Since chapter 5 we’ve been reading about the house which Solomon built for the Lord. In chapter 5 we read about the preparations he made, arranging with Hiram king of Tyre for timber from Lebanon to be sent to Jerusalem. And we read about all the labourers who were conscripted to work alongside Hiram’s men in Lebanon and all the carriers and stonecutters and foremen who worked on the construction of this house for the Lord. And we read about the large blocks of quality stone which were used for the foundations.
That was in chapter 5. And then in chapter 6 we read how Solomon began to build the house for the Lord and how it was really one large rectangular building, which was divided into three parts. There was the portico at the entrance; and there was the main hall; and there was the inner sanctuary, the Most Holy Place. And the stone floor and walls were covered in timber; and then the timber inside the house was covered in gold, because the interior of this house was to represent the glory of heaven above. And the ark of the covenant, which represented God’s throne, was to be placed in the Most Holy Place; and statues of angels were placed there too to represent the angels in heaven who night and day worship before the throne of God. And this house which Solomon built for the Lord signified that heaven had come down to earth and God had come to dwell among his people, as he said he would.
That was in chapter 6. And then in chapter 7, we read about the palace complex which Solomon built, where he would live and where he would judge the people with justice as he sat on his throne in the Hall of Justice. And that temple complex foreshadows the royal residence of our King, the Lord Jesus Christ, who ascended to heaven to be enthroned in glory, where he is surrounded by worshipping angels and the saints in glory; and one day all the living and the dead will come before him to be judged by him.
And then, in the rest of chapter 7, we read about some of the furnishings which went into the house of the Lord. There were the two bronze pillars at the entrance and the Sea of cast metal filled with water and the ten movable stands for the ten bronze basins which were also filled with water. And there was the golden altar of incence and the golden table for the Bread of the Presence and there were ten lamp stands of pure gold and various dishes and bowls and other objects. All of these things were used in the worship of God. And all the water in the Sea and in the ten bronze basins speaks to us of the forgiveness of sins which is available to us now from Christ the Saviour whose blood cleanses us from the stain of our sins.
And today we come to chapter 8, which is really what those previous chapters having been leading up to. Now that Solomon has built a house for the Lord, and the builders and decorators have gone, it’s time for the Lord to move in to his new house. And that’s what happens in this chapter. And after the Lord moves in, King Solomon stands before the Lord and prays to him. And while there’s a lot in this chapter, the two big ideas are presence and prayer: the presence of God with his people; and the prayer of the king.
Verses 1 to 21
According to verse 1 King Solomon summoned into his presence in Jerusalem the elders of Israel, all the heads of tribes, and the chiefs of the families. It’s not entirely clear whether these are three separate groups of leaders or whether they are one group of leaders who can be described in these three ways. In either case, these were the leaders of the people and they represented the whole of Israel. It wouldn’t be possible to gather all the people into Jerusalem, and so their leaders were summoned to represent them all. And Solomon assembled them there because it was time to bring the ark of the covenant into the house of the Lord. Back in 2 Samuel 6 we read how David brought the ark to Jerusalem and placed it in a tent. And that’s where it remained until this day when Solomon summoned into his presence the leaders of the people.
And we’re told in verse 2 that all the men of Israel — or all the men representing Israel — came together in the seventh month. The seventh month was always a busy month for Israel, because on the seventh month there was the Feast of Trumpets and the Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles. The commentators reckon the writer is referring in verse 2 to the Feast of Tabernacles, which is fitting, because the Feast of Tabernacles was to recall the way the people once lived in tents in the wilderness when they were on their way from Egypt to the Promised Land. And, as I said a couple of weeks ago, building the house for the Lord signified that their wilderness wanderings and their journey from Egypt was finally over, because now at last they had reached their destination, which was God’s dwelling place in Jerusalem on Mount Zion.
And so, the priests took up the ark and they brought it and the old tabernacle and the sacred furnishings which went in the tabernacle. And Solomon and the people were offering sacrifices. And the priests brought the ark of the Lord’s covenant to its place in the Most Holy Place in the house of the Lord and they positioned it beneath the statues of the angels. And the wings of the angels stretched out over it. And the writer mentions what happened to the poles used for carrying the ark; and he reminds us that the ark contained the two stone tablets on which were written the Ten Commandments. And that reminders us why the ark was known as the ark of the covenant, because the Ten Commandments were really the terms of the covenant. Do you remember how the commandments begin? ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.’ And so, here’s the basis of their covenant relationship: God had rescued them from Egypt. And now, out of gratitude, they were to devote themselves to him and they were to obey his commands. And we too can say that God has rescued us. He has rescued us from our sin and misery by his Son. And now, out of gratitude, we’re to devote ourselves to God and we’re to obey his commands in our daily lives.
And according to verse 10, when the priests withdrew from the house, the cloud filled with temple. And the priests could not perform their service because this glory-cloud filled his temple. This is the glory-cloud which we first read about in the book of Exodus. When the Israelites were going through the wilderness, the Lord’s glory-cloud went before them to show them the way. During the day it looked like a pillar of cloud; and at night it it looked like a pillar of fire. And it signified God’s presence with them. And right at the end of the book of Exodus, we read how Moses finished making the tabernacle, which was a tent for God in the wilderness. And when Moses finished the tabernacle, the Lord’s glory-cloud covered the tabernacle and the glory of the Lord filled it. And Moses couldn’t enter the tabernacle because the cloud had settled on it and his glory filled it.
That’s what happened once the tabernacle had been made in the days of Moses. And the house which Solomon built was to replace the tabernacle. The tabernacle was only a tent, a temporary dwelling, whereas Solomon had built a house, a permanent dwelling for the Lord. And the way the glory-cloud filled the house signifies that God had come to dwell there among his people.
And in verses 12 and 13, Solomon addresses the Lord who had said that he would dwell in dark cloud. Now, there’s no record in the Bible of God ever saying that. The closest verse is Leviticus 16:2 where God says he appears in the cloud. But what Solomon says is true: God did dwell in the dark cloud, because the glory-cloud signified God’s presence with his people in those days. And then Solomon goes on to refer to the magnificent house which he has built for the Lord. And so, it’s as if he’s saying to God: ‘Here you are. This is for you. This is to be your home from now on.’
And in verses 15 to 21 he prays to the Lord and he blesses him. That is, he praises the Lord. And he praises the Lord for fulfilling what he promised to David, which is that David’s son would be the one to build a house for the Lord to dwell in. And the Lord has kept his promise. Do you see that in verse 20? ‘I have succeeded David my father and now I sit on the throne of Israel, just as the Lord promised. And I have built the temple for the Name of the Lord, the God of Israel.’ God promised that David’s son would build the temple. And Solomon is saying that God has kept his promise, because I have succeeded my father and I have built a temple for the Lord.
And so, this first part of today’s reading is about the presence of the Lord, because the way the glory-cloud filled the temple signifies that God had come to dwell among his people as he said he would.
Verses 22 to 66
The second part of today’s reading is dominated by Solomon’s prayer. We read in verse 22 that he stood before the altar of the Lord in front of the whole assembly of Israel and he spread out his hands towards heaven and began to pray.
And in the prayer which follows, he begins by acknowledging that there is no God like the Lord in heaven above or on the earth below. He alone is God and he keeps his covenant of love with his servants who continue in his way.
And then he goes on to refer to God’s promise to David concerning future kings and how there will always be one of David’s descendants on the throne so long as David’s descendants are careful to walk in the ways of the Lord. In other words, if future kings are faithful to God, then they can expect good things from the Lord. But if they turn away from the Lord, and bow down to false gods, then they can only expect trouble from God. And so, right at the beginning of this prayer, Solomon acknowledges that he and the kings who will come after him must remain devoted to God.
And then Solomon acknowledges something else. He’s already acknowledged that there is no God like the Lord and that he and those who come after him must remain devoted to God. And now in verse 27 he acknowledges that while he has built a house for the Lord to dwell in, he knows that the highest heavens cannot contain God. God is so great, so transcendent, that he is above and beyond the heavens and the earth. He’s not like you and I. We can only be in one place at a time so that when we’re here on Sundays, we can’t be anywhere else. But God’s presence fills the earth and the heavens and beyond. But even though that is the case, and God is above and beyond the earth and the heavens, Solomon asks the Lord to pay attention to his people when they pray towards this place. In other words, though the temple cannot contain God, let it be as if you are here in this temple and that this temple is a kind of portal or gateway into heaven, so that when we pray towards this place, you’ll hear us from heaven, your true-dwelling place. Do you see that in verse 30? So, heaven above is your true dwelling-place, where there are real angels to worship you, and not statues of angels. Heaven above is your true dwelling-place. But let this temple represent heaven. Let it signify your presence among us. And when we pray towards this place, will you hear from heaven?
And Solomon asks the Lord not only to hear their prayers, but to forgive them. And so, here’s another acknowledgement. Solomon first acknowledged that there is no God like the Lord. And he acknowledged that he and those who come after him must remain devoted to God. And he acknowledged that God is above and beyond the earth and the heavens and cannot be contained in a temple. And now he acknowledges that we’re sinners who need forgiveness from God. We break his commandments. We fall short of doing his will. We’re sinners. And we need his forgiveness.
And then, in verses 31 to 53, Solomon describes seven situations when prayer is necessary. And almost all of these seven situations are connected with their need for forgiveness.
And so, the first situation he describes is when there’s a dispute between neighbours. One of them has sinned against the other. And they come and swear an oath before the Lord, which was a kind of prayer. When that happens, hear from heaven and act to condemn the guilty one and to clear the innocent one.
The second is when the Israelites have been defeated by an enemy because they have sinned against the Lord. And when they pray to you, hear from heaven and forgive them.
The third is when there’s a drought in the land because they have sinned against the Lord. And when they pray to you, then hear from heaven and forgive them.
The fourth is when other disasters befall them. Though Solomon doesn’t say these things happened because they have sinned, that’s the clear implication. And so, when they pray to you, then hear from heaven and forgive them.
The fifth is when a foreigner comes from a distant land because he has heard of God’s great name and he prays to God. When that happens, hear from heaven and do whatever he asks of you. And presumably one of the things the foreigner asks for is for forgiveness.
The sixth is when God’s people go into battle against their enemies. And when they pray to you, then hear from heaven and uphold their cause.
And the seventh is when God’s people sin against them and he becomes angry with them and sends them into exile away from the land of Israel. And when they have a change of heart and repent and plead with the Lord and confess their guilt, and if they turn back to you, then hear from heaven and forgive your people who have sinned against you. Hear from heaven and forgive them all their offences.
King Solomon is asking the Lord to forgive his people when they sin against him. They’re going to sin against God, because they’re sinners who sin continually. But when they sin, will you forgive them?
And then, in verse 56, Solomon once again praised God who has given them rest. And he asks God to be with them and to turn their hearts to God, so that they will walk in his ways and keep his commands. And he asks God to uphold their cause so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God and there is no other.
And then they offered an abundance of sacrifices to God. And when the festival was over, Solomon sent the people away. And they went home, joyful and glad in heart for all the good things the Lord had done for his servant David and his people Israel.
We’ve had to rush through the chapter, but let me remind you of the first part which was about the presence of God with his people. When the glory-cloud filled the temple, it signified that God has moved in to his house and he was prepared to dwell among his people. And so, whenever the people went to the temple, they were going to meet God and to worship him there. God had come to dwell among his people.
However — and as I’ve said before — God came to dwell among his people in an even greater way when he came to earth in the person of his Son to dwell among us as one of us. John in his gospel tells us that the Word — God the Son — became flesh and tabernacled among us. The Word — God the Son — came to live with us on earth. And when he came, the people beheld his glory.
And now that the Lord has returned to heaven, he dwells in his people by his Spirit. Is that the point the Apostle Paul makes in 1 Corinthians 16:19 where he says: ‘Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?’ And the psalmist says to God in Psalm 139: ‘Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?’ Wherever you are, and whatever you have to face, you are not on your own, because God is with you by his Spirit.
And God not only dwells in his people individually, but he dwells in his people collectively. He dwells in his church by his Spirit. Do you remember what Paul says in Ephesians 2? He describes the church as a building which is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. And Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone, holding us together. And in him we rise to become what? We rise to become a holy temple in the Lord and a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. Whenever the Israelites assembled in the temple in Jerusalem to worship God, God was with them. And now, whenever the church assembles in different locations around the world to worship God, God is with us. He’s with us by his Spirit to receive our praise and to hear our prayers and to work among us to convince and convert sinners to faith in Christ; and to build up believers in holiness and comfort.
When we gather here on Sundays, we’re assembling in the presence of God to worship him. Yes, God is above and beyond the confines of this building. This building cannot contain him, because he is present everywhere and his presence fills the heavens and the earth. But he has promised to be with us by his Spirit when we gather together for worship. And so, what a privilege it is for us to come on Sundays into the presence of God. It’s as if heaven has come down to earth, because God is with us and he’s at work among us. Why would we ever stay away? Why would we ever stay away and miss the opportunity of meeting on Sundays with Almighty God, our Heavenly Father?
And then the second part of today’s reading was about the king’s prayer for God to forgive his people. And in that way, King Solomon foreshadows Christ the King, who stands in the presence of God to represent us before the Father and to pray for us.
He stands there as our King and Priest and speaks in our defence. Isn’t that how John puts it in his First Letter? He wrote that if anyone sins — and we all sin — we have one who speaks to the Father in our defence: Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. And when I preached on that passage not so long ago, I explained that he speaks in our defence by referring to what he himself has done for us, when he offered himself as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. And an atoning sacrifice for sins is the sacrifice which Christ offered on the cross which turned God’s wrath and curse away from you and on to him. He took the blame and the punishment for all that you have done wrong, so that you could be pardoned by God. And so, the Saviour speaks in your defence by referring to what he has done for you on the cross. And because of what he has done for you on the cross, God is prepared to forgive you.
And so, if you’re trusting in Christ for salvation and belong to him, then whenever you sin, your Priestly-King is in heaven and he’s praying for you and he’s saying to the Father: Forgive! Every time you sin, here’s always there and he’s saying to the Father: Forgive! Whenever you fall short, he’s there, before the Father, and he’s saying to the Father; Forgive! And our Father in heaven is willing to hear and to forgive, because your Priestly-King paid for your sins when he gave up his life on the cross.
If you’re not yet trusting in Christ, then there’s no one in heaven to speak in your defence. And there’s no one who has paid for your sins. And so, one day you’ll have to pay for them yourselves, when God condemns you and sends you away to be punished forever. And so, while there is still time, you need to turn from your unbelief, and you need to trust in Christ. And if you do, then you can be sure that he will also stand before the Father and speak in your defence and he’ll ask the Father to forgive you.