Likewise, when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a far country for your name’s sake (for they shall hear of your great name and your mighty hand, and of your outstretched arm), when he comes and prays toward this house, hear in heaven your dwelling place and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to you, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that this house that I have built is called by your name. – 1 Kings 8:41-43 ESV
1 Kings 8:22-53
It was Peter who wrote, “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him” (Acts 10:34-35 ESV). The apostle Paul seconded this sentiment when he wrote that God, “will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury … God shows no partiality” (Romans 2:6-8, 11 ESV). Solomon knew that God had chosen the people of Israel as His special possession. He was well aware of the fact that they enjoyed a unique relationship with God and were privileged to be called His people. But Solomon also understood that God was the God of all the nations. Their privileged position as His chosen people was in order that they might be a witness to the rest of the world. As they lived in obedience to God’s commands and experienced His abiding presence and power, the nations around them would stand in awe and admiration. Long before the days of Solomon, Moses had told the people, “See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?” (Deuteronomy 4:5-8 ESV).
The relationship between God and His chosen people was not intended to be exclusive, but an example of what it meant for men to live in a right relationship with God. As those outside the nation of Israel watched God work among His people and act on their behalf. they would be intrigued and attracted. As they witnessed Israel’s adherence to God’s commands and jealously watched as He blessed them abundantly, some would find themselves drawn to Israel’s God. Converts to Judaism were a regular occurrence even during the days of Solomon. He knew that there were those from foreign lands who would turn to Yahweh, “for they shall hear of your great name and your mighty hand, and of your outstretched arm.” They would show up at the newly completed temple and pray to God, and when they did, Solomon asked that God would hear them indiscriminately. He knew his God to be accepting of all those who called on Him for His name’s sake. Any who knew God to be the one true god and approached Him humbly and reverently would be heard by Him. But Solomon’s request was based on his desire for God’s glory and fame to be spread around the world and among the nations. He knew that when God heard and answered the prayers of even the non-Israelite, the news of God’s gracious favor would spread. For Solomon this meant “that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel.” He wanted everyone to know, fear and worship God as he did. He desired for God to be known among the nations. His was not a biased and bigoted view that refused to share His God with others. He simply wanted the glory and greatness of his God to be known among all men.
It is interesting to juxtapose Solomon’s outlook with that of the religious leaders in Jesus’ day. They had become intolerant of and even hateful toward anyone who did not measure up to their exacting standards – Jew and Gentile alike. They looked down their noses at Jesus and the disciples. They despised the Romans. They treated the common people with derision. They were far more concerned with their own glory than they were with God’s. Their reputations were far more important to them than His. Yet Solomon begged that God would hear the prayers of the foreigner indiscriminately and answer graciously and mercifully. Why? So that God’s fame and glory might spread. Is that my desire? Do I want to see God’s fame spread among the nations? Do I ask that God would hear the cries of all those who call out to Him, so that they might see the goodness and glory of God? Perhaps if we were more interested in God’s glory being spread, we would care more interested in sharing the good news of God’s grace among the nations. If we really wanted God’s fame to fill the earth, we would more readily desire to see God’s power to be revealed among all people. We would also want to see to it that we illustrated what it looks like to have the God of the universe intimately involved in the everyday affairs of life. We would want our lives to be a testimony to God’s goodness, grace, and glory – “in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you.”