“In the four hundred and eightieth year after the people of Israel came out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel…he began to build the house of the Lord” (1 Kings 6:1).
Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem that his father David was not allowed to build. As Solomon directed the massive building project, including drafting 30,000 men, 70,000 ‘burden-bearers’ and 80,000 stone cutters, God spoke to him and said:
“Concerning this house that you are building, if you will walk in my statues and obey my rules and keep all my commandments and walk in them, then I will establish my word with you, which I spoke to David your father. And I will dwell among the children of Israel and will not forsake my people Israel” 1 Kings 6:11.
A few chapters later the temple has been completed and Solomon is praying to God. He echoes God’s words to him in his prayer. As I read the prayer, over and over, the repeated phrases stood out: if … then … and. One of the basic principles of studying scripture is to notice repetitive phrases. God is trying to get our attention. He knows we often (usually) don’t get the message right the first time–we need repetition for it to sink in.
The promise from God is conditional. It is based on an “if” phrase. Conditional phrases are contingent upon the “if” phrase being completed; otherwise the “then” part of the phrase is not guaranteed. We use this on children all this time: if you clean up your room, then you can play. If you study hard, then you will get good grades. If you practice hard, then you will do well in your recital. We all understand the principle. Solomon uses these conditional phrases over and over again in his prayer. He acknowledges God will bless Israel if certain vitally important conditions are met:
“they turn to you and acknowledge your name…”
“they pray toward this place and acknowledge your name and turn from their sin…”
“they pray to the Lord toward the city that you have chosen…”
“they turn their heart…”
“hear in heaven…”
“maintain their cause”
(taken from Solomon’s prayer in 1 Kings, chapter 8)
This is a model for our own praying. We want God to hear us and act on our behalf. But we can’t forget the first part of the prayer, our part. It’s our responsibility to turn to God, to pray, to turn our hearts to Him, to submit in humility. Then, and only then, will He act, forgive, do and maintain our cause.
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