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Sermon: 1 Kings 8:22, 23, 41-43
Pentecost 2 – June 23, 2019 – Rev. Steven J. Radunzel

I’m sure that many of you remember the dedication of this church building. Many of us probably still call it the new church, but the fact is it was dedicated twenty-four years ago this October. I wasn’t here at that time, but I’m sure it was a very joyful occasion with lots of members and visitors worshiping at the dedication service. I’m sure there was a joyful dedication service when the school was built back in the 70’s, and the same thing can be said for the dedication of the former church on Chapel St. in 1924. Special dedication services for new churches buildings are very common practice.

That practice of dedicating church buildings goes back almost 3000 years when King Solomon and the Israelites dedicated the temple in Jerusalem. One of the high points of that dedication of the temple was Solomon’s prayer of dedication. We have a portion of that prayer today as our text. And in this particular portion of the prayer Solomon prays that the temple may be a place where even the foreigner can come to worship the LORD – not just the Israelite, but foreigners as well.

King Solomon probably was not aware how effective his prayer was going to be. Many foreigners, many Gentiles, would come to Jerusalem to worship. But more important down through the centuries millions of foreigners would come to know the love and forgiveness of the LORD God of Israel and in spirit come to worship at the temple.

You and I are among those foreigners who have come to know the LORD God. You and I and millions, millions more are an answer to Solomon’s prayer that the foreigner may come to the temple and worship the LORD God.

Today we consider that

AFTER 3000 YEARS THE LORD IS STILL ANSWERING SOLOMON’S PRAYER

Immanuel Lutheran congregation is 128 years old. In that time the congregation has had three church buildings. Israel really had three different temples built in Jerusalem as well. But that was over a period of almost a thousand years. Those temples were built pretty sturdy with large, almost immovable stones. It took the powerful armies of Babylon and Rome to destroy those temples.

It was the first of those three temples that we read about in our text today, that Solomon and his people dedicated. The people of Israel had occupied the Promised Land for nearly 500 years before Solomon’s temple was built. Prior to the building of the temple while the Moses and Israelites wandered in the desert and for about 400 years after their settlement in the Promised Land the Israelites brought their sacrifices and their worship to the tabernacle which was a tent-like worship facility. The tabernacle could be set up and taken down, just like a tent, as they moved through the wilderness during the days of Moses. Once they came to the Promised Land it was set up in the city of Shiloh and then ultimately it stood in Jerusalem for many years.

But it was time for a permanent building, a real temple. King David and King Solomon and the people of Israel must have felt a lot like the members of a mission congregation today. If you’ve been part of a mission church you’ve probably had the experience of worshiping in a store front or a school or some rented space. It gets tiring because the worship space needs to be set up each Sunday. It’s not really permanent and enduring. It’s not the congregation’s property. Or many of you still remember setting up the gymnasium every Sunday for worship while waiting for this sanctuary to be built. The time comes when a congregation wants a permanent worship place, a church.

King David wanted to build a permanent temple in Jerusalem. The LORD revealed to David that he would not build this temple, but his son Solomon would. And build a temple he did. God gave instructions to him about the temple, and Solomon spared no expense in building a magnificent temple with cedar wood provided by King Hiram of Tyre to the north. Gold covered almost everything. At the time it had to be one of the wonders of the world.

And then the day came to dedicate that grand and glorious temple. Thousands of people came to Jerusalem to dedicate the temple, and they sacrificed thousands of animals in thanks to the LORD. How many days did you take to dedicate this church? I’m sure it was one Sunday. The people of Israel celebrated the dedication of the temple for seven days. And then they celebrated another seven days. Finally after two weeks Solomon sent the joyful Israelites to their homes.

But it’s Solomon’s prayer of dedication that we especially want to take note of today, and one part of that prayer. We can be so thankful to the Holy Spirit for inspiring writers to preserve the words of this wonderful prayer. Solomon stood before the altar of burnt offering and the new temple and began his prayer with these words: “O LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below – you keep your covenant of love with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in your way.”

We sometimes remember that Solomon fell into a lot of foolish sinfulness toward the end of his reign, but as a young king at the dedication of the temple he displayed that he knew and loved the LORD God. King David had raised him well to know God and revere God. And he knew that the LORD God of Israel was the only true God of heaven and earth. And Solomon knew that God had kept his special covenant to the people of Israel. Solomon knew the promise of a Savior. He knew the promise that God had given to his forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Solomon was living the promise that their descendants would grow into a great nation and that all peoples on earth would be blessed through Israel.

And it’s that fact that all peoples on earth would be blessed through Israel that led Solomon to speak these words in his prayer: “As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of your name – for men will hear of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm – when he comes and prays toward this temple, then hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and do whatever the foreigner asks of you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your own people Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears your Name.”

Do you understand the enormity of these words? Do you understand that Solomon was praying for you and me that day almost 3000 years ago? We are among the millions and millions of non-Israelites, Gentiles, foreigners who have heard about the LORD God of Israel and have come to believe in the one and only true God of heaven and earth. We believe he sent his Son Jesus Christ to be the Savior of the world. You and I come to this temple each week to worship him.

Solomon saw answers to his prayer even in his day. The LORD blessed Solomon with enormous wisdom, not only in religion but in many other subjects. People came long distances to listen to his wisdom. One of those visitors was the Queen of the Sheba – the Queen of the South – perhaps from Ethiopia or somewhere in Africa. Solomon impressed her with all kinds of wisdom and knowledge, but most important of all he taught her about the LORD God of Israel. She was an answer to Solomon’s own prayer.

Jesus would one day make note of the queen’s spiritual wisdom from Solomon. The Pharisees and teachers of the law approached Jesus and wanted him to do a special sign or miracle that would prove he really had the authority to preach and do miracles. Jesus sternly told them that no miraculous sign would be given to them. They wouldn’t believe no matter what miracle Jesus might do. He even warned them, “The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here.” In other words the Queen of Sheba never saw or heard Jesus preach, but she believed the spiritual words that Solomon spoke. Jesus was standing right there in front of these religious leaders of Jerusalem, they heard his preaching, but refused to believe in him. The Queen of Sheba will rightfully condemn them on judgment day.

Consider another answer to Solomon’s prayer. Shortly after Jesus was born, magi from the east came looking for the one born King of the Jews. Their predecessors had almost certainly heard about Israel’s promised Savior from Daniel in Persia. In some way these Gentiles, these foreigners, had come to know that this King of the Jews was born, and they came to worship him. These magi came to know their Savior partly because of Solomon’s prayer.

Or remember the Greeks who came to celebrate the Passover and approached the disciple Philip asking that they might talk with Jesus. They were foreigners who had come to know that Jesus was the King of Israel, the Savior of all nations. They were an answer to Solomon’s prayer.

Or think of the Roman centurion in our gospel reading today. Probably during his duty as a soldier in Galilee he came to know the LORD God of Israel and that Jesus was the Messiah and Savior. He had such strong and amazing faith in Jesus that when he asked Jesus to heal his servant he didn’t even expect Jesus to come to his home. He knew that Jesus had the power to heal him from any place. Jesus was amazed by the faith of this non-Israelite: “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” He was an answer to Solomon’s prayer that the foreigner would come to know the LORD God of Israel.

And there would be thousands more, millions more, in the almost 3000 years since Solomon prayed for the foreigners. And there’s you and I. We are among the foreigners who have come to hear about the great name of the LORD. We have learned how the outstretched arm of this God of Israel has reached out to save us from our sins. He sent Jesus, the Son of David, the descendant of Solomon, to die on a cross to atone for our sins. He raised Jesus again from the dead to prove that he had the power to forgive and save us. And we are here today in this temple to worship the God of Israel. We are answers to Solomon’s dedication prayer.

And there will be many more yet to come. After 3000 years the LORD is still answering Solomon’s prayer, and he will keep on answering that prayer until Jesus comes again. Amen.