Today’s Reading: 1 Kings 8:22-53
Many religions hold particular places as important to their faith. Today the most obvious one is Islam. There are five pillars or key tenets of Islam. They are considered basic practices and demonstrations of the adherent’s true faith. The five tenets are:
These duties are:
- Shahadah (profession of faith),
- Salat (prayers)
- Sawm (fasting)
- Zakat (giving of alms specifically during Ramadan)
- Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca, he place where the most famous Islamic temple is located)
Two of these five pillars of the faith are specifically tied to a place – Mecca. Mecca is an ancient trading point on the Arabian peninsula. In Mecca is Masjid al Haram, the largest mosque in the world. Within the Masjid al Haram is the Kaaba. The Kaaba appears to be a monolithic black obelisk, but it is actually a building. It is believed that the building is from the time of Abraham.
As a part of the 2nd pillar of Islam, Muslims must pray five times a day. When they pray, they pray facing Mecca. There is a whole industry of products that help a faithful Muslim insure that they are praying in the right direction. Their prayer rugs have an arrow on them to point towards Mecca and thus the Masjid al Maram and thus the Kaaba.
As a part of the 5th pillar of Islam, Muslim people make a pilgrimage to Mecca to circle the Kaaba. During the month of Ramadan, millions of Muslim faithful make the pilgrimage. Is is the goal of every good Muslim to make the Hajj, at least once in their lives.
I shared all that history and culture into the faith of Islam because it so closely aligns with today’s reading.
As Solomon dedicates the newly built temple, he makes a list of things the Jewish people are to do in relation to the temple. The temple is a new focal point of their faith. Not that it replaces God, but that it becomes a focal point or representation of God’s presence in their midst.
In the prescribed text (1 Kings 8:22-53) we see that the temple was a place:
- where prayers were to be directed vs. 29 – 30
- where justice is served vs. 31 – 32
- of repentance vs. 33 – 34, 46 – 47
- of forgiveness vs. 35 – 36, 48 – 51
- of supplication vs. 37 – 40, 44 – 45, 52 – 53
- of adoration (wherever you are) vs. 41 – 43
It might be surprising to us to see that at one point the people of Israel were told to pray in a manner that is very similar to modern day Islam and Muslims. Actually, it should not surprise you. Islam is a religion that finds its roots in Judaism and Christianity. Many Muslim precepts, tenets and teachings come directly from the Old Testament, just like this one.
But you and I as Christians do not pray towards the temple. You and I do not focus our prayers towards an object of religious importance. Jesus came and changed all of that.
Matthew 12:6 (NLT)
6I tell you that one greater than the temple is here.
John 2:18 – 22 (NLT)
18Then the Jews demanded of him, "What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?"
19Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days."
20The Jews replied, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?" 21But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 22After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.
Today, we have new direction on prayer, a direction that does not include a direction to a building or a city.
Matthew 6:5 15 (NLT)
5"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 6But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
9"This, then, is how you should pray:
" ‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
11Give us today our daily bread.
12Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.[a]‘ 14For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
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