1 Kings 8:37–40 (ESV)

37 “If there is famine in the land, if there is pestilence or blight or mildew or locust or caterpillar, if their enemy besieges them in the land at their gates, whatever plague, whatever sickness there is,

1 Kings 8:37–40 has a wider perspective than the previous possible situation, for it takes into consideration famine, sickness, blight or mildew, locust, or whatever other kind of plague there might be. Not only does this section deal with a variety of different circumstances, but it also shows that these circumstances may lead either individuals or the whole nation to turn to the Lord in prayer. 1 Kings 8:38 contains the phrase knowing the affliction of his own heart, and it is followed by a reference to the forgiveness of sin. This appears to indicate that knowing the affliction of his own heart indicates more than a knowledge that the person is suffering, but that he is aware of the reason for affliction to come upon him. That person would be seeking the forgiveness for which Solomon’s prayer asked.

There are at least two important doctrinal issues that these verses bring before us. The first of these is what theologians call the omniscience of God; that is, he knows all things. This doctrine is found in the language that confesses that it is only the Lord who understands what is in the hearts of human beings.

The other important doctrinal issue has to do with the fear of the Lord. Solomon mentions many different circumstances in which the people will pray and seek an answer from God. But most important to him is that those who pray will learn from the answer that they receive that God is to be feared. The fear of the Lord is an issue that causes a bit of misunderstanding, because we often associate fear with terror. The fear that Solomon is speaking of, however, is not terror but a sense of holy reverence for the one who is able to answer such a multitude of different kinds of prayer. It is similar to the fear exhibited by the disciples when Jesus calmed the storm upon the Sea of Galilee.

It is a difficult lesson to learn that reverent fear and love can go together. Indeed, they ought to go together. Prayer itself is based upon the assumption that we are communicating to a Being who does have control over the lives of us and those around us, as well as nature itself. If we did not believe in his power, then why speak to him as we do? Yet there is another question to ask. Why do we so often pray without exhibiting reverence toward the one of whom we are asking great things? We are taking God for granted, treating Him as if he were our servant. It is especially necessary, when we ask for forgiveness, that we understand how great that forgiveness is. We should have the same fear that we have if, by God’s grace, we escape from a life-threatening disaster. We should ask ourselves what would be the result if God did not forgive us? And the answer to that question is that we should be eternally condemned!