The house is completed (1Ki. 7:51). The ark is brought into the Holy of Holies, placed under the wings of two massive gold cherubim, and the glory of God fills the place. So, what’s left to be done? Pray!
And that’s what Solomon does in 1Kings 8, pray. And what a prayer!
A prayer about prayer. A prophetic prayer about the future need for prayer. A pleading prayer that when the people blow it–and to be sure they’ll blow it . . . Solomon imagines a number of scenarios–and they ask for forgiveness, that God will see and hear in heaven their repentance and confession on earth. A persistent prayer asking God, again and again and again, to not only hear but to forgive.
And as I chew on this pattern of prayer I’m reminded that the only basis for such forgiveness is grace. That the only just way a just God can forgive iniquity is if the wages of sin has been paid in full. That the only way a holy God can dwell in the midst of those defiled by transgression is through the cleansing by blood of a spotless, atoning sacrifice. That the only way of reconciliation with God for those who have gone their own way in rebellion and infidelity, is through the intervention of God in making a way back through a peace offering.
So again and again, Solomon asks, When we sin, and when we pray, then Lord, show grace. Abundant, repetitious grace. Forgive.
But what really captures my thoughts this morning is another ask of grace made by the king as he concludes his petition.
“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. The LORD our God be with us, as He was with our fathers. May He not leave us or forsake us, 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.
(1Kings 8:56-58 ESV)
“Incline our hearts.” How’s that for an ask?
Encompassed in the word incline are the ideas of stretching out, spreading out, making malleable, and bending, or turning, the heart. Do a work in my soul, Lord. So massage the depths of my inner person, that my heart is changed. That it’s open to You. Ready to be molded by You. Wanting to do what my flesh doesn’t want to do, longing to walk after You.
Isn’t that also the unfathomable grace of the gospel? Beyond forgiveness, beyond restoration and reconciliation of relationship, a deep, heart work that increasingly compels us to want to walk in His ways. An imparting of a thirst for obedience. The gifting of longing for a supernatural enabling to live in a supernatural way. Of desiring a transformation from the inside out. Of hoping in the sure hope that a work will be accomplished through us that only an all-powerful, steadfast-loving God could work in us.
Incline our hearts, Lord.
Show patient, repeated, abundant grace.
Finish the work you’ve begun according to Your promise (Php. 1:6).
By Your grace. For Your glory.