1 Kings 18:20-21, (22-29), 30-39 – Elijah: “Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.”
1 Kings 8:22-23, 41-43 – Solomon before the altar: “O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and steadfast love for your servants who walk before you with all their heart, the covenant that you kept for your servant my father David as you declared to him; you promised with your mouth and have this day fulfilled with your hand. …Likewise when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a distant land because of your name —for they shall hear of your great name, your mighty hand, and your outstretched arm—when a foreigner comes and prays toward this house, then hear in heaven your dwelling place, and do according to all that the foreigner calls to you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and so that they may know that your name has been invoked on this house that I have built.”
Psalm 96 – Sing to the Lord a new song… Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it. Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy.
Galatians 1:1-12 – I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.
Luke 7:1-10 – Healing of the Centurion’s slave.
If you would like to read posts based on the next six weeks of Galatians texts, check these out:
- May 29, 2016, P2C, Galatians 1:1-12
- June 5, 2016, P3C, Galatians 1:11-24
- June 12, 2016, P4C, Galatians 2:15-21 (June 16 is also Father’s Day)
- June 19, 2016, P5C, Galatians 3:23-29 (June 19 is Juneteenth)
- June 26, 2016, P6C, Galatians 5:1, 13-25 (July 4 is Independence Day)
- July 3, 2016, P7C, Galatians 6:[1-6] 7-16 (July 4 is Independence Day)
Foreigner: 1 Kings 8
I’m guessing that this text was chosen to compliment the gospel text. In Luke 7, Jesus is summoned by a centurion, a foreigner, who seeks a healing for his slave. This text is a bit of mine field, since the author of Luke clearly takes slavery for granted. The thrust of the text, however, is that Jesus finds great faith in a foreigner, a non-Jewish person of a different religion. There are lots of these stories in Luke. Jesus finds faith in numerous places outside of Israel. That is, in part, the point.
We often look for faith in the religious folks, the church folks, the most suspected places. Jesus tells a story about a man in a ditch left for dead. All the people who should stop, the priest and the Levite, don’t lift a finger. It is a Samaritan who is the hero of the story. Don’t be surprised in your life, if the folks who spout a strong moral or religious line don’t come through. Faith, and faithfulness, will often show up in the most surprising places.
Solomon builds God’s temple, and at its consecration/dedication prays for it here in this passage from 1 Kings 8. His piety matches, and perhaps surpasses that of David. Even, Solomon seems a bit confused about the concept of God living in a house: ““But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built” (1 Kings 8:27)
Is this the same Solomon whose first act as king was to send his hit man Benaiah to execute his brother, then David’s general Joab, and then Shimei? (1 Kings 2) The writer here is not the same writer as earlier in Kings. The editor of 1 Kings has woven together several narratives, some of which remember Solomon as a villain, others that remember a wise, righteous Solomon who loved the Lord. Could these two divergent narratives describe the same person? Of course. Sadly, we are all a bag of mixed motives.
In his prayer he remembers God’s faithfulness to the covenant, and also God’s “steadfast love” (hesed, in Hebrew). The love of God is an important theme that all too often gets put on the back burner. God’s love for us, our love for God, and our love for our neighbor are at the very center of the law and the prophets, at least according to Jesus. It is the defining mark of Jesus’ disciples. The covenant calls God’s people to love God and one another.
But what of foreigners? Much of the Penteteuch has a negative view of foreigners. One need only listen to the rhetoric of this election year to get a taste of our current distaste for foreigners, which often is disguised in language about “legal” versus “illegal” immigration. The fact of the matter is, our laws make it clear that we want to severely curb immigration, otherwise we would put out more desperately-needed workers visas. Even the data that shows how good immigration is for the economy gets scuttled in favor of xenophobia.
Despite the editors’ negative view of foreigners, Yahweh has a decidedly sympathetic viewpoint. “You were once sojourners in the land of Egypt. You shall love the sojourner in your country and treat the sojourner as a citizen.” Passages like this are so numerous, it would take a long time to list them all.
1 Kings 8 stresses this understanding of the foreigner. To do so also proclaims the universality and sovereignty of God. When a foreigner, who is not of the house of Israel, comes to this temple, built by Solomon, should Yahweh listen? Should Yahweh strike the foreigner dead for entering the house of the God of Israel? Solomon prays to Yahweh, asking that God would hear and respond.
Would be so gracious? “When a Muslim prays, does God listen?” I once asked a mixed group of Christians. They weren’t sure. If anyone, of any nationality, any religion, looks to heaven and prays to a higher power, by any name, is God listening? I certainly hope so.
Isaiah and Jesus had the same piety. “My house shall be a house of prayer for all people.” (Isaiah 56:7. Matthew 21:13). So how about you? Is your house a house of prayer for all people? Do the diverse peoples around you sense that this is true? If someone with different customs or beliefs came to pray to the living God, would there be a litmus test of orthodoxy to pass? Perhaps we are just as hypocritical as Solomon. Perhaps we are all saint and sinners. Then, let us welcome such sinner-saints into our midst.