“Something greater than Solomon is here!” (Jesus; Matt 12.42; NET Bible)
This past Sunday a brother was leading Sunday School through the book of 1Kings 8–Solomon’s prayer of dedication of the Temple. Our time was spent in breaking the prayer up into seven petitions Solomon prayed (all circling around the blessings and curses in Deuteronomy). The seven pieces are as follows:
1. Sin against neighbor (1Ki 8.31-32)
2. Defeat by an army–due to sin (33-34)
3. Heaven’s rain ceases–due to sin (v35-36)
4. Famine & siege by enemy–due to sin (37-40)
5. Welcoming a foreigner (41-43)
6. Victory against enemy (44-45)
7. Captivity–due to sin (46-51)
While we were going through the blessings and curses in Deuteronomy as the foil for this prayer of dedication for the Temple, I couldn’t help but think of Jesus’ own prayer of dedication of his own body (the True Temple). Solomon was well aware that God would not be encased in the Temple he constructed (albeit magnificent). Heaven itself did not set boundaries for the Almighty. “Heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house I have built” (v. 27). All of the hearing that Solomon requests from God is that done with reference to the Temple–the symbol of God’s presence on earth. Forgiveness is granted when someone comes under the stipulations. That is, when someone stops asserting how things ought to be and submits himself to the manner which God has ordained.
We do not come to God with a list of how we think the world should be. We do not come to him thinking that we have the authority to dictate who is right and wrong–justifying our sin and condemning the mis-intentions of others. Rather, we listen FIRST. We listen to the way he has ordained the world to be ordered. We listen to him and how he has revealed himself. How proud we are when we determine what is right and wrong. What we see in this narrative is the responsibility of each person to confess his own sin.
Further, Jesus confessed that his body was the True Temple (Jn 2.19). Our repentance must then be in reference to him–not some mere Higher Power. When we confess our sin without reference to Christ, we denigrate God’s means by which forgiveness is offered. Jesus teaches us that we can go to the Temple of Ba’al and offer sacrifice. We can go to Dionysius’ vineyard and inebriate ourselves with self-righteous religion. But there is no forgiveness there. If you want to receive forgiveness. If you want to be heard, you MUST GO TO JESUS. Like it or not, that is the means he has ordained. Disagree? You need to give an account as to why this is false.
In John 17, Jesus echoes Solomon’s prayer. He has given them the Father’s teaching (vv. 7-8)–namely, that they must come to him for eternal life. We will find no other well that will satisfy us (Jn 4).
HOWEVER, one key difference between Solomon’s prayer of consecration and Jesus’ prayer. The end goal is that God’s people would be with Jesus and the Father. We do not stand afar off from the Temple, but are invited to come in and eat the fellowship offering. We do not drop our sacrificial goat at the door to the Temple only for the Levites to eat. No, we enter into the Holy Place and fellowship with Jesus. It is not a mere forgiveness, but a deep abiding and fellowship that is offered to us…if we will but humble ourselves and enter through the One Door.