For the Love of God, Volume 1/December 6
From Gospel Translations
2 Chronicles 6:12-42; 1 John 5; Habakkuk 1; Luke 20
SOLOMON’S PRAYER OF DEDICATION (2 Chron. 6:12-42) is one of the great moments of Old Testament history and theology. Many of its features deserve prolonged reflection. Here we pick up on a few strands.
(1) Both the beginning and the end of the prayer fasten on God as a covenantkeeping God, the original promise keeper. In particular (and understandably), Solomon is interested in God’s promise to David to the effect that his line would continue, his dynasty would be preserved (6:14-17). Similarly the final doxology: “O LORD God, do not reject your anointed one. Remember the great love promised to David your servant” (6:42).
(2) Although the temple was doubtless a magnificent structure, and although Solomon might understandably feel some sort of justifiable pride in its completion, his grasp of the greatness of God is sufficiently robust that he himself articulates, in memorable terms, that no temple can possibly “contain” the God who outstrips the highest heavens (6:18). There is no trace of tribal domestication of God.
(3) The principal burden of what Solomon asks may be summarized quite simply. In the future, when either individual Israelites sin or the entire nation sinks into one sin or another, if they then turn away from their sin and pray toward the temple, Solomon asks that God himself will hear from heaven, and forgive their sin (6:21-39). There are four remarkable elements to these petitions.
First, there is an astonishingly realistic assessment of the propensity of the people to sin, even to sin so badly that they may one day be banished from the land. A lesser man would have been tempted on such an occasion to introduce a lot of sentimental, Pollyanna-like twaddle about undying allegiance and the like. But not Solomon. He is a wise man, and he knows that sinners sin.
Second, however central the temple is to be as a focus for the prayers of the people (not least when they sin), God will hear their prayers not from the temple but from heaven, his dwelling place. Once again, God is not being reduced to the status of the tribal deities worshiped by the surrounding pagans. The phrasing of this repeated request for forgiveness makes the role of God the crucial thing—the God who fills the heavens, not the temple.
Third, insofar as the temple is critical, it is seen as the center of religion and worship that deals with the forgiveness of sin and thus restores sinners to God. The heart of the temple is not the choirs and the ceremonies, but the forgiveness of sin. In this day of ill-defined spirituality, it is vital that we remember this point.
Fourth, Solomon’s vision extends far enough to include foreigners (6:32-33)— a missionary thrust.