Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Field Sermon delivered on the Lord's Day, May 9, 2010


I would like to welcome all of you this morning, who have joined with us to hear the Word of the most High God, creator of all the earth and heavens. Please accept the warmest greetings from the members of our home church in Moscow who also trust in Christ Jesus.

Opening Prayer

Heavenly Father, hear our prayer this morning as we come to be instructed by Your Word. Open our eyes, ears, hearts, and minds that we might more fully understand your ways, and the magnitude of Your mercies. We ask this in the name of Jesus, Your Son, by whom Your mercies are extended to us. Amen


    And it came to pass, when Solomon had finished the building of the house of the LORD, and the king's house, and all Solomon's desire which he was pleased to do, that the LORD appeared to Solomon the second time, as he had appeared unto him at Gibeon. And the LORD said unto him, I have heard thy prayer and thy supplication, that thou hast made before me: I have hallowed this house, which thou hast built, to put my name there for ever; and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually. And if thou wilt walk before me, as David thy father walked, in integrity of heart, and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded thee, and wilt keep my statutes and my judgments: then I will establish the throne of thy kingdom upon Israel for ever, as I promised to David thy father, saying, There shall not fail thee a man upon the throne of Israel. But if ye shall at all turn from following me, ye or your children, and will not keep my commandments and my statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods, and worship them: then will I cut off Israel out of the land which I have given them; and this house, which I have hallowed for my name, will I cast out of my sight; and Israel shall be a proverb and a byword among all people: and at this house, which is high, every one that passeth by it shall be astonished, and shall hiss; and they shall say, Why hath the LORD done thus unto this land, and to this house? And they shall answer, Because they forsook the LORD their God, who brought forth their fathers out of the land of Egypt, and have taken hold upon other gods, and have worshipped them, and served them: therefore hath the LORD brought upon them all this evil. (I Kings 9:1-9)
The text today illuminates us concerning Solomon’s second audience with the Lord, as He revealed Himself to Solomon. This account follows immediately after the dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem, and event of extreme significance and importance. This temple, as a significant practical and typological element of importance, was to establish the name of the Lord within the boundaries of Israel, and as a beacon to call the unbelieving world to faith in the Lord. The primary purposes of the temple were pretty straightforward. It was established as the singular, formal place where God had promised to meet with mankind. It was the only place where the offerings for the atonement of sin would be accepted. It was established as an emblem that, if any would turn their prayers and petitions toward the God that it represented, that He would hear their supplications. Under the administration of the Older Testament it represented, in its beauty and complexity, what the Messiah would powerfully and fully accomplish in His substitutionary death many centuries in the future, the act which inaugurated the New Testament.

The Hebrew Israelites were the covenanted people of that period. God had chosen them from all of the tribes of the earth to bear His name among all of the inhabitants of the world, and to bid them all to believe and be joined in this saving covenant with the Lord. Being chosen as such, they were afforded the benefits of the covenant that God made with them, these benefits being consistent with the stated articles of the covenant. This was all based on the mercy, grace, holiness, and justice of God, and His favorable disposition toward them. His stated promises were all good. There were, however, conditions associated with them. They must believe, and obey what He commanded of them. And this was to be the natural consequence of a people who received and understood the magnitude of the grace He had shown and given to them. These conditions also had a variety of consequences associated with them, and the covenant articles made it very plain as to what would happen if they became rebellious and disobedient to them. This gives us the contextual background for the account we have before us today.

In this encounter, the Lord affirms that He had heard Solomon’s supplications that he had presented upon the formal dedication of the Temple, that He would indeed place His name, eyes and heart there continually. He was promising to be in their midst, and therefore confirming their witness to the unbelieving nations that God Almighty, Himself, was beckoning them to come and partake of the salvation He grants. This was no small privilege (as recognized by the apostle Paul in Romans, Chapter 3, where he expounds on this).

The Lord then reconfirms his promise to David, that He would establish his heirs as leaders and rulers. But there are conditions and stipulations associated with this promise. Solomon and his posterity are charged with the requirement to:
-walk before the Lord: that is, to humbly acknowledge the creator/creature distinction, and accept the authority and will of God as it is manifest in divine revelation and providence.

-walk in integrity of heart: this requires absolute honesty with God and yourself.

-walk in uprightness: that is, to walk in conformity to the objective standards that God Himself has established. This should banish all forms of arbitrary morality.

-to hammer this point home, this standard is explicitly explained in His commandments, statutes, and judgments. What does true holiness and righteous conduct look like? The answers are given in these.

But what is contrariwise promised if the leaders and people choose to depart from the Lord and rebel against His goodness and standards and assimilate the fictitious standards and practices of idols and idolatries? He promises to cut them off, and cast away the symbol of His abiding in their midst (the temple), and to make a proverbial mockery out of them because of their rebellion and thanklessness concerning His mercies. The reasons for their demise will be as obvious as the nose on a man’s face, or by simply connecting the dots. It will be obvious that they, as a people, treacherously and treasonously, thought that they could double-deal with God and get away with it. Why would all of this evil fall upon them? Because they lacked an appreciation and thankfulness concerning what God had delivered them from, and had forsaken the Lord, preferring empty, impotent, and dead idols.

Now, keep in mind that this was all revealed to Solomon during one of the most successful, prosperous, and glorious times that would occur in the entire history of Israel. While neither David nor Solomon were perfect men, God had enabled them to conquer the land He had given to them for a possession, and established Solomon’s reign in peace with a great degree of prosperity. As a people, they were enjoying high times and an immense abundance. How could things go wrong?

Yet things did go wrong. Anyone familiar with the rest of history of Israel knows that what followed were generations of trouble. While there were some brief moments where the leaders and people repented, the basic path of the whole culture was a downward spiral that ended in a destruction of the nation, and its remaining inhabitants being carried away to exile in Babylon. Not a very pretty ending is it?

So why is this important to us? Good question. In I Corinthians, Chapter 10, the apostle Paul insists that we pay attention to the history of the Older Testament, drawing from the similarities of events that are recorded there. He notes that mankind, even those who are in covenant with Christ, frequently suffer from what he calls “common temptations” (vs.13). He concludes with the admonition, “Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry”. (vs. 14)

What are some of the legitimate comparisons we can make in regards to the principles that are inherent with the text we have been examining?

Like Israel, our nation was founded on the notion of being in covenant with the God of the Bible, and that this covenant has an impact that applies beyond merely personal concerns. Jesus’ own summary of all of Biblical law is to “Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself”. This has ramifications far beyond sentimentality and emotional responses.

While Israel was founded by overt, divine decree, our nation was founded by divine providence: that is, the working out of God’s purposes in a manner not entirely revealed by inspired pronouncements, but according to His will as revealed in history, and in a manner not contradictory to His explicit revelations. This means that, because the nation was founded upon a specifically biblical notion of being in covenant with Christ, that we are accountable to that covenant.

Like Israel, the evidence continues to accumulate that we, like they, seem to have lost our way with the passage of time. We no longer appear to acknowledge where our standing before God comes from. Nor do we credit His goodness in the deliverances, liberty, and abundance we have enjoyed. We think we are ‘special’, but we seem to want to be just like the other, idolatrous nations. We have ceased to be thankful and have become presumptuous. Somewhere along the way we lost our vigilance, giving way to complacency and lethargy, and learning a refined way to shift the blame to “them”. Are we not, as evidence suggests, caught in a similar downward spiral?

Do we, as individuals want to be saved, receive His grace and mercy, and be freed to live in the true liberty of His Spirit? Then we must flee to Christ, as he is the only one who can save us. Do we, as a nation, want to be reestablished as a place where grace, truth, and justice abide as signature elements of our society? Then we must reject the idolatries of our times and return to Christ, willingly submitting ourselves and our culture to Him.

Let us remember the place that we have fallen from, and repair to the Lord in humility and repentance. Let us reject the wisdom of this world, and submit ourselves anew to Him, walking in obedience, in faith, to His commands. Let us pray that we, and our nation, would be reestablished in the righteousness that comes only from Christ. We started well, let us finish well also. Amen.

Closing Prayer/Benediction

This is a portion of Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple. Be mindful of the fact that the temple, under the Old covenant administration, represented “God with us” in a real and tangible way. This is the interpretation of the name “Emmanuel” which is applied to Jesus.

“But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded? Yet have thou respect unto the prayer of thy servant, and to his supplication, O Lord my God, to hearken unto the cry and to the prayer, which thy servant prayeth before thee today: that thine eyes may be open toward this house night and day, even toward the place of which thou hast said, My name shall be there: that thou mayest hearken unto the prayer which thy servant shall make toward this place. And hearken thou to the supplication of thy servant, and of thy people Israel, when they shall pray toward this place: and hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place: and when thou hearest, forgive." (1 Kings 8:27-30).

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