What a wonderful time in the history of Israel that we are reading about in today’s reading. It was a time of unprecedented peace, prosperity, and religious awareness. Solomon’s intellectual powers and faithfulness were seemingly at their peak. The loosely organized nation of tribes had matured into a united, God-blessed nation. Cities, palaces, and fortifications were being built; and armies were standing guard and projecting power among surrounding nations. Best of all the beautiful first Temple of the Lord was built. Today’s reading looks at a few of the details of that monumental building, its dedication, and its “warning label”.
But before we launch into some of those details, let’s do just a little clarification housekeeping. There are lots of measurements and other given among these verses today, but many of them will be unfamiliar to us.
- cubit — approx. 18″
- handbreadth — approx. 4-5″
- span — approx. 9-10″
- bath — approx 9 gallons
- the Millo — there used to be a deep gully between the City of David (the old Jerusalem) and the Temple Mount (a.k.a., Araunah’s threshing floor or Mt. Moriah). Solomon, to enlarge Jerusalem and make the Temple more accessible filled in the gully. The word Millo means “the fill”
- the feast (8:2) — the Feast of Booths, which follows the Day of Atonement in the 7th month (approx. October)
Hopefully, that will help you understand a little more the scale of the building that Solomon was taking on as a young man — and other things.
Now that the housekeeping is done, let’s move on to the items of interest in the text. For example…
Solomon gave the Lord a house better than his own — Have you ever thought about the effort you put into your own house, compared with the amount of effort you put into building up the Temple (the church) of the Lord today? And no, of course, I’m not talking about how the physical building you meet in might be looking (although if it’s like many a church building, it could use a little work); I’m talking about the strength of the beams (the leaders), the gilding of the stones (helping encourage or teach the individual members), the adding additional stonework (evangelism). Solomon knew what kind of house was worthy for the LORD; are we just content to let the local “house” we worship with get run down and ramshackle? We sometimes talk pejoratively about “keeping house”, but are we even doing that well? Just something to think about.
A house of prayer — In places like Matt. 21:13 Jesus, in His zeal to cleanse the second Temple, quotes Isa. 56:7, “My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.” But Isaiah is not really the first reference to the Temple being a house of prayer; the main thrust of Solomon’s prayer in 1 Kgs. 8 is that it should be a house of prayer for: all Israel (v.30), all repentant sinners (v. 31), for the nation in defeat (v.33), for the nation in drought (v.35), for the nation in famine (v.37), for foreigners (v. 41), for the army of Israel going out to battle (v.44), and for the captive and exiled (v.46). And the church, God’s temple today, should also be a place of prayer for one another, in trouble or distress, in sin and struggle, in temptation and trial, and also in intercession for those not yet in Christ.
Not one word has failed — “Blessed be the LORD, who has given rest to His people Israel, according to all that he promised; not one word has failed of all His good promise, which he promised through Moses His servant.” (1 Kgs. 8:56). A similar memorial was proclaimed in Joshua 21:45. And it will be shouted again by His people in the glory of Heaven. God’s promises are sure. He doesn’t waver or hedge. The problem has always been keeping faith on our end.
A warning label — God accepted Solomon’s Temple and promised to indeed listen to the prayers directed to it, but God also wanted Solomon to realize a really important spiritual fact: having God’s Temple near doesn’t guarantee safety (physical or spiritual) if we choose to disobey. In Jeremiah 7:4, Jeremiah’s contemporaries were warned to no trust in the deceptive concept that God would never let His Temple be destroyed. Can this principle not apply to the deceptive notion that “We’re going to church. We’re going to church. We’re going to church”? Is going to church important — well yeah. But church attendance doesn’t carry the guarantee of Heaven. Starting a church doesn’t guarantee Heaven. Leading a church doesn’t guarantee Heaven. Following Jesus faithfully guarantees Heaven.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.