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March 11 lesson: There is No God Like You

March 06, 2018
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There is No God Like You
 
Sunday school lesson for the week of March 11, 2018
By Dr. Hal Brady
 
Spring Quarter: Acknowledging God
Unit 1: Follow in My Ways
 
Lesson Scripture: 2 Chronicles 6:12-21
Background Scripture: 2 Chronicles 6:1-21
 
Lesson Aims
  1. Recount what Solomon said concerning the Lord’s character and faithfulness in keeping promises.
  2. Explain how Solomon’s prayer can serve as a model for the Christian’s prayer life.
  3. List scriptural promises that God has kept to members of the class.
When someone who has been in a leadership position steps down after many years, the next person in the position often faces a daunting challenge. This is especially true when a noted coach either resigns or retires. Perhaps over the years this former coach has won several championships and has become something of a legend. This is often called a “tough act to follow.” 

So we come to Solomon! Consider the position that Solomon was in when he became king of Israel.  We are told in scripture that David, Solomon’s father, was a man after God’s own heart (I Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). However, as scholars remind us, this is not to say that David was perfect (as the events involving Bathsheba and Uriah revealed). But it is to say that the general direction of David’s life was well pleasing to God and that he had gained the admiration and respect of the entire nation.  So how does one follow such a legend?

As we are reminded, it is certainly to Solomon’s credit that he possessed a sense of unworthiness to fill his father’s shoes: “I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties.” (1 King 3:7). And in the same humble attitude, we remember Solomon’s request of God for a “discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish right and wrong” (1 Kings 3:9). Thus, as scholars tell us, Solomon recognized an important truth: the key to following in his father’s footsteps was to follow his father’s God.

Lesson Background

We are reminded that one of Solomon’s primary tasks as King of Israel was to finish a project his father had prepared for: building a temple to the Lord. David himself had sincerely wanted to build the temple, but God had another builder in mind. And, of course, that builder was Solomon, David’s son. God had a reason for not allowing David to build the temple. God said to David, “You are not to build a home for my Name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in my sight” (1 Chronicles 22:8). However, God did commend David for his desire to build the temple (2 Chronicles 6:8; 1 Kings 8:18). But here in our scripture lesson, we see that David did provide valuable assistance and resources so that Solomon would have a head start in completing the massive building project (1 Chronicles 22:5).

Scholars relate that today’s lesson from 2 Chronicles 6 records a portion of the dedication ceremony for the finished temple over which Solomon presided. As the ceremony began, “while the whole assembly of Israel was standing there, the king turned around and blessed them” (2 Chronicles 6:3).  He then called attention to the Lord’s fulfillment of his promises to David that his son, Solomon, would reign in his place and would build a house for the Lord (2 Chronicles 6:10). To Solomon’s credit, he understood that the completed temple was not a personal accomplishment for him as much as it was the keeping of divine promise. As we are told, the king was merely an instrument in the hands of the master builder.

It is then pointed out by scholars that the temple’s arrangement was similar to that of the Tabernacle in that there were three main parts: the Most Holy Place (or Holy of Holies), the Holy Place, and the outer courtyard. Prior to the ceremony of dedication, the priests had carried the ark of the covenant into the Most Holy Place (2 Chronicles 5:7). And after they had done that, the temple was filled with a cloud signifying the presence of the Lord. The presence and glory of God so were overwhelming that “the priests could not perform their service (2 Chronicles 5:14). 

Solomon’s Preparation (2 Chronicles 6:12, 13)

The picture is of Solomon standing before the altar of the Lord in front of the whole assembly of Israel.  According to scholars, the altar of the Lord before which Solomon stands is the “bronze altar” (2 Chronicles 4:1). 

This altar is to be used for the daily sacrifices as well as the various offerings and sacrifices brought by the people.  And since this altar is situated in the outer courtyard, Solomon is able to stand on a temporary platform in front of the whole assembly of Israel. Note that this altar is different from the golden altar of incense, which is set within the Holy Place as described in Exodus 30:1-6.

Next, we see that Solomon kneels down and spreads out his hands toward heaven. Others have done that as well (Ezra 9:5; Psalm 143:6; 1 Timothy 2:8). It has been suggested that Solomon’s posture resembles that of a little child raising his or her arms to a parent. At any rate, Solomon may be the King of Israel, but he still sees himself as a little child (1 Kings 3:7) in need of his Father’s guidance. So Solomon adopts a posture of obedience (deep respect) as he prepares to address God in prayer.

Solomon’s Prayer (2 Chronicles 6:14-21)

Solomon opens his prayer with these words, “O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven or on earth…” (2 Chronicles 6:14). Here Solomon acknowledges the Lord’s uniqueness. As scholars point out, those outside of God’s covenant people worship many gods in Solomon’s time and continue to do so today. But Solomon’s declaration remains just as true today as when he originally uttered it: “there is no God like you.”

“You who keep your covenant…” (14b).  It is pointed out that one way God demonstrates his uniqueness is by dealing with people on the basis of “covenant.” That the Lord God of Israel desires a close covenant relationship with people is simply foreign to other religious mindsets. In earlier verses, Solomon had already recognized the covenant God made with Israel and with David’s descendants.

“Of love with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in your way” (14a). This is an important acknowledgement because it points out another critical ingredient of God’s covenant. As we are informed, the covenant that God makes with individuals requires certain conditions to be met by the parties to the covenant. God’s part is to show love; the people’s part is to obey God “wholeheartedly” as they do as God commands (Deuteronomy 7:12-14).

“You have kept your promises to your servant David my father” (15a). For Solomon, the best example of God’s faithfulness concerns his father, David. In 1 Samuel 7:16, God says to David, “your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.”

But what about David’s adultery? King David faced severe consequences for his adultery and related sins (2 Samuel 12:16-19). Nevertheless (and this is Solomon’s emphasis) the Lord continued to honor his covenant with David.

Scholars state that a key reason God did so with David and not with David’s predecessor on the throne, Saul, was because David’s repentance was deeply sincere while Saul’s repentance seemed shallow.

“With your mouth you have promised and with your hand you have fulfilled it—as it is today” (15b).  While other gods do neither, Solomon exclaims that the one true God both speaks and acts. Scholars suggest here that we compare Numbers 23:19 with Jeremiah 10:5.

The teacher is asked to read verses 16 and 17 aloud to the class. In these verses, we note again the combination of God’s covenant faithfulness and the expected response of obedience. Regarding the former, Solomon states again the Lord’s intent to keep his promise to David of “a successor to sit before me on the throne of Israel” (Compare Samuel 7:16).  But, as scholars point out, ultimately that covenant promise is fulfilled in Jesus, a descendant of David (Matthew 1:6-17; Luke 1:30-33; Acts 2:29-32).

Scholars are quickly to add, however, that participation in that promise by individual descendants of David is dependent on their living in obedience to the law of the Lord as David himself had done.  Their failure to do so will subject them to the Lord’s discipline.

Sadly, as we know, this is exactly what will happen to Solomon himself. As he grows older, he will allow his numerous wives to distract him into worshipping their gods. And, as a consequence, God will inform him that upon his death his kingdom will be divided (I Kings 61:9-13). However, the promise made to David will remain intact (Psalm 89:20-37).

In verse 17, Solomon recognizes that God’s word coming true is primarily dependent on God himself. For sure, people do serve as instruments in carrying out his plans and purposes, but ultimately it is God who must see to that those plans and purposes are accomplished.

Question: if God were to remind you to bring to fruition a promise that you have made to him, what promise would that be? Why?

Now, as the teacher, you are asked to read 2 Chronicles 6:18-21 to the class. The following are points to remember.

As scholars make clear, God has indeed promised to place his name in this temple (2 Chronicles 6:20), however, his people must not conclude from this that God can somehow be limited to that structure. If we are serious, it is absurd to think that the Creator of the heavens and the earth and all the vastness that exists within them could be confined to any earthly dwelling (compare 2 Chronicles 2:6; Isaiah 66:1; Acts 7:48-50). God will put his name there, which is another way of saying that his presence will dwell in the temple. Scholars tell us that this is represented by the presence of the Ark of the Covenant.

Sadly, God’s people sometimes mistakenly put more stock in the church building than they do in God himself. Why do you think that is so?

So how can Solomon request anything of God, let alone be speaking to him? Very humbly, the king confesses his status as a mere servant (twice, and asks that the Lord give attention to his prayer and to his plea for mercy and hear his cry – 2 Chronicles 6:18-19). No doubt, Solomon knows who the real king of Israel is and how dependent he is on God’s provision. And Solomon knows that his own need for God’s help and mercy can occur any time – day or night. He prays that God’s eyes may be open and that he hears the prayer that Solomon offers toward this temple.

In addition to pleading with God to hear his prayer, Solomon prays that God will hear the prayers of God’s people as well. Solomon then recognizes that God’s true dwelling place is in Heaven. The last line of our scripture lesson, however, suggests that the reason someone would be praying toward this place, the temple, would be for the forgiveness of sin. And that is indeed the greatest need of all human beings, including Solomon the king.

Solomon’s God is Our God

Considering Solomon’s prayer, scholars remind us that there are two primary themes: (1) God’s fulfillment of his covenant promises to David and (2) Solomon’s acknowledgment of the temple in Jerusalem as the place where he would put his name. It was a visual reminder of God’s desire to hear the prayers of his covenant people Israel.

But how does Solomon’s prayer apply to Christians? Solomon began his prayer by praying, “O Lord, the God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven or earth.” These same words can be prayed with confidence today by any follower of Jesus. As, we are told and know, there is no God like the God of the Bible. 

It is this God who has revealed himself to wayward humanity in the person of Jesus Christ. The writer of Hebrews states it, “…but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…” (Hebrew 1:2). Jesus is the superior and final revelation of God.

We followers of Jesus are also aware that God is still in the covenant-keeping business. The covenant Solomon alluded to in his prayer was mainly the covenant God made with David.  However, the new covenant established by Jesus fulfills the promise to David.  And God still requires of us, as he did of those under previous covenants, that we walk before him “wholeheartedly.” Paul admonished us, “…to live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (Ephesians 4:1).

One other note, we can also be confident that God will keep his promises to us as he did with David.  This is a point Solomon made in his prayer (2 Chronicles 6:15). And as Paul declared, “no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘yes’ in Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:20). Amen!

Action Plan
  1. Ask class members to list the scriptural promises that God has kept to each of them.
Dr. Hal Brady is a retired pastor who continues to present the Good News of Jesus Christ and offer encouragement in a fresh and vital way though Hal Brady Ministries (halbradyministries.com).

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