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Solomon's temple and Jesus 1 Kings 8

1 Kings 8Today we encounter a major moment in Biblical history. In our reading from 1 Kings we read about the dedication of the very first temple that Solomon built (967bc). This was a big deal. This temple focused the people of Israel. It made Jerusalem the unquestioned capital of the united kingdom. It fulfilled the dream of Solomon’s father, David. And it tied together David’s royal lineage with the worship of Israel’s God. The Ark of the Covenant is brought into the temple. The Ark contains the tablets of the Law that Moses received. The centrality of the covenant made with God on Mount Sinai is a part of the power of the Ark. … The upper part of this God was called the “mercy seat”- it was almost like a throne for God. Then, the cloud of God’s glory fills the Holy of Holies. When we hear about this cloud of God’s presence we should think about the cloud that led the people in the wilderness, and the cloud that rested on top of Mount Sinai, and the cloud that was with the tabernacle where Moses met with God. … We could spend a lot of time just going through the various parts of the temple and the furniture there, and even talk about how it connects to church architecture. For example, there was a large basin of water near the entrance of the temple called the “sea”, and it sort of relates to where traditional churches place the baptismal font near the entrance of the church, which symbolizes that we enter this community through the purifying waters of baptism. And the sections of the temple corelate to the sections of the church. There is the Inner Court that relates to the nave of the church. There is the Holy Place that relates to the chancel. Then there is the Holy of Holies that relates to the area around the altar which is sometimes called the Sanctuary. Those who were interested in designing worship looked to the Bible for inspiration and wanted some recognizable continuity with our Hebrew roots. Of course, the meanings of these symbols were updated to reflect their Christian meanings. They weren’t just trying to recreate Old Testament worship, but they weren’t wanting to deny those roots because Jesus and the early followers of Jesus worshiped in the temple and so much of what Jesus said and did reflected and fulfilled the deep symbolism of temple worship. There is a lot of symbolism we could go into- the show bread, the lamps, the incense altar, the two giant pillars, the cherubim statues in the Holy of Holies, the curtain that kept you from seeing into the Holy of Holies. The Early church saw symbols all over the temple that pointed to Christ. … We won’t go into detail with that today because it could be a whole sermon series by itself. After the Ark is brought into the temple, Solomon prays a prayer of dedication. Solomon recognizes that this temple is not a prison for God. He prays, “Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27). Yet, Solomon asks that God’s “eyes might be open night and day towards this house” (1 Kings 8:29). He is asking that God will pay special attention to what happens there and to the requests of the people that are made in the direction of this temple. He prays, “and when you hear, forgive” (1 Kings 8:30). The temple will be, among other things, a place where forgiveness is sought. Oaths made at this temple are to have particular power- This is to be a place of justice. The righteous are to be vindicated and the wicked punished as a result of their interaction with this temple. But, when the people sin and repent and pray in this temple, God is asked to hear and forgive. Solomon even asks that God would hear the prayers of foreigners that prays towards the temple. Then a massive sacrifice of animals is made. This temple will be a place of sacrifice. There are different kinds of sacrifices, some of those sacrifices were about seeking forgiveness for sin, and there were others, but they were ultimately about drawing closer to God and sacrifice was recognized as a part of that. … It’s worth saying that these animals were often eaten after they were sacrificed. Their blood would be poured on the altar and the bodies would be roasted on the altar. It wasn’t just animals that were sacrificed, there were also grain offerings. It was a massive religious symbol. Only one temple was allowed. They wouldn’t build another temple for those who lived further away. No, there was only one and this was the place where prayer and sacrifice was directed. It became the heart of Judaism. The people would all orient themselves towards the temple for worship. When Daniel is in exile in Babylon he prays towards Jerusalem, but specifically he is praying towards the temple. Muhammad and his early followers originally prayed towards Jerusalem, and to the place where the temple once stood. Once they conquered Mecca they changed the direction. Solomon didn’t think the temple up out of nowhere. He built this modelled on the Tabernacle, which was a kind of portable temple. It housed the Ark of the Covenant and it was where Moses would meet with God. (It was like a portable Mount Sinai). The temple had a lot of the same furniture as the tabernacle- it was just portable so they could pack it up and carry it through the wilderness. And there are some who say that the tabernacle and the temple were modelled after an understanding of the Garden of Eden. The first couple was cast out of the Garden east of Eden and there was an angel with a flaming sword that guarded the way back to the tree of life and God’s presence. The entrance of the temple faced east so it would let in the rising sunlight. So to go into the temple it was a bit like going back towards the entrance to the garden. You enter from the east and you face large cherubim guarding the way into the Holy of Holies. If this is true, then the Temple symbolizes an attempt to return to paradise- a return to being in God’s presence the way Adam and Eve experienced God. By the first century, when Jesus was walking around on earth, they had a rebuilt temple. The temple Solomon built had been destroyed by the Babylonians and then it was sort of rebuilt when the exiles returned (under Zerubabbel- Ezra 6:14-16; then the Hasmoneans), but it was nothing compared to the temple Solomon built at the height of his wealth and power, and they didn’t have the Ark of the Covenant which had disappeared when the Babylonians attacked. Over the years there were other renovations and additions made to it. The most recent in Jesus day was the major renovation king Herod did. The temple was beautiful again, but there were some who felt like they were still in exile since the cloud of God’s presence never returned to the temple. The Pharisees assumed that the people weren’t following the law faithfully enough and many assumed that the temple leadership was corrupt. So, the temple was very important in Jesus day, but it wasn’t a place without questions and suspicion. Jesus participated in temple worship, but he was also critical of it. When Jesus turned over the tables of the money changers and let all the animals go he essentially shut down the temple. It was a prophetic action- He symbolically destroyed it (Matthew 21:12). In Matthew 12:6 Jesus boldly refers to himself when he says, “I tell you, something greater than the temple is here”. Jesus is accused of saying that he would destroy the temple and build it in three days (Matthew 26:61; 27:40; Mk 14:58). In the Gospel of John Jesus says something like this. In John 2:19-21 we read, “‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking of the temple of his body.” And when Jesus dies on the cross we read in Matthew 27:51 that, “At that moment the curtain of the temple [that hid the Holy of Holies] was torn in two, from top to bottom.”Clearly the early followers of Jesus drew a connection between the temple and Jesus. Jesus seems to replace the temple. The temple was a place to encounter God and to seek forgiveness for sin through sacrifice. In the New Covenant we turn to Jesus for these things. The temple is no longer necessary, and it was destroyed in 70ad- less than 40 years after Jesus’ death and has never been rebuilt. He is the last sacrifice (Jn17:19; Heb 8-10). He is the new temple. He is the place where people go to encounter God. And this extends to us as well because the Body of Christ is also known as the church. You are the place where the Holy Spirit dwells on earth as the Body of Christ. Paul asks the church, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). And in Ephesians Paul says, “you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling-place for God.” (Ephesians 2:19-22; see also 1 Pet 2:5).If you are the Body of Christ that also means you, as his representative, as a container of the Holy Spirit, are also a place where people can seek to encounter God. Surely that is what Jesus means when he says that you are the light of the world (Matt 5:14-16). If we allow God’s reality to take hold of us, if we allow Jesus to express his character in us, then we (amazingly) can become places of encounter. We, through Christ and in Christ, replace the temple. … May we live into that incredible calling. Amen Original author: RevChrisRoth
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