These three verses (the counterparts of 2 Chronicles 6:26 , 2 Chronicles 6:28 , 2 Chronicles 6:40 ) are not in the parallel. Although we can scarcely trace the principle of their selection from the seven parts of the prayer, they would seem to have been selected from the original work, as samples of a reply which presumably embraced reference to all the seven. When, in 2 Chronicles 7:14 , it is said, I will heal their land , the telling expression, according to the Authorized Version, must be understood to refer to the removing of drought by rain. On the other hand, the Authorized Version is, in 2 Chronicles 7:15 , unfortunate in the unnecessary and misleading insertion of the italics found there, and in the use of the preposition "in" for of, the simple case construct, which is manifestly what is wanted and intended. It was not absolutely essential that prayer should be made in the place. How many references there are to prayer being made from a distance toward the place!
The testimony by fire, and the vouchsafed glory of the Lord.
This chapter invites attention to four subjects, no one of which is entirely fresh, but each one of which owns to fresh impressiveness by virtue of position, particularity of description, and the more touching associations which now surround it. Attention, then, may be called first of all and chiefly to—
I. THE MARVEL OF THE DESCENDING FIRE FROM HEAVEN . It is remarkable that the parallel ( 1 Kings 8:1-66 .) does not mention this great event, and that a similar event is again carefully recorded by the writer of Chronicles ( 1 Chronicles 21:26 ). Such a descending, kindling, lambent, and consuming fire—what a sign and token it was! What a startling testimony—to give a moment's directness of help to our own thought—such a manifestation of the elder Church would be to some finished effort of our later ecclesiastical life! It is not given, it is not to be given, to us. But never must we allow ourselves to forget that its spiritual antitype is to be believed in, sought by prayer, beheld in purest vision of the elevated spiritual imagination, and to be regarded as indispensable. It meant and its real and more spiritual fulfilment means:
1 . The notice of heaven. What a genuine help to us, to have reason to believe this, and therefore gratefully to cultivate the sense of it ! The notice of heaven means nothing, or it means the notice of God. As surely as a deep present conviction of that notice is calculated to deter from sin, so surely is it adapted to encourage us in worship, prayer, praise, meditation, and reading of the Word of God, and to dignify to us the nature of every engagement.
2 . The approval of heaven. There is much indeed that the eye of God unfailingly notices, but as unfailingly disapproves. Descending fire more than once was the proof in the history of the people of Israel of this also, but it was very different descent and of altogether differing manifestation.
3 . The actual participation and co-operation of heaven. The dedication of the temple was one thing, but the consecration of it was another, and though, indeed, it was not even such fire as this that by itself did the consecration or was of the essence of it, yet it was the evidence of it, and the visible sign and act of it. The fire of holy feeling, of devoutness, of devotion, of love, of pure adoring worship, is not of nature, nor of the ministry of man, nor of the ability of the high priest or any priest, to kindle. The kindling must come from the throne itself, whither whatsoever it is that we may have to offer is ascending. The sacrifices of prayer, of praise, of a poor, broken, contrite heart, need all and each the inspiring illumination and fire of and from the altar itself. What a thought, what a truth, for us! Our worship and our works of devotion need to be pervaded with this conviction, and if they were so, at how much higher a level would they be found, and with how much steadier life would they show themselves forth! Moments, and sometimes even hours, of our inner consciousness would in no way fall short, for impression, conviction, and surpassing joy and peace, of what were present actually now, in the rapt, and again the impassioned, experience of all Israel. That moment was indeed a moment worth a nation's living for. Read the verses (1, 2, 3) themselves. But the instance is but one of a thousand, that tell how soon impression fades away, of what may be most grand, most significant of all, when its source comes from without. The deeper things of our hearts may last longer. Let us therefore seek, honour, prize, them rather!
II. The fact that, with the finishing, dedication, and consecration of the temple, THE FULL COMPLEMENT OF THE SERVICES OF RELIGION WAS ESTABLISHED . In four particulars this is noted, viz. the unanimous effort of king and people to accomplish the full number of sacrifices; the falling of the priests into their places, and the filling of their regular offices; the same of the Levites with their instruments of music; and lastly, the hallowing of the middle of the court before the house, as an auxiliary place for the offering of burnt offerings and of the fat of the peace offerings. This was by no means the one solitary time, or the last time, that has illustrated the general principle of the utility of having the outer form and the outer institutions of the Church order in their place and in distinct prominence. While the Church is on earth, at least, the things of the eye, the things of the ear, memories, associations, company, and the stronger kinds and forces of anticipation—all help religious fidelity; they are naturally fitted to do so, and, as thus naturally adapted to high use, are not justifiably to be neglected, slighted, underrated, or presumptuously regarded, as either optional in all cases, or quite dispensable in the case of those who credit themselves with a larger measure of spiritual power and principle than belongs to others. This very assumption is, He, too generally decisive of an opposite state of things. We have at present comparatively little to do with what may prove to be the mode, the infinitely grander mode, of worship and service up above. But here the form has its importance; and if so, the righter form, or more perfect form, or more beautiful form remains to be studied and sought. Have we not even here an instance of the educative genius of sincere religion, however simple it may be? It certainly insists on "cleanliness." It certainly insists on order. And as matter of fact, and lying in the whole course of the history of the Church for eighteen centuries, how unmistakably and undeniably it has nourished all "things lovely," sights of beauty and sounds of beauty,—postulating and necessitating in turn what underlie these, viz. thoughts and feelings of beauty and of truth!
III. THE DISTINCT NOTICE RECORDED OF THE SATISFACTION THE WHOLE PEOPLE EXPERIENCED WHILE THEIR RELIGIOUS FESTIVAL LASTED —some fourteen to fifteen days— AND THEIR GRATEFUL , HAPPY MEMORIES OF IT , ON THE HIGHEST GROUNDS , as they returned and journeyed home. It was no doubt, in countless instances, on countless occasions, true that there was a humble rehearsal of the saying of the two disciples (who had journeyed to Emmaus in the holiest of company, and in the most sacred of religious instruction, and finally service of breaking of bread), "Did not our heart burn within us?" The people now returned to tent and home, "glad and merry in heart for the goodness that the Lord had showed to David, and to Solomon, and to Israel his people." There is no higher joy than religious, no better company, and no better cheer of good company.
IV. A FRESH DIVINE VISION GRANTED TO SOLOMON . This vision was granted for the threefold purpose of assuring Solomon:
1 . That his temple-prayer had been heard, and that it should be implicitly and explicitly answered from time to time. The accepted and hallowed "house of prayer," dedicate now and consecrate, should be a perpetual living oratory. There was everything now about the house and in the house to constitute it fitly such, and it is now written with authority and with promise, "My house shall be called the house of prayer." What a centre of life, of hope, of refuge, for that people unto all generations if they know and remember the day of their merciful visitation!
2 . That the Divine covenant with him should not fail, should never fail, and the Divine promise to him should be established for ever, if he remembered, and remembered to do his part involved in, the covenant. Here ancestral memories were drawn upon, and brilliant promises of the future were called in, to exercise their powerful influence, and both for the service of offering direction and warning and encouragement.
3 . That exemplary and certain and most notable retribution would be the portion of the nation if they turned away to idolatry. With simplest grandeur and force is this dread reverse (in a possible, alas! too probable future) announced, if haply the announcement may be an effectual deterrent. The people shall be plucked up by the roots, like plants from the land; the sanctified house shall be repudiated, made a by-word and a proverb, and the very mark of astonishment to all by-passers. It shall excite and awake the wondering questions of many a nation—those questions to receive one simple, faithful, but dreadful answer: "Because they forsook the Lord God … and laid hold on other gods, and worshipped and served them."
A covenant concerning the Church of God.
I. THE PARTIES .
1 . The Lord. Jehovah, the supreme and self-existent Deity ( Exodus 3:14 ), the God of nature, who can "shut up heaven," "command the locusts," "send pestilence" ( 2 Chronicles 7:13 ), as well as the God of grace, who can hear prayer, forgive sin, and heal not only land, but souls ( 2 Chronicles 7:14 ); the God of providence, who can pluck up nations by the roots, and scatter them abroad upon the face of the earth ( 2 Chronicles 7:20 ); the God of law and order, who issues statutes and commandments ( 2 Chronicles 7:19 ); the God of faithfulness and truth, who both maketh and keepeth covenant with his people ( 2 Chronicles 7:18 ); the God of believing families, who, as "the Lord God of their fathers," remembereth them the children for good ( 2 Chronicles 7:22 ); the God of justice, who is able to fulfil his threatenings as well as promises ( 2 Chronicles 7:20 ); the one living and true God, who will not tolerate the rivalry of such as are no gods ( 2 Chronicles 7:22 ).
2 . Solomon the King of Israel. The prince of peace, the head and representative of his people, their intercessor and mediator, who by sacrifices and supplications interposed between them and the all-glorious Jehovah who dwelt between the cherubim; in this respect a type of Jesus Christ, the heavenly Solomon, the true Prince of Peace ( Isaiah 9:6 ), the King of Israel par excellence ( John 1:49 ), the Head and Representative of the Church of God ( Ephesians 1:22 ), the Advocate and Intercessor for his believing people ( Hebrews 7:25 ; 1 John 2:1 ).
II. THE BASIS . Two acts of grace on the part of Jehovah towards Solomon.
1 . The acceptance of his prayer on behalf of Israel. "I have heard thy prayer" ( 2 Chronicles 7:12 ). On a similar basis Jehovah grounds his covenant with Christ concerning the Church of the New Testament, via. his acceptance of Christ's mediation and intercession—"Thou art [or, 'this is'] my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased"; "Father, I know that thou hearest me always" ( John 11:42 ).
2 . The choice of his temple as a place of sacrifice. ( 2 Chronicles 7:12 .) There can be no covenant except on a sacrificial basis ( Hebrews 9:16-20 ). For this reason emphasis was laid upon the choice of the temple as a house of sacrifice. The "house of sacrifice" in the new covenant was the temple of Christ's body ( John 2:21 ; Hebrews 10:19 , Hebrews 10:20 ).
III. THE PROMISES .
1 . For the people. That penitential prayer, accompanied with an earnest seeking of the Divine favour, and a genuine work of reformation among them, should be followed by forgiveness and its attendant signs ( 2 Chronicles 7:14 ).
2 . For the temple . That God's heart should be there perpetually ( 2 Chronicles 7:16 ), that his eyes should be open towards it, and his ears attest unto whatever prayer should in future years be made in it ( 2 Chronicles 7:15 ). So God still engages to observe every suppliant and hear every prayer made to him in Christ's Name, or with an eye to his atoning sacrifice; because his eyes and his heart are ever on the Son.
3 . For the king . That God would establish his throne according to the covenant made with David, that the throne of Israel should never want a ruler ( 2 Chronicles 7:18 ); always provided that he, the king, followed in the footsteps of David, doing all God commanded him, and observing God's statutes and judgments.
IV. THE THREATENINGS . All covenants have penalties attached to them to be inflicted as alternatives in case the covenanting party or parties fail to implement the condition on which alone the promise or promises can be bestowed (see Genesis 2:17 ). Here the penalties for disobedience were explicit, if severe.
1 . For the king. Failure of the royal line, which would terminate with himself or with a near descendant. This a clear deduction from the terms of the Davidic covenant.
2 . For the people. Plucking up by the roots from the land of their inheritance, and dispersion among the nations of the earth as a proverb and a byword ( 2 Chronicles 7:20 ).
3 . For the temple. Destruction and desolation, which should make of its lofty wails an astonishment to every one that passeth by.
1 . That God's promises of grace and salvation are all conditioned by the faith and obedience of those who receive them.
2 . That God's threatenings are as certain of fulfilment as his promises.
3 . That God's judgments can always vindicate themselves to those who reverently inquire concerning them.—W.