Dedicated to Worship
A Review of the Third Commandment
A sermon based on 1 Kings 8:27-30
Sunday, July 6, 2014 – Pentecost 4A
Thousands of people were packed on the relatively small hill. They covered the steps leading up the building. They all seemed to learn forward in eager anticipation to hear what he'd say when the speaker stepped out, took the podium and began with a prayer. It was a long prayer that took almost ten minutes, yet no one seemed to mind. They hung on every word. This was an exciting day that none of them would ever forget!
Seven years in the making, and decades in the planning, the temple of the LORD was finally completed! And what a magnificent building it was! Sitting atop Mout Zion, it was the highest point in the city and could be seen from anywhere. Though it was only 2,700 square feet, roughly the same size as this building we're in now, it had enough gold to add up to five and a half billion dollars' worth in today's economy.
And yet, that wasn't the really impressive part. The most exciting part of that day was the promise that God had made to his people; that he would dwell right there among them in that temple with his cloud of glory resting in that place.
So when Solomon offered his prayer of dedication before the people, you can imagine the excitement in the air when he cried out…
27 "But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built! 28 Yet give attention to your servant's prayer and his plea for mercy, O Lord my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence this day. 29 May your eyes be open toward this temple night and day, this place of which you said, 'My Name shall be there,' so that you will hear the prayer your servant prays toward this place. 30 Hear the supplication of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place. Hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.
We can imagine the excitement of a ground breaking for a church or school. Perhaps some of you remember celebrating the dedication of this building and know how thrilling it can be. But, why wait for the dedication of another physical structure to get excited?! Look at what we have right here, right now. We too have a place to worship! We have a place where God himself promises to be—"wherever two or three come together in [his] name!" (cf. Matthew 18:20) Here God comes to us to be with us to hear our prayers to give us forgiveness of sins, to receive our praise! Hard to believe, isn't it? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain [God]. How much less this [church]!
Though we're not completing a building this morning or even breaking ground, we too celebrate a dedication. We dedicate ourselves, or re-dedicate ourselves, to worshipping Jesus our Savior, to remembering the Sabbath day, and to gladly hearing and learning his Word!
So how do we "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy"? Well, go to church, right? Go often! Yes, that's certainly part of it. But is that all God asks in the third commandment? Is he just interested in having your butt in the pew one hour a week? Or is there more? What can we learn of the third commandment from Solomon and his prayer of dedication?
As I re-read this portion of his prayer, notice the emotions that Solomon expresses… 27 "But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built! 28 Yet give attention to your servant's prayer and his plea for mercy, O Lord my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence this day. 29 May your eyes be open toward this temple night and day, this place of which you said, 'My Name shall be there,' so that you will hear the prayer your servant prays toward this place. 30 Hear the supplication of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place. Hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.
Does it seem like Solomon was just doing his duty? Does it seem like he was just worried about showing up? No way! This was exciting! God himself was present! His Name (everything he'd revealed about himself and his saving work) was there! Though heaven itself cannot contain God, he promised to be present in that temple! How excited Solomon was to be there!
But how about us? How dedicated are we to worship? Sure we may be dedicated to showing up, but are we always that excited to come to the place where God himself dwells? Sure, we can break the third commandment by skipping out on worship altogether, but God's interested in far more than you physically being here. This commandment is not about your physical presence in worship, but in your attitude toward worship.
Do you sometimes come out of habit, rather than excitement to be in the presence of God? Do you sometimes come to church, but mentally check out as you're running through your weekly to-do list? Or making a mental checklist of who's not there? Do you stay out late on Saturday night so you of course have a difficult time staying awake and paying attention on Sunday morning?
And this isn't just about this one hour each week! What is your attitude toward home devotions? Is that a chore to you? Something that needs to be done? How do you feel about Bible study? Do you think, "I put my time in at worship. Why do I need two hours?!" What is your attitude: Which excites you more: When it's time to watch your weekly TV show or when it's time for weekly worship? Which excites you more: Reading an email from an old friend or reading an email devotion? Which are you more eager to do: Tear open the package that just arrived in the mail or tear open your Bible and see what exciting blessings God delivers to your doorstep?
I have to admit that all too often I'm more excited about what's on TV, what a friend has to write, or what's on my doorstep, than I am about hearing and reading, studying and learning the Word of God. How messed up our priorities are when we get more excited about the petty stuff that really doesn't matter at all, when the most exciting stuff is right here, right in front of us, every day!
You and I may not openly despise preaching and the Word, saying, "Man, I hate being here this morning! I'd so much rather be fishing or still in bed." But do we gladly hear and learn the Word? Not always. And that in spite of the fact that God himself comes to us in that Word, promising to be with us, to hear us, and to strengthen us through his Word. In the Old Testament, those who failed to observe the Sabbath were worthy of death. (cf. Exodus 31:15) And so too, for our negligence, our apathy, and our pitiful attitudes toward preaching and the Word, four our lack of dedication to worship, we deserve to have God turn his back on us. We too deserve death—physically and eternally in the fires of hell, where there is no rest from our suffering.
Thank God, dear friends, for Jesus! For the one who was perfectly dedicated to worship, who was always eager and excited to be where his Father dwelled! Remember the 12 year old who went to Jerusalem for the Passover and stayed behind in the temple when everyone else went home because he just had to be in his Father's house? (cf. Luke 2:41-51) Remember the one who went to the synagogue regularly "as was his custom…"? (cf. Luke 4:16) Remember the one who entered the temple and drove out the animals and peddlers and money changers in a rage, because zeal for the Lord's house consumed him? (cf. John 2:12-17)
Thank God for Jesus, friends, who perfectly kept the third commandment in every way. And thank Jesus for not only being so dedicated to keep the third and every commandment, but who was so dedicated to us that he gave his perfect keeping of every law to us and took our every apathy, neglect, bad attitude, and mistake—our every sin—on himself. Thank Jesus for taking God's wrath in our place, so Solomon's prayer could be true of us today.
With the barrier of sin removed through Jesus, God does hear (and answer) our every prayer. Instead of turning his back on us, he gives his attention to us, literally, he turns his face to us. Every week, Pastor Hackmann reminds you of that awesome truth in the blessing: "The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face shine on you…" You know, every once in a while, my wife will sit down next to me on the couch and start talking to me and I'll sort of half listen to what she's saying. "Yeah, yup, uh-huh, sure. Wait… did you say something?" But when the TV's off and I turn my face toward her, then she has my full attention. (I'm working on that by the way.)
With God, through Jesus, you always have his full, undivided attention. He turns his face toward you and makes his face shine upon you. He is totally dedicated to you. And not just for one hour a week, but every hour of every day! He hears your prayers night and day and never needs to take a rest. "He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over [you] will neither slumber nor sleep." (Psalm 121:3b-4) And finally, when he hears your prayers, you can be certain that he will forgive.
You know what the word Sabbath literally means? It means rest. Because of Jesus, and by his perfect life in your place, by his innocent death in your place, you are forgiven of every sin! And you have rest from your sin and your guilt. You have rest from worry and anxiety because you know that one day soon you'll have perfect rest from every suffering and pain, when he takes you to glory to be with him face to face where his face will shine on you for eternity!
How will we respond to such grace? We can't help but re-dedicate ourselves to worshipping him! We long to hear this Word of grace repeated to us over and over again, not being dragged to church or guilted into going, but sprinting to get there in our excitement! We desire to not just show up on time, but to arrive early we're so excited to be there! We're not satisfied with just worship, but come to Bible class as often as we can because we just can't get enough of God's Word in one hour! And when we can't make it to worship, our attitude toward worship remains the same, we're eager to be there, sorry we have to miss, and long for the next opportunity.
And finally, since heaven itself can't contain God, since he is present with us, turning his face toward us, not just here at church, but everywhere we go, we know we can worship him anywhere. We carry the excitement to hear more about God's grace to us into the week! We rejoice in it so much we just have to hear more! It never gets old!
We long to read of Jesus' work for us in devotions. We long to listen to his Word in our cars. We eagerly open those emails, not to see the latest jokes, but to read the latest sermon or devotion. After all, what could possibly be more exciting than this rest that we have in Jesus? Another hour of sleep?! Forget it! I'll stay up all night to hear of his grace! A TV show? How boring! At least compared to God's awesome love for us that leaves us exhilarated! A package on the doorstep? How temporary the excitement it brings compared to the eternal blessings God brings me in his Word!
With a spring in your step, a sparkle in your eye, and a burst of adrenaline flowing through your body, eagerly and regularly find rest in Jesus. Gladly hear his Word and learn it! Amen!