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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, August 20, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | 1 King 8:22–30, 41–43

Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands to heaven. He said, “O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and steadfast love for your servants who walk before you with all their heart, the covenant that you kept for your servant my father David as you declared to him; you promised with your mouth and have this day fulfilled with your hand. Therefore, O Lord, God of Israel, keep for your servant my father David that which you promised him, saying, ‘There shall never fail you a successor before me to sit on the throne of Israel, if only your children look to their way, to walk before me as you have walked before me.’ Therefore, O God of Israel, let your word be confirmed, which you promised to your servant my father David. “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built! Regard your servant’s prayer and his plea, O Lord my God, heeding the cry and the prayer that your servant prays to you today; that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which you said, ‘My name shall be there,’ that you may heed the prayer that your servant prays toward this place. Hear the plea of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place; O hear in heaven your dwelling place; heed and forgive. “Likewise when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a distant land because of your name—for they shall hear of your great name, your mighty hand, and your outstretched arm—when a foreigner comes and prays toward this house, then hear in heaven your dwelling place, and do according to all that the foreigner calls to you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and so that they may know that your name has been invoked on this house that I have built. (NRSV)

Solomon’s prayer in front of the newly dedicated temple in Jerusalem is at once familiar and novel; it bears a great deal of resemblance to the format of many other prayers from the psalms—reminding the listener of God’s past deeds to make the case for God’s presence moving forward—but the content signals a shift within Israel’s scope and ambition. In numerous prophetic oracles throughout the Old Testament, God’s messengers frequently looked forward to a day when people outside of Israel would come to learn about the Lord. In his prayer—a prayer that feels more directed toward those listening than it is to God—Solomon instead speaks of that day as a present reality.

The dedication of the temple was a watershed moment in Israel’s history, but rather than merely celebrating this long-desired project’s completion, Solomon uses this moment to implore his fellow Israelites to live up to the reputation of the Holy One they follow. The building of the temple would bring new followers and new believers into their midst, and it was imperative that Israel’s worship, actions, and life reflect the true Spirit of God so these newcomers could witness God’s power at work.

That imperative still remains with us now: every single day our lives bear witness to the God who has called us to something greater than ourselves. So how will your life bear witness today?

Holy God, may my life be a reflection of your Spirit—called, empowered, and inspired to be a witness to you in the days and weeks ahead. Amen.

Written by Matt Helms, Associate Pastor for Children and Family Ministry

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