Part 3 of a 7 part series. View series intro and index.
After Joshua led God’s people across the Jordan, Israel entered into a time of national decline. We read about in the book of Judges. In fact, everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Jg. 17:6; 21:25). It got so bad that in 1 Samuel, Israel wanted to be like the surrounding pagan nations and have a king.
God gives his people a king named Saul, and after that David. Solomon succeeds his father David, and reigns over Israel during a time of great prosperity. After Solomon’s death, the kingdom splits yet again into Judah (south) and Israel (north). Despite their unfaithfulness at times (a lot of times!), God keeps his promise to Israel—to love her, protect her, and deliver her.
After Solomon becomes king, it came time to build a temple. David had made a request to God to do this, but blood was on his hands so he was unfit for the job. In 1 Kings 6, Solomon and the Jews build the temple. In chapter 8, Solomon gives his benediction, or dedication, for God’s house.
During his dedication, Solomon prays that God would be faithful to stay with his people and that he would incline their hearts to him so they would obey his commandments. He finishes with this stirring missionary plea:
May he maintain the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel, as each day requires, that all the people of the earth may know that the LORD is God; there is no other (vv. 59b-60).
Did you catch that? A Jewish king who worships Yahweh just prayed that all the pagan nations surrounding his kingdom would fall in love with the God he worships. What’s the big deal? I think it’s important for at least two reasons. First, this shows yet again that God’s intention for the world is not that his worshipers be of a single race or nation. God is the God of ultimate diversity and he desires all different kinds of people to worship him.
Second, it shows that the temple is not the point. Why do I say that? If people from all over the world worshiped the LORD God they obviously wouldn’t be able to all fit in one building, and most would not be able to travel to worship there either. More importantly, the temple is not the point because Jesus told the Samaritan woman, “The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him” (John 4:23).
Solomon realized that the point of the temple was not religious ceremonies and traditions. The point of the temple was to lead people to the God who was worshiped there—the God of spirit and truth. From Solomon’s prayer, we learn that God works for the good of his servants so that the world will know he is the only God! This global overhaul of religion that God is shaping did not happen, however, until Jesus came. After all, he said to the woman at the well, “The hour is coming, and is now here.”