180. If my people…

 

It is the end of March 2020.  If there were ever a time that I felt I am living history, it is in this time of global lockdown to contain a virus.  The world has become silent.  Most people are withdrawn into their own homes or are confined to their dwelling place, some quite unwillingly.  Those that do not have a home are accommodated elsewhere by community and charity.  The streets are empty and the businesses closed.  Governments scramble to put measures in place to protect their people. Police enforce strange new regulations, sometimes with frightening brutality.  People are stunned, angry and rebellious.  Hard choices are made.

All this is happening to escape the attack of a microscopic particle.  It is virtually invisible to the human eye and thus more terrifying; an infectious agent that attacks seemingly at random.  We would not have believed the doctors and scientists if it were not for death.  Many people are dying and the potential for many more to die is dreadful.  Death is the threat.  Uncertainty is the fear.

Even more than death is the fear of reinstatement – how will we get going again after such a drastic, unheard of shutdown of economic activity.  Job losses soar, long lines for unemployment insurance are disturbing and that is only the immediate effect.  What about the longer term?  What about all the consequences, as invisible and mysterious as the virus itself?

Way, way back, in the seventh century before Jesus, king Solomon dedicated the Temple.  It was a magnificent building, marking the peak of ancient Hebrew culture. Throughout his father David’s reign it was his desire to build this Temple, but now, his rich, wise and successful son has been granted the privilege. (1 Kings 5 and 6).

The structure was erected according to the meticulous standards of the Most High God.  Worship around the clock with a most superb array of musicians and singers contributed to the splendour and grandness of everything associated with the Temple.

It was a majestic project.  No expense was spared.  The materials were assembled from all over the world and only the best of everything were used.  The greatest care to minute details and the grandest scale of structure all combined to mark the Temple of Solomon, as it was known, as the most extraordinary and notable building of its time.

When everything was finished Solomon made a short speech and prayed a long prayer of dedication.  The prayer is remarkable in its detailed requests, almost making provision for the future sin of the people and warranting God’s forgiveness for all. (2 Chronicles 6:12-42)

Amongst other things, he prayed the following:

 “When there is famine in the land, pestilence or blight or mildew, locusts or grasshoppers; when their enemies besiege them in the land of their cities; whatever plague or whatever sickness there is whatever prayer, whatever supplication is made by anyone, or by all Your people Israel, when each one knows his own burden and his own grief, and spreads out his hands to this temple: 

 then hear from heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive, and give to everyone according to all his ways, whose heart You know (for You alone know the hearts of the sons of men), that they may fear You, to walk in Your ways as long as they live in the land which You gave to our fathers.(2 Chronicles 6:28 – 31)

Solomon prays for answer to prayer and in the next chapter God guarantees answer to prayer.

After the prayer of dedication there is a manifestation of the presence of God.

When Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. And the priests could not enter the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord had filled the Lord’s house. (2 Chronicles 7:1,2)

What a spectacular response to the prayer of the King.  The people fell to the ground with their faces on the street and worshipped, saying: God is good and his mercy endures forever.  It is significant that the mercy of God is emphasized.  The mercies of God are often associated with David. Mercy is defined as the withholding of punishment, leniency or clemency.  One of the synonyms for the word is compassion.  God is known for his compassion and often held back the punishment over David and his many transgressions.  Isaiah 55 talks about the sure mercies of David. Isaiah is the mouthpiece to extend these mercies over us through the Cross of Jesus, stating unequivocally that the punishment for our sin was borne by Jesus.

But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripeswe are healed
.  (Isaiah 53:5)

It is always with this certainty that we approach the Throne of God in prayer with full assurance of faith (Hebrews 10:22).

The dedication was a feast of several days.  The presence of God is to be celebrated with joy and worship – always.  This is how second Chronicles describe it:

At that time Solomon kept the feast seven days, and all Israel with him, a very great assembly from the entrance of Hamath to theBrook of Egypt.  And on the eighth day they held a sacred assembly, for they observed the dedication of the altar seven days, and the feast seven days. On the twenty-third day of the seventh month he sent the people away to their tents, joyful and glad of heart for the good that the Lord had done for David, for Solomon, and for His people Israel. (2 Chronicles 7:8-10)

After the feasting God appeared to Solomon and spoke the everlasting words which we invoke today to underscore the endless power and everlasting application of words spoken by God.

Then the Lord appeared to Solomon by night, and said to him:

I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice. 

 When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, 

  if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 

 Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer made in this place.

This is our cry.  The call is to the church, the invisible body of believers.  We are the people called by God’s name.  We are Christians – little Christs.  We bear the title of Jesus himself.  What a privilege!

It is we who stand in the gap to pray for the world.  We speak salvation over the nations.

Most of all – we have the guarantee of answer. We have the promise.

Building the Temple in our life is not difficult. Come before God, humble yourself – thus give up on the pride of life and pretentious desires of this world, pray and seek his face.

When we seek God’s face; spend the time granted to us by this lockdown and read the Bible so that it becomes the spoken Word of God in our ears,

God will heal us and our world.  We will come out of this , joyful and glad of heart for the good that the Lord had done.

He said so.  It is written.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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