Sermon preached on 1 Kings 9:1-9 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 9/29/2019 in Novato, CA.
Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
1 Kings 9:1-9
The LORD Appeared to Solomon a Second Time
I’m sure all of us would love to have even just one personal appearance of the Lord to us. Solomon had such an appearance when back in chapter 3 we saw God appear to him at Gibeon. That’s when God granted Solomon’s request for wisdom and also promised to give him honor and riches. So, to get such an appearance from the Lord would have been amazing. But here Solomon, some twenty years later, gets a second appearance from God. And yet while here God personally encourages Solomon that his recent prayer of dedication has been answered, there is also a calling and a warning that God gives to Solomon. Let’s delve into that today and be reminded of how that calling and warning not only points us to Christ but reminds us of the biblical call to persevere in our faith.
Let’s begin looking first then at the answered prayer request. That’s how this appearance to Solomon begins. Look at verse 3. “And the LORD said to him, ‘I have heard your prayer and your plea, which you have made before me. I have consecrated this house that you have built, by putting my name there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time.’” So, God first begins by acknowledging his prayer request. This refers to last chapter and the prayer Solomon gave at the dedication of the temple as they brought the ark up into it. We spent a few weeks working through that chapter, but the prayer was especially the central feature of the chapter. There, Solomon makes several related requests, but the heart of the matter was asking God to have that temple there on Mt. Zion be the fulfillment of God’s promise to put his name in a central place of worship among the people and to use that temple as the instrument for their prayers. Solomon asked that God would hear and answer the prayers that were offered by the people in that temple or even offered towards that temple. So then, God here says “yes” to that prayer request. God has put his name there on that temple.
I love the reference there to God’s eyes and heart. Last chapter, we saw that Solomon’s prayer was for God’s eyes and ears to be attentive to the prayer offered at the temple. Here, God goes further than that. God says his eyes and his heart would be there at the temple. God will deal with his people not merely some formal and external way. God will deal with his people from his heart – surely out of his great love and compassion and mercy for his people. With so much in that prayer and that chapter about the needs regarding the heart of men, I love to see how God’s answer involves his own heart in the matter.
Notice as well that God’s answer concerning this uses the language of consecration – consecration referring to something being made holy and sacred. God says, “I have consecrated this house that you built.” That’s in verse 3 and it’s also restated in verse 7. So, while Solomon built the house, it’s God who consecrated it. While Solomon built this to be a house of prayer, it was God who made it actually function as such by consecrating it. While Solomon gave that prayer of dedication and offered all those sacrifices in order to dedicate the temple, it was God whose consecration actually dedicated the temple. I can’t help but make some analogy here to us under the new covenant. We are those who made the temple of the Lord in the new covenant by the Spirit. Yes, we outwardly become a part of this new covenant through putting our faith in Jesus. Yes, we can think of our activity in hearing the gospel and responding. We might have prayed a sinner’s prayer as we were converted to Christ. But at the end of the day, ultimately, what consecrates us unto the Lord is the work of God in our heart. God sets us apart and makes us holy unto himself. He consecrates us.
The last thing to notice regarding this granted prayer request is the language of “forever” and “all time”. When God in verse 3 says that yes he’ll set apart this temple as holy and be attentive to prayers offered to it, he says that he’ll do this forever and for all time. That is an awesome statement, though we need to note how the context qualifies that. The context shows that God means from his standpoint that he is prepared to honor that temple always and forever as the place of meeting with him and his covenant people. However, that’s the issue. Will the people remain faithful to the covenant? If not, then we’ll be going on to see in this chapter the negative consequences that will come of such betrayal to the Lord. But for God’s part, so to speak, he says he’ll honor his covenant promises. Man is not always faithful, but God is always faithful – he cannot deny himself. And of course, what this shows is God’s heart in the matter. He doesn’t intend to have a temporary relationship with his people. This isn’t in his mind just something for a season. God’s people aren’t a “fling” for him. God’s plan is a permanent holy relationship with his people.
Let’s move on now to our second point and see how God here calls Solomon to faithfulness. We see the transition in verse 4. In responding to Solomon’s prayer we see that God handles the different prayer requests differently. God started by answering the question about the holiness of the temple as a place of worship. But now God replies to Solomon’s prayer concerning himself and his lineage and dynasty. You might recall back to last chapter, verses 25-26. There, Solomon prayed about God’s promise to David that his sons would continue to reign after him – as long as they were faithful to walk in the ways of the Lord. That prayer request clearly included Solomon as one of David’s sons. That’s the prayer request that God then turns to respond to in verse 4. God begins there saying, “And as for you.” Basically, God then affirms that the promise he gave to David is still valid. But God also reiterates to what extent it was conditional. For Solomon himself, for his own part in that lineage and covenant heritage, it would require his faithfulness. God tells Solomon that if he would walk in the ways of the LORD then he will personally experience and enjoy his place as king in that Davidic covenant and kingdom.
This is a point I’ve made in the past when talking about the Davidic covenant. When God made that covenant with David back in 2 Samuel 7, the overarching promise was unconditional. God’s overarching promise to David was that one from his offspring would be king over an eternal kingdom. That language itself is unconditioned. However, the covenant goes on to talk about a condition on his offspring if they were to personally enjoy the throne and divine blessings themselves. God even promises to chasten David’s descendants if they aren’t faithful. So then, this is what we see God saying here. God reminds Solomon that indeed for his part, he will remain faithful to the Davidic covenant. But how that worked out specifically with Solomon’s role in the kingdom would depend on whether or not Solomon continued to walk in the ways of the LORD.
This is really important to note as we think specifically in Solomon’s life.
Here we are more than 20 years into the faithful service of Solomon. He has accomplished so much for Lord by this time. If you are Solomon you might have hoped that he’s put in his time and can rest on his laurels. If you are Solomon you might hope that God would come back and say “yes” you’ve sufficiently walked in my ways and nothing from here on out will matter. Yet, that’s not what God says. Nor is it what happens with Solomon. Solomon will go on to have a major failing in this regard. In chapter 11 we will see him going after false idols. That begins to bring divine chastening in that God tells him that he will divide the kingdom in Solomon’s offspring due to his lack of faithfulness. There in chapter 11, it even mentions not only how Solomon turned away from God but that he turned away from the God who had twice appeared to him! (None of those idols ever appeared to him, I can tell you that!) So then, the great grace of having two appearance from God to Solomon will actually serve to heighten his guilt later on when he ignores this call to faithfulness. But we are reminded then of the truth that faithfulness involves perseverance. And there is only one descendant of David who fully and completely walked in the ways of the LORD all his days and into glory. That’s our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Turning then now in our third and final point, let us see how God warns about what will happen should Solomon turn away. This is starting in verse 6 and is intimately connected to our second point that we just discussed. In that second point, we saw how God called Solomon to faithfulness with the reward of continuing in the blessedness held out under the Davidic covenant. But now starting in verse 6, we see the threatened negative outcome if Solomon doesn’t do that. To start, let’s note that God says it will have national consequences. That is a sober thing to think about how one man’s failed leadership can bring down a nation. But of course, we know that often the hearts of the people are led along either for good or bad by their leaders. So, the curses threatened starting in verse 6 have in view what would happen if Solomon or his descendants turn away from the LORD and all his holy laws. (His descendants are specifically mentioned there in verse 6.)
In verse 6, God begins by illustrating the moral concern with the language of idolatry. If Solomon or his descendants turn away from the worship of the one true God by worshipping false gods, they should expect God to act against them. We can think again of how the national religious practices often begin at the top. King Jeroboam who would later call the people to worship golden calves at Bethel and Dan. It’s King Ahab who would later lead the people into Baal worship. Solomon here is charged to worship the one true God and surely by implication to lead the people in such worship. That is in fact what King Jesus repeatedly did while here on earth. It’s what Christ’s Spirit continues to do today. He points people to the one true God, revealing the one true God to people, and calling us to serve and worship him alone.
So then, look at verse 7. There we find God begin to describe the calamity that would befall Israel. God says he will cut off Israel from the land that he has given them. In other words, God would remove them from the Promised Land. That statement is not anything new. It should not have been surprising to Solomon to hear that. That is what God had threatened through Moses back with the Mosaic covenant was being established. God held out many covenant curses should the people not keep the covenant. But the greatest curse held out was that the people would be conquered and removed from the land by an enemy in exile, Deuteronomy 28:64. So this was nothing new in terms of the threatening held out under the old covenant.
But verse 7 also goes on to connect this with this new temple. He will cast out this temple from this sight. This temple he consecrated; this temple that he said he would put his name on it forever; he would have it so upturned that its ruins would stand as a visual sign and warning for whomever would see it. By the way, in verse 8 the ESV pew bibles says that this house would be a “heap of ruins”. There is a challenge with the translation there, though likely the preferable translation would say something along the lines of this house being “high” or “exalted”. In other words, that’s either a reference to the current exalted nature of this temple, or maybe more likely, how visible in its downfall will it will be after God has cast it out of his sight. Either way, that’s where this passage heads. For we see the end of verse 7 speak of Israel becoming a proverb and a byword among all the people. And that is then illustrated with a sample conversation in verses 8-9.
Of course, this notion of a forsaken and cursed Israel becoming a proverb and a byword is also not a new concept here. It also was stated back through Moses in similar words. Deuteronomy 28:37 says that at the end of all these covenant curses, Israel would be a horror, a proverb, and a taunt among all the people. Similarly, Deuteronomy 29:24 says that the nations will ask, “Why has the LORD done thus to this land? Why this great outburst of anger?” And the answer will essentially be the same answer that is recorded here in verse 9.
But the difference here is the temple. Whereas this language was used before about the people and their being cast out of the land, this temple particularly becomes highlighted here in a way that Deuteronomy didn’t talk about. Think about this. When it says that Israel would become a proverb, it means that their story will become a lesson to others – a lesson so well known that you could simply mention it and the world would know what you mean and not want to be like that. It’s like today if you mention a Trojan Horse, you immediately think of how deceptive tricks often come under the cover of something good. Or when it says that Israel would become a byword, in other words a taunt, it means that this example of Israel would not only be a proverbial lesson to learn from, but it would be an example of ridicule. The proverbial lesson wouldn’t be simply “don’t fall into the same trap of Israel.” It would be “don’t be a fool like those Israelites” and then everyone would laugh.
But again, see how God connects that with the temple. God envisions how in future days, should the people fall away and experience these curses, that the temple would somehow stand as a testimony against Israel. The temple itself would spark people to recall Israel as a byword and a proverb. God envisions people of the nations would travel by and see Jerusalem and Mount Zion. They’d look up to where the temple had stood in all its glory. They see it in all its rubble and abandoned state. And they would ask “why.” Why did God do this to this land and this house? Because the people abandoned the LORD. There, it transitions from Solomon and his descendants now to the people as a whole. God says they’ll recognize the apostasy of God’s people. Not only that, they’ll recognize that what particularly made it so bad is that they would be breaking faith with the God who had redeemed them out of Egypt. So then, the temple itself would be a sign. It would serve to call the nations to not fall into such foolishness. If God has so richly privileged you and lifted you up and blessed you, why turn away from him? Why forsake the one who has so graciously given everything to you? This threatening was meant to call Solomon and his descendants and all the people to cling to their covenant God.
As we reflect on this in light of what we read back in Deuteronomy when God initially warned about all this through Moses, I think we should also remember Deuteronomy 30. There, God spoke in terms that made it sound like these covenant curses of exile from the land were inevitable. But God then promised that out of such horrible destruction that God would then one day gather back a repentant people unto himself. He would restore them and rebuild them. He would circumcise their hearts so they would love the Lord. He would redeem them in such a wonderful way, so that indeed God’s forever promises and plans would yet be realized with his elect. So, when we think of this passage in light of Deuteronomy 30, we realize that this threatened warning was inevitable. Man’s sinfulness would result in their abandoning their redeemer. Solomon’s temple would end up destroyed and in rubble and a symbol of Israel’s folly. So then, as I reflect on a temple in ruins that solicits passersby to laugh and mock, I can’t help but reflect on the reprise of that event later in the New Testament. I refer then to the temple which was destroyed on Calvary. The temple which was destroyed but in three days Jesus rose it back up. The temple of Jesus’ body which hung there on the cross. Then, again, people walked by. Then, the passersby mocked him and turned his plight into a byword. They said, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him.” Jesus himself asked the “why” question. My God, why have you forsaken me? But Jesus knew the answer that the passersby didn’t. God forsook Jesus like this not because Jesus had forsaken his God. But because the people Jesus came to save had forsaken their God. Jesus became a sort of proverb and byword at the cross to bear our sin and guilt and shame. The cross became a visual sign of how far God would go in order to redeem his wayward people. So that he could consecrate us as his temple for all time.
Brothers and sisters, this passage, and the future history that involved God destroying Solomon’s temple, was written for our instruction. It’s a historical warning to a judgment which became historically realized later and now has proverbial value to us. It’s the message we read in Hebrews. A warning against apostasy and a call to faithful perseverance. But we are also reminded here of the kind of leadership God’s people will need as we seek to heed such a call. (There’s a reason why hold our earthly leaders to such a standard.) But more so we see that the ultimately leader we need is not King Solomon but King Jesus. Jesus Christ, the one of David’s line who was and is perfect always in his righteousness to the Lord. Jesus Christ is the one whose heart is fully turned toward God and is also turned toward our needs and weaknesses. Jesus Christ is the one who has born all the sin and shame of his people – a people who are sinful and weak without him. And so, it is in Jesus Christ and not Solomon that God’s people have the leader that they need. And so, the question then is if you are in Jesus Christ?
If you are, I encourage you again today to cling to him in faith all your days. And to take comfort in knowing that he has encouraged us that he will never leave us nor forsake but he will be with us to the very end. May the cross that is a proverb and a byword to the world be to us the wisdom and power of God for our salvation. We affirm our trust in King Jesus again today. And we thank God that in him he consecrates us as his holy temple. Amen.
Copyright © 2019 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.