May 17, 2020

Sermon - Dedication of the Temple


Dedication of the Temple

2 Chronicles 6v1-21

Tonight as you may have gathered, we go back to looking at the prayers of Solomon in 2 Chronicles 6. Not in an exhaustive way, but to discover together what we can learn about God and His relationship with those who are His and seeing how this is relevant to us some 3 millennia later. During the intervening period, I wonder if Solomon had wrestled in his mind over what he prayed… Let us wrestle together now, in these prayers of his, albeit briefly. This is a key passage, a link if you like, between the Covenant that God made with Solomon’s father, David, including the building of a House for God, the Temple, and the glory of the Lord filling the Temple in 2 Chronicles 7. This reflects I think, the necessity and vitality of prayer in the unfolding of God’s will for humanity. The story is also regaled in 1 Kings 8 but with some nuance as you may expect.

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A Covenant Making God

Down through history, the Bible reveals that God has made Covenants with humanity. A covenant is an important way to describe the progress of the relationship between God and humanity through the Biblical story. A covenant at the time of the Old Testament was a solemn commitment between the two covenanting parties to fulfil all the promises and obligations of the covenant. Covenants were common in all kinds of life, and not just between God and humanity. The idea comes from the sort of agreement commonly entered into in the ancient area round Israel between a high king, and a sub king or clan chief.

It is easy to see how a covenant is a good way to describe the relationship between God and humanity. God, who promises to protect and help the human with faithfulness, and the human who promises to worship and honour God with faith. The Covenants between God and humanity have several things about them regarding the relationship.

In these Covenants between God and humanity, God always took the initiative – sometimes by complete surprise. God has made certain commitments and has given His solemn promise to fulfil His end of the bargain. God waits for a response from humanity. God does not coerce or force but waits for humanity to take the responsibility of replying and acquiescing to God's covenantal promises through obedience, faithfulness and worship.

There are Covenants made in the Garden of Eden, Covenants made in history with Adam, Noah and Abraham, but we will fast forward to the Covenant between God and Moses before going onto His covenant with Solomon’s father, David.

The Mosaic Covenant

Why look at the Covenant made between God and Moses? We do so because there is a connection between that Covenant and the prayer of Solomon we are looking at tonight. Indeed the very Ark of the Covenant contained a gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and two tablets of stone on which the Ten Commandments were inscribed. Charles Spurgeon commented “One is struck, with the fact that the language of Solomon is far from new, and is full of quotations from the Pentateuch (where the Mosaic Covenant is fully explained), some of which are almost word for word.”

This covenant is between God and humanity, in this case with the particular nation of Israel. It commences with the stipulation “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine” (Exodus 19:5). This covenant was to Israel in order that those who believed God’s promise, could know how to live righteously. Israel’s task was to bring the knowledge of God to all the world so that blessing might come to all humanity. In this, however, they were to fail and only when Jesus came as the perfectly obedient Israelite was it to become possible that all the world should be blessed.

This Mosaic covenant covered the three areas of life:

  • The commandments were given so they would know how to relate socially to God correctly (Exodus 20:1-17)
  • The judgments were given in order that they could relate socially to each other properly (Exodus 21:1 - 24:11 and in Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy)
  • The decrees dictate their religious life so that God could be approached by humanity on His terms (Exodus 24:12 - 31:18, and in Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy).

The Mosaic Covenant was never meant as a means by which humanity could achieve salvation with God. It was given so that they could realize the helplessness of their own efforts, and their need of God's help as well as expressing their devotion to the Lord. Yet they still failed to bring blessing to other peoples. Galatians 3:22-24 explains that the Law was only a protective fence until through the promised Messiah, when humanity could be made right with God through faith. That Messiah we know to be the man Jesus Christ. More later though.

The Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7:4-17)

Now we fast forward to the Covenant which was in place as Solomon dedicates the Temple to God and is mentioned here. This covenant that God made with David, Solomon’s father. Three great things were promised:

  • A land forever (2 Samuel 7:10);
  • A dynasty without end (2 Samuel 7:11, 16)
  • A perpetual kingdom (2 Samuel 7:13, 16)

Through the Covenants we see a God who is willing to interact with His creation and bless it. When first century Christians such as the Apostles Paul, Peter and John checked and thought over all the events surrounding the life of Jesus Christ, they searched their Scriptures (our Old Testament). It was as God the Holy Spirit illuminated their minds, that they wrote down and passed on the whole range of Old Testament promises which were fulfilled in God's Messiah and the world's hope - Jesus Christ and Him alone. That is why it is important for us as twenty-first century Christian Disciples to read our Old Testament as well as the New Testament. For by reading the Old Testament, new light is shed upon our own understanding of the New Testament. One of the fundamentals of understanding the Bible, is to let the Bible interpret the Bible.

There is one more Covenant of God which we are to look at tonight, but we will see that shortly! We press on with these prayers of Solomon.

There are 3 prayers here.

  • v1-2 are opening words of praise to God
  • v4-11 are the 2nd prayer
  • v16-41 are the 3rd prayer.

We won’t go into any great detail tonight, you will no doubt be glad to know. We will get to about verse 21 I think. But with a very general overview, let’s look together and see what we can learn together from the wise man Solomon about God and about prayer. Charles Spurgeon said that “It is worthy of remark concerning this prayer that it is as full and comprehensive as if it were meant to be the summary of all future prayers offered in the temple.”

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Part 1

1. Verses 1 & 2 - Solomon acknowledges God’s presence in the cloud

Here we see that Solomon acknowledges God’s presence in the cloud. The cloud of God’s glory has a long association with His presence. Solomon knew that the presence of the cloud meant that God dwelt in the temple in a special way. It was to be a special place to come and meet with God. It was symbolic of God living with His people.

2.Verses 3 to 9 – Solomon blessed the people and blesses God.

Here we see that Solomon blessed the people and blesses God. Solomon knew, affirmed and recognized that the completion of the Temple was the fulfilment of the plan of God and not of Solomon himself or indeed of his father David. God’s plan. David and Solomon were merely the human instruments, they were God’s arms and legs, but the work was affirmed to be God’s alone! God’s actions or work have confirmed His words, His promises! God’s hands were at work building the Temple as He guided and strengthened the human workers who contributed themselves to its construction.

Solomon recounts how their ancestors had escaped from Egypt in the Exodus 500 years hence. This shows its importance to the people of Israel at the time! Their minds were singing “If the Lord can bring us out of Egypt and rescue us, He will help us establish ourselves as a nation and build this Temple in order to worship Him. “

God is faithful to His promises. Down through the ages God has been faithful and keeping His part of the Covenant that He made with people. Later when we come to conclude we will see together briefly the promises of God for the Christian, including us today almost 3 millennia later.

Solomon now issues a statement concerning his father, David! Why David was not to build it. Though David, the mighty King had done extensive preparations for it, he didn’t actually complete it. The completion was left for his son, Solomon. Why? Because of God’s ideal of rest for his King and for his people. David had fought many wars and battles. It was part of his rest in God not to build the Temple. Solomon was spared the emotional turmoil of war, so could dedicate his energies to building the Temple – the House of God.

3. Verses 10-11 - Solomon presents the finished temple unto God.

And with verses 10 to 11, we see that Solomon presents the finished Temple to God. Solomon recognized that being the successor of his father David to the throne of Israel was significant. He then places the Ark of the Covenant, in its resting place in the Temple. The Ark of the Covenant was a physical representation of God’s promised presence with His people, the nation of Israel. It was a wooden chest clad with gold containing a gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the two stone tablets of the Ten Commandments. Solomon speaks of a God who fulfilled with His hands what He had spoken with His mouth. God had said what He was going to do, and then went and did it.

How are we doing at worshipping as we work for the Lord? Are we workers primarily and then click a switch to engage worship mode as we come here on a Sunday? Or do we consider ourselves God worshippers as we work? God wants worshippers before workers. In God’s mind, the only acceptable workers are those who have learnt the art of worship. Do you consider all you do as acts of worship to God? Everything you do as acts of worship to God? Because that is the kind of people God wants and desires, the kind of people who worship Him in Spirit and in truth and in all aspects of life – not just for a couple of hours on a Sunday.

Part 2. Solomon’s prayer.

Verses 12-14 - Humility before and praise unto God.

.Here in verses 12 to 14 we see that Solomon stands before the altar of the Lord. Solomon did not dedicate the Temple from within the Temple itself because that would have been the wrong place. That was where only the Priest could go, so Solomon stands outside, raised up so that the throngs of people could see him. Before the altar, spreading out his hands in an act of symbolism - reaching out toward heaven in a gesture of surrender, openness, and ready reception.

Here Solomon recognizes that God was and is completely unique in all facets of being and expresses it. The false and pretend gods of the nations around Israel could not compare to Him in any way.

Verses 15-17 - Solomon recognizes God as the maker and keeper of promises.

Solomon commences now to thankfully praise God, because God has kept all His promises that He had mad in the past. Have you done that in your prayer life? Speaking out thanks for what God has done for you in the past?

He continues and calls upon God to keep the promises that He has now made. We are, as His people, to take on board God’s promises, take them to heart in faith, and then boldly and reverently call upon Him to fulfil the promises. Again, is that part of your prayer life? God promises and we are to appropriate, take hold of them and proclaim them, taking them on board in our life by faith, knowing that God fulfils the promises that He makes to people.

Verses 18-21 - Solomon asks God to dwell in this place and honour those who seek Him here.

Solomon now asks a question in this prayer! How often have you and I asked God questions as we pray, rather than just listing off our demands. God would reside in the Temple but not to the exclusion of other places. While God would have a special presence in the Temple, He would not be restricted to it. Solomon asks God to listen to His people as they pray and worship in this Temple dedicated to Him. When God hears the prayers made in the Tempe, Solomon implores that He would forgive His people and probably the greatest answer to prayer that they could expect.

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Conclusion - Promises of God for the Christian

After such a prayer, how can we conclude? What are the challenges and comforts we have seen from this passage of Scripture? This Temple was destroyed about 400 years later by the Babylonians. It is long gone. What about David’s Covenant though? Was that ever fulfilled?

Remember David’s Covenant which we looked at briefly earlier on? Was that ever fulfilled? We can say that it has been! It was fulfilled gloriously in the coming of God, in the man Jesus Christ. When the great God did indeed come as a human being in the person we know as Jesus Christ. It is historical fact.

2 Samuel 7:12 predicted the birth of Solomon as David's successor to the throne, with his role being to establish David's throne forever (2 Samuel 7:13). We see this link to the man Jesus Christ, through the genealogies to both Joseph: who had a legal right to King David's throne (Matthew 1:1-17) and to Mary: who had a blood right to King David's throne (Luke 3:23-38). The land is the whole world, now potentially the sphere of the rule of Jesus (Romans 4:13); the dynasty was, through Solomon, eventually to be the eternal son, Jesus (Matthew 1:1, 6, 16; Luke 3:23, 31); the Kingdom is the kingdom of God, now established, and ever growing in the world in which we live. (Matthew 11:12)

All of which were fulfilled gloriously in the coming of Jesus Christ. Jesus the Messiah, the Saviour. Jesus Christ – fully God and fully human. Not just for the Jews but for all people of every race and language. Really that should make us go WOW in awe of our God. Our God is the God of history and has stepped into history as a human being.

The New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Luke 22:15-20)

We see all this in what is called the New Covenant. Four features of this covenant are:

  • Regeneration – God will write His law on the hearts of people. (Jeremiah 31:33)
  • Restoration - God will be their God, and they will be God's people. (Jeremiah 31:33)
  • Promised Holy Spirit – God will indwell people and they will be led by Him (Jeremiah 31:34)
  • Justification – Sins will be forgiven, removed and remembered no more (Jeremiah 31:34)

This new covenant is sealed only through the perfect sacrifice of the God-Man Jesus on the cross. His death ensures the truth of this New Covenant. His death pays the penalty for the sins of all people. That is why we are to say yes to God and His New Covenant. This New Covenant can be contrasted with the Old Covenant, the Mosaic covenant that we looked at earlier, (Jeremiah 31:32; Hebrews 8:6-13) because this New Covenant finalizes and makes possible what the Mosaic Covenant could only point to: the follower of God living in a righteous life conforming to God's holy character.

Solomon asks in verse 18 “But will God really dwell on earth with humans? The heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain you. How much less this temple that I have built!” In Solomon’s direct context, he was talking about the Temple which he was dedicating to God. In the overall context of the Bible, however, God did indeed come and dwell on earth. Not just with humans, but to be a human. Jesus Christ, the God-man. God keeps His promises and Jesus Christ is evidence of that. Oh that is so easy to forget when we are undergoing the trials of life. In what way does God keep His promises to us today?

Five quick statements.

  • By faith, He is praying for us. God the Son, Jesus Christ is making intercessions for Christians (Romans 8:34). He knows our troubles and He feels our cares and knows what we are going through (Hebrews 4:14-16). Isn’t that simply amazing and oh how easily we forget.
  • By faith - He will come to us. Have you ever felt like God is far away? Well you aren’t alone! Solomon’s father, David, often felt that God was far away and unconcerned with his life. Just a cursory look in the Psalms will reveal that. However he also knew that God would ultimately rescue him. Jesus always comes to us through difficult times. Although He may not come in the time we think He should come, because He knows when we need Him most.
  • By faith - He will help us grow - Once, when His disciples were in the storm on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus came to them walking on the water (Matthew 14:22-33). The purpose of this incident was to show that Jesus would be leaving them soon, so they had to learn to trust in Him when He wasn’t physically present. One of those disciples, Peter, wrote later on in his life, “for the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers” (1 Peter 3:12). How are you growing as a follower of Jesus? Not only in your knowledge but also in your transformation and development? As we are being transformed by the power of God the Holy Spirit into the image of God the Son, Jesus Christ, it is to the praise and glory of God the Father. Our transformation reveals God at work.
  • By faith, He will see us through - Again, when the disciples were in the storm, Jesus said “Come” and Peter went with Him. This must have encouraged the other disciples, for upon seeing Jesus’ power they worshipped him. Whatever troubles you are undergoing are temporary, and Jesus will see you through. For various reasons 2015 for Youngmi and I started out as if it could be our annus horribilus. Yet it became our annus mirabilis instead as we saw God at work each day throughout the year.
  • By faith, you have salvation - if you are trusting in Jesus alone for your salvation. By faith Jesus is praying for you, will come to you, grow you and help you through troubles. By being obedient to God, you and I are showing others our salvation and showing that faith, is not blind, but active. We can be obedient to Him by relying on His strength and wisdom. We are to be faithful to God and show it by being obedient to Him and getting on with the work we have been given, just as Solomon was in getting the Temple competed. Is your work worship or your worship work?

As we go out tonight, let us remember that God keeps His promises, He is listening to your prayers and He wants us to be in a dynamic moment by moment relationship with Himself. This great God wants you and I to be actively obedient to Him in all facets of our lives – our work, our play, our conversations, our worship and our relationships. If you are struggling in a particular area, get trusted others to pray for you and to hold you accountable – that is part of discipleship – part of following and loving God.

Our verse for the year as a Church is Psalm 105:4 “Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.” That was what Solomon did in the building of the Temple. That is what we are to do as well, as I am sure you are aware. Not only the Church here as a whole, but as individual followers of Jesus Christ. If we try to do it in our own strength we will fail. If we do it in the strength of the God we proclaim to love, worship, serve and glorify then we can – because all glory and honour will go to Him and Him alone.

As we go, are we ready in some way to tell others about this great God we claim is great and sing here in this fabulous building of our love and service? Are we ready to enable and encourage each other in the faith, and not just our friends and favourites, in some way as we see need? Are we actively engaging with the great God throughout each day, worshipping Him in all aspects of life and letting Him have dominion over every aspect of our lives as we put our trust fully in Him and in all aspects of life?

We are to be faithful to God and show it by being obedient to Him and getting on with the work we have been given, just as Solomon was in getting the job done.

As a general observation, most of the Church is scared of that word evangelism. We are not all to be evangelists like the Billy Grahams or Bruce Kitchings of this world, but we are to tell and show others about the God we claim to love and are in covenant with. Let’s go WOW the world, all of it, including our little corner here for God with the news of our God – the God who is outside of time who stepped down into time, into human history, in order that humanity could choose to follow Him or not - to be His children or not. Let’s keep our eyes fixed firmly on our God as we seek to enable and encourage – not just as a church body but also as individuals to all others that we meet. We are the Church on the hill. Let us, both as a church and as individuals, “Look to the LORD and his strength; seeking his face always.” Let’s go WOW for God together, heeding His advice and worshipping Him alone in all facets of life.

Are you tired and in need of comfort from all the challenges you are having to endure? Keep your eyes on God and allow Him to embrace you, comfort and lift you up. Remember that He is for you, He lives within you and you are His child.

Are you too comfortable? In need of a challenge to stop you becoming complacent? Ask God to help you overcome, to empower you and seek His face and wisdom. Ask for His strength to help you do what He has asked you to do?

The God we have comforts us in our challenges and challenges us in our comfort. We have an amazingly glorious God!

Let’s have a minute or two to bring ourselves before God and ask God to help you as only He can. Then I will close with a prayer before we go on to have our final song together.

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