As we struggle to follow the example of Jesus, we need to remember that God has provided all that we need to live godly lives – and not one word of his promises has failed!
1 Kings, chapter 8; 2 Chronicles, chapter 5; Psalm 99; Romans, chapter 3
1 Kings 8:54-61 (NLT):
When Solomon finished making these prayers and petitions to the Lord, he stood up in front of the altar of the Lord, where he had been kneeling and with his hands raised toward heaven. He stood and in a loud voice blessed the entire congregation of Israel:
“Praise the Lord who has given rest to his people Israel, just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the wonderful promises he gave through his servant Moses. May the Lord our God be with us as he was with our ancestors; may he never leave us or abandon us. May he give us the desire to do his will in everything and to obey all the commands, decrees, and regulations that he gave our ancestors.
And may these words that I have prayed in the presence of the Lord be before him constantly, day and night, so that the Lord our God may give justice to me and to his people Israel, according to each day’s needs. Then people all over the earth will know that the Lord alone is God and there is no other. And may you be completely faithful to the Lord our God. May you always obey his decrees and commands, just as you are doing today.”
David’s son Solomon now ruled Israel. As God had told David, Solomon built the Temple – a glorious “home” for God among his people. God’s plan always was to dwell among his people. He had walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden until sin broke their relationship with God. In Moses’ time, God gave instructions for constructing the tabernacle. As the Israelites traveled through the wilderness, God manifested his presence through the pillar of cloud that descended upon that tabernacle.
Now, as they dedicated the Temple, God’s presence showed up again: “When the priests came out of the Holy Place, a thick cloud filled the Temple. The priests could not continue their service because of the cloud, for the glorious presence of the Lord filled the Temple of the Lord” (1 Kings 8:10-11). Solomon prays to dedicate the Temple to God (verses 23-53), acknowledging that “even the highest heavens cannot contain you. How much less this Temple I have built!” (v 27). He then prays that God would listen when his people prayed – “and when you hear, forgive” (v 30).
Not One Word Has Failed
After his prayer, Solomon turns to address the people. First, he says, “Praise the Lord who has given rest to his people Israel, just as he promised.” The history of Israel from the Exodus until Solomon’s day had largely been marked by wandering, both physically and spiritually. Even though God was with them, they continually turned away to other gods. Solomon acknowledges both this history and human nature when he says in his prayer, “If they sin against you – and who has never sinned?” (verse 46). Israel had failed God, over and over – but God had now given them rest.
Second, Solomon reminds them that not one word has failed of all the wonderful promises he gave through his servant Moses. Not one word had failed. In the light of God’s presence, Solomon and the people could see that they had failed God, but not one word of God’s promises had failed. That did not mean that they had never experienced difficulty and defeat; they had. But God’s promises had not failed, because those promises included both blessings and warnings. Their difficulties were confirmation of God’s word just as much as their victories.
The challenge in Solomon’s words comes next. He makes five statements that begin with the word “May.” The first four of these are really requests he makes to God; the last two are challenges to the people. First, he says, may the Lord our God be with us as he was with our ancestors. God had been with them, through good times and bad. Even in the bad times, God had not abandoned his people. Solomon asks that God will continue to be with them. The second statement continues that thought: May he never leave us or abandon us.
The third statement changes focus a bit. May he give us the desire to do his will in everything is a prayer that God will foster their willingness to obey God and serve him. Of course, that also includes a challenge to the people: “you need to be willing to obey God and do his will.” This third “may” statement reminds the people that God is willing to help us, but God will not force us to walk in his way.
The fourth statement is, May these words that I prayed in the presence of the Lord be before him constantly. Solomon wants God to remember what he has prayed. In other words, Solomon asks God to treat his prayer as a perpetual request. He wants God to always remember all of the things that he prayed in verses 23-53. I believe that especially applies to what Solomon said in verse 30: “when you hear, forgive.”
That brings us to the last two “may” statements, which are directed toward the people of Israel. These two challenges remind them (and us) that we have a part to play in our relationship with God. First, Solomon says, May you be completely faithful to the Lord your God. “Faithful” refers to commitmentrather than to performance. We are not able in our own strength to be fully obedient to God, but we can commit ourselves to obedience. We can do the best that we can, and trust God to do the rest.
The last comment Solomon makes is May you always obey his decrees and commands, just as you are doing today. Always obey. Not just sometimes, nor when it’s convenient or popular. Always. Again, this relates to commitment. God promises to supply all that we need to obey him. “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life” (2 Peter 1:3). We need to commit to him, to surrender to his authority, and trust that not one word of God’s promises will fail!
Our New Testament reading from Romans 3 today might seem to contradict Solomon’s challenge to the people. “For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are” (Romans 3:20). If we cannot be made right with God by doing what the law commands, why does Solomon call the people to always obey his decrees and commands?
Keeping these statements in context helps us to recognize that there is no contradiction. Solomon makes it clear that they people need to be completely faithful – as we noted, that is a call to commitment rather than mere performance. Paul goes on in Romans 3 to make clear that he is not saying that obedience doesn’t matter: “Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law” (Romans 3:31).
May God be faithful? Of course he will! Not one word of his promises has failed! May we be faithful? We can; the question is – will we?
Father, we thank you that not one word of your promises has ever failed – and not one word ever will! We also thank you that you have given us all that we need for living a godly life, through your Son Jesus. As Paul says in Romans 3, “we are made right with you by placing our faith in Jesus Christ.” We thank you that you have freely and graciously declared us to be righteous through Jesus’ death for us.
As Solomon prayed, may you give us the desire to do your will in everything. Our sinful nature will pull us away from you; thank you for the cleansing presence of your Holy Spirit, who enables us to draw near to you. We praise you because “the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed us from the power of sin that leads to death” (Romans 8:2). Help us to do your will each day, that your kingdom may come in ever greater measure. Amen.