That He Might Incline Our Hearts

Sermon preached on 1 Kings 8:51-66 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 9/22/2019 in Novato, CA.

Sermon manuscript

Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
1 Kings 8:51-66

That He Might Incline Our Hearts

We return for a final week to consider the dedication of the temple here in 1 Kings 8.  I love seeing Solomon here bless the people and then all these sacrifices and feasting.  As I see all this, I think of how this shows them both glorifying God and enjoying him.  What a sweet and special time for them to dedicate the temple like this in way that worships God and really enjoys doing that.

Let’s look for today first at verses 54-61.  There we see Solomon’s benediction.  A benediction is a fancy word for a blessing.  He bestows a blessing upon the assembly.  As we look at the details of this blessing, it’s interesting what he says in this blessing.   It’s not the most typical way we see a benediction given.  It’s called a blessing, but it’s much more than just a blessing.  It’s also a doxology, and an exhortation, and a prayer of sorts.  It’s the flavor even of a mini sermon where Solomon is proclaiming the LORD to them in formal assembly.

Let’s walk through then this Word that Solomon gives here.  Notice the things it says that God has done.  In verse 56 it describes how God has given rest to the people.  That’s in the context of a doxology – he praises and blesses God for how he has given rest to his people.  In other words, according to all that God had promised through Moses, Solomon says it’s been fulfilled.  God had brought them into a land of milk and honey.  God had given them victory over the enemies in the land.  God had established them in peace and kingdom and dominion there in the land.  God had put his name there in Jerusalem and upon that new temple.  The promises of the Mosaic covenant find fulfillment here.  We can certainly think of how the similar promises given to Abraham and the other patriarchs also see such fulfillment.  And so, their God was not only the one who brought them out of the slavery of Egypt.  He also is the one who placed them in a place of rest and joy and goodness.  Likewise, we too under the new covenant are not only redeemed from the bondage of sin and death, but the Lord gives us rest to our souls.  We have rest now, to a degree.  But we look forward to a final entering into such a glorious rest when Christ returns.

So, Solomon begins this Word to the people with what we call the indicative.  He remembers what God has done for the people.  But he ends his message with the imperative – with what he is calling the people to be doing.  That’s verse 61.  “Let your heart therefore be wholly true to the LORD our God, walking in his statutes and keeping his commandments, as at this day.”  In light of the indicative – of what God has done for them – he calls them to have hearts truly devoted to the LORD and his commands.  This structure of the indicative and the imperative is found a lot in the New Testament as well.  We can think of how the salvation promises of God that have been fulfilled for us in Jesus become the basis for calling us them to faithful obedience unto God.

And yet notice what’s in between the indicative and the imperative statements here. Verses 57-60 are essentially a prayer to God.  Verse 58 is very specifically connected with the imperative that I just mentioned.  There Solomon asks that God would be the one to incline their hearts so that they would faithfully obey the Lord.  This is a wonderful reminder that Scripture not only commands us to obey God but repeatedly shows how as fallen sinners we need the Lord’s work inside us to change our hearts.  This brings to mind a key promise given in Deuteronomy 30 where God spoke of how one day the people would fall away and find themselves in exile for their disobedience, but the Lord would have mercy and would restore them and he would circumcise their hearts so they would love the LORD their God with all their heart and soul.  And so, Solomon prays for God’s work in their heart – that’s how they would be able to have hearts fully turned to the Lord and his ways.  Elsewhere Scripture says that is something realized in Christ and by the new covenant.  We realize how that is only partially fulfilled now.  The Spirit gives us new birth, and the Spirit is progressively at work in our hearts, but the fulness of heart transformation comes when we go to be with the Lord in glory.

Verse 57 also includes another important prayer request: that God would not forsake the people – that he would be with them.  This is closely related to the idea that God would sanctify their hearts.  Solomon prays for the abiding presence of the LORD. The idea is that they would be kept in the good graces of God by his powerful presence.  The alternative would be them turning away from the LORD and thus God forsaking them and allowing them to fall into the hands of their enemies.  We should remember here that this finds its ultimate answer in Jesus Christ.  Sinless Jesus became forsaken by God on the cross to bear in our place God’s punishment for our sins.  That is why Jesus can now assure us of his abiding presence with us, even until the end of the age.  We don’t have to fear God forsaking us because of the salvation we have in Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the answer to this prayer.

Verse 59 as a prayer request also builds on these themes.  There Solomon essentially requests God’s daily upholding of his saints.  Like how during the wilderness wandering the people had to look to daily gather the manna from God, likewise Jesus taught us to pray for our daily bread.  But the need for God to provide for our daily physical sustenance should remind us that we also look to God’s daily provision spiritually.  We look to him to uphold us in our faith and to nourish our hearts as they grow in the Lord.

The last prayer request is found in verse 60.  There Solomon prays that all this work God would do among his people would essentially have a sort of worldwide effect.  We might put this in terms of an evangelistic effect.  Solomon sees that what God does in the life of his people would be so recognized by the world that they would declare the LORD and the LORD alone to be God.  Certainly, there have been times where hints at that were seen in the Old Testament.  We’ll see soon in chapter 10 the Queen of Sheba praise the LORD after seeing the glory of the kingdom of God’s people under Solomon’s leadership.  Even during Babylonian exile, God worked in ways that left pagan kings praising him.  Yet, this prayer also comes to its fullest expression through Jesus Christ who now sends his gospel to the ends of the earth.  The world has been becoming saved through that gospel.  We yet pray for the fulness of that conversion to happen.

And so, I love this first section here in verses 54-61.  We see this blessing which is sort of simultaneously a sermon and a prayer.  As a sermon it has that classic indicative-imperative structure, and as a prayer it reminds us that there are indicatives yet for God to do.  Some of those future indicatives will even enable us to carry out the imperatives God gives us.  And all of these words draw attention to the glory of God while reminding the people of what they have already begun to enjoy in the LORD.  And he sets an eager expectation for them of even further joy to come.

Let’s turn next in our second point to verses 62-66.  Here we see all this sacrificing and feasting.  To clarify, there is clearly a connection going on here.  As I mentioned previously, this dedication of the temple was conducted during the Feast of the Tabernacles.  You can read about all the typical practices for that Feast starting in Leviticus 23:33.  It was a seven day feast that involved several kinds of offerings.  But the one especially highlighted here is the peace offering, sometimes called the fellowship offering.  What is unique about that offering is that it was offered as a way to celebrate the peace and fellowship that the people had with God.  Unlike some of the offerings, this offering was something that the person offering it also got to eat some of the offering.  The fat had to be given to the Lord and burned up, as referenced in verse 64.  But the meat would have been enjoyed not only by the priest, but the person giving the offering along with his whole household.  

Thus, here we understand the feasting aspect.  People from all over Israel came to Jerusalem not only for that seven-day Feast of Tabernacles, but especially for that one that also would dedicate the temple.  The two geographical references in verse 65 represent two extreme borders of Israel, so it’s saying that people from all over the country gathered there for this feast.  Here, these are the first sacrifices offered there at the temple.  The people would then feast on the meat of all these fellowship offerings for the Feast of Tabernacles.  To clarify, these are holy meals by the nature of them being sacrificed as peace offerings and during this feast.  Verse 65 confirms this even by noting that they were gathered in holy assembly. So, while various things could be said here, realize that such sacrificing and feasting is essentially akin to our Lord’s Supper.  They are celebrating and being renewed in their covenant relationship with the Lord.  Covenants typically involve special meals like this.  By eating together, the parties in covenant show they have peace and fellowship with each other – that they aren’t enemies but friends.  So too, our partaking of the Lord’s Supper is the new covenant equivalent.  Or to say all this another way, their sacrificing with feasting here is sacramental in nature, akin to the sacraments we have under the new covenant.

All of this again served to glorify God and to enjoy him.  Surely the sacrifices that are offered to God are meant as an act of worship.  I love how big of a worship it is based on how many people showed up that they had to have this many animals sacrificed.  The other kinds of offerings also emphasized the worship and glory of God.  Like the burnt offerings that are mentioned – those especially emphasized the need for man to have his sin atoned in order for him to have access to such an all-holy God.  Similarly, the grain offering mentioned – that was an offering of grain typically understood to express thankfulness to God.  So, these various offerings were to exalt the glory of God to whom alone deserve such worship.  But at the same time, what a picture of worshippers also enjoying these things with their Lord.  Who doesn’t enjoy a good feast… especially if it’s a feast with the Lord!  And this seven-day feast was there to praise God.  What a wonderful way to accomplish both things at the same time!

In our third and final point for today I’d like to point you specifically to verse 63.  There we find the specific word of dedication.  As we’ve worked through this chapter over the last few weeks, we’ve repeatedly said this was Solomon dedicating the temple to the LORD.  But it’s actually in these sacrifices, where blood is shed, when the actual act of dedication happens.  The word here in the Hebrew for dedication is a familiar word for us.  It’s the word where we the word Hanukkah is from.  Hanukkah as a holiday today is a Jewish festival commemorating the later rededication of the second temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabeans.  So, here the sacrifices are a hanukkah.  Likewise, Hebrews 9 speaks of how Moses at Sinai dedicated the covenant and the tabernacle by the shedding and sprinkling of blood.  That was also a hanukkah – the same Greek word used to translate the Hebrew word for hanukkah in 1 Kings is the same one used there in Hebrews 9.  Some translations will translate the word there in Hebrews 9 as “inaugurate”, but it’s the same word and basic idea.  So there was a hanukkah of sacrifices for the tabernacle, and now there is this hanukkah of sacrifices for Solomon’s temple.

That reference to Hebrews 9 helps us understand what’s going on here in verse 63 with Solomon dedicating the temple.  What’s especially important to understand from Hebrews 9 is the need for the blood.  Hebrews 9 says that the Mosaic covenant and the tabernacle had to be dedicated by blood because of sin.  Humans are defiled by sin and we are worshipping the all holy God.  The shed blood of these sacrifices were shed at the dedication of the tabernacle and then again here at the temple because humans are sinful.  It’s this dedication of blood that allowed that to be a place where people could worship and enjoy God.  

So then, that serves to point us again to the work of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Because I love what we find in the next chapter in Hebrews.  Listen to how Hebrews applies this dedication by blood idea to Christ and the heavenly tabernacle.  Heb. 10:19-22:

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

That word “opened” is actually this same word for dedication: “by the new and living way that he dedicated for us through the curtain”.  Jesus dedicated the heavenly tabernacle by his shed blood so that we sinful creatures can have access to God in the true, heavenly Holy of Holies.  That’s where we put our faith in again today, brothers and sisters. We come to God through Jesus Christ.  And think of a key difference.  The tabernacle and temple began with a dedication of blood sacrifices and then needed more and more ongoing blood sacrifices through the years.  But Jesus’ one-time shed blood dedicates the heavenly temple so that we have ongoing access to God.  No more blood to be shed.  Because he dedicated like this, we now glorify God and enjoy God through the access we have by Jesus’ blood.  Jesus performed the ultimate hanukkah and so we have such peace and fellowship with God!

In conclusion brothers and sisters, see how blessed the people were after all this.  I point you to verse 66.  Our passage began today with Solomon blessing the people and it ends with the people in return blessing Solomon.  Like Solomon’s blessing, the heart of their blessing was out of appreciation for what the LORD had done.  And I love how the people are described there in terms of their hearts.  As they are sent away to their homes, their hearts are joyful and glad in the LORD.  Or to say it another way: Solomon’s Word to them and his prayer for them, and all this worship via sacrificing and feastings – all those things ministered to their hearts.  Don’t miss how these things ministered to their hearts.  Isn’t that what Solomon’s Word here was about?  Wasn’t that where his exhortation was aimed toward?  Isn’t that what he was praying about for them?  That their hearts would be fully devoted to the LORD!  That their hearts would find their joy in the Lord!  True, they don’t leave this great assembly having perfected hearts.  But this great assembly ministered to their hearts.

And so here this chapter illustrates a means of grace ministry.  A ministry of Word, sacraments, and prayer has been given to the church to minister to our hearts.  It was the ordinary means of grace here for Israel.  It continues for us to be the ordinary means of grace.  We talked earlier about the indicatives that God does. We said there were still some future indicatives of God to be realized.  See today that these future indicatives become present and past indicatives typically through such ordinary means of grace.  

Yes, some future indicatives will be out of the ordinary.  When Christ comes back in the clouds for all to see and the angels sound the trumpet, that will be out of the ordinary.  There are things of that sort still ahead for us.  But in terms of the ordinary growth of ours heart, and the ordinary way the church grows even with new converts, that ordinarily happens through these seemingly simple means of grace.  Let us not neglect the Word, sacraments, and prayer.  Let us see how they promote the glory of God and our joy in him.   Let us see how these means of grace especially are used and promoted during our weekly worship assemblies.  Amen. 

Copyright © 2019 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.


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