Solomon was ceremoniously blessing the newly constructed Temple. There is a lot of political pomp and circumstance that is part of the ceremony. It would have been expected, and much of the political speech dressed up in religious language had the firm foundation of the people and Solomon being very much aware that all of this was possible only underneath the protective wings of God. Solomon had completed a huge number of projects that were large and public. This is the height of national pride. In the midst of this national event, there is a humble recognition that the people will fall away from God (including Solomon), and a request that God be gracious and forgiving to those that repent.
This wasn’t just a request of God, but a reminder to the people (the political and religious leaders would have had a “front-row” seat to the speech/prayer) to remember whose they were. They were God’s chosen people, and yet, Solomon included the God-following people that weren’t Israelites. He included them in this prayer. In the prayer of national importance, displaying national and tribal glory, Solomon included those outside of “the people.” Solomon, whose ancestors includes a prostitute (citizen of an enemy city), a foreign widow (from the ancestral enemies), and a mother who had a potentially coerced adulterous relationship with his father, who had had his mother’s husband killed. Solomon, as he was praying, very likely had his own family story in mind as he prayed. He was living proof that God called and blessed people outside of the traditional boundaries.
National boundaries will not prevent God from acting, calling, and redeeming. Even in exile, Jeremiah’s words are saying that the Jews will be called back to their ancestral lands, regardless of national boundaries. National boundaries are the works and rules of men. Though far away from home and culturally their identity, God still knew who they were, and was calling them home. The promise to shout for joy on the heights of Zion would be a public statement of their restoration, and their security in God.
Cultural and national boundaries still do not prevent God from acting, calling, and redeeming. As Epiphany comes, most of us need to recall that we are God’s children not because of who we were born to or where we born, but because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. That sacrifice crossed boundaries of nation, “race”, age, gender, and even time itself to bring us into God’s family.
- Even before Jesus was born, God moved among the Gentiles. Why do you think that this is important?
- If God sets asides human barriers for relationship with him, why do we make so many? What barriers have you put between people and a relationship with God? What barriers have people put between you and your relationship with God?
- [KD] Why is it important to you that God ignores barriers between people?