St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

The House That Bears God’s Name Bears His Blessing

Sermon on 1 Kings 8:22, 23, 41-43

Text: Then Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in front of the whole assembly of Israel, spread out his hands toward heaven 23 and said: “LORD, the God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below — you who keep your covenant of love with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in your way.
41 “As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of your name — 42 for they will hear of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm — when they come and pray toward this temple, 43 then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Do whatever the foreigner asks of you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your own people Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears your Name.”

Today, St. John will have a potluck to celebrate the fact that, by God’s grace, they have been able to pay off the note on the purchase of their church building. We thank God that he has moved the hearts of his people to accomplish this feat. As a result, they now completely own their church building. Zion has also been blessed with a beautiful church building. Both of these buildings are gifts from God. These two buildings are different from the other buildings that are near them. They have the four walls and roofs like other buildings. What makes them unique is the purpose for which they serve. They serve as a place that is dedicated to God. As we study our text for this morning, we see another unique aspect of these buildings. THE HOUSE THAT BEARS GOD’S NAME BEARS HIS BLESSINGS. 1. People Will Come And Pray. 2. God Will Listen And Answer.

Our text is a part of a prayer that King Solomon offered. He had spent years building a temple in Jerusalem. Prior to this, the worship center of the Jews revolved around a tent. Now, there was a permanent structure that would be the focal point of the people’s worship life. When it was all finished, the ark of the covenant was brought in and placed in the Most Holy Place. Then, Solomon dedicated this building for service to God. We are told that there were so many animals sacrificed that they lost count. Then, Solomon offered a prayer to God. We will be studying a portion of this prayer.

Solomon prayed, “As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of your name.” (Verse 43) At first, this part of the prayer might come as a shock to our ears. After all, we know that God had chosen the Jewish nation as his people. He had revealed himself to the Jews as he had no other nation. He gave them specifics on how they were to worship him. The Jews were even told to avoid the pagan influences of the nations around them. However, God has also made it clear to them that the Lord desired the faith, love, and salvation of all people. So, Solomon, as he prays to God, remembers these foreigners. He has his eye on those who “come from a distant land because of your name.” Solomon fully expected that people would come from far away to worship at this temple. Interestingly, we read about the Queen of Sheba, which was in modern day Ethiopia, coming to visit Solomon two chapters later.

They would come “because of [the Lord’s] name.” The reputation about the Lord would spread throughout the world. People would want to come and hear more about him. Solomon tells us what they would hear. “They will hear of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm.” (Verse 42) They would hear of God’s great name. When we see the word “name” used here, it signifies more than all of the titles that God has given such as Lord or God. It, also, includes everything that God has revealed about himself. All of the other gods that the world followed were very self-serving. They would issue laws and decrees to serve themselves. They were far removed from their followers.

The God that was worshiped in Jerusalem’s temple was different. This God served his creation. He constantly interacted with his people. It is the greatness of God, who stoops down to serve and is merciful to his people. This God even promised that he would send a Savior, who would rescue the entire world. Solomon says that the foreigner would come to hear more about this great God.

He continues by saying that they would come because they heard of his mighty hand and outstretched arm. When the people of that day would hear about a mighty hand, they would think of a good provider. People earned their living in agriculture or industry need to have a strong hand to be successful in their pursuit of providing for others. In an age when most of the fighting done in battle was hand to hand, you needed to have a strong hand if you were going to protect your country. The fact that God has a strong hand would point to the fact that he will defend and protect his people. Added to this picture is an “outstretched arm.” It doesn’t matter if you have a mighty hand, if you keep your arms by your side. They have to be away from the body to accomplish things. This picture would remind the people that God was active in their lives. He wasn’t a God that sat back and observed. He was a God that was actually, lovingly involved in the affairs of his people.

When they came to the temple and heard what God had done for them and would do for them, they would be moved to come to God: “When they come and pray toward this temple.” (Verse 42) They would be moved to pray to this God who had promised that he would be with his people. They would pray for his blessings. They would pray that God would provide and protect them. They would pray that God show his mercy to them. They would pray in thanksgiving for all that God had done for them. They would pray in worship of him. This was one of the reasons that Solomon built this temple; so that the foreigner would come and hear about God and pray to him.

This is exactly why we have our church building. It is a place where we hear of God’s great name. We are reminded of whom our God is. We see that he is a just God. We know that he has given us his law and demands that we keep it perfectly. We, also, know, as we examine our lives that we have not even come close to being perfect. We have sinned against God through our thoughts, words, and actions. One example is that sometimes we only go through the motions in our worship of him. This just God shows us that he is serious about keeping his law, as he tells us that, even if we were only to sin once, we would be eternally separated from him. However, God’s great name also tells us that he is a God of love and mercy. Because we could not save ourselves, he sent his Son into the world to be our Savior. His life was a perfect life. His love is evident as he went to the cross to pay for our sins. He shows us that our salvation is complete as he rose from the dead. We come to hear of his great name.

We, also, hear of his mighty hand and outstretched arm on our lives. We listen to God telling us that he will give us everything that we need for our daily lives. He promises to guide our daily footsteps as we travel through life. God assures us that he will protect us, keeping us safe or delivering us from evil. We thank our God that he tells us that he is actively and lovingly involved in our lives. He doesn’t just throw us in the deep end and say, “I hope that you can swim.” God’s love is evident in every aspect of our lives. This is one of the blessings that God gives to us as we come to this place dedicated to him.

It is also here that we have the privilege to join our fellow Christians in prayer. We join in prayer that God would bless us as we go out into the world. We pray for those in our congregation who are going through a difficulty, sickness, or surgery. We join with them in thanking God for his deliverance. We join with our brothers and sisters in thanksgiving for the various joys that he brings to them. We pray that more and more people might come to faith in our Savior God. While we are free to pray anywhere that we would like, as we join with other believers in prayer, it is a wonderful reminder of the unity that we have with each other and the love we have for one another. As we come to this house that bears God’s name, we enjoy the blessings of hearing God’s Word and praying with and for each other.

Solomon continues his prayer by saying, “Hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Do whatever the foreigner asks of you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your own people Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears your Name.” (Verse 43) When the foreigner had demonstrated his trust in God by asking for things, Solomon asks that the Lord would hear their prayers. More than that, he asks that God would do whatever the foreigner asked of God. Solomon asked this of God so that the knowledge of God’s name might spread throughout the earth. When the Lord fulfilled the request of this foreigner, his faith would be strengthened and he would then go back home and tell others what God had done for him. This would lead others to want to come and hear about God. Solomon fully expected God to listen to and answer the prayers of the foreigners who came to the temple. As God heard and answered the prayers of those who came to his house, great blessings would follow.

We, also, have the assurance that God hears all of our prayers. We know that we have access to God, since the wall of sin has been removed by Christ’s work of salvation. There is no matter too large or too small to bring to God in prayer. We know that God not only hears our prayers, but, also, that he will answer every one of our prayers. His answer will come in one of three ways. He may say “Yes” to our prayers. He may say “No” to our prayers. He may say, “Wait” when we pray. We might think that it would be nice, if God’s answer was always “Yes,” as Solomon prayed in his prayer. However, you and I are limited in our scope. We can only see the here and now. Our God is eternal. He can see what lies in our futures. In addition, our God is all-knowing. He always knows what is going on and what would be best for us. Also, our God loves us. He will not give us anything that would be harmful to us. If a seven-year-old were to ask to drive the family vehicle to Lincoln to get something, would it be loving of a parent to say “Yes” to them? Of course, not. That child might harm themselves, even if they thought that they know what was best. In love, God will, at times, tell us “No” when we pray. Rather than being discouraged when that happens, we can thank God that he loves us and will always do what is best for us. We learn about God’s love and provision and the fact that he hears and answers all of our prayers at his house. How richly we are blessed when we gather there.

As we began our sermons, we talked about the wonderful church building in which we worship. It is indeed a special place. What makes it so beautiful isn’t just the decorations or artwork or the windows. What makes it beautiful is what goes on here. Here God comes to us in Word and sacrament. He does so to tell us more about himself. We learn that we can come to him with all of our prayers and that he will listen to every one of them. Great blessings come to us as we congregate at God’s house. May we continually be reminded of what we receive here and hold it dear to our hearts. We, like Solomon, also pray for those in our community and around the world, that they may also come to the house that bears God’s name and be blessed by it. As we do so, our thoughts will mirror those of the psalmist, who wrote, “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’” (Psalm 122:1) Amen.