Judge Rightly.

If a man sins against his neighbor and is made to take an oath and comes and swears his oath before your altar in this house, then hear in heaven and act and judge your servants, condemning the guilty by bringing his conduct on his own head, and vindicating the righteous by rewarding him according to his righteousness. – 1 Kings 8:31-32 ESV

1 Kings 8:22-53

Solomon’s prayer of dedication for the temple was based on a long-term perspective and was God-focused in nature. He was doing far more than simply commemorating the completion of a construction project. He was asking God to continue to find favor with the people of Israel and hear their prayers and forgive any future sins they would inevitably commit. In essence, Solomon was praying that God would continue to extend mercy to His people. Solomon used seven scenarios to illustrate potential situations that might arise in the lives of the people of Israel. This particular one had to do with personal sins. He knew that there were going to be plenty of cases where the people of Israel broke God’s covenant by committing sins against one another. Many of God’s laws regulated the relationships between individuals. Six of the original ten commandments had to do with unacceptable behavior between fellow Israelites. They were not to lie, murder, bear false witness, covet, steal or commit adultery. They were to honor their parents. But God knew that they were incapable of keeping His laws, so He provided the sacrificial system as a means for receiving atonement and forgiveness. Like the tabernacle in the wilderness, the temple was intended to be the sole place where Israelites could come to confess and repent of their sins and seek forgiveness from God. So Solomon asked that God would hear their confessions and judge rightly. As a king, Solomon would have known how difficult it was to make right judgments based on the words of men. He was considered incredibly wise, but even Solomon did not have the ability to look into men’s hearts or order to determine the truth of their words. One of the roles of the king was to judge his people and settle disputes. Solomon would have done this on a regular basis. He would have had to listen to testimonies and hear arguments, then make a determination based on the facts as he knew them to be. There must have been times when he questioned his own decisions, wondering if he had made the right determination.

So Solomon asked that God would hear the cases of His people and judge rightly between the just and the unjust. Solomon was asking God to be the righteous judge, condemning where necessary and vindicating when appropriate. He knew God to be just and fair in all His dealings. He also knew that God could not be tricked, deceived, or manipulated. He could look into the hearts of men and see the truth. He could judge rightly because He was omniscient, with intimate knowledge of the hearts and minds of men. So Solomon simply asked God to listen to the confessions of the people and judge as only He could – justly and righteously at all times. What a comfort to know that God never condemns unjustly. He never makes the wrong decision. God has never punished the righteous person wrongly. Yes, we see all kinds of people get away with all kinds of evil. We see unjust people do unjust things and never suffer any consequences. But we tend to view things from a limited perspective. We don’t have a long-term outlook on life or the ability to see what God is going to do in the future. God can and will vindicate all wrongdoing. He will bring all sinners to account. We may not see it in our lifetime or be allowed to witness His justice in action, but we can rest assured that God will judge rightly and righteously one day. The psalmist described God as, “a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day” (Psalm 7:11 ESV). He makes righteous judgments – all the time. We may not see them when they take place. We may not agree with His timing. But we can trust that what God decides is always right and just. He will condemn the wicked and vindicate the righteous – if not now, He will do so in the future.

We must learn to trust God and allow Him to rule and judge as He sees fit. He knows what is best. He operates on a different time schedule than we do. He sees things we cannot see. He knows the hearts and minds of men. He always metes out appropriate justice and judgment, in His time. We can always trust Him to deal with us as we deserve, even when we don’t know the motivations of our own hearts. God sees the sin we are oblivious and blind to. He can tell the difference between wrong actions motivated by right desires and right actions done for the wrong reasons. And He always deals with us righteously and justly. We can count on that.