In yesterday's reading, we saw that when God's glory filled the Temple by the sign of the bright cloud, the priests could no longer see to minister within and had to go out to the court (5:13-14). At this point, Solomon stood to bless all the people and address them with a beautiful sermon. He firstly blessed God, then He gave a brief testimony to God's faithfulness. God had fulfilled His promise to David and the completion of the Temple attested to this fact. He had also fulfilled His words spoken to Moses concerning the place on which He would put His Name once the children of Israel were established in the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 12:5); that place was Jerusalem (6:5-6). King Jesus, the Son of David, who fufilled God's promise to David, will reign forever upon the heavenly throne of the New Jerusalem.
In Solomon's prayer of dedication, he humbly bowed down upon his knees. Though he was the greatest and wisest king, he publicly acknowledged that he was but a servant whom his sovereign God had chosen to administer His kingdom. (For more notes on Solomon's prayer, see commentary on 1 King 8.) Solomon's role was to administer justice, but he acknowledged that justice ultimately comes from God who "brings retribution on the wicked..., and justifies the righteous" (6:21-23).
The main emphasis of Solomon's prayer was his petition that God would listen to His people Israel when they faced His Temple and prayed (their hearts symbolically looking toward Him). Solomon listed several possible circumstances wherein Israel would suffer divine punishment for their sin. These included: when Israel would be defeated by an enemy (6:24); when there would be a drought (6:26), a famine, or a plague (6:28); when Israel would go out to battle (6:34); and even when the people's sin would lead to their captivity (6:36). All of these were fulfilled during the course of Israel's history.
In each instance, Solomon prayed that God would hear their prayer when they repented and confessed their sins, and that He would forgive them. It is all summed up by 1 John 1:9 — "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
Another petition of Solomon clearly explains the purpose of Israel: to be a witness for all nations, that they too might come to God and receive forgiveness of sins and answers to their prayers. Foreigners (Gentiles) were to be welcomed at God's Temple, that they also might worship Him and thus have an equal status with God's redeemed people. Sadly, history proved that the Hebrews lost this missionary vision and excluded Gentiles from worshipping with them.
The conclusion of Solomon's prayer focused again upon the Temple but also mentioned the priesthood. He prayed that they might be "clothed with salvation", since through their mediation, the worshippers received God's atonement and salvation from their sin. Believers in Jesus today are likewise a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9), clothed with salvation (Isaiah 61:10), and are to put on the whole armour of God (Ephesians 6:10-17) that our lives may be pleasing to Him.