I cry to you, O Lord.
1 Kings 8:1-66
Solomon has the ark brought into Jerusalem to be set in place in the new temple. The priests carried the ark into the holiest part of this holy place. As they came out, a cloud filled the temple--a cloud, the visible sign of the glory of the Lord.
(His ancestors had been led by the cloud through the wilderness on their journey from slavery to promised land.)
Solomon prayed before the altar in the presence of all those assembled in the temple. He praised God for the covenant that had been made with David that extended to David's descendants. And extended to people who were not David's descendants. Solomon specifically included immigrants, asking God to hear their prayers, as well.
The glory of God is visible in the temple, but God is not imprisoned there. Solomon could pray to God in the temple and expect God to hear him, but God is not confined to the temple.
In the last few years here in the US, we have become accustomed to reading about immigrants--and arguing about them. Many Americans would prefer that we not accept any new arrivals although of course we know that almost all of us are descendants of immigrants.
So, it's interesting to me to read in the OT yet one more passage about immigrants. In his dedicatory prayer in the newly built temple, Solomon includes the foreigners who have heard about God and showed up at the temple.
Now, Solomon does give a practical reason for welcoming the outsiders. The more people that know about God, the most people there will be to teach others. But, let me also point out that Solomon assumes that God hears the prayers of these outsiders and will respond favorably to them.
What would it mean for us in the US--or, for any of the rest of you, for that matter--to recognize that God listens to the prayers of people that aren't just like us?
They reacted to his severe criticisms by attacking and killing him. Saul, who we will later know as Paul, watches with approval.
As Stephen dies, he prays that they will receive forgiveness.
Severe persecution of the church in Jerusalem began. Many of the Christians scattered to other places. Philip went to Samaria where he met eager crowds to hear his message.
In the Book of Acts, some evangelists have received positive support (see Chapter 2, for example), but not all faithfulness to God's intent brings immediate success. For the "yet," here's an excerpt from Texts for Preaching, Westminster John Knox Press:
Yet while acknowledging the continuing reality of evil, the text makes it quite clear that those who are really dead are not Stephen, but the disciple's killers. His pain may be the most immediate, but his joy is ultimate and final, while their twisted and hate-posoned hearts show no inclination to be open to any good news of what God has done and is doing. And so the Easter victory is genuine and enduring, but in important respects it is a victory whose final consummation is still held in anticipation.
Bad things do happen to good people.
Better is a dry morsel with quiet
than a house full of feasting with strife.
Prayer for Today: O Lord, our God, open our ears to hear your message. Open our mouths to share your message with others. Amen.