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But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

 

I Kings 8:37-43
March 12, 2017
St Paul's Anglican Church

"The Plague of Man's Heart"

I Kings 8:37-43
Lent II
March 12, 2017
St. Paul’s Anglican Church

“The Plague of Man’s Heart”

Before us this morning in I Kings chapter 8 is a portion of Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem in roughly 1,000 B.C. The temple took seven years to construct!

It is most worthy to note that just as we still do here at St. Paul’s, so did this wisest man of his day! He knelt down for his prayer. Verse 54 tells us he was kneeling on his knees with his hands spread up to heaven.

His entire prayer spans 43 verses; our lesson only seven. But an important seven they are! Solomon, in his wisdom, looks ahead and sees the importance of the Temple to God’s people when they meet national challenges beyond their own resources. And he lists some possibilities…

Famine – a shortage of food…

Pestilence – a national health epidemic caused by some pernicious disease, such as Cholera or Typhoid.

Blasting – a reference to hot, dry winds from the desert sands east of Palestine… which could decimate precious crops in a single day.

Mildew – the failure of crops from another quarter… funguses -- such as smut, which can destroy entire barley fields – replacing the grain heads with brown or black spores.

Locusts – those grasshopper-like creatures which fly in swarms, destroying everything in their path. A woman in a Bible study once described what she saw in her younger years in the Dakotas when a swarm came in before they could remove the clothes from the clothesline! All that remained were postage-stamp sized bits of cloth left under the fingers of the clothespins.

Caterpillars – those worm-like larval-stage creatures (dozens of different types just among butterflies) which are voracious eaters – in short order consuming everything green in gardens and trees.

Then there is the siege – enemies surrounding a walled city, neither letting anyone in or out – with the intent of starving or thirsting them to death (or into submission).

Solomon prays that during such judgments, when God’s people repent and turn to Him in prayer, that He will hear from his Throne in Heaven… forgive them… and help them.

And then Solomon, in his wisdom, lists that which no one in our “enlightened” days wants to hear! It is embarrassing to the sophisticated of the earth! Yet he is not afraid to speak it! The worst plague of all – the plague of every man’s heart! The fallen nature of mankind!

The heart is deceitful above all things, the prophet Jeremiah wrote, and desperately wicked: who can know it? Who can understand it? Or as one translation renders it: Who really knows how bad it is?

Years ago, the Bronx Zoo had a dimly-lit cage positioned on the way out which sported a sign advertising the world’s most dangerous creature of all! And when people carefully strained through the bars for a glimpse of this beast, all they could see was a mirror – showing nothing but themselves! Poignant! And a clever way to underscore Solomon’s truth!

The plague of every man’s heart!
The plague of every man’s heart!
The plague of every man’s heart!

Mankind is split right down the middle as to man’s most serious problem! One half says his most serious problem is his environment! Man is basically good according to this view, but does the evil things he does because of the conditions around of him – poverty, social injustice, lack of education, etc. This view believes that man is a “victim.”

The other half of humankind says man’s most serious problem is himself… his own heart! It is the headquarters of sin! Fallen man can turn utopia into a wasteland just like locusts or caterpillars can destroy plants! Jesus said that out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies… This view states that man is a “sinner” and the primary “cause” of this world’s miseries!

How revealing that social structures, laws, mores, and civilizations themselves rise and fall – depending on which view of man is held!

The word which King Solomon employed (and has been translated into English as plague) is the Hebrew neigh-gaw’, meaning disease… wound… plague. And a plague is a disaster… a calamity! Man’s heart is a disaster!

This sounds so negative! But though is most definitely not complimentary of mankind -- it is true! And it is liberating! Acknowledging it is the pathway to healing, growth, rectitude, and effective service for Christ.

Lent is the Season of the Church Year in which we say with the Psalmist of Israel: I will declare my iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin (38:18). It is the season when we do what Solomon wisely did: kneel and lift up our hands toward heaven… to seek the face of the Almighty.

It is the season when we humbly acknowledge to God… and with His help bravely address the plague of our own hearts!

World without end. Amen.




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