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Would you please pray with me again?
Our Father in heaven, You alone can establish the work of our hands. We ask for Your help tonight in the preaching, the hearing, and the responding to Your words. That by the power of Your Holy Spirit, You would use the text of Holy Scripture to build us up to make us more like Your Son, eager to worship You, eager to respond to Your provision, and we ask this all in the name of Your only son, Jesus the Messiah, both the founder and perfector of our faith. Amen.
Will you open your copy of God’s word and turn with me to 1 Kings, chapter 5? As both Pastor Kevin and my wife pointed out this morning, this is a lot of text. We’re not gonna read all of both chapters, but I do wanna start in chapter 5, read a few verses, and then we’ll jump to chapter 6 to really dive into the study of the Temple.
First Kings, chapter 5:
“Hiram king of Tyre sent his servants to Solomon when he had heard they anointed him king in place of his father. For Hiram always loved David. If Solomon sent word to Hiram, you know that David my father could not build a house for the name of Lord his God because of the warfare with which his enemies surrounded him, until the Lord put them under the soles of his feet. But, now the Lord my God has given me rest on every side. There is neither adversary nor misfortune, and so I intend to build a house for the name of the Lord my God. The Lord said to David, my father, your son, whom I will set on your throne in your place, shall build the house for my name. Now therefore command the cedars of Lebanon to be cut for me and my servants will join your servants and I will pay you for your servants such wages as you set; for you know that there is no one among us who knows how to cut timber like the Sidonians. As soon as Hiram heard the words of Solomon, he rejoiced greatly, and said, blessed be the Lord this day, who has given to David a wise son to be over this great people.”
Now go down with me, continue the chapter 6, and we’ll start in verse 1.
“In the four hundred and eightieth year after the people of Israel came out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month Zif, which is the second month, he began to build the house of the Lord. The house that King Solomon built for the Lord, was 60 cubits long, twenty cubits wide, and thirty cubits high. The vestibule and front of the nave of the house was twenty cubits long, equal to the width of the house, and ten cubits deep in front of the house. And he made for the house, windows with recessed frames. He also built a structure against the wall of the house running around the walls of the house, both the nave and the inner sanctuary. And he made side chambers all around. The lowest story was 5 cubits broad, the middle one was 6 cubits broad, and the third was 7 cubits broad. For around the outside of the house, he made offsets in the wall in order that the supporting beams should not be inserted into the walls of the house. When the house was built, it was with stone prepared at the quarry so that neither hammer nor ax nor any tool of iron was heard in the house while it was being built. The entrance for the lowest story was on the south side of the house, and one went up by stairs to the middle story, and from the middle story to the third. So, he built the house and finished it, and he made the ceilings of the house of beams and planks of cedar. He built a structure against the whole house 5 cubits high and it was joined to the house with timbers of cedar.”
“Now the word of the Lord came to Solomon. Concerning this house that you are building, if you will walk in my statutes and obey my rules and keep all my commandments and walk in them, I will establish my Word with you, which I spoke to David, your father. And I will dwell among the children of Israel and will not forsake my people Israel. So, Solomon built the house and finished it. He lined the walls of the house on the inside with boards of cedar. From the floor of the house to the walls of the ceiling, he covered them on the inside with wood and he covered the floor of the house with boards of cypress. He built 20 cubits of the rear of the house with boards of cedar from the floor to the walls. He built this within as an inner sanctuary, as the most holy place. The house that is the nave in front of the inner sanctuary was 40 cubits long. The cedar within the house was carved in the form of gourds and open flowers. All was cedar. No stone was seen. The inner sanctuary, he prepared in the innermost part of the house to set there the arc of the covenant of the Lord. The inner sanctuary was 20 cubits long, 20 cubits wide, and 20 cubits high and he overlaid it with pure gold. He also overlaid an altar of cedar and Solomon overlaid the inside of the house with pure gold, and he drew chains of gold across in front of the inner sanctuary and overlaid it with gold. And he overlaid the whole house with gold until all the house was finished. Also, the whole altar that belonged to the inner sanctuary, he overlaid with gold.”
“In the inner sanctuary, he made two cherubim of olive wood, each 10 cubits high. Five cubits was the length of one wing of the cherub, 5 cubits the length of the other wing of the cherub; it was 10 cubits from the tip of one wing to the tip of the other. The other cherub also measured 10 cubits. Both cherubim had the same measure and the same form. The height of one cherub was 10 cubits and so was that of the other cherub. He put the cherub in the innermost part of the house. And the wings of the cherubim were spread out so that a wing of one touched the one wall and a wing of the other cherub touched the other wall. Their other wings touched each other in the middle of the house. And he overlaid the cherubim with gold. Around all the walls of the house, he carved engraved figures of cherubim and palm trees and open flowers in the inner and outer rims. The floor of the house he overlaid with gold in the inner and outer rooms.
“For the entrance to the inner sanctuary, he made doors of olive wood. The lintel and the door posts were 5-sided. He covered the two doors of olive wood with the carvings of cherubim, palm trees and open flowers. He overlaid them with gold and spread gold on the cherubim and on the palm trees. So also he made for the entrance to the nave, door posts of olive wood in the form of a square, and the two doors of cypress wood. The two leaves of one door were folding and the two leaves of the other door were folding. On them, he carved cherubim and palm trees and open flowers, and he overlaid them with gold evenly applied on the carved work. He built the inner court with three courses of cut stone and one course of cedar beams.”
“In the fourth year, the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid in the month of Zif. And in the eleventh year, in the month of Bul, which is the eight month, the house was finished in all its parts according to all its specifications. He was seven years in building it.”
Well between this text and the text this morning, I’m sure you’ve heard about as many numbers from scripture as you can handle. The specifications, as we’ll see tonight, are part of what make this text glorious to us. We come in our study on the life of King Solomon to what is probably the most important accomplishment of his reign. You might, or other people might, find it easier to remember Solomon for his famous wisdom in the episode of asking God that we heard preached several weeks ago. Or maybe you remember Solomon for his tragic downfall caused by his taking literally hundreds of lives. But of the 11 chapters we have in the book of 1 Kings detailing Solomon’s life, this large portion here is given to the preparation, construction and dedication of the temple. It takes up not just the largest portion of verses in Solomon’s life, but it’s also the central, the physical central point, of the narrative. And if you were to skip ahead to 2 Chronicles where Solomon’s story is retold again in eight chapters, six of them are devoted to the temple narrative.
Many of you might have asked this question about your own life. I know it’s been a point of conversation among my own friends sometimes; but when was your peak? When was the moment in your life, the season in your life where you enjoyed, you know, the most success, you earned the most accomplishments, or you felt most fulfilled; that peak moment. Maybe you’re looking forward to retirement when you’ll just have full control of your days. Maybe you’re thinking right now, surrounded by your family, this feels like your peak. Hopefully, you’re not thinking back to your high school athletic career, but I get it, I get it. The human author of Kings and the divine author of Israel’s history want us as the reader to understand that the peak of Solomon’s life is here with the preparation, construction and, later on, dedication of the temple.
The temple is so important in this narrative and therefore so important to God’s people for several reasons, many of them you well know. Obviously, it’s the center of Israel’s worship. It’s the center sometimes of medical care where you would go to be declared clean. But among many of those reasons, chapter 6, which we just read, and chapter 5 introduces the temple as important specifically because it is the answer to a question that has plagued the Israelites since they were slaves in Egypt.
It’s a question you may ask, another one, of yourself. How do I know that God is with me? How do I know that God is who He says He is? How do I know that what God says will happen will happen? And the answer here is given for us in 1 Kings 5 and 6, at least in partial fulfillment in a partial picture to God’s people of Israel. The temple itself is a picture of God’s faithfulness. The temple itself becomes the answer. And this is our first point this evening. When you’re trying to answer the question of what is the answer to God’s promise. I’m waiting for God’s promises. What is it going to look like? Will God do what He says He will do? Well 1 Kings, chapters 5 and 6 give us a hint that, in part, God’s promises are revealed to his people and revealed to you tonight in projects, in building projects.
The temple constructed here in chapter 6 is a picture of God’s faithfulness to his people here in Kings. It’s a picture of his faithfulness to Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob, to David. And even though you and I can’t see the temple today in all of its splendor, it’s a picture of God’s faithfulness to us. The promises to God are fulfilled in projects because now Solomon has the means and opportunity, not only to honor God but also to walk with him, to see God’s presence in his own life.
Look back with me at verse 1 of chapter 6, and we’ll see how the author frames this construction project. Normally if you’re laying out blueprints, you don’t start with a history lesson, but this is where our author goes this evening. He says, “In the four hundred and eightieth year after the people of Israel came out of the land of Egypt.” The text connects the exodus with the construction of the temple. Because Israel wasn’t just freed from slavery, they weren’t just let go. They weren’t just redeemed and then God didn’t leave them to their own devices. They were freed from slavery and led into God’s presence. And notice also how chapter 6 over and over and over again, even though it’s talking about what we all know is the temple, it uses the language of the a house. It describes God’s house. And also, if you were to peek ahead, no spoilers for next week, but you’ll see that chapter 7 describes the construction of Solomon’s own house, pairs here; a pair of houses. The author wants us to know that the temple isn’t just a structure where Israelites go to worship it’s a structure where someone lives. It’s a home. It is the dwelling place of God. The word for temple is not actually used until the end of chapter 7.
God’s answer to the question, how do you know that God is with you, how do you know his promises are true is this. I, the Lord your God will give you the means and the opportunity to build my temple. I will give you everything you need to build the place that is proof that I’m your God and you are my people.
The refrain, this idea that building projects mean fulfilled promises is a pretty common one in scripture. You might think of some, some popular building projects from scripture, Noah’s Arc, massive undertaking. A picture of the promise that God made to him to preserve him in the judgement of the world. Also the altar that Abraham builds when he goes to sacrifice Isaac, a daunting task, but a project he undertakes in faith knowing that God has promised to make him a father and a father of many nations. The author of Hebrews lets us in on a secret that Abraham believed God could even raise Isaac from the dead. Often times in scripture, when God’s people start to build something when they set out to build something, it’s because of promises that are being fulfilled by God.
You and I actually tend to think this way too. When we construct things, most of the time if it’s gonna well, we construct out of confidence. We build from a place of confidence. You build a house, order materials, sign with contractors when interest rates are good, when they’re low. Or you might think of starting a business when you have all the capital you need or when you have the right partners. We try not to undertake big daunting tasks, big daunting projects when we’re shaky. I don’t know what that says about preaching a sermon as a seminary student, but I’ll rest my case here.
Your faith in God is no different. When His promises become real to you, when they are realized in your life, they’re meant to build you up. They’re meant to imbue you with a sense of confidence. The presence of God as the fulfillment of a promise brings you the peace that Solomon describes in chapter 5. He knew that when God had honored his promise to his father David, that was his chance to undertake something in the name of the Lord. And actually, if you noticed Hiram, King of Tyre, who Solomon reaches out to get materials to get labor from, is not an Israelite. When Solomon realizes that he has the peace, the provision from God to do something in the Lord’s name, what does he do? He actually goes out to a pagan and says, “You’re the best. I want you to join with me in honoring my God.” And maybe what’s even more amazing than that is that Hiram rejoices. In verse 7 of chapter 5, as we read, Hiram heard the words of Solomon and rejoiced greatly. He praises the Lord and he praises Solomon. Actually scripture attests that Solomon’s invitation to a non-Israelite to participate in the building of the temple is an example of Solomon’s wisdom. It’s another gift from the Lord.
As we think about this this evening and we remember that our faith is no different, that when you have peace, when you feel a sense of peace from the Holy Spirit, when you can see testimonies of peace the Lord is inviting you to do the same thing. He’s inviting you to join in his worship and invite others. Identify as a member of his people, and invite others to join you in that same process of identification. Proclaim God’s name yourself and share it with those around you.
By the largest portion of our text, the actual pieces of the temple help us understand that when God fulfills promises He’s doing more than just answering questions, and He is doing more than just moving the narrative along. When God fulfills a promise, He’s not just crossing some things off of his redemptive to do list. If you think about a bad example of this, when you go to the doctor’s office, what do you always have to do? You have to sit and wait and fill out form after form after form, no offense doctors but we can clean that process up; it’s 2023, everything’s digital now. You have just a list of things that you need to check off before you get inside to get the treatment and care that you need.
Redemptive history, God’s fulfillment of processes in history is not like filling out your medical forms. It’s a lot more like waiting in line for a ride at Disney World. If you’ve ever been to Disney World you know that they take great care with making sure that, even when you’re waiting on the thing that you’re there for, you’re having a good experience. As you go through the line, you’re greeted with sights and sounds and sometimes smells. Sometimes the characters from the movie or the game will come out and they’ll talk to you. And the whole time you get closer and closer. You learn more about what’s coming. You get more excited for what’s ahead. God’s promises are the same ways. He makes Himself known through his promises, which brings us to our second point this evening.
God’s promises reveal his person. Let’s focus on the exterior portion of the temple here as it’s described. The first thing we notice besides weird words like “vestibule” and “nave” that we don’t really use. A nave is just the opening or a door of a building, and a vestibule is like a lobby. So, you can think of the lobby of the temple here and the door’s out here. This is what we’re describing. And as we go through there, we see the measurements. If you were to look back in Exodus, these measurements here, the cubits that we read, mark out the temple as being the same proportions as the tabernacle, but double the size. The tabernacle where God’s people carried along God’s dwelling place, it was temporary, was a shadowy picture of what the temple would be. When God would actually plant his people firmly in their land and then give them the means and the opportunity to build a permanent structure to meet him. It’s twice the size. It’s bigger. It’s better.
We also see, beyond the measurements, that Solomon actually builds more structures outside of the temple itself. He surrounds it with rooms. I don’t know if they were for storage or if they were for priests to use, but he actually includes more space in support of the ministry of the temple. And he takes great care in doing so. He builds this structure in a sort of weird space where on the edges of the temple, he’s constructed a sort of stair stepping platform of supports so that they don’t have to dig into the temple itself. He’s all about preserving the integrity of the interior structure. This is why the rooms on the outside are smaller on the bottom and bigger on top because they’re being built as a sort of stair stepping structure; also, that the most important place, the priority of worship can be preserved in the interior. Also notice a sort of odd, one odd verse. It says as Solomon builds the house, the stones are prepared at the quarry so that neither hammer nor ax nor any tool of iron was heard in the house while it was being built in verse 7. This probably is a reference to commands in Exodus and Deuteronomy where God instructed his people that they wouldn’t use tools to hammer out stones and build altars for him because even the tools that the Israelites used weren’t holy enough to be a part of the construction of God’s worship. Solomon is applying this big picture principle of reverence and worship that he applies to preserving the interior of the temple and even building it. They make it harder on themselves so that they can preserve and honor God’s holiness.
This whole structure speaks to whose house it is. Just like the White House is stately and orderly and the interior rooms have a logic to them. Just like Buckingham Palace is big and grand and beautiful and has all these guards with tall hats around it, the exterior of the building speaks to whose inside. The care taken with construction, the beauty of the finished product are appropriate for the royal resident within. This speaks to how you must approach the worship of your own God today, with reverence. Even though we don’t worship in the same temple, we take care with how we come to meet God. God is holy. There is a weight to meeting with him. There is a weight that must be brought as you come into His presence, as you worship Him there’s a reverence that we owe a holy God.
Notice though, as the description of the exterior of the temple is being concluded, that is where the Lord comes to meet Solomon, and He says this, He makes promises again concerning this house in verse 12 that you are building, “If you will walk in my statutes and obey my rules and keep all my commandments and walk in them, then I will establish my Word with you, which I spoke to David your father and I will dwell among the children of Israel and will not forsake my people, Israel.”
Just as the author wants us to focus on how serious, how reverent the construction of the temple looks, he invites us to participate in the grace of God. Any time you see that word “I will dwell,” when God is speaking to his people, the alarm bell should be ringing. This is what theologians often call the Immanuel Principle. The promises that God makes to his people in history, that He will live with them. It is the gracious will of God that carves out places for His people to worship Him in spirit and truth to profess His name. God made Solomon wise and wealthy. God gave the builders skills. God grew the trees. He put the gold in the earth. He gave Solomon rest from his enemies so that His people could worship Him the right way.
Titus chapter 2:11-14 explains the gracious aspect of God’s commands in this way. It says, “For the grace of God has appeared bringing salvation to all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us for all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works.” The God who is both holy and gracious has the power and takes the care to govern your worship, to govern my worship so that we can respond as his redeemed people with reverence.
But there is another aspect to God’s promises that are revealed in the construction of the temple. As we move on to the interior of the structure, God’s promises realized in the temple reveal His person, but they also reveal His purpose. Again, look back at verses 11-13. The focus shifts with these covenant promises. God wants Solomon and he wants His readers to know that once you get to know me, you get to know my plan. You get to know what I am doing, my promise to dwell with you. And as we look through the interior, we tour the sort of middle and interior rooms of the temple. What sticks out to us? Notice these.
First of all over and over again, the author reminds us that Solomon doesn’t use stone in most of the temple. All anyone can see at first is wood. He takes great care to use this. And then he covers it all with gold. How many times did we read “gold” as we made our way through chapter 6 here? It just seems like you can’t get away from it. Gold on this and gold on that and gold chains and gold overlaid. I don’t know where they got it all, how they made floors out of it, how they kept it clean. But I do know this; it was a sight to behold. It was shiny. You think of pretty much like any movie or TV show ever when they’re like opening up a treasure chest and the whole room is illuminated. That’s what I have to imagine it would be like for the priests who get into the temple; is that the lamp stands are burning and the light from the gold is bouncing around like when you zero in on a diamond and you pass through some light and it just electrifies the room.
We also see this in verses 18 and 29 and 35 for example, that there are carvings all over. So it’s not just flat gold, it’s not just flat wood, but there are gourds and flowers and fruits and angels carved into all of these different surfaces. And you might begin to see where I am going with this. And the last thing I want to point out before we get there is the angels, the angelic beings who stand guard around the innermost sanctuary. That place where only the high priest was supposed to go, where the Arc of the Covenant, the ultimate picture of God’s dwelling place would be.
What other place or places in scripture have all of this? They have wood. They have gold. They are full of life, fruit and trees and plants and angelic guards. We were meant to think here of the Garden of Eden, of the last place where God had a fixed and permanent living with His people. We’re meant to know that just as God dwelled with His people before, just as God is dwelling in part with His people now in the temple, thus God will dwell with His people in the future. He will dwell with you in the future.
Sadly that’s not where the description ends. The last thing to be described once we make our way out of the golden gardens here are doors, are the barriers to entry. See you and I as we read this text and we’re confused cuz we’re not architects and we don’t know exactly how this all fit together and what all this work, we’re actually in the same position as most of the Israelites would have been. We would not have been able to see into this glorious structure. We would have had to read and hear and trust that it was as beautiful as it sounds. This exercise of faith is one that preys on the Israelites’ and our, that capitalizes on the Israelites’ and our desire to be a part of good things.
When they open that treasure chest in the movie that they’ve been searching for all along, you’re like, oh, what would it be like if I could find a ton of lost gold? Or whatever your treasure chest is. If it’s the candy aisle at the store or if it’s the Thanksgiving dinner table, whatever that place is that you just know, man there’s beauty there and I want to be a part of it. That is what should be triggered when we are invited to consider the beauty but reminded of the barriers to entry.
We trust God’s words. We trust the words of His holy scripture that one day we will be invited to share in this beauty. We will be invited back into the garden. And there are more details to come about what goes into the inside of the temple, about the furnishings and the purpose that the altar would play, but know that it all will point to the ultimate temple that comes down from heaven in Jerusalem.
Pastor Kevin made this point a while ago as he examined the interior of the tabernacle as well. We take great care to see that the most holy place is a cubic structure. For all the numbers that go around in the chapter here, there are three numbers that are the same and it’s the dimensions of the most holy place. The only other cube that we find in the whole book of scripture is the temple that descends in Revelation. That ultimate fulfillment of the Immanuel Principle of God’s promise to dwell with us, welcome us back into the garden.
So having considered that this project is a testament to God’s fulfilled promise, and having reflected that this promise reveals God’s person and revealed God’s purpose, let me close by bringing us back to where we started, the nature of God’s promise. What’s it doing? What question is God’s promise answering? His promises reveal His person and His purpose and these two glorious revelations find their harmony. They come together in God’s presence. That Immanuel Principle, that promise that God will dwell with us; where God, where His character, where His person meets His history and His plan together, that’s where His presence is, where He dwells with you.
We read this truth already, but consider 1 Corinthians 3:16 where we get another hint, where we get let in on to how God will honor His promise to us when there is no longer a physical temple where we can’t go and see the beauty of this structure, the apostle Paul tells us this in 1 Corinthians 3:16. “Do you not know that you are God’s temple, and that God’s spirit dwells in you?” And Jesus Christ reminds us that this spiritual answer to prayer and promise is actually better than the physical one because we’re not tied to this location. Because the fact that we can’t visit this temple, the fact that we can’t see it anymore means that wherever God’s people are, His promise to be applies.
And I don’t have to tell you, the members of Christ Covenant Church, what it looks like to look around and to see God’s promise answered here because many of you worshipped in the gym here, when this building was being built. Many of you worshipped in a trailer before this building was built, and some of you have heard a lot of stories about that time at least. When God’s people engage in projects, especially when they engage in projects like building a church or planting a church, it’s testament to God’s faithfulness, to God’s promise that where you are I will be. Where you profess, where you mark yourself out as my people, there I am your God.
So I want to encourage you in light of this promise in light of these truths about who God is and what He is doing. As we already said, take your worship seriously, but don’t divide your reverence from your rejoicing. Don’t draw that line because scripture so often does not draw that line. There isn’t a tension between the joy that comes with worshiping God and the reverence that we owe Him. I am encouraged every evening visiting here, as those of you coming to the evening worship service grow and grow, because I know that it is difficult to get back to church on a Sunday. So many things demand your attention. But as you carve out the whole Lord’s day and keep it all holy, know that, and you reap the benefits of seeing and singing with the people of God, you can enjoy both the reverence that God demands and the joy that He offers in his presence. And I don’t think I have to tell any of our children who sit in the choir and sing in the children’s choir. They don’t know the difference between reverence and rejoicing when you hear them belt out the lyrics to “Only a Holy God” and are just raised up to your feet and you want to shout it just as loud as they are. So take your worship seriously. Revere a gracious and holy God, but don’t let that stop you from rejoicing in his promises.
And lastly, I want to encourage you that as we hear the promises of God preached to us, that it’s an invitation. The project that Solomon undertakes is an invitation for you to undertake projects in your own Christian life that conform with God’s plan, to subject your own desires, your own will for the future to God’s will. And there, you will experience the blessing that he promises. This is an invitation for you to filter, to check your best-laid plans and your worst-case fears against the promises of God, through the promises of God. When you submit yourself to God’s law, how you work, in your job, when you commit to honoring your parents even as a teenager. When you do all of these things, when you make plans, when you make designs for your own life that fit with God’s prescribed will, you will enjoy His blessings. Because that’s what His promises are for. They’re for our good and His glory, and His glory is sure.
As we will sing in a moment, and already have sung tonight, the promises of God are certain. If you can live like this, then know this. When the Lord builds your house, when you profess the name of the one true God, when you invite others in to that proclamation, solid joys and lasting treasures in the city of Zion will be yours.
Would you pray with me?
Father you are the great builder. Your glory is unmatched on the pages of scripture, in the world around us and we thank you for the picture tonight. And we thank you even more for how that picture reveals who you are, what you have done and what you promise to do again. Lord I ask that we would take comfort tonight in these words, and that your Holy Spirit would press them into our hearts so that we might more joyfully worship you, identify as your people knowing that you have already named yourself as our God. We ask this in the name of Christ. Amen.