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Questions for Reflection and Discussion – 1 Kings 8 54-66

We are studying 1 Kings 8:54-66 for Sunday, January 26; this is the finale of Solomon’s dedication of the [first] Temple in Jerusalem. [Some notes on the text are here.] Here are a few questions we might be able to think about, or discuss in class:

We seem to be forced to conclude that some time between 1 Kings 8:22 and 1 Kings 8:54, that is, some time during his prayer, Solomon got down on his knees. What does this tell us about Solomon, or about Solomon’s prayer, or both? Why do we say that?

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Verse 55 tells us Solomon “blessed all the assembly of Israel,” but verse 56 begins with the words “Blessed be YHWH,” goes on to talk about what YHWH has done, and to ask that YHWH will do even more. Is this a “blessing” in our sense of the word? (What, after all, is “a blessing” in our sense of the word?) Why, or why not? What makes it a blessing, or makes it not a blessing?

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If we look at vv57-58, Solomon seems to think God’s “not leaving or forsaking” the people is equivalent to “inclining their hearts” to God so that they will obey God. Is this what we, ourselves, mean when we ask God to be with us? What do we, ourselves, mean by that? Can we see any ways in which God’s being with us, and God’s inclining our hearts to obey God, are related in any way? How?

Does this give us any different ideas about what it means for God to “be with” people? What ideas? Why?

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The worship service described in this text concludes with sacrifices of a large number of oxen and sheep (v63). These are specifically offerings of well-being, or “peace offerings,” and according to rabbinic sources, they have the effect of drawing the community together. [See MyJewish Learning, Jewish Encyclopedia.] What do we think a huge and elaborate ritual expression of thanks and solidarity like this signifies? What in modern life seems to come closest to behavior like this? How is it similar? How different?

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The worship service described in 1 Kings 8, that concludes with the people “joyful and in good spirits,” held in a brand new, impressive place of worship, the question is: is there a relationship between the worship and the resolve or ability to walk in God’s ways, doing God’s commandments? What is the relationship? Or, is there any relationship? Does the worship help people do what they are supposed to do?

The worship service described in 1 Kings 8 takes place in a brand new, impressive place of worship; it is elaborate, awe-inspiring, and confirmed by the visible presence of the “glory of the Holy One.” The people go home “joyful and in good spirits,” freshly aware of everything God has done for people.

What is the relationship between extravagant, exuberant worship like this and people’s hearts being inclined to YHWH, walking in YHWH’s ways, and doing YHWH’s commandments after the worship is over, do we think? (e.g., Does one lead to the other? Or can it? Does worship make practice more likely, or more possible? Is one a substitute for the other? Is it a case of “it depends” – and if it is, what does it depend on?) What makes us say this?

What are the implications of our answers for us today?

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