…when each one knows the plague of his own heart… (1 Kings 8:38)
As the work on the Temple was completed under King Solomon, “he stood before the altar of the LORD and in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands toward heaven…” He went on to plead for the mercy of God and His faithfulness to all of the promises made to his father David. His sincere desire was that God would hear from heaven the prayers of His people. The temple was central to Solomon’s understanding because God had promised: “My Name shall be there.” Solomon struggled with the idea that God would “limit Himself” to one place (“Behold heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built!”). But this was God’s intention that He might later declare to His people, “Now therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellows citizens with the saints and members of the household of God…in Whom (Christ) you are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:19, 22) It is no less astounding to us that the God Who cannot be contained in the heaven of heavens has been pleased to take up His dwelling place in the hearts of sinful creatures like you and me individually, and in His people corporately as the Body of Christ, the dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
As Solomon went on in the prayer of dedication, he anticipated the fact that the people who were gathered there that day and the people following in future generations would sin against God. They would soon forget the God they serve and the spiritual heights of that day of dedication—even Solomon himself would turn away from the LORD. It is striking that in 1 Kings 8:38, Solomon hits upon the “heart” of the matter: “…when each one knows the plague of his own heart…” People sin because their hearts are plagued with sin. In our ongoing study of the book of Leviticus, we have been noting this very fact and will see again this coming Lord’s Day that we are altogether unclean before God. Believers, in whose hearts the remnants of sin and the old nature remain, will surely fall and again be in need of God’s mercy and forgiveness in Christ. Hugh Martin, that great 19th century Scottish preacher understood this well when he wrote the following, recorded in the book, Christ For Us: Sermons of Hugh Martin, p. 145: “How hard does the Christian find it to cherish a sweet and sanctifying sense of his privileges in Christ. He may have learned to glory in the righteousness of Christ, have chosen Christ as the pearl of great price and the portion of his soul, delight in the liberty wherewith Christ makes His people free, and love to contemplate and prove with gratitude and wonder the access to God which Jesus has obtained for believing sinners by His bloodshedding and priesthood…And yet, sincerely desiring that these experiences may absolutely mould his character and rule in his heart continually, he finds that heart bent on a perpetual backsliding and greatly averse to the spirituality of always living in the love of things divine…”.
Martin goes on to give the only remedy for such a state:
“…the cure of all the plagues of the Christian heart will be found in His death. It is the death of Christ alone that has virtue in it to heal our plagues, to mortify and slay our lusts. All your resolutions, all your wise plans of surmounting and expelling your plagues, will never succeed unless you bring them continually to the cross of Christ. You must have believing communion with a crucified Savior if you are to mortify the deeds of the body, to crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts.” (ibid, p. 155)
In the words of the beloved Apostle Paul, “Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
As we gather on Sunday to remember the Lord’s death until He comes again and to receive that grace promised to those who sincerely believe in Christ alone for salvation, let us remember the plague of our own hearts and the need we have of such a glorious Savior. Solomon’s appeal is ours: “Hear in heaven Your dwelling place; and when You hear, forgive.” (1 Kings 8:30b) We offer no remedies of our own; no plans to overcome these plagues of our hearts. It is simply coming to Him in saving faith, believing all He has promised us in Christ and humbly resting upon Him Who has loved us with an everlasting love and gives us all we need when we can offer Him nothing in return. It is as the old saintly woman once said when asked what she would give to God for Christmas: “Why, what I give Him every day: my sins for His forgiveness; my weakness for His strength; my sorrow for His joy.” May it be so for all of us as we come to the Table of our Lord.
Praising Him, the Restorer of my soul,
Pastor Ted Trefsgar