“‘Let your eyes be open to the plea of your servant and to the plea of your people Israel, giving ear to them whenever they call to you. For you spared them from among all the peoples of the earth to be your heritage, as you declared through Moses your servant, when you brought our fathers out of Egypt, O Lord GOD’” (1 Kings 8:52-53).
When Solomon completed the construction of the temple, he held a great dedication celebration. All the people were gathered in Jerusalem for this incredible occasion. After thousands of sacrifices were offered, the presence of the LORD Himself filled the temple, so that not even the priests could stand before the house. In the midst of this awesome presence, Solomon spoke a prayer of dedication for the temple. In this prayer, he asked God to honor the supplications of those who prayed toward the temple, pleading with Him to be merciful to the cries of His people, no matter the situation.
After listing a variety of circumstances in which the people might be led to pray, such as a sin, an enemy, or a famine, Solomon concluded his petition with a reminder of who the Israelites were. They weren’t just a group of people who had decided to take the LORD as their God; rather, they were God’s own chosen people. He had chosen them, not the other way around. He had set them apart from every other nation on earth, inviting them to know Him personally. This had begun in the time of Abraham, but the decision was made official when God brought the people out of Egyptian slavery through Moses. The giving of the law at Mount Sinai had confirmed to all Israel that they were indeed the people whom God had chosen for Himself.
It was this incredible fact that gave Solomon had the boldness to ask God to forgive the people when they sinned. The king was well aware that everyone in the nation would rebel against God. He even had the foresight to understand that there would come a time when the rebellion was so intense that God would give His people into the hands of their enemies. But this knowledge didn’t keep Solomon from pleading for God’s mercy. Rather, he prayed all the harder for his people. He based his supplication on God’s character, not his own goodness or that of the people. He knew that, because God had chosen Israel, He wouldn’t abandon them. He was the initiator of the covenant with them, and because of that, He would uphold His word even when His people broke theirs. Israel was irrevocably God’s heritage. Even when they openly rebelled against Him, He would still be their God. He would still love them, waiting for them to repent so He could again show mercy to them. Solomon knew this, and this knowledge is what gave him the courage to address so confidently the God Who always keeps His word.