Morning Light – November 17th, 2015: When God Answers by Fire

MLx250Today: [2 Chronicles Seven] When God Answers By Fire. In this chapter the dedication of the temple is concluded and God answers by fire. The prayer of Solomon is the high point of this entire affair and it speaks to us of the need for prayer in our own lives. The fire didn’t fall until Solomon made and “end of praying”. We often cry out to God not understanding why the intervention doesn’t come – but many times a defective and deficient prayer life is the indicator of a life of defeat.

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[2Ch 7:1-22 KJV] 1 Now when Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the LORD filled the house. 2 And the priests could not enter into the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD had filled the LORD’S house. 3 And when all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the LORD upon the house, they bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement, and worshipped, and praised the LORD, [saying], For [he is] good; for his mercy [endureth] for ever. 4 Then the king and all the people offered sacrifices before the LORD. 5 And king Solomon offered a sacrifice of twenty and two thousand oxen, and an hundred and twenty thousand sheep: so the king and all the people dedicated the house of God.

When we make an end of praying – God will answer by fire. The religion of the ancient Hebrews was not simply based upon precept and ritual. Time and again God intervened supernaturally with signs, wonders and miracles thus establishing His manifest presence in the midst of the nation. In the beginning of the wilderness trek Moses built the tabernacle and likewise offered a sacrifice thereon. At that time as well God answered by fire. The supernatural flame was preserved and held sacred. When Aaron’s sons offered common fire at the altar they were struck dead as this was considered “strange fire”. This tells us the premium that God puts upon the supernatural. In our day because we see so little manifestation the tendency is to down play what we cannot produce. Scholars and theologians regard the anecdotes of divine intervention such as found in this passage as literary artifice not something that actually took place. This is not based on any actual hard archeological fact but rather a hardened unbelief in a supernatural God whose existence cannot be empirically proven.

Nonetheless from a devotional standpoint we see God answering by fire AFTER Solomon made an end of praying. Do you want to see God intervene in your life? Does your heart cry out for the God who answers by fire? Is this a deficit in your life? Then ask yourself the question: have you made an end of praying? A quote attributed to John Wesley the father of Methodism observes “it seems that God will do nothing except in answer to prayer…” Why do we find this difficult? The struggle to pray is a struggle against personal atheism. Something in the make up of fallen nature despises prayer and rejects the idea of an unseen God requiring that we approach Him in prayer. Prayerlessness is the great dearth of our nation and humanity at large. Yet the words of James ring out “you have not because you ask not…” Jesus in Luke 18 gave the parable of the unjust judge to the end that “men ought to pray and not faint…” If we are faint and if we are exhausted and harried to the point of exasperation in life it is due to prayerlessness. Jesus was perfect, sinless and virgin born yet he offered up prayers with tears and strong crying (Hebrews 5:7). The same verse says that Jesus own prayers were heard not because He was the son of God but because He feared God. The measure of your reverence for God is the measure of your prayer life. This is very sobering yet the testimony of Solomon here is clear – when we make an end of praying – our God will answer by fire.

6 And the priests waited on their offices: the Levites also with instruments of musick of the LORD, which David the king had made to praise the LORD, because his mercy [endureth] for ever, when David praised by their ministry; and the priests sounded trumpets before them, and all Israel stood. 7 Moreover Solomon hallowed the middle of the court that [was] before the house of the LORD: for there he offered burnt offerings, and the fat of the peace offerings, because the brasen altar which Solomon had made was not able to receive the burnt offerings, and the meat offerings, and the fat. 8 Also at the same time Solomon kept the feast seven days, and all Israel with him, a very great congregation, from the entering in of Hamath unto the river of Egypt. 9 And in the eighth day they made a solemn assembly: for they kept the dedication of the altar seven days, and the feast seven days. 10 And on the three and twentieth day of the seventh month he sent the people away into their tents, glad and merry in heart for the goodness that the LORD had shewed unto David, and to Solomon, and to Israel his people.

After Solomon ended his prayer before the people and the Lord answered by fire – the priests and Levites began to praise, make music and worship the enduring mercy of God. Upon hearing this the entire congregation who were apparently on their face the whole time stood up. Solomon then made offerings himself as well as the priests in the middle court and they continued with the feast of tabernacles. In this case reference is made to the extension of the normal feast days due to the massive crowd and the handling of over 22,000 sacrifices that Solomon offered up.

11 Thus Solomon finished the house of the LORD, and the king’s house: and all that came into Solomon’s heart to make in the house of the LORD, and in his own house, he prosperously effected. 12 And the LORD appeared to Solomon by night, and said unto him, I have heard thy prayer, and have chosen this place to myself for an house of sacrifice. 13 If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people; 14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. 15 Now mine eyes shall be open, and mine ears attent unto the prayer [that is made] in this place. 16 For now have I chosen and sanctified this house, that my name may be there for ever: and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually. 17 And as for thee, if thou wilt walk before me, as David thy father walked, and do according to all that I have commanded thee, and shalt observe my statutes and my judgments; 18 Then will I stablish the throne of thy kingdom, according as I have covenanted with David thy father, saying, There shall not fail thee a man [to be] ruler in Israel. 19 But if ye turn away, and forsake my statutes and my commandments, which I have set before you, and shall go and serve other gods, and worship them; 20 Then will I pluck them up by the roots out of my land which I have given them; and this house, which I have sanctified for my name, will I cast out of my sight, and will make it [to be] a proverb and a byword among all nations. 21 And this house, which is high, shall be an astonishment to every one that passeth by it; so that he shall say, Why hath the LORD done thus unto this land, and unto this house? 22 And it shall be answered, Because they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, and laid hold on other gods, and worshipped them, and served them: therefore hath he brought all this evil upon them.

In the midst of the celebration and the completion of the dedication of the temple the Lord again appears to Solomon by night. At the beginning of Solomon’s reign the Lord appeared to him and asked him what he wanted. Solomon asked for wisdom to rule His people Israel. Now at the apex of Solomon’s dedication of the temple God appears to Solomon again speaking in covenantal language and promising to observe to keep all of His covenant with David and to preserve the seed of David on the throne in Jerusalem forever – as long as they turn not away from the statutes and commandments.

Again it is understandable in the light of history and what came after regarding Solomon that God would underscore these matters to the young king. Going forward Solomon falters and engages in idolatry and national sin. For all the pomp and majesty and show of piety and humility – it doesn’t last. The seeds of wickedness and idolatry that so mar the history of the kings of Israel and Judah were planted by none other than Solomon himself – the wisest man that ever lived. For us this is a cautionary narrative. It is challenging enough to stay faithful to God in the midst of trial and difficult but it is even more so when the blessings are abundant and everything goes well. The pressure of the enemy is one thing but the pressure of success is even more challenging.

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