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WE PRAY ... GOD ANSWERS
BUT WE MUST FOLLOW THROUGH

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT

THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

24 AUGUST 1997

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

1 Kings 2:3-4
1 Kings 8:1-61

There is a very interesting phenomenon that occurs among believers; we all pray, or desire others to pray for us, and God answers these prayers, but we don't all get the same lasting results.

Why is this?

It's because we don't all follow through with doing as God desires us to do.

Sometimes we pray for God to take away our pain, and God may tell us to take our hand out of the "fire", so to speak.

But we keep doing the foolish things we know are bad for us, and that we aren't to do, and as a result, the pain continues.

As an example, about 10 years ago I had a lot of arthritis pain and lingering colds. 

I prayed for a healing.

My answer came to me in the form of compassion for cows, who were being abused.

And because of my love for them, I stopped consuming any dairy products, and within 3 weeks, my pains and colds were gone, and they have not returned.

I followed through on the messages God was giving me, yet about 65% of the population of the world has they same problem with dairy I had, and many of them continue to consume dairy products along with having pains and colds.

Other times, God says it's time to come home; put your house in order.

And we fight against this call, too.

Sometimes we have every intention in the world of doing everything that God wants us to do, and yet, we let something or someone pull us aside, and we fail to follow through.

This is what happened to King Solomon.

This morning we're going to look at the recording of some of what took place at the dedication of the temple, and in particular, we should pay close attention to his prayer (1 Kings 8:1-61).

1. Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the leaders of the fathers' households of the sons of Israel, to King Solomon in Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord from the city of David, which is Zion.

And all of the men of Israel responded, along with the elders and priests, and they brought up the sacred items of the Tabernacle, and sacrificed before the Lord.

It is important for us to remember that the sacrifice was not what the Lord desired.  He wanted the people's obedience.

Sacrifice, was always a substitutionary excuse to try to cover up the sins the people didn't want to give up.

Nevertheless, everyone had come together in unity, and all seemed to be serving the Lord.

6. Then the priests brought the ark of the covenant of the Lord to its place, into the inner sanctuary of the house, to the most holy place, under the wings of the cherubim.

And they placed the ark in the Holy of Holies, the inner chamber of the Temple, the most sacred place, for that is what God instructed them to do.

10. And it came about when the priests came from the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the Lord,

11. so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord.

Can you imagine being there?

Can you see this thick white glowing cloud?

Can you see the presence of the Lord?

Can you feel the chills running up and down your spine, as the people must have experienced?

Can you sense all your sins being exposed before the Lord, and feel the need to repent?

I enjoy putting myself into the Bible stories like this, for they take on a much deeper meaning for me.

And I believe this is all part of our walking with God, for where He goes, we should go.

12. Then Solomon said, "The Lord has said that He would dwell in the thick cloud.

13. "I have surely built Thee a lofty house, A place for Thy dwelling forever."

We should remember what Solomon is saying here, about God Dwelling in the Temple, for later on in his dedication prayer he says something else.

14. Then the king faced about and blessed all the assembly of Israel, while all the assembly of Israel was standing.

15. And he said, "Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who spoke with His mouth to my father David and has fulfilled it with His hand, saying,

16. 'Since the day that I brought My people Israel from Egypt, I did not choose a city out of all the tribes of Israel in which to build a house that My name might be there, but I chose David to be over My people Israel.'

17. "Now it was in the heart of my father David to build a house for the name of the Lord, the God of Israel.

18 . "But the Lord said to my father David, 'Because it was in your heart to build a house for My name, you did well that it was in your heart.

19. 'Nevertheless you shall not build the house, but your son who shall be born to you, he shall build the house for My name.'

Do you notice the change in Solomon's prayerful message?

He began by saying that the Temple was a dwelling place for God forever, now he is saying that it is really only a place for God's name to dwell.

It is really a place of honor to God, a place for the people to assemble, to praise and worship God, and lift up His name before the world in both word and deed.

20. "Now the Lord has fulfilled His word which He spoke, for I have risen in place of my father David and sit on the throne of Israel, as the Lord promised, and have built the house for the name of the Lord, the God of Israel.

21. "And there I have set a place for the ark, in which is the covenant of the Lord, which He made with our fathers when He brought them from the land of Egypt."

22. Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly of Israel and spread out his hands toward heaven.

23. And he said, "O Lord, the God of Israel, there is no God like Thee in heaven above or on earth beneath, who art keeping covenant and showing lovingkindness to Thy servants who walk before Thee with all their heart,

24. who hast kept with Thy servant, my father David, that which Thou hast promised him; indeed, Thou hast spoken with Thy mouth and hast fulfilled it with Thy hand as it is this day.

Notice carefully, that Solomon really knows what it takes to walk with God.

But in the midst of all his knowledge, and even with all the awareness that God's word has been fulfilled in his presence, Solomon still has some doubts.

And doubts are holes in our faith, through which the glory of God can flow away from us .

Listen to what Solomon says.

25. "Now therefore, O Lord, the God of Israel, keep with Thy servant David my father that which Thou hast promised him, saying, 'You shall not lack a man to sit on the throne of Israel, if only your sons take heed to their way to walk before Me as you have walked.'

26. "Now therefore, O God of Israel, let Thy word, I pray Thee, be confirmed which Thou hast spoken to Thy servant, my father David.

Do you see his own personal insecurity?

God told David that his line would endure forever, but within that promise there was a condition, which Solomon only acknowledges in part.

Note what his father, David told him before he died (1 Kings 2:3-4).

3. "And keep the charge of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to what is written in the law of Moses, that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn,

4. so that the Lord may carry out His promise which He spoke concerning me, saying, 'If your sons are careful of their way, to walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.'

God never fails to fulfill all His promises, but for them to be fulfilled, we must follow through.

Solomon wanted the assurance that his line would continue forever, but he doesn't seem to be so sure that he is fully willing or able to follow through with his part of the agreement.

For Solomon's prayer to be fully answered, he must be willing to continually walk with God, and do all that God desires him to do.

And if we're not sure that Solomon really understands about the ways of God, listen to what he says next.

27. "But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain Thee, how much less this house which I have built!

Solomon realizes that this magnificent Temple is not really capable of containing God.

He knows that it is really only a focal point for him and his people to more easily relate to God, a place of remembrance that God is with them.

But Solomon is still insecure.

28. "Yet have regard to the prayer of Thy servant and to his supplication, O Lord my God, to listen to the cry and to the prayer which Thy servant prays before Thee today;

29. that Thine eyes may be open toward this house night and day, toward the place of which Thou hast said, 'My name shall be there,' to listen to the prayer which Thy servant shall pray toward this place.

30. "And listen to the supplication of Thy servant and of Thy people Israel, when they pray toward this place; hear Thou in heaven Thy dwelling place; hear and forgive.

I hope we can all see some similarities between Solomon's and our own inner natures.

None of us are perfect; we all sin, and thus we all need to repent, but in this understanding, should be the desire to always walk with God, that we would catch ourselves before we sin.

31. "If a man sins against his neighbor and is made to take an oath, and he comes and takes an oath before Thine altar in this house,

32. then hear Thou in heaven and act and judge Thy servants, condemning the wicked by bringing his way on his own head and justifying the righteous by giving him according to his righteousness.

And Solomon also knows that he isn't fully walking with God, and that his children will not always do so either, and that even though he prayed for God to fulfill His covenant with David, his father, that eventually the nation of Israel will fall away.

Note what he prays next.

33. "When Thy people Israel are defeated before an enemy, because they have sinned against Thee, if they turn to Thee again and confess Thy name and pray and make supplication to Thee in this house,

34. then hear Thou in heaven, and forgive the sin of Thy people Israel, and bring them back to the land which Thou didst give to their fathers.

How much easier to openly confess our sins, and ask God to help strengthen us to overcome the temptations in our lives, in the first place, that we won't lose God's promises.

And Solomon continues this line of prayer about droughts, famines and people's individual sins.

And he prays for something else, that the Israelites forgot about, particularly around and following the time of Jesus.

41. "Also concerning the foreigner who is not of Thy people Israel, when he comes from a far country for Thy name' s sake

42. (for they will hear of Thy great name and Thy mighty hand, and of Thine outstretched arm); when he comes and prays toward this house,

43. hear Thou in heaven Thy dwelling place, and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to Thee, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know Thy name, to fear Thee, as do Thy people Israel, and that they may know that this house which I have built is called by Thy name.

Solomon's prayer was not only for himself, but for the people for many generations to come, even forever, just as God promised.

But just as Solomon failed in his later life to follow through, so did the people.

And Solomon continues his prayer concerning Israel losing in battle because of their sins, and about the Lord responding to their repentant prayers.

46. "When they sin against Thee (for there is no man who does not sin) and Thou art angry with them and dost deliver them to an enemy, so that they take them away captive to the land of the enemy, far off or near;

47. if they take thought in the land where they have been taken captive, and repent and make supplication to Thee in the land of those who have taken them captive, saying, 'We have sinned and have committed iniquity, we have acted wickedly';

48. if they return to Thee with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their enemies who have taken them captive, and pray to Thee toward their land which Thou hast given to their fathers, the city which Thou hast chosen, and the house which I have built for Thy name;

Note carefully, that if the people return to God with all their heart and all their soul, and that they make supplication (true repentant prayers) and not sacrifice...

49. then hear their prayer and their supplication in heaven Thy dwelling place, and maintain their cause,

50. and forgive Thy people who have sinned against Thee and all their transgressions which they have transgressed against Thee, and make them objects of compassion before those who have taken them captive, that they may have compassion on them

51. (for they are Thy people and Thine inheritance which Thou hast brought forth from Egypt, from the midst of the iron furnace),

52. that Thine eyes may be open to the supplication of Thy servant and to the supplication of Thy people Israel, to listen to them whenever they call to Thee.

53. "For Thou hast separated them from all the peoples of the earth as Thine inheritance, as Thou didst speak through Moses Thy servant, when Thou didst bring our fathers forth from Egypt, O Lord God."

This is also true of Christians, today.

And there is no doubt that Solomon truly understands the ways of the Lord, yet he fell into the very traps he prayed about which he wanted the Lord to forgive.

There is something else that is curious about Solomon's prayer, that we should pay very close attention to; it's his lack of prayer for God's help in keeping him and his people from sinning in the first place.

He gets close to it, as we can see later, but doesn't quite say it.

It is much better to pray for help before we get into trouble, than to pray when we're already in trouble.

And remember, Solomon knows the truth about God's ways.

56. "Blessed be the Lord, who has given rest to His people Israel, according to all that He promised; not one word has failed of all His good promise, which He promised through Moses His servant.

57. "May the Lord our God be with us, as He was with our fathers; may He not leave us or forsake us,

58. that He may incline our hearts to Himself, to walk in all His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His ordinances, which He commanded our fathers.

59. "And may these words of mine, with which I have made supplication before the Lord, be near to the Lord our God day and night, that He may maintain the cause of His servant and the cause of His people Israel, as each day requires,

60. so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no one else.

61. "Let your heart therefore be wholly devoted to the Lord our God, to walk in His statutes and to keep His commandments, as at this day."

This is the key to our walking with God, and being able to see the results of our answered prayers, for this is how we follow through.

We can pray about many things, and God will indeed hear all of them.

For Him to answer us according to our request, we should always pray in His will.

In other words, is our prayer something that is pleasing in God's sight.

And secondly, as we pray, if we get that inner sense that God is telling us to do something, then we had best do it, as long as that, too, is in God's will.

One of the easiest ways I have found to test if something is in God's will is to ask myself if it is on the side of unconditional love, for love does no harm.

We must follow through!

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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