After more than a decade of building, some 4700 days of lugging stone, casting instruments, melting and pouring gold, planing and carving lumber, finally the temple which King David had envisioned was ready for dedication.
Thousands of animals were slaughtered in sacrifice as the nation and King Solomon witnessed the priests establish the ark of the covenant into the inner chamber. Suddenly the kabod, the tangible glory cloud of God filled the temple. Everyone, priest to peasant, hit the ground in awesome fear of Almighty God.
On his knees, Solomon prayed before the people to their God, Lord Jehovah.
“O God”, Solomon prayed, “though no building could ever hold you, may this place hold Your gaze. May this place attend Your ears, that everyone, from Jew to Gentile, may be heard when they cry to You here.”
After extensive prayers of consecration outlining the purpose and authority of the temple, King Solomon then breathed a national prayer. He solemnly blessed the nation and decreed, “May He turn our hearts to Him, to walk in all His ways and to keep the commands, decrees and regulations He gave our fathers”( 1 King 8:58).
Hold on. Wasn’t this an ideal time to ask for expansion of the empire? Why would the king cry out in royal intercession before God to incline the people’s hearts to God?
In order to understand his plea, a look at the Hebrew meaning of heart is helpful. Brown Driver Briggs outlines the heart, lebab, as more than a physical organ or sappy emotions with this definition:
Labab: inner man, mind, will, heart, soul, understanding, inner part, midst (of things), heart (of man),soul, mind, knowledge, thinking, reflection, memory, inclination, resolution, determination (of will), conscience,heart (of moral character), as seat of appetites, as seat of emotions and passions, as seat of courage.1
The heart of a nation mattered. It is the heart which engines the driving force of man to reach up to God or stay self-focused. The heart can shift a nation in worship, loyalty and obedience to God Almighty or towards submission to other gods, resulting in disobedience, sin and disaster for the nation.
Did Moses’ blessings and curses for a nation after God echo in Solomon’s ear as he unsheathed his royal authority to seek God to secure the future of Israel? Did Joshua’s pleas to choose God rise up in his mind as Solomon fervently asked God to move upon the hearts of His people?
As Solomon decreed the gift of corporate faith for a nation, that the heart of Israel would be inclined to God, he touched heaven’s own cry, the dream of a nation fully turned to Almighty God.
The heart is mentioned 833 times in the Bible. The heart is where the faith flows or ebbs away. The heart is where the war between flesh and spirit is won or lost. The issues of the heart affect all of humanity.
If only Solomon had applied the same heart cry for his own life. Despite visitation from the Lord, from incredible wisdom and wealth, despite knowledge of botany, inventions, architectural brilliance, Solomon still shut his heart to God. 1 Kings 11: 1-3, 9-10 grimly recounts:
King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter–Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. They were from nations about which the LORD had told the Israelites, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.” Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray…The LORD became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. Although he had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the LORD’s command.
1 Kings 11 grimly chronicles how after Solomon’s death, Reheboam’s moved in pathetic leadership and sought the counsel of his peers and chose bravado over brains to address the power inequities of his nation. Instead of hearing the people’s concerns, he overpowered their pleas with promises of increased demands, a trauma throwback to the days of Pharoah’s terrors:
The king answered the people harshly. Rejecting the advice given him by the elders, he followed the advice of the young men and said, “My father made your yoke heavy; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.” So the king did not listen to the people, for this turn of events was from the LORD, to fulfill the word the LORD had spoken to Jeroboam son of Nebat through Ahijah the Shilonite. When all Israel saw that the king refused to listen to them, they answered the king: “What share do we have in David, what part in Jesse’s son? To your tents, O Israel! Look after your own house, O David!” So the Israelites went home ( 1 Kings 12: 12-16).
Within days, Israel was shredded. The fourth king of Israel lost every state but Judah as outraged Israelites lost heart, cut every loyal tie and the nation shifted to another king.
Life flows from the heart. In his better days, Solomon had penned, ” Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.” ( Prov 4:23) and “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.” (Prov 21:1). 81 times Solomon speaks to the issues of the heart in the book of Proverbs. It’s as if he knew all the wisdom but could not apply this to his own life with determined diligence.
The heart of a man engaged in the pursuit of God is truly breathtaking. Consider Franklin Graham’s passion to speak truth in love or Kayle Mumby’s ease to move amoung all peoples with dignity and laughter. I ponder Sean Feucht’s bravery to worship in dark difficult places. I value my friend, Rev. Gavin Cunningham, who fights sex trafficking with fierce determination. How awesome is the grace of Arthur Burk and the SLG tribe to fight and win for kingdom. I still treasure the love of Pastor Frank Seixas who embraced us when we were all prickles, every one of us. I adore the courage of my husband, Paul, who worships and keeps reaching up even when sorrow has suggested otherwise.
The heart of a woman adoring her King is awesome indeed. Consider Kim Walker Smith’s songs or Kari Jobe’s grace to reach the youth. Remember Corrie ten Boom’s endurance and warm smile. I rejoice in my friend, Amenla Cunningham’s persistent prayer and joy to network with women across the nation. I am amazed by women of faith like Linda Smith. Of painted passion like Patty Bowman Kingsley. Of perseverance like Brenda Virtue. Of dignity like Kathy Foottit. Of joy like Britt Pierce. Many people, past and present across the nations have impacted, encouraged and modeled the royal holy pursuit of the King. Most worship unnoticed, yet are still running hard and fast for God, their hearts wide open.
The corporate currency of a nation in pursuit of righteousness is the very longing of God. His dream of Zion, a nation which adores Him, obeys Him, walks in obedience, and lives to worship has yet to be seen. I expect Solomon was breathing God’s own cry when he prayed,” incline the hearts of your people”. This prayer is so much more than a young king’s hope for unity.
It’s a cry not yet fully realized. There have been seasons of nations turning to God en masse. All through history, kings have arisen and fallen, some in righteous rule, others in brutal idolatry, but few have had the corporate currency to lead the nation in faithfulness. David alone led the charge though Josiah was also known for his determined pursuit of righteousness. Nehemiah and Ezra witnessed a massive national shift once they dealt with the mess of intermarriage and established the law as standard for the exiles in Jerusalem. Few revivals have lasted much longer than a decade. Acts depicts a pocket of devout believers who poured out their lives for the gospel, but it was just a remnant, not the nation of Israel, who had inclined their hearts to God and His ways.
God is still dreaming to see a nation with a united corporate heart for God even as He pours into His children, equipping us to rule as kings and priests with hearts devoted to the King of Kings. May it be our nation. May it be yours. It begins with a heart which recognizes how profoundly Love indeed has come down and walked amoung us all.
Let’s pray: Lord God, incline our hearts toward You, that we may walk in all Your ways and keep the commands, decrees and regulations You have written upon our hearts by Your spirit. May our lives be lived in worship, in sacrifice, in thanksgiving and in pursuit before You and may our country rise up and stand on guard for Thee, the One and Only True God, Lord Jehoveh. Amen.
- Is your heart open to the Lord or bent away like Solomon towards other gods?
- Solomon’s closed heart affected the entire nation of Israel. What influences affected Solomon’s heart? Who is our heart affecting?
- The Psalms reference the heart 121 times. It’s a great place to recalibrate when our hearts have moved away from our God. Which Psalm has encouraged your heart lately?
- David prayed,”Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me” in Psalm 51. Have you experienced the grace of renewal through confession and repentance? Are you encouraged that God is full of grace and will give a clean heart when we ask?
- Reheboam lost the kingdom with his hard heartedness to his people. Have you experienced loss because of a closed heart? How about gain from open hearted people? How does Holy Spirit empower our hearts?
This Week’s Reading was: 1 Kings 6-16
Next Week’s Reading is: 1 Kings 17 – 22
- Brown Driver Briggs’ Hebrew Definitions, lebab.