Henry Co See Cho Associate Professor (Biblical Studies)
Translated by Belinda Chan
“You shook hands, received your graduation certificate, the tassel was moved to the other side, and bowed to the faculty team. Just as you prepared to turn around and face the audience, a voice boomed, “Now please share your graduation thoughts in 90 seconds.” After you tried to gather yourself, how would you start your speech at that moment?
After seven years, the temple was finally completed. The leaders of the people of Israel and the priests gathered in front of the newly constructed temple. For about a minute and a half, Solomon shared his “word of building the temple” (2 Chronicles 6:4-12).1
“Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, who with his hands has fulfilled what he promised with his mouth to my father David.” (2 Chronicles 6:4, NIV) Strangely enough, the king did not begin his speech by priding himself in being the chief superintendent of the construction project. It was the God of Israel whose mouth ordained the project and whose hands brought it to completion. God kept His promise for Solomon’s father, not Solomon himself. Solomon’s role was made invisible, and he did not attempt to claim any credit for it.
Then Solomon quoted a passage from God to his father David (vv. 5-6), in which the most frequent word was “chosen”. In verse 5, God mentioned that he did not choose any city as the site of his temple, nor did he choose anyone to be his people’s leader. Solomon’s remarks were quite shocking. After all, did the crowds not gather here to celebrate Solomon’s glorious achievements in the building of the magnificent temple? To our surprise, through God’s word, Solomon essentially rendered the presence of the temple and his own efforts unnecessary. Nonetheless, that was undoubtedly the message from God. Neither a brilliant leader nor a gorgeous building is indispensable to God and to His people. God chose the person or the building not by his virtues or its functions. On the contrary, He chose solely by His grace. When we leave our campus, we are bound to feeling self-doubt. But here Solomon is telling us the fact that we are chosen actually has nothing to do with our talents. We are chosen solely by grace.
In the following three verses (vv. 7-9), Solomon explained how the work of building the temple fell on his shoulders. His father, David, devoted himself to building a temple for God’s name, but was not allowed by God. Solomon used the phrase “in his heart” or “did well” three times (also translated as “David/your heart”) to refer to David’s intention to build a temple for God. God responded in verse 8: “The Lord said to my father David, ‘Because you have it in your heart to build a temple for my name, you have done well, because you have it in your heart to do so.” (author’s translation) God did not compliment on the content of this intention (as indicated by the Chinese Union Version). He said David “did well” because he always had it in his heart. God made David king to fight off national enemies, not to build a temple. In David’s opinion, this brought regret to his life. However, in God’s eyes, while David had no chance to put the final brick on top of the temple, he had always kept it in his heart. And for that, God said he “did well”.
“Well done” is often associated with “well achieved”. However, we will soon learn that, due to various kinds of constraints and interruptions, our ministry experience is more often than not marked with ill-achieved objectives or half-accomplished endeavors. The more we want to serve God, the more experiences of “not-so-well-achieved” we may have. Nonetheless, God does not regard a devoted servant as this with “regrets”, but a good servant who “did well”.
Summarizing God’s promise in verse 9, Solomon then said, “The Lord has kept what he had said, and I have risen to sit on the throne of Israel in place of my father David, just as what the Lord had said. I have built this temple for the Lord, the God of Israel.” (verse 10, author’s translation). “Keep” and “rise” are the same verb in Hebrew. Solomon knew very well the fact that he could ascend to the throne, build the temple and leave his legacy for ages was all because of the word of God. As he said at the outset, “God has fulfilled what He said with His mouth.” And that is the very reason why Solomon was able to humble himself: he did not boast about his strength, as his status and achievements were not a result of his own doing; nor did he fret about his weakness, worrying that he would disappoint God. This is because by the power of God’s word, he has become the right person who appears in the right place at the right time.
I am not sure if Solomon’s one and a half minute speech had won much applause, but while his voice faded into silence, what still lingered in the hearts of everyone as words of praise and singing should be: “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel!”
1. Referenced from the Hebrew Bible Audio Version narrated by Rabbi Abraham Shmuelof. This selected piece lasts about a minute and a half. Website: http:// www.mechon-mamre.org/mp3/t25b06.mp3 (accessed on 1 June 2019).