“What prayer and supplication soever be made by any man, by all Thy people Israel, which shall know every man the plague of his own heart, and spread forth his hands toward this house: then hear Thou in heaven Thy dwelling place, and forgive, and do, and give to every man according to his ways, whose heart Thou knowest; (for Thou, even Thou only, knowest the hearts of all the children of men;) that they may fear Thee all the days that they live in the land which Thou gavest unto our fathers.”
Well, the temple of the Lord was ready.
And all the elders, heads, of the tribes, and the chief fathers of the children of Israel were ready too. They were called to a great conclave, and king Solomon would address them and pray for them and with them.
They take up the ark of the covenant and, before anything else is done, they sacrifice before the ark. And then the ark is placed into the oracle, under the wings of the cherubim.
Then the king spoke to the assembly.
And finally he knelt and spread his hands to heaven and prayed.
And that prayer was an acceptable prayer.
Because it came from the heart, it was addressed to the House, and it tended to the fear of Jehovah.
Yes, it was a prayer from the heart.
Well, that is easy (according to some). Simply look at the text: “what . . . soever any man!” And the translators have unwittingly helped this erroneous view when they supplied the “or” in italics. Any man or Thy people Israel. So everybody is included. Any man’s prayer . . . or . . . by all Thy people Israel. That is, any prayer by the world or by the church! And so the distinction between the elect and the reprobate is wiped out.
However, that little word “or” is not in the text.
Any man is the same as Thy people Israel.
The prayer of every man is not welcome.
First, because the worship of natural man is abominable in its nature.
Second, God only has delight in perfection,
Third, because prayer is a matter of the heart and the heart of man is only evil continually and desperately wicked (Gen. and Jeremiah).
No, what is meant is the heart of Thy people Israel. That is all!
And there never is, was or shall be any exception to this rule.
Even those who came of the Gentiles, the New Testament Church of God out of all nations of the world are Thy people Israel. They are called the Israel of God. Listen to Paul: “But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter.” Rom. 2:29; and also: “Even us, whom He has called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles. As He saith also in Osee, I will call them My people, which were not My people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.” Rom. 9:24, 25.
And how are we to know whether or not we belong to this Israel of God? Here is the answer: all that shall know the PLAGUE OF HIS OWN HEART! Note here that Solomon proceeds from the fundamental truth that every man’s heart has a plague!
Now, what is the heart?
The heart is not the face, nor your outward behavior. The face, the outward behavior is rather nice. Christ said of this: You indeed look beautiful outwardly to all men, but within you are full of dead men’s bones.
But the heart is the inward man, the real you!
Plague is used 120 times in the Old Testament and 60 times for leprosy, that is, the corrupting power unto death. Here it is used to describe the spiritual power of corruption.
Now, if you know that plague for what it is you go to God.
And you send up to heaven’s God prayer and supplication.
Prayer: what is it?
It is the opening of the heart and soul and mind to God. Prayer concerns itself with God primarily. And it is motivated by the love of God which He spread abroad in your heart. Then you are as a sunflower that opens itself to the warm sun.
Supplication is the same thing, only more so. You supplicate God when there is great urgency.
By any man of the Israel of God.
You are welcome with God!
Now let us look at the second element in the text: you must pray toward this House. Well, that was in Solomon’s case the Temple which he had built. And that seems to be rather important. Remember Daniel.
Verse 19: A House unto My Name! And there is repeated reference to this House: verses 29, 30, 31, 33, 35; 38, 42, 43, 44, 48.
And then you pray toward this House in all circum stances, calamities and miseries which befall you in your life.
Now what is the central significance of that House?
It is this: see verses 4 to 7. That speaks of the ark of the covenant, plus the sacrifices, verse 5: sacrificing sheep and oxen. As the basis for forgiveness of sin, communion with God, and dwelling with Him in the unity of peace.
Its fulfillment is Jesus Christ the Lord.
Listen to Jesus: But I say unto you, that in this place is one greater than the temple! Matt. 12:6; Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. John 2:19; For the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the Temple of it. Rev. 21:22.
Let’s try and explain that.
As seen in I Kings 8:4-7 and especially verse 5, the essence of the temple was the ark of the Covenant. And its heart is the mercy seat on whose surface the blood of the innocents was shed. And that innocent blood pre-figured the blood of the great Innocent, the Lamb of God.
You see, the Israel of God is no better than the repro: bate world of all the ages. Every man and woman born of Adam and Eve are damn-worthy. And that includes all the elect, f.i. David and Manasseh. And Peter.
Now here is the love of God, in that He loved His elect from before the foundation of the world. And in that foreknowledge of love He gave all the elect to Jesus Christ as a present. And that present includes all their sin, guilt, and death eternal.
And this Innocent Lamb of God came into the world to carry away their sin, guilt and death by dying the awful death of the cross.
And all that was prefigured in the sacrifices. And the chief sacrifice of the Old Testament was the sacrifice which was offered once each year in the Holy of holies on the mercy seat of the ark of the Covenant.
And Jesus came in the fullness of time to fulfill all these types, figures, symbols and shadows.
And the Blood of the great Innocent was sprinkled on the mercy seat, and that mercy seat is the heart of God.
Now do you understand that all prayer acceptable to God must be toward that house?
Today we would say: pray always toward the mercy seat, that is, the heart of Jehovah where the blood of Jesus was sprinkled. And that blood stays there even unto all eternity.
The final element of my text is this: all our prayers must be unto the fear of God.
What does that mean?
God’s Israel prays.
They spread their hands towards His House, i.e., God in Christ.
They long, hunger, thirst, and yearn for His forgiveness. We may say here that this is the deepest current of all our Christian lives on earth.
And God hears: verse 39.
He hears in heaven; He gives every man according to his ways; and He forgives.
And here again, the ways of man is not first of all the way he behaves outwardly. Honestly, God is more concerned with your heart than with your outward behavior. I am sure that the outward behavior of the Pharisee was far superior to the outward behavior of the publican. Those fellows were very shrewd and careful and prudent. No one could lay a finger on them.
No, the way of man begins in his heart. Out of the heart are all the issues of man.
In the depth of his way, in that heart, the man of God hates the world, the devil and his own flesh. He even hates his own life for God’s sake.
And he watches God. He watches God in all His ways. And in his heart he sings the song of God, the song of the Covenant.
And God hears that song, beholds that way, and rejoices in the work of His own hands in the sinner’s heart.
He hears, and forgives.
And you cannot fool the Almighty: He knows the heart of every man, even better than the man himself. “He knows all our heart, and the secrets within!”
And this is all unto the fear of God.
No, not the slavish fear, for that is essentially hatred.
But the fear of God is clean, pure, and beautiful.
It is awe, reverence, inspired by God’s greatness of love and goodness.
All their days.
Not one day of worship, and then business as usual. No, but all the days of their life. They really pray without ceasing.
Doing that they live in the land.
And that is heaven. Even now: a little bit of heaven. Amen.