1 Kings 8:41-43 “As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of your name—for men will hear of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm—when he comes and prays toward this temple, then hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and do whatever the foreigner asks of you…”
This is part of King Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple he built for the Lord in Jerusalem. Bible history bears out that what Solomon assumed would happen came true. In 1 Kings 10 we read that the Queen of Sheba came all the way to Jerusalem, not just because Solomon’s reputation, but because of his relation to the name of the Lord. Remember the Greeks who asked to see Jesus during holy week–men who had come to the temple that week to worship God? Remember the Ethiopian Eunuch whom the evangelist Philip baptized on his way home from Jerusalem?
These people traveled from hundreds, even thousands of miles away, for the privilege to pray to God at the temple. They traveled at a time when such long journeys were hard, tiresome, and dangerous.
And do we refuse or neglect to offer up our prayers to God when we don’t have to take even another step to do so? How easy for us to go to him in prayer today. Since God has lived here as one of us in the person of Jesus Christ, he has done away with the temple. Now he has made our own bodies his living temples. We can go to pray to him in the buildings we call “God’s house” today. He wants us to do so. But his special, gracious presence is with us at all times since Holy Spirit has made us his temples by faith. Why should we keep our mouths shut and ignore God when he has condescended to be so near us every moment of every day?
The encouragement to pray is just as strong for us as it was for the foreigner that Solomon describes: “…for men will hear of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm…” God’s great name–his reputation as the God who truly exists, and genuinely cares for his people, and actually gets involved in the nitty gritty of their lives–this is what made the foreigner willing to travel thousands of miles to seek him. This is what draws us close to him and opens our mouths to speak to him today.
This God has “mighty hands.” When I used to shake my grandfather’s hand, he had these huge, powerful hands so wide that the tips of my fingers could not reach across the full width of his palms, with fingers as big around as quarters. They were the hands of a man who had worked as a dairy farmer all his life, and to some degree the size and power of his hands were the result of being a good provider, and a hard worker, all his life.
Our God has mighty hands–huge and powerful hands that can easily provide everything we need. These are hands that hold up the entire universe, but also work just for me. These are hands that have built and destroyed entire empires, but hands which give me all my daily needs, and hands which fight for my protection, and lift me out of every trouble.
Our God has “outstretched arms.” When a person intends to do nothing, he often folds his arms, especially if he wants to communicate his unwillingness to act to others. Our God’s arms are never folded. They are outstretched. He is always at work for us. If there is nothing else we learn from Bible history, this much should be obvious to us. This makes him absolutely unique among all the other so-called god’s of the world, because he is the only one who ever actually does anything to help his people.
Though it was too early for Solomon to be thinking of this picture, when we hear of outstretched arms, can we help but think of the arms of our Savior, stretched out on the cross, when the mighty hands which once created the universe were pierced with nails and held in place on that cross? Or can we help but think of the arms of our heavenly Father stretched out to us in welcome and love because Jesus’ outstretched arms, secured full forgiveness for us on the cross?
Far more than that foreigner, far more than Solomon himself, we know the full story behind God’s great name, his mighty hands, and his outstretched arms. When we enter God’s house, this is the saving work of God that we hear. And when God’s great name, his saving reputation, is preached to us, doesn’t that encourage our prayers?