This is a most beautiful chapter. It contains the dedication of the temple. Solomon's blessing of it: his prayer: his sacrifice of peace offering: his dismission of the people with joyful hearts.
(1) В¶ Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel, and all the heads of the tribes, the chief of the fathers of the children of Israel, unto king Solomon in Jerusalem, that they might bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of the city of David, which is Zion.
The temple being finished, preparations are made for the solemn service of bringing up the ark of God into it, as its fixed place of residence. Sweetly are we taught here, that it is the presence of the Lord in the assemblies of his people, which gives glory to all services. If Jesus be not with us, the ordinance is nothing worth. If the ark be not in the temple, all Solomon's labour is lost. His gold is nothing. Reader! let this very opening of the chapter, teach you the infinite importance of exercising an holy jealousy over your heart in all seasons of worship. Where is Jesus? should be the great inquiry, like those Greeks which came up to the temple, whenever we draw nigh the sanctuary or the closet, for prayer or meditation. John 12:20-21.
(2) And all the men of Israel assembled themselves unto king Solomon at the feast in the month Ethanim, which is the seventh month.
What a delightful convention of Israel this must have been. Oh! how glorious a sight is it, to see the house of God completely filled!
(3) And all the elders of Israel came, and the priests took up the ark. (4) And they brought up the ark of the LORD, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and all the holy vessels that were in the tabernacle, even those did the priests and the Levites bring up. (5) And king Solomon, and all the congregation of Israel, that were assembled unto him, were with him before the ark, sacrificing sheep and oxen, that could not be told nor numbered for multitude. (6) And the priests brought in the ark of the covenant of the LORD unto his place, into the oracle of the house, to the most holy place, even under the wings of the cherubims. (7) For the cherubims spread forth their two wings over the place of the ark, and the cherubims covered the ark and the staves thereof above. (8) And they drew out the staves, that the ends of the staves were seen out in the holy place before the oracle, and they were not seen without: and there they are unto this day.
The ceremony of fetching the ark, bringing it up, and placing it in the holy place appointed for it, was not done without abundance of sacrifices. Jesus, our Ark, did not enter into the holy place, until by the sacrifice of himself he had obtained eternal redemption for us.
(9) There was nothing in the ark save the two tables of stone, which Moses put there at Horeb, when the LORD made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt.
It is worthy our closest observation, how particular the Holy Ghost is, in more places than one, in pointing out what was in the ark. Hebrews 9:3-5; Revelation 11:19. No doubt, as the ark was one of the most expressive types of Jesus, all that was put into the ark had a reference to the fulness contained in Jesus. He is the Covenant itself, and all the blessings included in it. Ephesians 1:22-23.
(10) And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the LORD, (11) So that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of the LORD.
It is beautiful to observe, that when the priest came out of the house, and not before, the glory of the divine presence appeared. Jesus is all, and in all, in salvation. Nothing mingled with his righteousness, by way of acceptance. The dark cloud intimated, that while the glory of the Lord was manifested in a cloudy dispensation, it showed the present unripe state of things. But, by the glory of the Lord filling the house, was no less shown, that the dispensation to come would be brighter: but under both law and gospel, the Lord Jesus is the whole sum and substance of salvation. It is He which filleth all things.
(12) В¶ Then spake Solomon, The LORD said that he would dwell in the thick darkness. (13) I have surely built thee an house to dwell in, a settled place for thee to abide in forever.
Solomon, having made all suitable arrangement, and convened all Israel to the dedication of the temple, now opens the solemn service. He first shows them the certainty, and reality of the divine presence being with them, and in confirmation, quotes a well known saying of the Lord, in the book of Leviticus: see Leviticus 16:2. How delightfully is this (and more strikingly) shown in the gospel church. No man hath seen God at any time; but the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. John 1:18. Reader! when our God and Saviour is pleased at any time to appear unto us in a cloudy dispensation, still remember he is our God, our Jesus, notwithstanding. The disciples feared, as they entered into the cloud; but the manifestation afterwards was full of glory. Luke 9:33-34.
(14) And the king turned his face about, and blessed all the congregation of Israel: (and all the congregation of Israel stood;)
Was not Solomon, in this instance of blessing the congregation, a type of Jesus? Who can behold the king thus engaged, and forget what is said of our King, who in the moment that he was about to ascend, lifted up his hands and blessed the people. Precious Mediator! Thou didst turn towards thy servants, when thou hadst first committed their keeping to thy Father. See Luke 24:50-51, with John 17:11.
(15) And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, which spake with his mouth unto David my father, and hath with his hand fulfilled it, saying, (16) Since the day that I brought forth my people Israel out of Egypt, I chose no city out of all the tribes of Israel to build an house, that my name might be therein; but I chose David to be over my people Israel. (17) And it was in the heart of David my father to build an house for the name of the LORD God of Israel. (18) And the LORD said unto David my father, Whereas it was in thine heart to build an house unto my name, thou didst well that it was in thine heart. (19) Nevertheless thou shalt not build the house; but thy son that shall come forth out of thy loins, he shall build the house unto my name. (20) And the LORD hath performed his word that he spake, and I am risen up in the room of David my father, and sit on the throne of Israel, as the LORD promised, and have built an house for the name of the LORD God of Israel. (21) And I have set there a place for the ark, wherein is the covenant of the LORD, which he made with our fathers, when he brought them out of the land of Egypt.
Here is, what may be called, Solomon's sermon, in the dedication of the temple. He calls up the attention of the people to the subject self. He first opens his mouth in blessing God, as a faithful promise making, and a promise-performing God. He next adverts to the Lord's gracious design in the building; showing, that what Solomon had done was in perfect conformity to the Lord's design, and to the Lord's appointment. Hence, the king evidently meant to imply the certainty that the Lord's hand was with him in the building, and would assuredly bless it. He then expresses his joy, in having been blest of the Lord, to finish what he had begun. And in the close of these verses, Solomon not only refers all the praise to God, but all the right of the building. The house is the Lord's. Reader! it is truly lovely in believers, both to see the Lord's hand in all their ways, and as thankfully to acknowledge it. Of thine own, Lord, we give thee.
(22) В¶ And Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands toward heaven:
What a lovely view doth Solomon afford in this attitude! To see, not only priests, but monarchs thus engaged! Never, in any day of Solomon's life, did he appear so truly great! But, Reader! from Solomon, turn to Jesus. Behold Jesus in the memorable night before his sufferings and death, when just about to enter upon that unparalleled service of redemption; he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and cried out, Father! the hour is come. John 17:1.
(23) And he said, LORD God of Israel, there is no God like thee, in heaven above, or on earth beneath, who keepest covenant and mercy with thy servants that walk before thee with all their heart: (24) Who hast kept with thy servant David my father that thou promisedst him: thou spakest also with thy mouth, and hast fulfilled it with thine hand, as it is this day. (25) Therefore now, LORD God of Israel, keep with thy servant David my father that thou promisedst him, saying, There shall not fail thee a man in my sight to sit on the throne of Israel; so that thy children take heed to their way, that they walk before me as thou hast walked before me. (26) And now, O God of Israel, let thy word, I pray thee, be verified, which thou spakest unto thy servant David my father. (27) But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded? (28) Yet have thou respect unto the prayer of thy servant, and to his supplication, O LORD my God, to hearken unto the cry and to the prayer, which thy servant prayeth before thee today: (29) That thine eyes may be open toward this house night and day, even toward the place of which thou hast said, My name shall be there: that thou mayest hearken unto the prayer which thy servant shall make toward this place. (30) And hearken thou to the supplication of thy servant, and of thy people Israel, when they shall pray toward this place: and hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place: and when thou hearest, forgive.
In this former part of Solomon's prayer, I would desire the Reader to remark with me, the posture in which it was offered. It is said, he stood before the altar. Jesus is our Altar, as well as our High Priest and Sacrifice. Therefore, certainly, it was in view of the glorious Mediator, that Solomon prayed. But it also appears, from what is said in the further prosecution of this prayer, at 1 Kings 8:54, that Solomon when he had finished his prayer, arose from off his knees. I am inclined, therefore, to suppose, that when the king began the prayer, be stood as is here said, before the altar: but, perhaps, as his mind became more inflamed with the spirit of devotion, he fell on his knees as he prosecuted the prayer, and so remained until that he had finished it. But what a vast comprehension of subject matter doth the prayer contain, even in the few verses only already noticed. How doth Solomon enlarge upon the being, and attributes, and perfections of God! How highly doth he speak of him as a God in covenant; here taking into view, the whole Three Persons of Jehovah! How solemnly doth he draw the contrast between the greatness and holiness of the Lord God, whom the heaven, and the heaven of heavens are not worthy to contain, and the littleness of the earth, and all that is in it! And having thus enlarged on the glories of Jehovah, how sweetly, and fervently, doth he plead with God for grace, and the performance of all his covenant promises to David and his seed forever. Precious Jesus! was Solomon struck with astonishment, in the contemplation that the heaven, and the heaven of heavens had not splendor enough to contain thee; and what a thought is that, to overpower the mind, that thou shouldest tabernacle in our flesh? Reader! I should suppose it impossible for you to overlook the sweet strain of gospel mercies, which runs through the whole of this prayer of Solomon, in the part of it which we have already read; Not to see Jesus in the whole of it, as the sum and substance of the covenant, is to pass over the grand and distinguishing feature, which marks every form of prayer and praise, in which it is expressed. But this is not all. I hope the Reader is so far under the teaching of the Holy Ghost, that he instantly beholds Jesus himself, as the one glorious object the pious Israelite is supposed to have in view, in all his prayers and supplications which he made with his eye towards the temple. And I hope that the Reader is no less alive to behold the fullest testimony to that precious doctrine, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, when he hears Solomon say, that thine eyes may be open toward thy house night and day, even toward the place of which thou hast said, My name shall be there. Never, surely, was there more clear gospel, or the Lord Jesus more sweetly looked to with an eye of faith, and the Father's perfect approbation of redemption by him, than in what these verses express in the prayer of Solomon.
(31) If any man trespass against his neighbour, and an oath be laid upon him to cause him to swear, and the oath come before thine altar in this house: (32) Then hear thou in heaven, and do, and judge thy servants, condemning the wicked, to bring his way upon his head; and justifying the righteous, to give him according to his righteousness. (33) When thy people Israel be smitten down before the enemy, because they have sinned against thee, and shall turn again to thee, and confess thy name, and pray, and make supplication unto thee in this house: (34) Then hear thou in heaven, and forgive the sin of thy people Israel, and bring them again unto the land which thou gavest unto their fathers. (35) When heaven is shut up, and there is no rain, because they have sinned against thee; if they pray toward this place, and confess thy name, and turn from their sin, when thou afflictest them: (36) Then hear thou in heaven, and forgive the sin of thy servants, and of thy people Israel, that thou teach them the good way wherein they should walk, and give rain upon thy land, which thou hast given to thy people for an inheritance. (37) If there be in the land famine, if there be pestilence, blasting, mildew, locust, or if there be caterpiller; if their enemy besiege them in the land of their cities; whatsoever plague, whatsoever sickness there be; (38) What prayer and supplication soever be made by any man, or by all thy people Israel, which shall know every man the plague of his own heart, and spread forth his hands toward this house: (39) Then hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive, and do, and give to every man according to his ways, whose heart thou knowest; (for thou, even thou only, knowest the hearts of all the children of men;) (40) That they may fear thee all the days that they live in the land which thou gavest unto our fathers. (41) Moreover concerning a stranger, that is not of thy people Israel, but cometh out of a far country for thy name's sake; (42) (For they shall hear of thy great name, and of thy strong hand, and of thy stretched out arm;) when he shall come and pray toward this house; (43) Hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and do according to all that the stranger calleth to thee for: that all people of the earth may know thy name, to fear thee, as do thy people Israel; and that they may know that this house, which I have builded, is called by thy name. (44) If thy people go out to battle against their enemy, whithersoever thou shalt send them, and shall pray unto the LORD toward the city which thou hast chosen, and toward the house that I have built for thy name: (45) Then hear thou in heaven their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause. (46) If they sin against thee, (for there is no man that sinneth not), and thou be angry with them, and deliver them to the enemy, so that they carry them away captives unto the land of the enemy, far or near; (47) Yet if they shall bethink themselves in the land whither they were carried captives, and repent, and make supplication unto thee in the land of them that carried them captives, saying, We have sinned, and have done perversely, we have committed wickedness; (48) And so return unto thee with all their heart, and with all their soul, in the land of their enemies, which led them away captive, and pray unto thee toward their land, which thou gavest unto their fathers, the city which thou hast chosen, and the house which I have built for thy name: (49) Then hear thou their prayer and their supplication in heaven thy dwelling place, and maintain their cause, (50) And forgive thy people that have sinned against thee, and all their transgressions wherein they have transgressed against thee, and give them compassion before them who carried them captive, that they may have compassion on them: (51) For they be thy people, and thine inheritance, which thou broughtest forth out of Egypt, from the midst of the furnace of iron: (52) That thine eyes may be open unto the supplication of thy servant, and unto the supplication of thy people Israel, to hearken unto them in all that they call for unto thee. (53) For thou didst separate them from among all the people of the earth, to be thine inheritance, as thou spakest by the hand of Moses thy servant, when thou broughtest our fathers out of Egypt, O Lord GOD.
After the petitions for general blessings, as they relate to redemption by the Lord Jesus, to the church at large; Solomon, in this part of his prayer, enters into the cases of a great variety of particular mercies, all to the same amount: resting wholly upon the covenant promises of God in Christ, of which this temple was a type. Solomon mentions the case of an appeal by oath, between one man and another, to determine right judgment; the parties looking towards the temple, by way of adjusting what was lawful: he mentions the case of public distresses, in national wars, or famine, or pestilence; or the shutting up of the heaven, and no rain given to bring forth the fruits of the earth: he mentions the case of private calamity, such as the distress of a man's soul, from a view of the plague of his own heart: he limits not these blessings to Israel, but, no doubt, led by the Holy Ghost to take in the Gentile church also, he includes the case of the stranger, brought to the Lord by the outward report of God's great name, and by the inward drawings of God's great love he adverts also to the case of war, and points out, that if the Lord's heritage, by reason of sin, should be given up for a time to the scourge of their enemies: on all these instances he dwells particularly. And in short, that Solomon might omit nothing in this earnest cry to God, for being heard by the Lord, by virtue of this temple building, beholding it as pointing to Jesus, and Jesus only; the king adds, in all that the people should call upon him for, his dwelling prayer that God would hear, from heaven his dwelling place, and both answer and forgive: And, as if still with an eye to Jesus the promised Seed, in whom, and with whom all blessings could alone be looked for; Solomon closes his prayer with that unanswerable argument for success, that the Lord God had separated his people from all nations: had made them his own; pledged himself to be their God, from the day he had brought them out of the land of Egypt, by Moses. Here, Reader! pause to remark with me, the ground work and foundation of success to all Solomon's petition. Not for desert; not for prayer; not for repentance; no, not for faith, in looking to Jesus, which this temple represented: for all these are the sweet fruits and effects of God's love; not the cause of that love. But it is wholly resulting from covenant grace, and covenant favor, founded and given to Israel, in Christ Jesus before the world began. This is the tenor of the Covenant; I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy. Even so, Father, is our Lord's own gracious conclusion upon it, and throws to the ground all impious and presumptuous reasoning's of men: Even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight. Exodus 33:19; Matthew 11:26.
(54) В¶ And it was so, that when Solomon had made an end of praying all this prayer and supplication unto the LORD, he arose from before the altar of the LORD, from kneeling on his knees with his hands spread up to heaven.
How sweet the conclusion to so sweet a prayer. Every part of which was evidently from the awakening and directing grace of the Holy Ghost; all offered with an eye to Jesus; and seeking every blessing from God the Father in his name, and for his sake.
(55) And he stood, and blessed all the congregation of Israel with a loud voice, saying, (56) Blessed be the LORD, that hath given rest unto his people Israel, according to all that he promised: there hath not failed one word of all his good promise, which he promised by the hand of Moses his servant. (57) The LORD our God be with us, as he was with our fathers: let him not leave us, nor forsake us: (58) That he may incline our hearts unto him, to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and his statutes, and his judgments, which he commanded our fathers. (59) And let these my words, wherewith I have made supplication before the LORD, be nigh unto the LORD our God day and night, that he maintain the cause of his servant, and the cause of his people Israel at all times, as the matter shall require: (60) That all the people of the earth may know that the LORD is God, and that there is none else. (61) Let your heart therefore be perfect with the LORD our God, to walk in his statutes, and to keep his commandments, as at this day.
Having spoken to the Lord for the people; he again now speaks to the people from the Lord; that is, still with an eye to Jesus, he watches in prayer, well assured that the blessings implored will come: God hath never yet out-promised himself, but of all his good promises, not a word hath failed. Thus, in the experience of the past, faith finds the greatest encouragement for all that is to come. And while we look to God's faithfulness, may we look to him for grace also for our own! This is to have our heart perfect with the Lord.
(62) В¶ And the king, and all Israel with him, offered sacrifice before the LORD. (63) And Solomon offered a sacrifice of peace offerings, which he offered unto the LORD, two and twenty thousand oxen, and an hundred and twenty thousand sheep. So the king and all the children of Israel dedicated the house of the LORD. (64) The same day did the king hallow the middle of the court that was before the house of the LORD: for there he offered burnt offerings, and meat offerings, and the fat of the peace offerings: because the brasen altar that was before the LORD was too little to receive the burnt offerings, and meat offerings, and the fat of the peace offerings.
Prayer, you observe, was followed with sacrifice. As if to show, that whether in one service or another; all is done with an eye to Christ, the Great Sacrifice, who by his one offering hath perfected forever them that are sanctified. Hebrews 10:14. We read that the Lord answered by fire from heaven. See 2 Chronicles 7:1.
(65) And at that time Solomon held a feast, and all Israel with him, a great congregation, from the entering in of Hamath unto the river of Egypt, before the LORD our God, seven days and seven days, even fourteen days.
Observe, how sanctified blessings produced joy. Not the frothy, frivolous, unholy feasts of carnal men, but the solemn thanksgiving seasons of the gracious. Oh! how different from the feasts of multitudes who call themselves Christians, who make the festivals of their church like festivals of the heathens, and literally convert holy seasons into revels of sin.
(66) On the eighth day he sent the people away: and they blessed the king, and went unto their tents joyful and glad of heart for all the goodness that the LORD had done for David his servant, and for Israel his people.
See, Reader! after all the great events of this chapter, the separation and departure. Oh! that your heart, and my heart, from this view of the subject, may be led upward, to contemplate that joyful meeting, and to long for it, where we shall go out no more. And in the mean time, as the Israelites are said to have blessed the king, and rejoiced for all the goodness the Lord had shown to David, and to Israel; oh! let us, at the dose of all ordinances, and all means of grace, bless God our Father for all the goodness, grace, and mercy he hath shown us in David's Lord and King, our adored Redeemer; in having established his throne, an everlasting throne, and a kingdom which shall be forever. And oh! for that mercy to eternal life, which the apostle looked for, and which the people of God shall assuredly enjoy; that, receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, we may have grace to serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. Hebrews 12:28
Solomon! I would honour thy memory with great honour, for the view which the blessed Spirit hath been pleased to give me of thy ministry, as set forth in the dedication of the temple. Surely, never didst thou appear so truly great, as in this instance, where thou art represented so truly humble. Thou hast shown herein, a dignity well meriting imitation: and manifested, that the most supreme station any mortal can be advanced to in life, is to minister as the servant of Jehovah.
But while I behold Solomon thus honoured of his Lord, I would pass over all thoughts of the servant, to contemplate the Master. Thou, dearest Jesus! art formed to eclipse all creature excellence. Even Solomon's temple was but a faded glory, had it not been for the representation it made of thee, and of thy redemption. Oh! precious structure, the temple of thy body! Oh! sacred building, not made with hands. United to the God-head, the foundation is eternally sure, and all the blessings contained in it, endless blessings to our souls. Here, dearest Lord! in thee I see security from all evils whensoever, or wheresoever, any poor sinner who feels and knows the plague of his own heart, directs the eye of faith to thee for salvation. Though he trespass against his neighbor; though he trespass against his own soul; though he transgress against the Lord his God; and though he be carried away captive by his spiritual enemies, far from the land of his fathers; yet, if from thence, his whole heart and his whole soul be directed to Jesus, Jesus will hear from heaven, the habitation of his holiness and his glory; for he hath said; Look unto me and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none else, beside me there is no Saviour! Help me then, dearest Jesus, to have mine eyes and my whole heart eternally fixed on thee. It is thy gracious office to know all my circumstances, to direct all my ways, to observe, to pity, to regard, and still to love me in every state and every case. Oh! Lord God! let not only my eyes, but the eyes of all poor sinners, whose redemption thou hast purchased with thy blood, be gazing upon thee with holy longing, fervent waiting and continual desire: and even under the most discouraging circumstances, even if, like Jonah, I am tempted at any time to exclaim, I am cast out of the sight of thine eyes; yet, like him, to have faith still to say, I will look again towards thine holy temple. Oh! let that precious experience in thy blessed word be mine; in which it is said; they looked unto him and were lightened; and their faces were not ashamed. This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.