Pray Toward the Temple, Part One

And he said:
“O Lord God of Israel, there is no God like You in the heavens or on the earth, who keeps covenants and mercy with Your servants who walk before You with all their heart. You have kept what You promised Your servant David my father. You have both spoken with Your mouth and fulfilled it with Your hand, as it is this day.

2 Chronicles 6:14–15 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)

This is the dedication prayer offered by Solomon at the completion of the temple He built for God. He reminds God (as if, but I think it is a form of worship) of keeping His Word to those who have followed Him with all of their heart. He cites that God kept His promises to David. Given the immediate context, it follows that David must have walked before God with all of his heart. We know in other places, God calls David a man after His Own heart.

But we know David. We know his foibles. There is encouragement in this for us.

“And now, O Lord God of Israel, keep what You promised Your servant David my father saying, ‘You will not lack a man sitting on the throne of Israel before Me, if only your sons take heed to their way to walk in My law as you have walked before Me.’ And now, O Lord God of Israel, may Your word be confirmed which You have spoken to Your servant David.

2 Chronicles 6:16–17 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)

God has promised to David a man of his line sitting on the throne of Israel continuously. Like prophetic statements, this one is a pattern, one that is identified near-term and completed later. It holds true here.

There is a bit of prophetic utterance here. Jesus is a son of David and has walked in the law. He will be the future King.

And now comes the point of his prayer. He explains how to walk before God with all his heart.

“For will God indeed dwell with man on the earth? The heavens, even the highest heavens, are not able to contain You, much less this house that I have built. But respond to the prayer of Your servant and to his plea, O Lord my God, to listen to the cry and prayer of Your servant who prays before You, that Your eyes might be open toward this house both day and night, to the place that You have said that You will set Your name, in order to hear the prayer of Your servant for this place. And listen to the pleas of Your servant and Your people Israel when they pray toward this place. And may You respond from heaven, the place of Your dwelling, so that You hear and forgive.

2 Chronicles 6:18–21— Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)

In answer to his rhetorical question, Solomon explains that the temple cannot hold God. But it can serve as a reminder to a vast audience as they pray. Though he cited Israelites, I think the broader audience may surprise some.

Though I like that last word in this selection, forgive. I want to draw some attention to that. Forgiveness is the point and purpose of prayer. We seek forgiveness for ourselves and our own deeds. We are also to seek forgiveness for the deeds of others and those we share life with including our people as a nation.

Forgive

“If a man sins against his companion, and the companion swears and puts him under a curse, and the wronged man comes with an oath before Your altar at this temple, then You will hear from heaven, and You will act and judge Your servants, to repay the guilty one by bringing his way on his own head; and to vindicate the innocent one by rendering to him according to his righteous behavior.

2 Chronicles 6:22–23 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)

I know God hears the cries of injustice. I know God avenges. God will certainly repay.

Let’s think about this for a moment. There is a broader application that might be a bit imperceptible. Say you did something to someone inadvertently, and they were set back, upset, and maybe even mad. You didn’t intend to offend and do not know of the offense. But the wronged party asked God to avenge. Would you want that vengeance or mercy?

It is this idea of going to God for forgiveness, as the wronged party has put vengeance in God’s hands. When we ask forgiveness for our own foibles, the disposition of punishment is God’s. He is to avenge.

It seems to me that this seeking after God’s heart is both we see our own need to be forgiven. If we let God sort things out, He does justly.

It is this idea presented by Solomon as he says God will judge His servants. The word is plural. Solomon makes the matter a bit vaguer. He says God will repay the guilty one and vindicate the innocent.

I see room to consider that our first assessment of guilt in the matter might depend on other factors. In my opinion, this reminds us of our own condition before God.

There is the temporal judgment of sin in this life. It’s not that sudden death comes, but other things. These drastic conditions come to remind us to point ourselves back toward God to seek forgiveness.

The Calamity of War for the Nation of Israel

“If Your people Israel are struck before enemies because they have sinned against You, and they return and confess Your name and pray and seek Your favor in this house, then You will hear from heaven and forgive the sin of Your people Israel, and You will bring them back to the land that You gave them and their fathers.

2 Chronicles 6:24–25 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)

We also bear responsibility in seeking forgiveness for the sins committed in our national homes. We are all collectively responsible in those situations. I am responsible for the U.S. and there are times I neglect to pray for the forgiveness of the grievous things done to God by the nation. I can list more than a few. The responsibility is mine to pray.

Though the instruction is given to Israelis, I do believe it is a general principle we all can live by.

The Calamity of Natural Disaster for the Nation of Israel

“When the sky is shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against You, and they pray toward this place and confess Your name and turn from their sin when You afflict them, then You will hear from heaven and forgive the sin of Your servants and Your people Israel because You will teach them the good path in which they will walk, and You will send rain on the land that You have given to Your people as a possession.

2 Chronicles 6:26–27 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)

Sometimes what befalls a people isn’t warfare, but natural calamity. Solomon reminds the nation in his prayer, to turn collective attention back toward God. Part of turning back is turning away from sin. It is in this latter part that the rise and catastrophic fall of nations are strewn throughout history.

Yet when they do turn, God then promises to teach them. Perhaps it is a slightly hidden demonstration of principle. One which we don’t ever have to fix ourselves up before turning from corrupt ways toward God. He is responsible for clean-up and encouragement.

When Calamity one’s to Individuals

“When there is famine in the land or when there is pestilence, blight, mildew, winged locust, or grasshopper, or when enemies besiege them in the land up to their city gates, in whatever plague or sickness, whatever prayer or plea that is made by any man or by all your people Israel, when each man knows his own affliction and his own sorrow, and stretches out his hands toward this house, then You will hear from heaven, the place of the habitation of Your dwelling, and forgive, and You will render to each according to his conduct, for You know their hearts (for You alone know the heart of people), so that they may fear You and walk in Your ways all the days that they live on the land that You have given to our fathers.

2 Chronicles 6:28–31 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)

Then there are things that happen individually to people. The previous point of judging each for conduct is highlighted again. Instead of seeking to sort things out ourselves, we put the responsibility back to God. We turn our hearts to Him.

God does forgive sin.

Again, I would remember this is written to Israel about Israel. There are still principles to glean for our own conduct. These serve as models to follow.

“When foreigners are not from Your people Israel and come from a distant land, because of Your great name, mighty hand, and outstretched arm, and they come and pray toward this house, then hear from heaven, from Your dwelling place, and act on everything for which the foreigner calls on You, that all the peoples of the earth may know Your name and fear You, as do Your people Israel; and that they may know that this house which I have built is called by Your name.

2 Chronicles 6:32–33 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)

This my favorite part. It is where Solomon talks about gentiles.

Solomon is asking God to hear the gentiles’ prayers. The prayer of a gentile directed toward God is heard. God does what is asked. Everything a gentile asks for God to do, He acts!

I think it pertains primarily to seeking the forgiveness of sin. That seems to be the point of praying toward the temple. Rest assured, God hears and it is done.

A gentile never was kept from approaching God. A prayer of seeking forgiveness directed toward the temple was never not heard.

There is a Deeper Truth Here.

Then the Jews said to Him, “What sign do You show us, seeing that You do these things?”
Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

John 2:18–19 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)

There it is. It should have already come to you. A prayer directed to this Temple is always acted on. It points to Jesus.

It also shows that gentiles were never excluded from salvation.

2 thoughts on “Pray Toward the Temple, Part One

  1. Pingback: Pray Toward the Temple, Part Two – Master's Crumbs

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