledge of Divine love and faithfulness, external to ourselves, embodied in the cross of Christ, that we must plead if we would find acceptance in our prayer. When God has thoroughly taught us what the "plague of our own heart" means, and has unveiled to us the blessed mystery of His mode of curing it, it will be the sustained habit of our life to stand as suppliants before Him "in the name of Jesus." Thus alone can we so link ourselves with the sanctities of a higher world as to make our common life Divine. - W.







When Thy people Israel be smitten down before the enemy.
I. THE CONDITIONS OF NATIONAL UNITY. When any one desires to understand what is meant by a nation, he had better look unto God's people Israel first of all, for they fulfilled the two great conditions of national unity. The first is faith in God, and no nation has ever risen to greatness, and no nation, having arisen, has ever maintained its greatness except so far as it believed in — and publicly as a nation, and privately by individuals — acknowledged Almighty God. There is this analogy between the individual and the nation, that an individual is not able to say "I," with any intelligence of what "I" means, except in God; and an individual is not able to say "I will," with any force in the will, except in God. It is in the Unseen and Eternal that we realise ourselves. The other condition of national unity with Israel was vocation. Therefore the prophets were perpetually telling the people that their fathers had been called and blessed not for their own sake — and there is no man ever blessed for his own sake, but for the sake of the man that is next him — that their fathers had not been called and blessed for their own sake, but for the sake of the world. They were the receptors of a Revelation, and received the touch of truth to pass it down from hand to hand, and every man to blow it brighter as it went from patriarch to prophet, from prophet to psalmist, from psalmist to martyr, till the day came when the nation could be sent out, each man a torch-bearer, unto the ends of the earth, carrying the light of eternal truth.

II. A MESSAGE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. What was the message they were to carry to the world? The message they were to carry to the world was righteousness. As the Greek was raised up of God to give us the sense of beauty, so was the Jew raised up to give us what is far better than beauty, the sense of righteousness; and to write the ten words of Moses upon the conscience of the individual and the conscience of the nation. Comes then the question: Is there any nation to-day that has, as it were, succeeded to a great and world-wide mission, and a mission of the same practical and ethical nature as that which God gave to His people Israel? Is there any nation that has been secluded in its island home, and guarded round from other people so that the invader could not touch it; is there any nation that within its own home, being men of mixed blood, has gradually been welded together by common human sympathy and common faith in God; is there any nation that has gradually been led into a fuller sense of the truth of God; into political, and religious, and social liberty; is there any nation whose ordered and beneficent freedom is the admiration of every people, of its enemies and friends alike? Finally, is there any nation whose members have gone unto the ends of the earth, and wherever they have gone have been able to teach, to govern, to give justice unto the nations placed under their charge? There is only one nation of whom these things can be said; only one nation with whose history you can draw out this analogy to Israel, and that is the English people. Ought we not to ask ourselves whether as a nation — and having had this great favour of the Eternal — whether, as a nation we have borne ourselves like the servant of God? In one — in perhaps the most tender and beautiful passage in all the Old Testament, Isaiah 53. — there is a description of God s servant, which is supposed by some to be the Messiah, by some to be God's people Israel; but the mark of Him is not only that He is the means of great blessing to the world, but His humility, His tenderness, His sympathy, His lowliness. Have we been, as a nation, courteous to foreign nations, as we go by individuals through their midst? Have we, in our Literature and in our tress, always done justice to foreign peoples, and never blown our trumpet, our brazen trumpet, loudly in their faces? Is our character such — the character which we have earned through centuries such — that a foreigner will at once appreciate the goodness that is in us?

III. THE SIN OF MATERIALISM. The other sin which we always realise in a national crisis is the sin of Materialism, which also greatly beset Israel. While Israel was a handful of farmers, Israel was more or less spiritual. When Israel became rich and increased in goods, you have only to read the prophets to note how the race for wealth entered, and the power of the rich and the suffering of the poor made an unhappy and miserable nation. We have grown rich, and I am told — though you know better about these things than I do — that we were never richer than at the present day. Rich in goods? I pray you to define goods; and when we define goods, how are they defined? I think it is the money in the savings bank, which is very good so far as it represents thrift and intelligence; and the railways which we have made, which represent enterprise and the development of the country; these things and many other things. But these in themselves. are not the goods of a nation. No, not exports and imports, and population and money — these are not the goods of a nation. The goods of a nation are its intelligence; the goods of a nation are its integrity; the goods of a nation are its charity; the goods of a nation are its high and just spirit before God. Wherefore be not too lifted up, but let us remember this, that if our nation ever decay, it will not be from any power from without, or any unfaithfulness on the part of our God. It will be because some men have too much money, and some other people-have too little; and the west end of a city is one place, and the east end is another, and the west and the east they come not together.

(J. Watson, D. D.)

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