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June 22, Day 174 – Solomon’s Heart … and Ours

Today’s readings begin with Solomon’s prayer for the dedication of the temple. In 1 Kings 8:22-61, Solomon “stood before the altar of the LORD in front of the whole assembly of Israel – spread out his hands toward heaven and prayed” (verse 22). Yesterday, we stated that the temple was designed and built to be a majestic edifice worthy of the majesty of our God, and here we read a majestic prayer that reveals much about God, His character, and His nature. I am often convicted about how ordinary - and sometimes even selfishly unbalanced - my own prayers are (in favor of me and my needs) rather than focused on God and His majesty. This is an area for spiritual growth in my own life. However, there is none of that in Solomon's prayer. Notice how Solomon begins: “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” (verse 23). Solomon built a magnificent stone and mortar edifice, but this prayer points to Solomon’s understanding of a future kingdom where God’s people are actually His dwelling place: “Will God really dwell on earth? The heavens – even the highest heaven – cannot contain You. How much less this temple I have built! (verse 27). In asking God to preserve His covenant (verse 25), we see therefore that this prayer is messianic – it anticipates the coming kingdom of Jesus Christ – “‘You shall never fail to have a Man to sit before me on the throne of Israel’” (verse 25). At least 13 times, in his conditional references to Israel’s backsliding behaviors, Solomon alludes to Deuteronomy 30 and God’s unfailing forgiveness (cf., verses 25, 31, 33, 35, 37, 38, 42, 44, 46, and 54). In verses 62-68, we see the offerings that Solomon made during the dedication – huge numbers of “cattle, sheep, and goats” (verses 62-63). In chapter 9, the LORD appears to Solomon and honors his faith and the expressions of his prayer – “consecrating the temple by putting His Name there forever” (verse 3). With a warning (verses 6-9), God promises to bless Solomon “if he will walk before Him in integrity of heart and uprightness” (verses 4-5). We ought to meditate and reflect often upon this prayer.

Today’s verses in Proverbs 15 – verses 11-20 – contain excellent insights about our hearts for us to apply to our lives. As God infinitely knows about “death and destruction” (verse 11), He knows infinitely about “the hearts of men” (verse 11). The Scriptures have much to say about men’s hearts – and what’s in them – and though we might hide the contents of our hearts from each other and even deceive our own hearts (cf., 1 John 1:8-10) – nothing within our hearts remains concealed from God. We notice that “a happy heart makes the face cheerful," which "has a continual feast” (verses 13 and 15), but “heartache crushes the spirit” (verse 13). And “discerning hearts seek knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly” (verse 14). It is important for us to remember that it is out of our hearts that our attitudes and actions proceed, thus we need to maintain pure hearts (cf., Matthew 15:17-10).

In Acts 14:8-28, we read more about the early evangelistic and missionary outreaches of Paul and Barnabas to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch. They began by healing the lame man, and the crowd’s responses and conduct are definitely bizarre – proclaiming that “the gods have come down to us in human form” (verse 11). This shows how steeped in idolatry and false religion those Gentiles were who lived in the Roman empire at that time, and how quickly and easily crowds descend into unstable, mob behavior. We see this conduct over and over in Scripture, and it should cause us to consider carefully the crowds in which we may find ourselves – whether small or large. In evangelism and outreach missions, however, avoidance is not always practical or possible, but nonetheless, we should always exercise discretion. Paul and Barnabas tried to calm the crowd down – “We are bringing you good news, but … even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them” (verses 15-18). It’s important for us to remember that the Christian life is one of “hardships” (verse 22), but equally important is it to remember that if the highest values in life are not worth every protective struggle, then they are neither valuable nor worth holding onto. Verse 27 is a special blessing to me - that God “opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.” Praise God for this “open door!”

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