Solomon Builds the Temple
1 Kings 6.11-37
(New Revised Standard Version)
Now the word of the Lord came to Solomon, “Concerning this house that you are building, if you will walk in my statutes, obey my ordinances, and keep all my commandments by walking in them, then I will establish my promise with you, which I made to your father David. 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 rafters 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 twenty cubits of the rear of the house with boards of cedar from the floor to the rafters, and 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 forty cubits long. The cedar within the house had carvings 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 ark of the covenant of the Lord. The interior of the inner sanctuary was twenty cubits long, twenty cubits wide, and twenty cubits high; he overlaid it with pure gold. He also overlaid the altar with cedar. Solomon overlaid the inside of the house with pure gold, then he drew chains of gold across, in front of the inner sanctuary, and overlaid it with gold.
Next he overlaid the whole house with gold, in order that the whole house might be perfect; even the whole altar that belonged to the inner sanctuary he overlaid with gold. In the inner sanctuary he made two cherubim of olivewood, each ten cubits high. Five cubits was the length of one wing of the cherub, and five cubits the length of the other wing of the cherub; it was ten cubits from the tip of one wing to the tip of the other.
The other cherub also measured ten cubits; both cherubim had the same measure and the same form. The height of one cherub was ten cubits, and so was that of the other cherub. He put the cherubim in the innermost part of the house; the wings of the cherubim were spread out so that a wing of one was touching the one wall, and a wing of the other cherub was touching the other wall; their other wings toward the centre of the house were touching wing to wing. He also overlaid the cherubim with gold.
He carved the walls of the house all around about with carved engravings of cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers, in the inner and outer rooms. 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 olivewood; the lintel and the doorposts were five-sided. He covered the two doors of olivewood with 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 doorposts of olivewood, four-sided each, and two doors of cypress wood; the two leaves of the one door were folding, and the two leaves of the other door were folding. He carved cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers, overlaying them with gold evenly applied upon the carved work. He built the inner court with three courses of dressed stone to one course of cedar beams.
In the fourth year the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid, in the month of Ziv.
Yesterday in our reflections we met King Solomon, known for his extraordinary wisdom which was gifted to him by God. We also know he wasn’t perfect, and today Solomon’s story continues with a sort of warning from God – this house that you’re building, if you walk in my ways, obey my commands, only then I will dwell among the children of Israel.
As the Israelites set to work building what would be the absolute pinnacle of Solomon’s architectural and economic achievements, God firmly sets the rules, that this thing will only work if, its purpose will only be fulfilled, if the Israelites and their leaders give themselves and their hearts wholly over to God.
I love the detail in this passage as the writer portrays the splendour of the Temple, the measurements, the materials and the sheer extravagance of it all. You actually have to read through to chapter 8 to get the full picture. The imagination can’t always do it justice but a quick Google image search reveals some fairly astonishing artists’ impressions of what the Temple may have looked like, but they still lack what I imagine would have been awe and wonder stepping into the Inner Sanctuary and the Most Holy Place. The interior lined with the highest quality woodwork from floor to ceiling, gold littered everywhere.
It’s interesting to consider that the writer, writing from memory, archives and records, would likely have witnessed the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon, and in 2 Kings 25 we read about the eventual destruction of this majestic building, another detailed account – this time of how the Babylonians ransacked the place that became the heart of worship and community, the very dwelling place of God during the reign of King Solomon. It would have been gut-wrenching.
But what was the purpose of it all? All the craftsmanship, the stunning attention to detail – even Solomon in chapter 8 declares “even the highest heavens cannot contain you, how much less this Temple I have built!”
Here we get another glimpse into Solomon’s heart. Even after accomplishing an astonishing architectural feat, much to the amazement and admiration of other Kings and Queens (see 1 Kings 10 for the visit of the Queen of Sheba), Solomon humbles himself before God, acknowledging God’s prior warning that the heart of Israel must be in the right place if God is to make this earthly place a dwelling for his presence.
And that was the purpose of such an elegant edifice, to point Israel to the Lord. The Temple didn’t exist for itself, it didn’t exist for Israel to boast (even though it received much admiration during Solomon’s reign), its sole purpose was God. I wonder if you’ve ever entered a place like that, where your gaze is drawn in awe and wonder and yet what you see is beyond what your eyes and brain interpret, but something more, something deeper?
I can think of a few churches and cathedrals that have had that effect on me. The lavishness of the Temple spoke of the unutterable glory of God, the distance between the outer courts and inner sanctuary spoke of the same unapproachable presence.
Which makes what Jesus did all the more incredible.
At his death the curtain was torn, no longer was God held at a distance, but now the Spirit makes his dwelling place in our own hearts as we are made clean by the blood the Son.
We are the Temple. And so the question for us is whether we act in the same way. When people see us are they filled with awe as the see the work of God within us?
When people see us are they drawn to see that something more, something deeper, that Spirit that works within us changing us and our communities?
Like King Solomon, let us humble ourselves, knowing full well that the heavens cannot contain the Lord, and yet he chooses to dwell in hearts, kind and gentle, yet awesome and majestic.
(Town Centre Hub)