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1 Kings 8:25-30 by Robert Dean
Series:Kings (2007)
Duration:1 hr 0 mins 20 secs

Prayer: Focus on Forgiveness. 1 Kings 8:25-30

In this prayer there is one word that shows up several times and tells us what the key request is. This is an intercessory prayer but it is primarily a prayer for God's forgiveness of Israel when in the distant future they have been under the discipline of God, scattered among the nations, and they finally turn to God and turn from their disobedient ways, turn to Him with a full heart and seek forgiveness. It is a prayer that God would grant them that forgiveness and return them to the land that God has promised Israel. To characterise this prayer with one word or concept it is a prayer for forgiveness. That aspect of forgiveness is first introduced in what we might call the introductory or summary phase of the prayer which is covered in vv. 22-30.

1 Kings 8:25 NASB "Now therefore, O LORD, the God of Israel, keep with Your servant David my father that which You have promised him, saying, 'You shall not lack a man to sit on the throne of Israel, if only your sons take heed to their way to walk before Me as you have walked.' [26] Now therefore, O God of Israel, let Your word, I pray, be confirmed which You have spoken to Your servant, my father David."

Solomon relates his prayer to specific promises God made to David. He is saying: Just as you fulfilled the promise that the temple would be built, so I am going to pray that you will fulfil these other promises that you made in the Old Testament. That is his rationale, the basis for how he is arguing (in a legal sense) why God should answer his prayer. So he is moving from fulfilled promise to future fulfilment of the promises.

1 Kings 8:28 NASB "Yet have regard to the prayer of Your servant and to his supplication, O LORD my God, to listen to the cry and to the prayer which Your servant prays before You today." We see here an introduction of several words that are used throughout this chapter for prayer. There are two chapters on the Old Testament which utilise a couple of these words for prayer more than any other single context: 1st Kings 8 and 2 Chronicles 6. These are the two passages that use these words over and over again for prayer. It is the same event, the same prayer. The word "regard" in the English translation sounds like a request but it is linked to the verb "listen" and what we have in the Hebrew is a request to turn to listen. He is calling upon God is if He were to turn His face, to turn around and listen. So it is an anthropomorphic expression. It is an imperative of request but is not dictating to God. This first word that is translated "prayer" is the Hebrew tephillah. It is found 76 times in the Old Testament and is the most common word for prayer, the noun form. The cognate verb is used about 84 times to describe the action of praying. It has the idea of expressing a plea. It is word that has strong emotional overtones to it. This noun is used six times in our passage in 1 Kings 8:28, 29. 38. 45. 49. 54, as well as in 2 Chronicles chapter six, so it tells us that this is a key word. The four words used for prayer in this section are not just used synonymously, they express different ideas in prayer. So Solomon's plea is ultimately a plea for God's grace to Israel despite their failures.

The word supplication is the Hebrew word techinnah. The centre of that word is hin and this comes from the Hebrew verb for to be gracious and related to the cognate noun which means grace. So the idea of supplication is that it is an appeal to the grace of God to act in a certain way. A supplication is an appeal to God to be gracious and answer a request to those who are undeserving. The word for "cry" is used only one time in the context. It is the Hebrew word rinnah and it indicates a shout of joy or a moan of agony, the context says something about it. It is a cry to God and so this prayer here is characterised as a plea, as an appeal to God's grace, and as someone crying out for God to act in a certain way. It is used this way in several passages related to prayer, e.g. Jeremiah 7:16.

So we have here the idea that prayer is a plea, that is an appeal to God's grace, and that it is located within the context of an appeal to the Supreme Court of Heaven because His justice has been satisfied. When we think about forgiveness, what is the characteristic of God that is at stake here? It is His righteousness.              

1 Kings 8:29 NASB "that Your eyes may be open toward this house night and day, toward the place of which You have said, 'My name shall be there,' to listen to the prayer which Your servant shall pray toward this place." Eyes are always related to knowledge. This idiom has the idea that God would look with favour upon the temple and the people of God. "Of which You said"—Solomon reminds God of what He said. He doesn't state a principle, he quotes what God said. What Solomon is doing in this interesting structure is first of all to remind God that he promised David that David's son would build a house for God. That is exactly what has been fulfilled. In this dedicatory prayer he is reminding God that God's very character is at stake. Whenever we read references to God's name or the name of God that who concept of name isn't just a nomenclature, a verbal tag that we put on something, it has to do with the essence of the individual or his character. So when God says His name shall be there He is alluding to the fact that His character is going to be manifest and glorified by His presence in the temple and the way in which He is honoured in the temple. So Solomon is reminding Him that it is God's character that is at stake in all of this.

1 Kings 8:30 NASB "Listen to the supplication of Your servant and of Your people Israel, when they pray toward this place; hear in heaven Your dwelling place; hear and forgive." The idea of hearing/listening has the idea of responding positively to the request. What this whole prayer has been driving to is this final request to God to forgive. The purpose for his entire prayer is that God would listen to the prayer and just as He promised in Leviticus 26, Deuteronomy 29 & 30, that when the people are scattered out of the land and when they turn to God, that God would listen to their prayer and return them to the land. He is claiming a promise. We usually don't think of a promise that way because the promise is that if you disobey me I'm going to take you out of the land, and when you are out of the land and you return to me I will bring you back into the land. So there is a promise of restoration of the people to the land and this is what Solomon is focusing on. He is not focusing on what is happening right now in 960 BC. He knows that as a nation they are going to fail and receive discipline which drives them out of the land, and he prays that the Lord oil restore them. Solomon's focus is on God's ultimate restoration of the people when His presence will be permanently with Israel, which will not occur until the kingdom.

We see a similar type of prayer in Micah 7:18 NASB "Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity And passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession? He does not retain His anger forever, Because He delights in unchanging love. [19] He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities under foot. Yes, You will cast all their sins Into the depths of the sea." God is going to forgive all of their national sins—their idolatry, their rejection of the Messiah. In His grace He will completely forgive and forget all of their past sins and failures. He will restore the nation to the land just as he has promised.

The Hebrew word for "forgive" in verse 30 is salach, and it is used 47 times in the Old Testament. It is a word that fits in a specific category of actions that only God can perform, just like the Hebrew word bara which is used in Genesis 1:1 when God created the heavens and the earth. Human beings are never the subject of bara. No human being can bara anything, it is an action that is unique to God. The same thing is true of salach. It is a verb that is used in the Old Testament with only God as the subject, so it is not just talking about the kind of forgiveness that may exist between one human and another, it is talking about that ultimate and total eternal forgiveness that can only come from God. It has the idea of being forgiven, sometimes to pardon, to spare. It is first used in Exodus 34:9 NASB "He said, 'If now I have found favor in Your sight, O Lord, I pray, let the Lord go along in our midst, even though the people are so obstinate, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Your own possession'." Another example is in Numbers 14:19,20 NASB "Pardon, I pray, the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of Your lovingkindness, just as You also have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now." So the LORD said, 'I have pardoned {them} according to your word.'" These two examples in the Old Testament give us a picture of what forgiveness is in the Old Testament.

Another series of passages deal with the Levitical offerings. Leviticus chapters four and five both contain various uses of this word salach for forgiveness. They are related to the sin offering specifically in Leviticus chapter four. Leviticus 4:20 NASB "He shall also do with the bull just as he did with the bull of the sin offering; thus he shall do with it. So the priest shall make atonement for them, and they will be forgiven." The point to watch is that there are several examples here of situations where it is necessary to bring a sin offering or a different kind of offering to God, and in each of these cases at the end there is going to be the comment that the priest makes atonement and God forgave them. The two words associated there are atonement and forgiveness.

The interesting thing is that we have a tendency to think of atonement as related to salvation—phase one, justification salvation. But if we look at these passages God is talking to them as believers. This is how they recover fellowship. There idea here isn't related to becoming saved related to the work of Christ on the cross in solving the sin problem, it is related to the ongoing application of that to post-salvation sin. In other words, it is an Old Testament picture of what we do every time we confess our sins when we come to God in prayer. Leviticus 4:2 NASB "Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, 'If a person sins unintentionally in any of the things which the LORD has commanded not to be done, and commits any of them, [3] if the anointed priest sins…" An example of when the prist sins. "…so as to bring guilt on the people…" So he is sinning in his role as the representative priest of the people. "… then let him offer to the LORD a bull without defect as a sin offering for the sin he has committed." The priest is pictured as already consecrated and saved. There are two pairs of words that are often used in the Old Testament Law. One word is holy and another is profane. We don't use this word profane in this sense in our everyday language anymore but what that means is "common." It is emphasising the distinction between the priest who is set apart for the service of God (he is holy) and the everyday person in Israel who is not ceremonially set apart for the service of God. So the distinction is either holy or common. Then there is another set of words, clean and unclean. Clean has to do with whether or not a person is ceremonially clean and can come into the temple to offer sacrifices. So one could be holy and also unclean—holy and set apart to God, like positional sanctification—but through sin be ceremonially unclean. So there had to be cleansing to become clean in order to carry out worship as a positionally sanctified priest. Or one could be a common person or a non-consecrated person, unholy, and clean. Holiness and clean are not synonymous; profane and unclean are not synonymous.

Leviticus 4:13 NASB "Now if the whole congregation of Israel commits error and the matter [sin] escapes the notice of the assembly, and they commit any of the things which the LORD has commanded not to be done, and they become guilty; [14] when the sin which they have committed becomes known, then the assembly shall offer a bull of the herd for a sin offering and bring it before the tent of meeting. [15] Then the elders of the congregation shall lay their hands on the head of the bull before the LORD, and the bull shall be slain before the LORD." So the elders representing the whole nation put their hands on the bull, indicating an identification and a transfer of their sins to the bull, and then the bull is slaughtered. [16] "Then the anointed priest is to bring some of the blood of the bull to the tent of meeting; [17] and the priest shall dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle {it} seven times before the LORD, in front of the veil." This is for the whole nation. He doesn't do this seven times for other things, just when it is this one particular type of sin. It is done in front of the veil." He doesn't enter into the holy of holies, except on the day of atonement. [18] "He shall put some of the blood on the horns of the altar which is before the LORD in the tent of meeting; and all the blood he shall pour out at the base of the altar of burnt offering which is at the doorway of the tent of meeting. [19] He shall remove all its fat from it and offer it up in smoke on the altar." Then when it is all done, we read in v. 20 "So the priest shall make atonement for them, and they will be forgiven."

The Hebrew word for atonement is kaphar. For a long time scholars thought that kaphar had the idea of covering and it was almost always thought of as a picture of the atoning work of Christ, phase one justification, the payment for sin. What is interesting is that in a number of passages in the LXX it is translated with the Greek word katharizo [kaqarizw] which means to be cleansed, not covered. A lot of recent scholarship based on recent discoveries of other MSS find that kaphar is more closely related to cleansing. In this passage, when the translators of the LXX translated kaphar into Greek they translated it  hilaskomai [i(laskomai] which is the word for mercy seat. And it is a word for propitiation. So these ideas are all interconnected. What we see here is the same imagery as we have when we confess our sins. The framework for confession is that we are going back to the cross where God's justice was satisfied, and that is why in 1 John 1:7 it says the blood of Christ is continuously cleansing us from all sin. It is not that we are continuously, experientially cleansed but that the blood of Christ is sufficient to cover all sin, and experientially we have to admit or acknowledge our sins for forgiveness to take place in time.

So all the way through Leviticus four and five there is example after example where there is a sacrifice, the priest makes atonement, and it is connected to forgiveness. So the idea here of atonement is closer to the idea of propitiation, and that relates to forgiveness because the reason God can forgive us is because His justice and righteousness are satisfied. Cf. Numbers 15:26, 28. It is the same idea as Daniel 9:19 where Daniel calls upon God to forgive their nation.    

Illustrations