Listen and Forgive.

Yet have regard to the prayer of your servant and to his plea, O Lord my God, listening to the cry and to the prayer that your servant prays before you this day, that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which you have said, “My name shall be there,” that you may listen to the prayer that your servant offers toward this place. And listen to the plea of your servant and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. And listen in heaven your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive. – 1 Kings 8:28-30 ESV

1 Kings 8:22-53

While Solomon was well aware of the fact that the great temple he had just finished constructing was insufficient to contain God, he was counting on God’s promise that His name would be there. God had told David, Solomon’s father, “Behold, a son shall be born to you who shall be a man of rest. I will give him rest from all his surrounding enemies. For his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quiet to Israel in his days. He shall build a house for my name. He shall be my son, and I will be his father, and I will establish his royal throne in Israel forever” (1 Chronicles 22:9-10 ESV). The temple was to be built as a sort of monument to the character and nature of God. It’s beauty, richness, elaborate architectural detail and design were all intended to reflect the nature of God. It’s sole purpose was for making sacrifice and receiving forgiveness. It was a tribute to the holiness, mercy, love and forgiveness of God.

So Solomon appealed to God to hear his prayer. He knew that, without God’s presence, the building he had just had constructed would be nothing. It would be powerless to assist the Israelites in their times of need. After all, it was just a building. It was nothing more than a symbol of God’s power, mercy, and love. It could not save them. If God did not show up and hear the prayers and accept the sacrifices they offered up, they were doomed. Which is why Solomon asked “that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house.” The temple was to be the place where they came to meet with God. It was where they would make their annual sacrifice of atonement to God in the hopes of receiving forgiveness for their sins. So it was essential that God see them and constantly be aware of their circumstances, as well as hear them when they cried out to Him.

Solomon knew full well that God was not going to take up residence in the temple. His dwelling place was in heaven. But he believed that God had chosen the people of Israel as His special possession. He had set them apart as His own and had determined to reveal His power and presence to them and through them. They were nothing without God. In fact, the only thing that set them apart as a people was their relationship with God. “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 7:6-8 ESV). God had chosen them, not the other way around. Their very existence as a nation was due to God’s mercy and love. But Solomon knew that while God had been consistently faithful to them over the years, they had proven to be incredibly and repeatedly unfaithful in return. Which is why the sacrificial system was so essential. It was also why the temple was so important. Solomon was asking God to hear and forgive. He knew that the forgiveness of God was critical to their ongoing existence as a people. They were going to sin. It was inevitable. As a result, they would be required to bring their sacrifices and offer their prayers of confession and repentance. But if God did not hear them, they would be doomed. They would fall under His wrath and judgment. So Solomon appealed to God based on His character. He prayed based on God’s promises. His request was for future forgiveness. While they were obviously enjoying God’s blessings at that moment, all of that could change in a heartbeat if the people disobeyed God by breaking His laws. And Solomon knew that was inevitable and unavoidable. It would prove to be true in his own life. So he begged God to listen to their prayers of confession and contrition and honor their pleas of repentance with His forgiveness.

Solomon did not take the forgiveness of God for granted. He did not treat it lightly. But we do. We have grown so accustomed to the idea that all our sins are forgiven in Christ, that we no longer feel the need to own up to them or confess them. The apostle John reminds us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 ESV). Our forgiveness is a done deal. Jesus Christ has provided forgiveness for all our sins – past, present, and future – through His death on the cross. But that does not mean that we can sin at will and without any sense of remorse or expression of repentance. Our sin is still an affront to a holy God. We have His forgiveness available to us, but we must acknowledge our sin and confess it to God. Solomon valued the forgiveness of God. He built an entire structure just for the purpose of securing that forgiveness. God has given us His Son. We don’t have to build or sacrifice anything. All we need to do is confess. And God will forgive and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Amazing, but also amazingly easy to take for granted.

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