That Solomon is taken over by the Spirit of God in his prayer of dedication for the temple is beyond obvious. If there’s any question about it, the sure sign of being filled by the Spirit, prophesying, is more than evident as he refers to a day when, because of His people’s sin, God’s people will cry out in repentance from exile in a foreign land (1Kings 8:46-51).
So, listen up, Pete. The glory has descended upon the Holy of Holies. The Spirit has entered the king of promise. So hear his words, his God-breathed words, as he spreads his hands toward heaven and petitions the God of heaven.
He addresses the God who is like no other god, either in heaven above or on earth beneath. The covenant keeping God. The steadfast love demonstrating God. (8:23). The God who cannot be contained by the universe much less the meager dwelling just completed by the king (8:27). Yet Solomon dares to petition this God because He is the God who hears in heaven.
Seven times Solomon appeals to that divine dynamic. Seven times he counts on that supernatural reality. The God who is uncontainable is nevertheless approachable because He hears in heaven. Jaw-dropping!
So, what’s the first thing you ask of a transcendent, unfathomable God who hears in heaven? What’s the first request going to be when you realize that, by God’s condescending goodness and grace, you are privileged beyond privilege to appeal to Him directly? Maybe not what we’d expect.
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.
(1Kings 8:30 ESV)
Forgive. That’s the ask.
Me? I might have asked, bless, or lead, or protect, or something like that. But right out of the gate, on that joyous, awe-invoking day of opening the doors to the temple, after beholding the glory of God descend upon it in a cloud, that’s what Solomon comes up with. “God, when we sin, and we’re gonna sin, forgive” (8:46-50). Hmmm . . . did I mention he’s Holy Spirit filled at this point?
I’m listening in on the wisest guy in the world, at the time. And not just full of worldly wisdom, but filled with wisdom from heaven itself by God Himself. So, maybe I better listen up.
Chew on it a bit and, actually, it makes a lot of sense. The very essence of unmatched holiness breaks on the shore of fallen man’s fleshly fickleness– at some point the light is gonna expose the darkness. When it does, says Solomon, Lord, forgive. Hear our prayer, hear our plea, and forgive.
Forgive, that’s the starting point of life with God in the midst. It’s also the inevitable returning point, again and again, until the man, or woman, of flesh is fully redeemed.
It’s the reason the cross has the power it has. Because there the work of atoning for sin was finished. And that’s the work which allows a just God to forgive sin. The basis for a holy God to see the debt owed due to our transgression against Him and declare it paid in full. Which allows a slow to anger, abounding in grace God, to keep pouring forth grace. Grace greater than all my sin — past sin, present sin, and, thank God, future sin. Because of the cross, our God forgives and forgives again.
Repentance is the continuing fuel for redemption’s fire. Intimate familiarity with the four words, “Forgive us our sins” (Luke 11:4) presents that much-needed, well-worn path to the foot of the cross where, in the gospel-shadow it casts, we find the power of God for salvation.
Rather than be caught up in all that he had done for God, as Solomon beheld the glory come down, as he was filled with the Spirit within, he knew it wasn’t what he could do for God, but only what God could do for him. Forgive.
By God’s grace alone. For God’s glory alone.