When my daughters were teenagers, I came up with a crazy idea. I have always thought that kids get themselves into worse situations because they are afraid to tell their parents when they made a mistake. The fear of punishment or damaging the relationship prevents them from being honest. I was afraid that one of them would find themselves in a compromising situation and not want to call me for help, so I developed a “Get Out of Jail Free” strategy.
You may remember that in the game of Monopoly, there is a card that can be used when you land in jail that enables you to get out without paying the $200 fine. So, my “Get Out of Jail Free” offer worked like this: if they ever got into a predicament and needed a rescue, they could call me and “play” this card. That meant that I would not ask questions or mete out any punishment. I would simply come immediately and get them, no questions asked. So, any party that got out of control, any situation with peers that became too intense, anytime a boyfriend was pushing for something they didn’t want to do, etc., Mama would come with one simple phone call. Neither one of them ever used this, but there were many times when this idea of a guaranteed non-judgmental response from me was referenced when we were having conversations about things going on in their lives. They remembered my promise to be a place of safety and reminded me of it from time to time.
Everybody needs a lifeline at some point in their lives. Everybody needs one person to whom they can pour out their heart without fear of condemnation or judgment. Everybody needs a safe space.
In our scripture today, King Solomon is praying before the gathered assembly as they dedicate the temple in Jerusalem. He is reaching out to God to be a lifeline for the Israelites, reminding God of his promises to deliver the nation:
1 Kings 8 (Common English Bible)
22 Solomon stood before the Lord’s altar in front of the entire Israelite assembly and, spreading out his hands toward the sky, 23 he said:
Lord God of Israel, there’s no god like you in heaven above or on earth below. You keep the covenant and show loyalty to your servants who walk before you with all their heart. 24 This is the covenant you kept with your servant David, my father, which you promised him. Today, you have fulfilled what you promised. 25 So now, Lord, Israel’s God, keep what you promised my father David, your servant, when you said to him, “You will never fail to have a successor sitting on Israel’s throne as long as your descendants carefully walk before me just as you walked before me.”26 So now, God of Israel, may your promise to your servant David, my father, come true.
Solomon articulated his theology in this prayer. He is confirming things that the people know about God, and what God knows about the people. God keeps the covenant. God fulfills what he promises. God is loyal to his servants. The people walk before God with all their heart. There is no god like God.
Notice how many times Solomon calls upon God to listen. Is there someone in your life who simply needs you listen to them?
27 But how could God possibly live on earth? If heaven, even the highest heaven, can’t contain you, how can this temple that I’ve built contain you?28 Lord my God, LISTEN to your servant’s prayer and request, and hear the cry and prayer that your servant prays to you today. 29 Constantly watch over this temple, the place about which you said, “My name will be there,” and LISTEN to the prayer that your servant is praying toward this place.30 LISTEN to the request of your servant and your people Israel when they pray toward this place. LISTEN from your heavenly dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.
We won’t read the entire prayer today due to its length but look for indications of Israel’s understanding of God’s nature in the next two paragraphs. They knew God created and controlled the rain. They knew that God offered forgiveness of sins. They knew God had instructed them to care for the immigrants in their midst. They knew God would listen from heaven.
35 When the sky holds back its rain because Israel has sinned against you, but they then pray toward this place, give thanks to your name, and turn away from their sin because you have punished them for it, 36 then LISTEN from heaven and forgive the sin of your servants, your people Israel. Teach them the best way for them to follow, and send rain on your land that you gave to your people as an inheritance.
41 LISTEN also to the immigrant who isn’t from your people Israel but who comes from a distant country because of your reputation— 42 because they will hear of your great reputation, your great power, and your outstretched arm. When the immigrant comes and prays toward this temple, 43 then LISTEN from heaven, where you live, and do everything the immigrant asks. Do this so that all the people of the earth may know your reputation and revere you, as your people Israel do, and recognize that this temple I have built bears your name.
Is God calling you to be a safe space for someone? Is there a teenager in your life who needs a “Get Out of Jail Free Card”? Can you be a non-judgmental rescuer for someone? Do you need to listen better?
This is what God offers us. Shouldn’t we offer it to others in his name?
52 Open your eyes to your servant’s request and to the request of your people Israel. Hear them whenever they cry out to you. 53 You set them apart from all the earth’s peoples as your own inheritance, Lord, just as you promised through your servant Moses when you brought our ancestors out of Egypt.