Sermon preached on 1 Kings 6 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 8/18/2019 in Novato, CA.
Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
1 Kings 6
Concerning this Temple which you are Building
From the beginning of the world God had created humanity for great glory. We were to be a people who image God, who dwell with him in wonderful fellowship, who enjoy the goodness of this created world together. In turn we would praise and worship and exalt God and give him the glory and honor and praise that he deserves. We had just begun to experience and live this out in Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Yet, from that early, beginning mankind fell into sin, experienced a paradise lost, and have been trying to get back there, and beyond, ever since. But the story of the Bible is that we can’t get back there on our own. We need God to redeem us and bring us to that purpose and fellowship and glory that he always intended for us.
Such redeeming work of God unto glory is seen in various ways among his dealings with Israel under the old covenant. It was especially seen in his presence coming among the people first with the tabernacle established under Moses and then more so with the temple built here by Solomon. Let’s begin then to consider this as we look at the historical marker listed in verse 1. There we see a reference that essentially says the period of the Exodus is finally complete.
Let me explain. In verse 1, we are told that Solomon begins the temple construction four years into his reign. But first we are told that this was at the same time 480 years after God had brought Israel out of Egypt. That’s probably a rough figure, since 480 years represents twelve forty year periods which probably meant to represent a generation each. So, roughly twelve long generations after God brought the people out of Egypt – that’s when Solomon begins the temple construction. Realize it’s not that normal to see a reference to the Exodus here in terms of chronological accounting. The inspired account of Scripture wants us to make a connection here. It seems reasonable to conclude this chronological note is marking now a new era for God’s people. Though one the one hand the timeframe of the Exodus can be thought of as completed upon the conquest of the Promised Land, we can also think about how the real completion is here with the temple.
Think about it. When the people were brought out of Egypt, what did they do? They wandered through the wilderness and they did so in tents. That’s what the annual feast of tabernacles – Succoth – reminded them. They remembered that after God brought them out of Egypt they had to wander around as pilgrims and sojourners. That’s why they lived in tents, and so did God. That’s what the tabernacle was – a tent. Along the way God kept reminding them that he was bringing them into a new home. That God was going to settle them in that Promised Land and give them peace and rest. They would live in this wonderful land of milk and honey. And not only that, God promised that when they were finally moved into the land that he would then choose a place among them to put his name and make his habitation (Deut 12:5).
And so, while Israel only officially wandered in the wilderness in tents for 40 years, it was actually much longer than that before they were really truly settled in the land. Think about it. When Joshua leads the people to conquer the Promised Land, the issue is made clear in Scripture that they didn’t finish the work. They left some of the evil peoples in the land unconquered. Those remaining wicked Canaanite peoples became a thorn in the side for Israel. Throughout the then long period of judges, the people battled back and forth with these enemies. And so, while they had kind of settled in the Promised Land, they didn’t really have “rest” yet. It wasn’t until God raised up Saul and then David that Israel finally conquered theses remaining enemies sufficiently. That’s what we saw in last chapter. 1 Kings 5:3 had said the reason why David didn’t build a temple yet was because Israel hadn’t yet experienced rest and peace in the land. It wasn’t until that peace and rest from all their enemies was finally experienced in Solomon’s day that the temple could then be built.
You see, we can righty think then that the period of the Exodus with that period of wandering really only comes to end here in Solomon’s day. Yes, God’s people had moved out of their tents long before, but they weren’t really settled. They weren’t really at rest. Not until this time. So, God hadn’t really rested yet. But, now in Solomon’s day God’s rest had truly come for the people. So then, that’s when God would finally move out of his tent and into a house. That’s when God would allow a more permanent structure to be built for him.
So then, this chronological reference in verse 1 to the exodus marks the close of that era and a move into a new one. Finally, God’s people truly were settled and at rest. Remember and realize that the exodus was a redemption. That’s the language of Scripture, that God redeemed, purchased Israel out of Egyptian slavery. He purchased them out of that slavery so he could then plant them in a relative paradise and dwell among them as his special people. There’s a real way that these promises had become yes and amen in Solomon with his building of the temple. That was the final piece of the puzzle to put into place for this paradise on earth – the presence of God settled down in a permanent house and place among the people.
So then, if the building of the temple brought to a close this past era of the Exodus, realize that it also represents the beginning of a reentry into paradise. In other words, in our second point for today, I want us to recognize all the Eden imagery that is here in this temple. As we saw, there are so many details mentioned here about the construction of the temple. One aspect that you should have noticed is there are a lot of references to trees, flowers, and cherubim. Taken together, we would be right to remember the Garden of Eden. Eden was a paradise and surely the trees and flowers recollect that. But it was a paradise that was lost and God setup cherubim to guard the entrance to the garden so that Adam and Eve could not return there. So, it’s this imagery together of both growing things with cherubim point us back to Eden. That imagery was present somewhat with the tabernacle but it’s especially prevalent here in the temple.
Well, it’s fitting that the temple should picture Eden. The temple in many ways reflects what Eden was – a place where man would enjoy the blessed presence of God. There, in the garden, God walked with Adam and Eve and spoke with them. It was a time of sweet communion between God and man. It’s what man was made for! And so on the one hand, mankind lost what we had in the garden. Sin is the reason we lost it. But ever since then God was executing his plan to redeem a people back into such a paradise and with such fellowship. Though it was not perfect yet in this regard, the temple is a movement toward that. It’s about God’s blessed presence being put on earth, among his people, with worship that facilitated man’s fellowship with God. Thus, it is fitting for the temple to be adorned with such Edenic imagery.
And yet as wonderful as this was, it would be prudent to note that this temple only represents a beginning on this reentry into such paradise by God’s people. Think about it. Just think about the existence of these cherubim. The purpose of them in the garden before was to keep man out of that paradise (Gen 3:24)! If anything, these cherubim could serve to remind God’s people of their sin and their lack of access to God. But if that didn’t do the trick, remember that most of the people of Israel would never be able to even see the fulness of the glory of this temple. As before with the tabernacle, so too with this temple, the everyday person couldn’t just walk right up and go inside. We see here that there were three main sections of the actual building. First there was the vestibule per verse 3, which was basically an enclosed porch. Then you had the main room of the temple, referred to in verse 3 as the sanctuary of the house, which interestingly could also be translated from the Hebrew as the palace of the house. But this would have been the equivalent to the Holy Place in the tabernacle. That would have been a place that only the Levites could have gone, not the everyday person. Then, at the back of that main room, you had the inner sanctuary, known as the Most Holy Place, the Holy of Holies, verse 16. That’s where the ark of the covenant would have resided. That’s where these huge wooden cherubim would have been that surely would have emphasized that this was generally an off-limits place. In fact, that inner sanctuary was only accessible by a human once a year and only then by the high priest with many sacrifices.
And so, think about the fact of having this rather long and lengthy chapter that describes all the ornate adornments of this temple. Maybe as we read this detailed description, you might have had a desire to have lived back then so you could have been there and seen it for yourself. Yet, if you were alive back then, you probably wouldn’t have been able to see so much of what we read about today. For most, this is the closest they’d ever get to see the inner chambers of the temple – only by audio tour (Davis)! The point is that yes, this temple represents a great blessing of God’s presence on earth among his people, and in some ways it begins to bring mankind back into a paradise of sorts of communion with God – yet is surely is only a beginning of such.
Yet, even if only a beginning, it was still a wonderful thing for God’s presence to be among the people like this. In our third point for today, I’d like us to see how Solomon’s temple here represented a move from glory to even greater glory among Israel. Observing then next the words of verses 11-13. There we see the description of building the temple interrupted to tell us the word of the LORD to Solomon. There, in the midst of this chapter about building the temple God tells Solomon that he will be in the midst of the people. Verse 11 connects that presence with the people with the temple. That’s what this temple will represent among Israel – God’s presence among Israel in the Promised Land. Realize, that if God had not so blessed Israel, all the splendor of this temple construction would be meaningless. Think about that in general. How many pagan temples had been made through the ages; ornate and beautiful structures that are frankly a waste because they are made for gods that don’t exist. But the temple of Solomon was not only made for the God that does exist, but this God promised to be present there in that temple.
And so, it is fitting in this shift to a new era in redemptive history that the temple is crafted more gloriously than the tabernacle. The temple is significantly bigger than the size of the tabernacle. There is so much more gold used in the temple. It’s relative permanence is certainly a thing of greater glory. God’s presence is being fixed and established here so wonderfully among the people.
And yet in the midst of such glory to greater glory, we should note that God’s intruding words of verses 11-13 are put conditionally. Similar to what we find in the Davidic covenant in 2 Samuel 7, God’s promise of his presence in this temple is conditioned on the king’s keeping of the covenant. Interestingly, while we often would think of the keeping of the covenant as an obligation for the people as a whole, here it is put directly to Solomon. The grammar is very specific in verses 11-13, it’s the second person singular. God directly speaks to Solomon. The conditions God mentions there are being put upon him specifically. The weight of the whole kingdom and all the people are put upon him there. If he, Solomon, walks in God’s statutes, executes his judgments, keeps all his commandments, and walks in in them, then God’s presence will continue among the people and in this temple Solomon had built. The weight of the world – or at least Israel – was being placed upon Solomon’s shoulders here by God! Could Solomon do this? Could he keep this covenant for himself and for his posterity? What Adam failed to do – could he do it? And even if Solomon did, would his successors also continue to do so?
Well, the reality is we know that even Solomon himself would struggle and stumble in this regard. It’s only for the mercy of God that God’s presence remained as long as it did in Solomon’s temple. For one king after another that succeeded Solomon also struggled in different ways to keep the covenant as they should have. Prophet and after prophet warned them, but they still stumbled. Finally, God’s patience and mercy would come to an end. So then, almost 400 years later, we read in Ezekiel 10:18 of the glory of God departing from the temple. Then God would forsake Israel. He would deliver them over to their enemies. In 587 BC, God allowed the Babylonians to destroy this temple Solomon built.
Yet, God promised a later rebuilding of the temple. Various prophets spoke that later God would rebuild the temple and it would be greater than before. The same prophet Ezekiel who prophesied the glory leaving Solomon’s temple, goes on to prophesy of the glory returning to a new, far more glorious temple than Solomon’s. Yet, clearly, such a temple has never been built by hands since then. After the people came back from exile, they did rebuild a temple, but it was not as glorious as before. And even after Herod later improved it drastically, it still was not what the prophets spoke about. Otherwise, Jesus wouldn’t have squelched the disciples praise of it in Mark 13 with a prophecy that it too would be upturned and destroyed.
No, the far more glorious temple that the prophets predicted is rather something far more better than a temple made with hands. Rather, it is the temple which King Jesus has made and is making. A temple in which he is the foundation stone and the capstone. A temple in which we, God’s people, are the stones that comprise it. It is a spiritual temple, which is so fitting for the presence of God who himself is spirit and not flesh.
And if verses 11-13 call for the securing of God’s enduring presence by the covenant keeping of the king of the people – we can rest assured of God’s enduring presence among us. We will never need to fear of losing that divine presence if King Jesus is our king. In King Jesus, and not in King Solomon, would the promises of the Davidic covenant be kept and secured for all his posterity. That’s us! We in Christ have the sureness of the divine presence, because of the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ.
So then, let us each be sure that we are in Christ by faith. And let us then behold with our eyes of faith this far more glorious temple that God in Christ is making us into. Let us then walk in step with his grace, not resisting the Holy Spirit in his fashioning us into such living stones. Let us walk in step with his sanctifying work in our hearts as he is adorning us to his liking (Eph 5:27).
What a wonderful thought from this passage. If this passage shows a temple made with hands so beautifully adorned, think of what beautification God is doing in this temple made without hands! He’s making us beautiful! Think about this. What’s more beautiful? Stones stamped with trees and flowers and angels? Or souls stamped with the restored image of invisible God? Behold again today in faith the work of God in your life. He is making us from glory to even greater glory yet as he prepares us for an eternity of dwelling with us in the age to come in a paradise regained with souls perfected in Christ. Amen.
Copyright © 2019 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.