1 Kings 8:22-61
And Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the congregation of Israel…
Now we approach the great prayer by which the temple was dedicated. The house itself was nothing. It was but a gilded sepulchre, an elaborate and costly vacancy. First of all, therefore, we stand convinced that however much we may do technically, it can only be regarded as in a preparatory or introductory capacity. We can build the house, but we cannot supply the tenant.
1. Solomon's conception of the personality and dignity of God stands out quite conspicuously in the pages of history for its unrivalled sublimity. He speaks as one who was well instructed in the mysteries of the kingdom. In this prayer of Solomon's there is what some persons often mistakenly call preaching even in the language of devotion. Prayer is not request only, it is fellowship, communion, identification with God; it is the soul pouring itself out just as it will in all the tender compulsion of love, asking God for blessings, praising God for mercies, committing itself to God in view of all the mystery and peril of the future. Solomon having thus addressed the God of Israel, turns to Providence as revealed in the history of the chosen people, goes back even so far as the bringing-forth of Israel out of Egypt, and indicates point after point, at least suggestively, until David was elected to reign over the people Israel, and purposed as king to build an house for the name of the Lord God of Israel. Solomon does not take the whole credit to himself for the origination of this idea of the temple. He connects his action with the purpose that was in the heart of David his father. The temple, so beautiful and so costly, is not to be associated with anything that is merely religiously mystic. This is not a tent of superstition, not a habitation created for the purpose of indulging spiritual romances which can never have any bearing upon actual human life. Throughout his prayer we discover on the part of Solomon how thoroughly he identifies the house of God with all human interests.
2. How natural it is that human imagination should be confounded by the impossibility of the infinite God locating Himself within finite space. We do not consider that it is because God is infinite that He can, so to say, thus become finite. The finite never can become infinite, but it would seem to belong to infinite perfection to adapt itself to human limitation and necessity. God Himself has addressed the ages in a tone precisely coincident with the language of Solomon: "Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool: where is the house that ye build unto Me? and where is the place of My rest?" Solomon was therefore strictly within the line of revelation when he propounded the solemn inquiry. Everything depends upon our point of view in considering this great Question of God's condescension.
3. One might well think that the millennium had set in with the solemn dedication of the temple, and that all things would begin anew, and certainly that the time of tragedy, rebellion, and suffering had for ever passed away. We find, however, that Solomon orders his prayer in such a manner and tone as to recognise distinctly the fact that all things which had ever occurred which could try the faith, the patience, and the virtue of men would occur again and again to the end of the chapter. No; on the contrary: though the temple stands as a monument of human piety and as a fulfilment of a divine promise, human life will go on in all the variety of a divine promise, human life go on in all the variety of its experience much as it had gone on from the beginning. What then, is there nothing in the point of history thus established by the building of this holy house? Henceforth it is to be understood that whatever happens admits of religious treatment, and is to be taken to the temple itself for consideration and adjustment. Solomon recognises God as the ruler of providence and the controller of all nature. He is not afraid to trace the absence of rain to an ordinance of the Most High. A perusal of the history of his own people would make it clear that from early times God had been recognised as ruling over the elements of nature. Thus is the dominion of God enlarged by the religious imagination of Solomon; and thus, from the other point of view, is the revelation of God confirmed by the testimony of those who have most profoundly studied his ways and purposes in the earth.
4. Solomon, having ended his prayer, "stood, and blessed all the congregation of Israel with a loud voice," and in that blessing he made one declaration which cannot but be quoted from age to age with increasing emphasis and joy — "There hath not failed one word of all his good promise." This is the continual testimony of the Church. Thus with hardly any variation of language is the continuance of the Divine goodness reaffirmed. This is matter of personal experience. Every man can examine his own life, and see wherein he has been faithful, and wherein he has been faithless, and say distinctly whether faithfulness has not been followed by benediction, and faithlessness by disapprobation. Many promises remain yet to be fulfilled. Specially there remains the promise to be fulfilled that God will be with His people in the valley of the shadow of death. There is no discharge in that war! These triumphant conditions can only be realised by continual and growing faith in Him who is the resurrection and the life.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands toward heaven: