Ok I’ve been a bit cynical about the temple as a second best effort, a stage towards God’s full revelation of himself as a god who lives in our hearts, not in buildings.
But Solomon’s dedication prayer here is very impressive. He really gets it.
God is still out there, in the highest heavens, but the cloud of his presence shows that his name is also at the temple.
It’s a place for contact, for asking for forgiveness and mercy. Solomon has built the greatest house for God he can, but he knows it can’t contain him, he’s proud of the building no doubt, but knows it’s a place to be humble before God.
And he’s generous. I criticised him a few chapters ago for using a foreign slave labour force to build it. But he invites all people, all nations to share in God’s blessing, not at all exclusive.
If the Jews ever wanted to keep God to themselves, i think it would be now. They’ve been saved from slavery, given a land, nationhood, a holy city, they are top of the economic heap, wildly prosperous, and now they have a temple for the one true God.
But no, he sees it as a blessing to all nations, God is God of the whole earth.
The theology is very tied to earthly rewards. It’s easy to think that way when you are rich and healthy.
He imagines various scenarios, like famine, war, falling into captivity, sickness. He says that will happen because of sin, and tells them to direct their prayers to the temple, and if God hears he will fix it.
Well as things develop, for the rest of the old testament, this doesn’t work, and the poets, philosophers and prophets are left to develop and write a down an understanding of God that is less neat, that includes delayed reward and God sanctioned hardship.
It’s also deeper, more wonderful, bigger than this.
But Solomon really gets repentance. He gets that it all goes back to the need to acknowledge the evil and rebellion in our own hearts, that everyone is in the same boat before God on that score.
It’s a beautiful dedication prayer. It’s Monday and I’m pumped for the week.
How many more chapters before we start to slide downhill outside the comfort zone, where everything they have believed is challenged and lost?