(18) If my people will humble themselves and pray and seek my face then I will forgive their sin – 2 Chronicles 7:14

David’s son Solomon is only nineteen when he becomes king and when he is making sacrifices to God, the Lord appears to him in a dream and offers him whatever he wants. This is a dangerous offer to a teenager but Solomon asks for wisdom to enable him to take on the daunting task of governing the people and God grants his request, giving Solomon great wisdom and insight. Whereas David is remembered for his songs, Solomon is known for his proverbs, wise nuggets of advice for everyday living.

Because Solomon asked for wisdom to govern, rather than something for himself, God also gave him riches and honour and during his reign Israel became very rich. It was said that “silver was considered of little value in Solomon’s day” (1 Kings 10:21) as gold was so abundant. Solomon had trading ships that returned with valuable materials and exotic animals. Kings and Queens, including the Queen of Sheba, came from far away to see his splendour and hear his wisdom, bringing with them further gifts to boost his wealth.

David had wanted to build a permanent temple for the Lord but God had told him that this honour would fall to his son. David started the preparations but work really began in earnest once Solomon came to the throne. The early chapters of 1 Kings contain detailed accounts of how the stones were cut and dressed in the quarry before being transported to the site in Jerusalem. King Hiram of Tyre sent cedar wood from Lebanon in exchange for food for his court. A man from the tribe of Naphtali who was a skilled craftsman in bronze made pillars and large basins with exquisite sculptures for dealing with the sacrifices, while others made the furnishings inside the temple from pure gold.

It took seven years to build the magnificent structure and when it was finished Solomon called all the elders from across the tribes of Israel to celebrate its completion. They brought the ark of the covenant containing the stone tablets with the ten commandments on them from the temporary structure where David has housed it into the new temple. When the Israelites were in the desert they were accompanied by a pillar of cloud which was a sign that the Lord was with them, guiding and protecting them. This gave them a visual sign of God’s splendour and majesty and well as an inward sense of his honour and they referred to this as “the glory of the Lord appearing in the cloud” (Exodus 16:10). Now, as the priests carried the ark into the Most Holy Place – the inner heart of the temple – the building was filled with a cloud as “the glory of the Lord filled his temple” (1 Kings 8:11).

Solomon dedicated the temple to be a place of prayer. He knew that God is not confined to buildings – “the heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you” (1 Kings 8:27) – but asked God to listen to his people when they prayed towards the temple. In particular, when they strayed from God’s laws and their covenant with him, Solomon asked that God would respond to their prayers of confession by bringing them relief from their situation, whether it was famine, plague, war or even exile.

God responded by telling Solomon that, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). Although this promise was initially made in the context of prayer at the temple, it is still relevant today. We are still called to humble ourselves and seek God for forgiveness (see 1 Peter 5:6, Hebrews 11:6 and 1 John 1:9).

After Solomon blessed the people, he told them that they must be, “fully committed to the Lord our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands” (1 Kings 8:61). These were wise words which, unfortunately, he himself failed to live by in his latter years. The golden years of peace under Solomon’s reign were short lived.

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