Posted: 06 Dec 2010 11:00 PM PST
WHEN SOLOMON FINISHED PRAYING, there was more than silence and hushed reverence. Fire descended from heaven to consume the burnt offerings, and "the glory of the LORD filled the temple" (2 Chron. 7:1). God himself approved both the temple and Solomon's prayer of dedication. The thousands of Israelites who were present certainly saw things that way (2 Chron. 7:3) and sang again, "He is good; his love endures forever" (2 Chron. 7:3). The festival of celebration described in the following verses (2 Chron. 7:4–10) is peerless.
There is more. Just as the Lord had personally appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—and to Solomon's own father David!—so now he appears, by whatever means, to Solomon. Note:
(1) "I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices" (2 Chron. 7:12; cf. 2 Chron. 7:16 and the meditation for November 26, emphasis added). God himself sees the sacrificial system as the heart of the temple. He then summarizes afresh his willingness to respond to his people when they stray and then pray; for this temple, in line with God's gracious self-disclosure, institutionalizes the various offerings for sin that are the means by which guilty sinners can be reconciled to God by the sacrifices that he himself has both prescribed and provided.
(2) Much of the rest of God's words to Solomon run on one of two lines. First, in words of reassurance, God says his eyes will indeed always be open to his temple, and he will hear the prayers of those who repent. Second, this appearance to Solomon is also a warning, even a threat. God tells Solomon that if the nation (the "you" in 2 Chron. 7:19; "but if you turn away" is plural) succumbs to rebellion and idolatry, the time will come when God will descend on them in judgment, drive his people from the Promised Land, and so decimate Jerusalem and this temple that people will be appalled; they will hear as the only sufficient explanation that God himself brought all this disaster on them because of their sin (2 Chron. 7:19–22). From God's perspective, the people receive fair warning; from the chronicler's perspective, he is preparing the way for the tragic conclusion to his book; from the canonical perspective, Christian readers are reminded that all systems and structures, even those that point to Christ, were bound to fail in this broken world until the appearance of the One to whom they pointed.
(3) The promise of 2 Chronicles 7:14 is often quoted as a universal key to revival. But one should note the linked themes of covenant people, land, and temple—all contextually specific, in this form, to the old covenant. But there is a legitimate extension, grounded in the reality that righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people. God calls on all peoples to repent.
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