Preached: June 2, 2013
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The word from God through which the Holy Spirit shows us our Lord's love and faithfulness is 1 Kings 8.
Then Solomon stood before the LORD's altar in front of the whole assembly of Israel. He spread out his hands heavenward and said, “O Lord, the God of Israel, no god is like you in heaven above or on earth below -- you who keep your covenant of mercy to your servants who walk before you with all their hearts. (1 Kings 8:22-23).
This is the word of our Lord.
Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:
What an accomplishment! It had been his father's dream. In fact, his father had started planning for it and gathering resources. But it wasn't started until after his father's death. Now for seven years they had labored on the project. The cost of just one of the raw material would today be well over $100 billion. What an accomplishment!
But King Solomon, the son of David, did not build the temple for his glory, but for the glory of the name of the LORD, the God of Israel. As glorious as Solomon's kingship was by earthly standards -- so glorious that the Queen of Sheba heard of his fame and, when she came to see it for herself, found him even greater than the report -- as glorious as King Solomon was in all his splendor, he knew himself as only a servant.
So as he stands before Israel at the dedication of the temple, he stands not as a king or a noble, but as a humble servant. In this prayer he pleads, “The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built! Yet give attention to your servant's prayer and his plea for mercy, O LORD my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence this day” (1 Kings 8:27, 28 NIV84).
So too, dear Christian friends, we come before the Lord our God as lowly servants. For through the blood of Jesus Christ, we've been redeemed from slavery to sin and belong now to our Lord. Through faith in Jesus, you are a servant of the most high God. Like Solomon, call out to him. “Lord, hear your servant's prayer.” That's the theme this morning. “Lord, hear your servant's prayer, because you are faithful and because you are merciful.” Those are the two parts.
Solomon begins his prayer, saying, “O LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below -- you who keep your covenant of love with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in your way” (1 Kings 8:23 NIV84).
The Lord had been faithful to his promises, his covenant. Over a thousand years earlier he had promised Abraham, “I will make you into a great nation ... To your offspring I will give this land” (Genesis 12:2, 7 NIV84). Then four hundred and eighty years before the building of the temple, the Lord faithfully kept that promise and rescued Abraham's offspring from slavery in Egypt, bringing them to the land of Canaan, the land he had promised to Abraham. The Lord is faithful. He keeps his covenant and fulfills his promises.
The Lord had promised King David, the father of Solomon, that his son would build a temple for the Lord. And now once again the Lord had kept his promise. He was faithful.
So Solomon's faith that saw the Lord fulfill those promises and keep his covenant also trusted the Lord to keep his greatest promise, his new covenant. He had promised Abraham that all nations would be blessed through the Savior coming from Abraham's family (Genesis 12:3). He had promised David that one of his descendants would reign forever (2 Samuel 7:13). That descendant of David's is, of course, Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, born of Mary, who was of the house and line of David (Luke 2:4). He reigns forever and ever. His kingdom has no end (Luke 1:32, 33). The Lord is faithful. He keeps his covenant and fulfills his promises. So call out to him, “Lord, hear your servant's prayer.”
Yes, dear Christian, see your lowly condition. In prayer you are approaching the Lord. He is God in heaven above and on earth below, as Solomon said. There is no other. We are his creatures, his fallen creatures, his rebellious creatures. How you and I rightly deserve to be totally rejection by him! Yet he nevertheless made his covenant and kept his promises. The Son of God became flesh and blood to save you and me, just as he had promised Abraham and David, just as he promised you at your Baptism and continues to promise you in the Lord's Supper, as you receive his own blood, the seal of the new covenant. How faithful he is! So take everything to him as a dear servant who knows that his Lord is able, ready, and willing to answer. He is faithful. Nothing can stop him from keeping his promises, for he is God in heaven above and on earth below. All power is his.
Yet often we are slow to pray. Why is that? Do we feel that it won't do much good? We might not like the answer, so why bother? If so, remember that the Lord is faithful. He keeps his promises. He has promised to answer our prayers as a dear father answering his dear children. For through faith in Jesus, you are a true child of God, baptized into his family. We may not always like his answers, just as children don't always like mom or dad's answer. He may answer, “Wait, since it's best for you now to grow in patience and to persevere in prayer despite not getting an answer right away.” Or he may answer by putting us into a more challenging situation since our spiritual growth is ready for it. Or through his gospel he may offer us the spiritual courage and strength to bear up even though he does not take away the feelings and desires that our troubling us or the hardships and adversities that plague us. Or he may rescue us from all these problems by leading us through the valley of the shadow death to our heavenly home. Even though these may not be the answers we were looking for, do you see how they may well be the best answers? Faith trusts the Lord's promise. In whatever way he answers our prayers, faith trust that it's best. For our Lord is faithful. He keeps his promises. As a servant, call out to the Lord, for he is faithful.
How can you be sure of his faithfulness? Look at how he kept his saving covenant that he promised to Abraham and David. He sent the Savior. Your Savior, dear sinner. Since he has already given us his Son, not sparing him the full punishment for our sins on the cross, won't he also answer our prayers in the best way? Don't be slow to pray; rather, count on the Lord's faithfulness.
Now, why did he make his covenant with Abraham and David? Why does he make his promises to us? Did they have anything to offer him in return? Do we have something he needs? Not at all. Listen again to Solomon's opening words: “O LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below -- you who keep your covenant of love ...” (1 Kings 8:23 NIV84).
The word translated as “love” is a special Hebrew word. It doesn't refer to the two-way, mutual love that we usually mean when we talk about loving each other -- see that reciprocal relationship. Rather this word is traditionally translated “mercy.” Mercy isn't two-way love. It's love that flows from the greater down to the one who is in need.
So why did the Lord make his covenant? Because of his mercy. For you see, the Lord's saving covenant is a one-sided promise. He made it because of his mercy, his love that flowed down to us, reaching down to those who are poor in spirit, burdened with the debt of sin, spiritual beggars who know we have nothing to offer God. His mercy saw the spiritual bankruptcy of the human race, including you and me, and reached down in pity by sending his Son. He became poor that we through his poverty might become rich, spiritually rich, filled with the good news of forgiveness. What mercy!
Fellow beggars, fellow servants of our Lord, call on him in prayer. Call on him because of his mercy. Don't be slow to pray because you wonder why would God listen to someone like you. Don't think that you have too many sins to make praying worth while. It's to beggars, like you and me, who know the debt of our sin, who confess we have nothing to offer, who feel our own unworthiness and sing, “nothing in my hands a bring, simply to thy cross I cling” -- it's to beggars like us that his mercy reaches down to, so that he can lift you up. We call on him in prayer, not because of who we are but because of who he is. He is our merciful Lord.
Glorious King Solomon humbled himself before the Lord in prayer. So also, we come in lowliness and pray: “Lord, hear your servant’s prayer because you are faithful and because you are merciful.” Amen.
The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.