1 Kings 9
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
This Divine manifestation was probably similar in form to that with which Solomon was favoured at the beginning of his reign, of which it is said, "In Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night "(1 Kings 3:50). We have no means of judging as to the precise time of this occurrence; but the close connection of thought between what God here says to Solomon and the prayer at the dedication (seen most clearly in 2 Chronicles 7:14, 15) leads us to suppose that it took place immediately after that event. It illustrates:


(1) in the answering of the prayer - "I have heard thy prayer," etc. The vision was itself an instant and very gracious Divine response. All true prayer is heard. No pure breath of supplication, the incense of the heart, ever ascends to Heaven in yam. God does not disappoint the hopes and longings He has Himself awakened. As the vapours that rise from land and sea sooner or later return again, distilling in the silent dew, descending in fruitful showers upon the earth - not one fluid particle is lost - so every cry of filial faith that goes up to the great Father of all comes back in due time in some form of heavenly benediction. And more, the answer is often far larger and richer than our expectations. He "doeth exceeding abundantly," etc. (Ephesians 3:20). Solomon had prayed "That thine eyes may be open towards this house." God answers, "Mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually." The very heart of God dwells where His suppliant people are. This anthropopathic mode of speech is a gracious Divine accommodation to our human wants and weaknesses. God condescends to us that we may the better rise to Him. It is the necessarily imperfect yet most welcome expression of a sublime reality that we could not otherwise know. God has a tender "heart" towards us as well as an observant "eye." And wherever we seek Him with all our hearts there His heart responds to the throbbing of ours - a sympathetic personal Presence, meeting our approach, pitying our necessities, giving love for love. Note, too, the constancy of this grace - "forever." "perpetually." "The gifts and calling of God are without repentance." Wherever He records His name there He "dwells." When He blesses, when He gives or forgives, it is "forever." If the grace is cancelled, if the benediction is withdrawn, the fault is ours, not His. "Though we believe not, yet He abideth faithful; He cannot deny Himself" (2 Timothy 2:18).

(2) In the repetition of the promise, "If thou wilt walk before me," etc. (vers. 4, 5). The promise is reiterated as a sacred and inviolable engagement which God on His part will never break. "The sure mercies of David." All Divine promises are sure. We have but to place ourselves in the line of their fulfilment and all is well with us. They are steadfast as the ordinances of heaven and earth. Natural laws are God's promises in the material realm. Obedience to them is the sure path to physical well being. Are His counsels in the moral and spiritual sphere likely to be less steadfast and reliable? Heaven and earth shall pass away, but the promises of His grace can never fail. "They stand fast forever and ever and are done in truth and uprightness" (Psalm 111:8).

II. THE INFIDELITY OF MAN AND THE FATAL CONSEQUENCES THAT FOLLOW IT. "But if ye shall at all turn from following me," etc. Here is a solemn note of warning, the presage of that guilty apostasy by which the Jewish people became in after years the most signal example to men and nations of the waywardness of human nature and the retributive justice of God. We are reminded that the faithfulness of God has a dark as well as a bright side to it. As the cloud that guided the march of the Israelites out of Egypt was light to them, but a source of blinding confusion and miserable discomfiture to their adversaries, so this and every other attribute of God bears a different aspect towards us according to the relation in which we stand to it, the side on which we place ourselves. Be true to Him, and every perfection of His being is a joy to you, a guide, a glory, a defence; forsake Him, and they become at once ministers of vengeance. Even His love, in its infinite rectitude and purity, dooms you to the penalty from which there can be no escape. Whether in the physical or the spiritual realms, one feature of the very beneficence of God's laws is that they must avenge themselves. Learn here

(1) that all human loss and misery spring from forsaking God. "If ye shall at all turn from following me, ye or your children," then shall all these woes come upon you. All sin is a departure from the living God. "My people have committed two evils, they have forsaken me," etc. (Jeremiah 2:13). Adam cast off his allegiance to God when He listened to the voice of the tempter. Idolatry in its deepest root has this meaning (see Romans 1:21-28). Every sinful life is a more or less intentional and deliberate renunciation of God, and its natural results are shame, and degradation, and death. The course of the prodigal in Christ's parable is a picture of the hopeless destitution of every soul that forsakes its home in God. "They that are far from thee shall perish" (Psalm 73:27).

(2) That according to the height of privilege so is the depth of the condemnation when that privilege is abused. The very height of the "hallowed house" shall make the ruin the more conspicuous and the more terrible. There is no heavier judgment that God pronounces upon men than when He says, "I will curse thy blessings." The best things are capable of the worst abuse. And when the highest sanctities of life are violated they become the worst grounds of reproach and sources of bitterness. The greater the elevation, the deeper and more dreadful the fall. "Thou Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven," etc. (Luke 10:15).

(3) That one inevitable penalty of trangression is contempt and scorn. "Israel shall be a proverb and a byword among all people." "He that passeth by shall be astonished and shall hiss." "When the salt has lost its savour it is henceforth good for nothing but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men" (Matthew 5:13). The wicked may be in honour now, but the time is coming when they "shall awake to shame and everlasting contempt." - W.

Our text appears at first sight to be introduced into this chapter in a superfluous and arbitrary manner. It is not without good reason, however, that this record of Solomon's religious worship stands between statements about his fortifications and his fleet. We have much to learn from the Old Testament method of blending the earthly with the spiritual, and of suffusing national enterprise with religion. The verse before us, read in connexion with the statement made in 1 Kings 3:2, indicates that, after finishing the temple, Solomon swept away the abuses, and remedied the defects which had prevailed. He had built the temple, and now would be the leader of his people in using it. He did not consider that the erection of an altar excused him from sacrificing on it. He was not one of those who will encourage others to devotion, while they neglect their own personal responsibility. Apply this to any who contribute to a society, but withold all personal service; or aid in the celebration of worship, while their own hearts are never engaged in it. If we compare the text with 2 Chronicles 8:12, 13, we see that it was not only on the national festivals (Passover Pentecost, and Feast of Tabernacles), but on all occasions appointed by Mosaic law, that Solomon, through the priests, presented offerings before the Lord. No allusion is made here to expiatory sacrifices (the sin offering and the trespass offering) but these, of necessity, preceded those mentioned here. All the more fitly does the text represent what we should offer when we draw near to God, through the merits of the expiation already made for us by Him who became, on our behalf, a sin offering. This verse will answer the question of conscience, "What shall I render unto the Lord!

I. THE DEDICATION OF SELF. Burnt offerings were representative and not vicarious. They represented the dedication of himself to God on the part of the worshipper. St. Paul shows us this (Romans 12:1), I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice," etc. The appropriateness of the type can be easily shown by alluding to such points as these: -

1. The sequence of the burnt offering on the expiatory sacrifice. No burnt offering was made until a previous sin offering had been presented. The worshipper must first be brought into covenant with God. Were the burnt offering presented first, the barrier of sin between man and God would be ignored, and the idea of an atonement would be denied. Our offering of ourselves is only acceptable through the previous sacrifice of Christ.

2. The completeness of the burnt offering. The sacrificer laid his hands on the victim, and then it was placed whole on the altar, its death signifying the completeness of the presentation of the man, body and soul, to the Lord. Show that God has the right to demand our whole selves; not a share in affection and thought simply.

3. The occasions for presenting the burnt offering.

(1) Daily (Exodus 29:33-42) to show that at no time are we "our own."

(2) Doubly on the sabbath (Numbers 28:9, 10). The seventh day a time for special consideration and self consecration.

(3) On great festivals (Numbers 28:11; Numbers 29:89). Times of exceptional deliverance, enrichment, etc., are seasons for renewed self dedication. Press home the entreaty of Romans 12:1.

II. THE GIVING OF THANKS. Peace offerings were of various kinds, but had the same meaning. They were a presentation to God of his best gifts, a sign of grateful homage, and at the same time afforded means for the support of God's service and His servants. Flour, oil, and wine were offered with the daily burnt offering. The shew bread was renewed each sabbath day. Special offerings were made on the sabbath and other festivals. The first fruits were presented, and corn from the threshing floor at the annual feasts, etc.

(1) All these were of a Eucharistic nature, and teach us to render thanks and praise to God (Hebrews 13:15).

(2) They betokened communion with God, for in part they were eaten by the people in His presence.

(3) They aided in the sustenance of public worship. The priests had the breast and shoulder. See the lesson Paul draws Philippians 4:18.

(4) They ministered to the necessities of the poor. Peace offerings constituted great national feasts. Give examples. Show Christ's care for the poor. Allude to such verses as Hebrews 13:16. We express thankfulness to the Lord, and acknowledgment of His goodness, by distributing to others as they have need. "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it unto me."

III. THE OFFERING OF ]PRAYER. "He burnt incense upon the altar." Incense was offered morning and evening (Exodus 30:7, 8), and on the great day of atonement (Leviticus 16:12). The altar of incense stood before the holy of holies in the holy place, where only the priests could stand. Sacredness and sweetness were suggested by the incense, so carefully and secretly compounded, so exclusively used in the service of God. As a symbol it denoted prayer; taken in its broadest sense, as the outflowing of the soul in adoration, prayer, praise toward God. Refer to Psalm 141:2, where prayer and incense are blended as reality and symbol; to the smoke in the temple (Isaiah 6:3 4); to the people praying while Zacharias was burning incense (Luke 1:10); to the prayers of the saints before the throne (Revelation 5:8; Revelation 8:8, 4).

1. Prayer should be reverent. (The incense altar was close to the holy of holies, under the immediate eye of God.)

2. Prayer should be constant. (Incense was perpetual. "Pray without ceasing.")

3. Prayer should be the outcome of self dedication. (Incense was kindled by a live coal from the altar of burnt offering.)

4. Prayer is accepted through the merits of the atonement. (The horns of the altar of incense were sprinkled with blood.) - A.R.

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