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Solomon Speaks to the People
Winter Quarter: Honoring God
Sunday school lesson for the week of January 12, 2020
By Dr. D. Craig Rikard
Lesson Scripture: I Kings 8: 14-21
Supplementary text: 2 Chronicles 6
Key Verse: I Kings 8:15
“Praise to the Lord, the God of Israel, who with his own hand has fulfilled what he promised with his own mouth to my father David.”
Aim and Goal of the Lesson
To hear Solomon’s blessing upon his people, a historical blessing that reminds Israel God has kept his promises to the uttermost and those promises are rooted in God’s redemptive history.
Historical, Geographical, Theological and Experiential background of I Kings 8:14-21, and 2 Chronicles 6:
In Genesis 12, God initiated the ageless covenant with Abraham, Sarah, and their descendants. How one was to live out that covenant in an ordered, societal and spiritual life was defined in a second expression of covenant through the Mosaic Law. In describing the vehicle through which the living of the Mosaic Law would be observed and obeyed by Israel through its leadership came through the promise of the Davidic lineage of kings. (Read Isaiah 9, 11, and Isaiah’s servant songs) In the final expression of the covenant, the outer Mosaic Law would become internalized, as a “new covenant written in the heart.” (Read Jeremiah 31:31 fwd.). This new expression of covenant would be fulfilled fully in Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “I have not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.” (Mat. 5:17)
God has remained faithful to his covenant and empowered his people to live in that covenant in the world, should they choose to do so by faith. God has been truthful about God’s truth! Thus, Solomon, as the temple is complete and the Ark in its place, blesses Israel by reminding them of this divine faithfulness. Solomon reminds Israel they can live confidently knowing their ultimate future is certain, for God’s love and truth remain unchangeable.
In our lesson Solomon turns toward Israel after facing a bronze platform around which the priests minister before the Lord. He addresses his people in the act of worship through blessing them. What a powerful setting as he addresses Israel, calling their attention that the new temple sits atop Mt. Moriah, the same site where Abraham was believed to offer Isaac to God.
Remember, the author of Chronicles is known by scholars for addressing many of the important issues omitted by I and II Samuel and the Kings. The title in the Septuagint for Chronicles refers to “things overlooked in the earlier historical documents.” Most believe Ezra the scribe began to write the Chronicles and they were later completed by other scribes who sought to complete the spiritual reform Ezra began. Ezra brought much needed reform back to those exiles who were returning to Canaan after the Babylonian empire had destroyed Judah and razed so many of their sacred symbols, especially the temple. The Mosaic Law they once cherished was steadily falling into neglect through the years in exile. The negligence with which they treated the Law naturally led to moral negligence. We should not be amazed that Ezra and the scribes want the returning exiles to remember that in spite of their fall to Babylon and the years of exile, God’s love for and his promises to his people remain unchangeable. Life might prove a series of triumphs and failures, but the God of Israel is the God of covenant through it all. Thus, the Chronicler wants Israel to again hear the powerful blessing Solomon offered that special day at the new temple. What was true then was true now: God is faithful!
Historical, Geographical, Theological and Experiential reflection on I Kings 8:14-21, and 2 Chronicles 6:
I Kings 8: 14
The teacher’s manual offers a beautiful account in which a son provided his father’s eulogy. As a son who performed his own father’s eulogy, I understand how difficult that position is and even more so how touching. The son wanted the congregation to remember that his father never broke his word; he kept every promise made. What is slightly different from this beautiful eulogy is that Solomon’s eulogy for his father had less to do with David’s ability to keep his promise and far more to do with God’s choice to keep every promise made to his people in holy covenant.
Solomon is either standing or kneeling facing the altar around which the priests minister. The text reveals that Solomon turns from facing the altar area to face the standing congregation. In today’s Christian worship people very often kneel when worshiping the Lord. We may kneel for communion or for a time of prayer at the altar. Often, we kneel together in corporate prayer. Kneeling represents sincere humility and reverence before God. However, it was customary in Solomon’s day also to stand as an act of worship. Standing too was an act of reverence and often represented a sense of vow and promise to God. When Josiah found the copy of the Law within the temple treasury, most likely a copy of Deuteronomy, he called the people together for solemn assembly. The entire nation gathered to listen to the reading of the Law after so many years without hearing it. And imagine, they stood the entire time the Law was read! It was their way of paying reverence and honor to the sacred Law and of saying before the Lord, “and we stand to it!” (Which meant, we promise to obey it!). Can you imagine holding an entire worship service with the congregation standing as the minister read the entire Book of Deuteronomy?
When you stand with the congregation in your church, do you see it as an act of worship? What exactly are we saying when we stand before the Lord individually and corporately? What are the special moments in our various worship services in which we stand rather than kneel? When does it feel more reverent to kneel in worship than stand, and vice versa? And, why?
I Kings 8:15a
Solomon speaks, “Praise to the Lord, the God of Israel.” On the surface, this statement reads like many expressions of biblical praise. Yet, perhaps there is something beneath the surface that is important to contemplate. Solomon begins with his own expression to “Praise to the Lord.” He is saying, “Join me in praising the Lord.” Then, he follows the phrase with the descriptive, “the God of Israel.” He is asking that the God he praises be praised by all of Israel. Only as the entire nation of Israel praises God would the entire world learn to praise the Lord of all. Before I can ask another to join me in praising God, my own heart must be in a meaningful relationship with the Lord. How can we ask others, and the world, to praise the Lord if we do not personally know and recognize him as our Lord? All evangelism begins with one’s own relationship with Christ. If my life reflects the glory of Christ, then others can witness the wonder of that relationship in my own life. Before the entire world can witness the God of covenant in Gen. 12, they must first recognize God’s presence in the Lord’s individual servants, especially their kings. Only then can the world know the Lord of the chosen people known as Israel.
Do you believe the world can recognize the love and wonder of God through a nation, a church, or an individual? What would make God’s presence in a group or person evident in the world? What can we do to better ensure that the world knows we honor and worship the Lord of creation and God’s redemptive love?
I Kings 8:15b
Here we have the simple yet powerful statement that what God says, God does. If God speaks the divine promises, he will accomplish them. As the great hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” states so beautifully, “There is no shadow, nor turning with thee.” God has “integrity.” I use this term carefully for it is important to me. Integrity means that a person’s entire personhood, every facet of their being is consistent and integrated. Historically, what God has spoken from the first moments of creation has become reality, and will continue to remain true and fulfilled. As cited above, life can change in an instant. There are no certainties in life. However, there is one certainty that is present in life, beneath life, and beyond life: God’s word is true and trustworthy. Jesus Christ is the ultimate expression of God’s true love, and the trustworthiness of that love through all experiences of life. What God said in Jesus is true. St. Paul wrote all of God’s promises are yes in Christ.
How strong is the assurance of God’s certain love and promise in your life? How does it make a difference in your daily routine, and through the changes of life? Can you recall a specific moment when you were aware God had fulfilled a promise in your life, and it made a tremendous difference in your life?
I Kings 16a-21
These next verses provide a type of summary for the preceding message of God’s faithfulness. Solomon appeals to the historical faithfulness of God, returning in memory to the Exodus itself. From the choosing of David as the source of inspiration for the temple, to Solomon building from that inspiration, to the city and site chosen, all has been done according to God’s covenantal promise. All has transpired as the divine will intended. Our life may appear a series of arbitrary events with little connection or collective meaning. However, we learn from biblical testimony that God’s loving will is always at work in life, using different people, in different places, and at different times. Though we may be unable to claim with certainty that God makes everything happen in life, we can claim that many events in our life are connected by a redemptive purpose beyond our own making. Yes, I can contemplate my past life and witness a string of events that seem to have little to do with one another. However, the great blessing in my life has been to look toward my history and become very aware that where I stand today in Christ was not of my making. Apart from God I would not stand where I stand. Instead of attempting to determine if God makes all things happen in our life, I think it is more meaningful and most likely true when I look for those incredible connections that led me to the incredible place of grace I now stand. I cannot understand all the mysteries of life, but I can understand all the blessings in it.
Do you understand your life as a disconnected string of events, or do you recognize that a loving plan is also at work? Do you see hope at work in your life? Can you recall moments that became incredible spiritual moments in your Christian life? How do you reconcile mystery and God’s active will?
We belong to a historical faith. The blessing of Solomon that day included events that are also very important events in our spiritual journeys. The powerful fact of “journey” is that it isn’t over until God wills that it is over. We remain on spiritual journeys in Christ. God is accomplishing the unimaginable, in ways beyond our thinking. We are not haphazardly speeding through life. We are on a walk, an important spiritual walk in Christ. All events will one day make sense and we will see the beautiful connection. Until then, we walk by faith, trusting in a trustworthy God who does what he says.
Almighty God the mystery of life drives us to our knees. We hear your answer to Job when he questioned your will and you responded, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” We recognize we were not present, and therefore, cannot understand all. However, you have revealed we can trust you in all, through all, for you made it all. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Dr. D. Craig Rikard is a South Georgia pastor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.