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A House of Gospel Rest

In his prayer of dedication for the new temple in 1 Kings 8, Solomon is boldly asking God to train Himself in the habit of coming and expecting to find worship at the temple, because he wants God to grow accustomed to doing certain things every time He comes. What are those things? The following verses give us a list of things that God’s house is for, things that demonstrate attributes of God.

v. 31-32 – This house is a house for condemning the guilty and vindicating the righteous. This prayer appeals to God’s attribute of justice. v. 33-36 – This house is a house where repentance is heard and sins are forgiven. Here, Solomon is appealing to God’s mercy. v. 37-40 – This house is a house where afflictions are removed. This reflects the kindness of God. v. 41-43 – This house is a house for mission. Praying this way appeals to God as a God of welcome. v.44-45 – This house is a house of holy war. This prayer concerns God’s attribute of righteousness. v.46-51 – This house is a house for setting captives free. Solomon appeals specifically to God’s compassion for His people. v.52-53 – This house is a house where God sees and God hears His people. God’s immanence, or His nearness to His people, and specifically His attentiveness, is what Solomon’s prayer depends on in this request.

It is very easy to look at all the different functions of God’s house and rush to the imperatives – let’s do justice, show mercy and kindness, be welcoming, pursue righteousness, and live compassionately. And we should do those things, and as best we are able, we should carefully examine everything that goes on at this house of God to ensure that these attributes of God are fully reflected in what we say and do. But fundamentally, as Solomon reminds us, these are things that God Himself will do when His people come to Him in prayer. And so as Solomon praises God for giving His people a house for worship in verse 56, he blessed God for giving them rest. This house is not first and foremost a place where we come to do spiritual good works. This house is a house of gospel rest.

This means that you shouldn’t come to this house to enact justice. Instead, come to receive it. Don’t come thinking that the great thing about this house is the mercy that you will show. Come so that God can show mercy to you. Don’t come because you are the one who will save the world from her afflictions with your kindness. Come with your hurts, your woes, your sicknesses and all the afflictions of your heart, and be healed, be renewed by the kindness of God. Don’t think that you are welcoming people to your house; remember that God is welcoming you to His house. This isn’t a house from which to launch our holy wars; it is a house to carry out the righteousness of God. This isn’t a place where we in our wisdom will set the captives free. This is the place we come to be set free by Jesus.

Remember, this is a house for God’s name, not ours. The most important work that is done here is not ours, but His. And so the message of this house is one of rest. So weary Christians, be encouraged! Tired servants, don’t dread leaving this house with a list of assignments! Of course we will hear about obeying God’s law, and of course we will hear instructions from God concerning things we ought to do, but this is not a spiritual gym with a bunch of spiritual treadmills. This is a house of rest, and this means that Jesus Christ sees you and hears you in this place. He knows your needs, and He meets them. He is aware of your sins, and by His bloody sacrificial death, He has paid for them, and they are forgiven.

Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 by CJ Bowen