“They lose nothing who gain Christ.” –Samuel Rutherford
It was a glorious day when the ark of the covenant was brought into the newly built temple in Jerusalem. I mean literally, glorious. The glory of God was filling the house of the Lord. (see 1 Kings 8:10) After the ark was situated in the innermost chamber, that is, Holy Place, then Solomon proceeded to praise and bless the Lord. This is a portion of what he said:
“If there is famine in the land, if there is pestilence or blight or mildew or locust or caterpillar, if their enemy besieges them in the land at their gates, whatever plague, whatever sickness there is, whatever prayer, whatever plea is made by any man or by all your people Israel, each knowing the affliction of his own heartand stretching out his hands toward this house, then hear in heaven your dwelling place and forgive and act and render to each whose heart you know, according to all his ways (for you, you only, know the hearts of all the children of mankind), that they may fear you all the days that they live in the land that you gave to our fathers.1 Kings 8:37-40 (esp. v. 39)
Solomon’s prayer is instructive. While the one who prays might complain of the presence of famine, pestilence, plague, enemies, or sickness, the real impetus to seek the mercies of God are found in the phrase, “each knowing the affliction of his own heart.” Jesus Christ would not entrust himself to man because he knew what was in man. (see John 2:23-25) The heart is deceptive, wicked, and a seedbed for all manner of sin. (see Jeremiah 17:9, Romans 3, etc.) In this passage, Solomon urges the people of Israel to know their own heart. He also recognizes that God, who ultimately dwells in heaven, will observe the individuals who stretch their hands out toward his house (the temple). Solomon encourages his hearers to look to the temple where there is an ark of the covenant with its mercy seat. After the cleansing of the temple, Jesus made a powerful claim, even a command, to the religious authorities, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Solomon’s word of encouragement to the Israelites has now been replaced by the ministry of Jesus Christ. Instead of stretching out our hands toward a temple in Jerusalem, we stretch them out toward Christ. After encountering the affliction that dwells in our own hearts, we turn, not to a building, expecting to find forgiveness, but to Christ himself who delights to forgive and readily receives sinful individuals who come to him. Have a blessed week and we will see most of you on Sunday.
Love in Christ,