Praise and pray to the Lord alongside Solomon

After Solomon built the temple to the Lord, he prayed the following prayer of dedication. I as I read the text this morning, his prayer struck me. As you read through it, notice:

  • How he calls upon the Lord to act in regard to God’s own character, how He has revealed Himself throughout Scripture.
  • The promises he asks the Lord to keep.
  • The care of the Lord for His people and the foreigner.
  • How he calls his people to follow the Lord and how we likewise should follow the Lord.

1 Kings 8:22–61 (ESV)

22 Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly of Israel and spread out his hands toward heaven, 23 and said, “O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to your servants who walk before you with all their heart; 24 you have kept with your servant David my father what you declared to him. You spoke with your mouth, and with your hand have fulfilled it this day. 25 Now therefore, O Lord, God of Israel, keep for your servant David my father what you have promised him, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man to sit before me on the throne of Israel, if only your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me as you have walked before me.’ 26 Now therefore, O God of Israel, let your word be confirmed, which you have spoken to your servant David my father.

27 “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built! 28 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, 29 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. 30 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.

31 “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, 32 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.

33 “When your people Israel are defeated before the enemy because they have sinned against you, and if they turn again to you and acknowledge your name and pray and plead with you in this house, 34 then hear in heaven and forgive the sin of your people Israel and bring them again to the land that you gave to their fathers.

35 “When heaven is shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against you, if they pray toward this place and acknowledge your name and turn from their sin, when you afflict them, 36 then hear in heaven and forgive the sin of your servants, your people Israel, when you teach them the good way in which they should walk, and grant rain upon your land, which you have given to your people as an inheritance.

37 “If there is famine in the land, if there is pestilence or blight or mildew or locust or caterpillar, if their enemy besieges them in the land at their gates, whatever plague, whatever sickness there is, 38 whatever prayer, whatever plea is made by any man or by all your people Israel, each knowing the affliction of his own heart and stretching out his hands toward this house, 39 then hear in heaven your dwelling place and forgive and act and render to each whose heart you know, according to all his ways (for you, you only, know the hearts of all the children of mankind), 40 that they may fear you all the days that they live in the land that you gave to our fathers.

41 “Likewise, when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a far country for your name’s sake 42 (for they shall hear of your great name and your mighty hand, and of your outstretched arm), when he comes and prays toward this house, 43 hear in heaven your dwelling place and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to you, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that this house that I have built is called by your name.

44 “If your people go out to battle against their enemy, by whatever way you shall send them, and they pray to the Lord toward the city that you have chosen and the house that I have built for your name, 45 then hear in heaven their prayer and their plea, and maintain their cause.

46 “If they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you are angry with them and give them to an enemy, so that they are carried away captive to the land of the enemy, far off or near, 47 yet if they turn their heart in the land to which they have been carried captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captors, saying, ‘We have sinned and have acted perversely and wickedly,’ 48 if they repent with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their enemies, who carried them captive, and pray to you toward their land, which you gave to their fathers, the city that you have chosen, and the house that I have built for your name, 49 then hear in heaven your dwelling place their prayer and their plea, and maintain their cause 50 and forgive your people who have sinned against you, and all their transgressions that they have committed against you, and grant them compassion in the sight of those who carried them captive, that they may have compassion on them 51 (for they are your people, and your heritage, which you brought out of Egypt, from the midst of the iron furnace). 52 Let your eyes be open to the plea of your servant and to the plea of your people Israel, giving ear to them whenever they call to you. 53 For you separated them from among all the peoples of the earth to be your heritage, as you declared through Moses your servant, when you brought our fathers out of Egypt, O Lord God.”

54 Now as Solomon finished offering all this prayer and plea to the Lord, he arose from before the altar of the Lord, where he had knelt with hands outstretched toward heaven. 55 And he stood and blessed all the assembly of Israel with a loud voice, saying, 56 “Blessed be the Lord who has given rest to his people Israel, according to all that he promised. Not one word has failed of all his good promise, which he spoke by Moses his servant. 57 The Lord our God be with us, as he was with our fathers. May he not leave us or forsake us, 58 that he may incline our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments, his statutes, and his rules, which he commanded our fathers. 59 Let these words of mine, with which I have pleaded before the Lord, be near to the Lord our God day and night, and may he maintain the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel, as each day requires, 60 that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no other. 61 Let your heart therefore be wholly true to the Lord our God, walking in his statutes and keeping his commandments, as at this day.”

Conquer your giants? Or conquer the Giant?

Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the LORD saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give you into our hand.”” (1 Sa 17:45–47)

Conquer the “Giants” before you is a common application of the David and Goliath battle. But is that accurate? Is the battle begin David and Goliath teaching us to conquer the “Goliaths” before us?

David’s battle with Goliath is bigger than you and I. It is a cosmic battle between the one true God – Yahweh – and the lifeless gods of this world. It purposes to show God will not be defeated by worldly powers no matter how great they might seem to us. God is the One who is in control and we can trust that to be the case.

Here is how one author puts its:

“Nothing contrasts the value systems of God and the world like the narrative of David and Goliath. This is not about how to take on the “giants” that stand in the way of our dreams. It is about the weak versus the strong, faith versus arrogance, the living God versus lifeless idols. It is ultimately about how God rescues his helpless people through His Spirit-anointed, faith-filled, Serpent-crushing warrior-king.” (Unfolding Grace, 233-34).

The David and Goliath narrative is about more than you and I. It is about more than our troubles. It is about the cosmic struggle between good and evil, God and Satan. It ultimately points us to Christ, who wins victory for us all. Jesus is the better and greater David who crushes the head of the serpent through His sacrificial death on the cross and finally through His victorious return.

Don’t view this as a moral tale to defeat your giants. That is to think too narrowly and selfishly. View this as a cosmic battle that provides you with ultimate victory!

God alone is your Deliverer who deserves your exclusive worship

And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the LORD with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the LORD and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.”” (1 Sa 7:3)

To worship the Lord is to forsake the worship of other gods. The Lord tells us in Exodus 20 that He is the One who provides redemption (Exodus 20:2). No other god saved the Israelites from slavery and bondage in Egypt. It was Yahweh alone who freed and saved them from continued bondage and certain death. 

Since God alone provides redemption, we are not to worship any other gods (Exodus 20:3). We are to exclusively worship the Lord. He will not compete for our affections. He is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5). Jealous for His own glory because it is His glory that provides us with joy. 

Worship involves giving our whole life to the Lord, not just an hour or two once a week during a worship service. Worship means exclusively looking to the Lord for wisdom and direction. It involves us giving our entire life to the Lord. 

Indeed, He alone is worthy of our worship because He redeems us from slavery and death as well. The slavery of sin and the eternal punishment of death. Through Christ a New Exodus occurs. We are led out of bondage to the promised land of an eternal kingdom with Christ as our God and King. 

Today, if you are to worship the Lord, don’t let anything stand between you and God. Don’t allow any other gods to steal your affections. Don’t allow any idols to come between you and God. Don’t put your trust and hope in earthly things such as wealth, status, career, pleasure, sports, and even family. Yes, even good things can be idols –those things that come between us and God. Instead, turn to the Lord alone, giving Him exclusive worship. For He alone is your Deliverer!

Continue to trust in the Lord even if it doesn’t seem like He is present.

“But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand.” (Exodus 3:19)

In this morning’s reading, Moses has an encounter with God. He finds a bush burning in the wilderness but is not being burned up. Like many of us, he turns aside to see how a bush on fire could remain whole, unburned by the fire that should consume it. Upon approaching the bush, a voice, the voice of God, emanates from the bush warning Moses that he has entered a holy space.

Afterwards, God proceeds to tell Moses He has heard the cries of His people in Egypt who are being brutally afflicted by the Egyptians. Not only has He heard their cries but He has seen their affliction. He has come to provide them with relief. But God is not going to smite the Egyptians right away. Instead, His plan is to send Moses to bring the people out of Egypt. Moses is tasked with approaching Pharaoh and asking him to let God’s people go three days’ journey into the wilderness to sacrifice to God (Exodus 3:18).

What is interesting about God’s plan for Moses is that He already knows the outcome. He tells Moses that He knows the King of Egypt will not let them go unless compelled by a mighty hand. He doesn’t tell Moses the mighty wonders He will do just that He will do them. Not only will He do mighty wonders that will result in the Israelites escape, but He will also provide the Israelites favor with the Egyptians. Favor that will result in them plundering the Egyptians of their silver and gold jewelry, as well as clothing. The Israelites will not leave Egypt empty handed.

Again, we see the providential nature of God. He is in control. Life does not happen by chance. It is a part of God’s plan. We see the Lord provides, He protects His people. Continue to trust in the Lord even if it doesn’t seem like He is present. He is present. He has not abandoned you. He remains faithful. Watch and see what the Lord will do in your life!

Our providential God is at work

In Genesis 45:4-5, we read:

So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.” (Genesis 45:4-5)

Many years before their shocking encounter, Joseph’s brothers had sold him into slavery. They were jealous of him. They wanted him gone. Instead of killing him, they sold him to a passing caravan. They told their father Joseph had been killed by a wild animal. 

Joseph, however, had not been killed. He was enslaved and brought to the land of Egypt. Through events that only God could orchestrate, a Jewish slave rises to power in Egypt. Joseph is more powerful than anyone in the land except the Pharaoh.

Joseph’s meteorite rise did not happen by chance. Rather it was orchestrated by God. What Joseph’s brothers meant for evil God used to preserve the life of the nation of Israel. The family from whom He had chose to save the whole world. The Messiah would come through their family line. In the Messiah, they would be a blessing to the whole world. 

Our God has a plan. He is in control. Life does not happen by chance. It falls under the providential care of the Lord. That doesn’t mean life will always be easy. We are refined through trial (see James 1). It does mean life has meaning and purpose. We are not knocked through life like a pinball, rather we are guided by the loving and caring hand of God. You might not see it but God is there. He is working. He is guiding and accomplishing His purpose with your life. 

Trust in the Lord. Rely on Him in the good time and the bad. Our providential God is at work.

Continue to trust in the Lord even in the midst of the wait.

Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” (Genesis 17:17)

What strikes me most this morning as I read the Abraham narrative, the covenants God makes with him, is the length of time that passes between the promise and its fulfillment. Abraham first encounters God when he is in his 70’s. God not only promises him land but also offspring. Again, in chapter 15, Abraham receives a promise from God regarding offspring. Abraham is in his mid 80’s at this point. Still Abraham and Sarah remain childless. God’s promise doesn’t come to fruition and Abraham has a child through Sarah’s servant, Hagar. But Hagar’s son is not the son of promise. God makes that clear when He visits them again. Once again He promises to provide them with child. Both Abraham and Sarah are in their late nineties at this point. Abraham is pushing one hundred and Sarah is just a year behind. It is amazing but God’s promise comes to fruition. Abraham and Sarah have a child together. Isaac is born! 

God held true to His promise, but it didn’t happen over night. It took thirty some odd years for Abraham to finally have a child and get his family started with Sarah. The family God promised would be a blessing to the nations. 

The time between God’s initial promise and His fulfillment took decades. Decades that I am sure seemed like an eternity. Decades that led them to disbelieve God, so much so Sarah offered Hagar to Abraham so that he might have a child. Decades that made Sarah laugh when God visited them at the oaks of Mamre as they looked out over Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18). Decades that eventually came to culmination with the birth of Isaac. 

God’s timing is not our timing. Days, months, years and even decades can go by without an answer to prayer. What appears to never happen is right on time according to the Lord. His plan is perfect. He perfects us through His plan. We must trust the Lord knows best and His timing is right.

Continue to trust in the Lord even in the midst of the wait. It can be difficult, but the Lord has a plan!