Wednesday, January 9, 2013

EJ100 #14 1 Kings 8:1-21

Today's Essential Jesus reading: 1 Kings 8:1-21.

King David brought the ark of the covenant law to Jerusalem (a.k.a. Zion), but God wouldn't allow him to build an immoveable temple to house it; that task fell to his son, King Solomon, and this passage records the events of the ceremonial Opening Day.

The basic events of the passage are as follows:
  • King Solomon summons all the important people to his presence.
  • The priests carry the ark from its previous temporary, mobile home, the tabernacle (a.k.a. tent of meeting), sacrificing to God along the way. They bring the ark, the tabernacle and all the rest of the tabernacle's contents to the inner sanctuary of the newly built temple.
  • The priests withdraw from the Holy Place and a cloud fills the temple, just as a cloud had filled the tabernacle when it was first established [Exodus 40:34], symbolising God's presence filling the holy building.
  • Just as when the cloud filled the tabernacle Moses was prevented from entering [Exodus 40:35], the priests are prevented from entering the temple, and cannot perform their service.
  • King Solomon recognises the sign of God's presence in the temple (possibly referencing Exodus 19:9), and declares that he has built the temple for God to dwell in forever, as God promised his father David.
Some observations:

The poles on the ark are so long that they extend out from the curtains around the inner sanctuary (a.k.a. the Most Holy Place, the Holy of Holies). The poles are not visible to the common people in the inner and outer courts, but may be seen by the priests performing their regular duties in the Holy Place. It seems to me that although the ark was hidden from sight because it was the holiest of all the temple accoutrements, the priests were always to be reminded of its presence. Remembering the presence of the ark of God, thought of as the footstool of God's throne, the priests would constantly also be remembering the presence of God among them.

Solomon lets the people know that God has kept his promise [8:15, 20]. But he is also keen to let the people know that it is Solomon who has been the vehicle through whom God has kept those promises. In 8:20-21, Solomon admits "The LORD has kept the promise he made" but then goes on to make not one but four I statements about what he has done:

  1. "I have succeeded David";
  2. "I sit on the throne";
  3. "I have built the temple"; and
  4. "I have provided a place for the ark."
Solomon is all about his own glory, rather than God's, despite having built a temple whose magnificence shone forth the glory of the LORD to all who see it. This echoes the Bible's record of Solomon's temple building activities [1 Kings 6:1-38 and 7:13-51], which record is interrupted with a pointed "however", to mention that Solomon also built his own palace [1 Kings 7:1-12] and took almost twice as long doing so [compare 1 Kings 6:38 and 7:1]. Solomon's palace was virtually a temple to display his own glory, and he wanted God's temple to increase Solomon's own renown as well. King Solomon got his wish: the temple he built has historically been referred to as "Solomon's temple". But we all know Solomon's temple came tumbling down!

Despite King Solomon's attempts to usurp God's glory, it is clear that the LORD has indeed kept his promises. God has brought King David's son Solomon to the throne, just as he promised David [2 Samuel 7:12]. God has allowed Solomon to build the temple, just as he promised David [2 Samuel 7:13]. God has enabled Solomon to provide a place for the ark, the house of cedar David wanted to build, just as he promised David [2 Samuel 7:2, 13]. God always keeps his promises.

Solomon's temple was the place in space where God was officially present. He made his dwelling there, among men. Yet, Paul later confessed [Acts 17:24], "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands." Rather, Jesus is the living presence of God, dwelling among people as his nickname, Immanuel (God with us / the immanent God), attests.

In Jesus, God truly fulfilled his promise to David. God raised up David's offspring [2 Samuel 7:12], because Jesus was, through Mary and his foster father Joseph, a descendant of David [Matthew 1:1-17; Luke 3:23-37]. God built a permanent house for the LORD's name [2 Samuel 7:13], because Jesus is God, having the exact same nature and character [remember John 1:1-18Colossians 1:15-23 and Hebrews 1:1-4?]. God raised up a king whose kingdom will endure forever [2 Samuel 7:16], which kingdom Jesus is presently bringing into being [Mark 1:15]. God keeps all his promises in and through Jesus.

Since Pentecost, Christians have not looked to a temple to be reminded of God's presence among us. After Jesus ascended to heaven, he sent his Holy Spirit to dwell in the hearts of believers. This means that it is we Christians who are the temple of God, being built up by Jesus [1 Peter 2:4-7]. Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth [1 Corinthians 6:19], "Do you not know that your body are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?"

Paul wrote that, because God's Holy Spirit indwells Christians, we are to honour God with our bodies [1 Corinthians 6:20]. I honour my body not by glorifying myself (as Solomon tried to do) but by looking after my body, my mind and my soul as best I can. I have begun to eat healthily and exercise daily. I keep my mind alert with various intellectual pursuits. I spend time with God's word and in prayer daily. In all these things, not merely the last, which appears to be the most spiritual, I honour God with my body.

> What do you do to honour God with your body, since your body is a temple to the Holy Spirit?

Why do I love and worship Jesus?
Jesus is God fulfilling his promises to me for my salvation.
Jesus is "Immanuel", God dwelling with us; not in a temple made of cedar or stone, but in my heart, by his Holy Spirit.

O LORD God Almighty,
I want to honour you with my body,
since you dwell in me and have made me your temple.
I want to be able to say honestly that I am taking care
of my temple of your Holy Spirit.
I haven't been doing that health-wise for many years,
and I am sorry.
Please forgive me for treating your temple disrespectfully
and overeating until I became obese.
Please help me to eat healthily, exercise daily,
lose weight and gain health,
so that I may honour you with my physical body.

Now I'm off to do my exercise and drink my breakfast juice!

Tomorrow's reading: Jonah 1-4.

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