”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, 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. 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! 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”. 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, 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), that they may fear you all the days that they live in the land.’ On the eighth day he sent the people away, and they blessed the king and went to their homes joyful and glad of heart for all the goodness that the Lord had shown.” 1 Kings 8:22-23,27-29,38-40,66
What a magnificent scene: the new, resplendent, God-inspired temple completed, the ark of God’s presence carefully placed in the inner sanctuary beneath the cherubim, and Israel’s wise and humble leader standing before the people, then kneeling with arms raised in reverence before almighty God, to beseech Him on behalf of His nation, His heritage. The event itself would bless those witnessing it, and the words of Solomon’s prayer displayed before all what the temple and altar represented: God is present with man, and hears our cries. This Old Testament foreshadow elevates our imaginings and plays our heartstrings for heavenly awe and worship…how can it be that this transcendent God would abide with man of earth? Today we also kneel, and touch heaven through the completed work of Christ on the cross and over the grave, our prayers reaching the highest heaven through the torn veil. Alleluia.
As the quiet still of morning opens to the bustle of day and demands on mind and body, it takes effort to keep in touch with heaven. Sacrifices offered early can be forgotten as activity calls out our attention, energy and affection, but as the people went on their way joyful and glad of heart, we can maintain the contact, the sweetness of communion, wherever we are.
“O worship the King, all glorious above, and gratefully sing His power and His love; My Shield and Defender, the Ancient of Days, pavilioned in splendor and girded with prai se. Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail, in Thee do we trust, nor find Thee to fail; Thy mercies how tender, how firm to the end, our Maker, Defender, Redeemer and Friend.” ~ Robert Grant (1833)
God on high, blessed are You Who maintain our cause and hear our prayers. Draw me near as each day dawns and each day requires, to bless Your high and holy name, to seek Your compassion, to delight in Your good promises, to exalt You alone. Incline my heart to You, and make it wholly true. (1 Kings 8:49-50,52,56-61)