Sunday’s sermon: A Holy House

Text used – 1 Kings 5:1-5; 8:1-13

  • The Lord’s word came to Solomon, Regarding this temple that you are building: If you follow my laws, enact my regulations, and keep all my commands faithfully, then I will fulfill for you my promise that I made to your father David. I will live among the Israelites. I won’t abandon my people Israel. So Solomon constructed the temple and completed it. He built the walls within the temple with cedar planks, paneled from the floor to the ceiling. He overlaid the floor of the temple with pine planks. At the back of the temple he built thirty feet of cedar panels from the floor to the ceiling. Solomon built the inner sanctuary, the most holy place. In front of this, the main hall was sixty feet. The cedar inside the temple was carved with gourds and blossoming flowers. The whole thing was cedar. No stone was seen. He set up the inner sanctuary inside the temple so that he could put the chest containing the Lord’s covenant there. The inner sanctuary was thirty feet in length, width, and height. Solomon overlaid it with pure gold and covered the altar with cedar. Solomon covered the temple’s interior with pure gold. He placed gold chains in front of the inner sanctuary and covered it with gold. He overlaid the whole temple inside with gold until the temple was completely covered. He covered the whole altar that was in the inner sanctuary with gold. He made two winged creatures of olive wood for the inner sanctuary, each fifteen feet high. The wings of the first winged creature were each seven and a half feet long. It was fifteen feet from the end of one wing to the end of the other. The second winged creature also measured fifteen feet. Both winged creatures had identical measurements and form. The height of both winged creatures was fifteen feet. Solomon placed the winged creatures inside the temple. Their wings spread out so that the wing of the one touched one wall and the wing of the other touched the other wall. In the middle of the temple, the wings of the two-winged creatures touched each other. He covered the winged creatures with gold. Solomon carved all the walls of the temple—inner and outer rooms—with engravings of winged creatures, palm trees, and blossoming flowers. He also covered the floor of the temple with gold, in both the inner and the outer rooms. He made the doors of the inner sanctuary from olive wood and carved the doorframes with five recesses. He overlaid the two olive-wood doors with gold-plated carvings of winged creatures, palm trees, and blossoming flowers. He made the door of the main hall with doorframes of olive wood with four recesses. The two doors of pinewood each pivoted on a socket. Solomon carved winged creatures, palm trees, and blossoming flowers, and covered them with gold. He built the inner courtyard with three rows of cut stone followed by one row of trimmed cedar. Solomon laid the foundation of the Lord’s temple in the fourth year in the month of Ziv. He finished the temple in all its details and measurements in the eleventh year during the eighth month, the month of Bul. He built it in seven years.[1] → What a temple, right? This was a temple of grandeur and majesty! This was a temple of reverence and veneration! This was a temple that was generations upon generations in the making.
    • Starts all the way back in Exodus after Moses and the people of Israel escaped slavery in Egypt → As they wandered through the wilderness, God required a place to dwell among the people – a holy space to inhabit. And so the people built the Tabernacle – a portable, tent-like space consecrated for worship and built to the specifications that God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai.[2]
      • Large open space (roughly half the size of a football field) enclosed by a curtain with a smaller enclosed tent-like structure (the Holy of Holies) inside that housed the sacred objects – the lampstand, the altar of incense, and the ark of the covenant – along with God’s own presence
      • Throughout those early years, Scripture tells us there were many times when Moses would go into the Tabernacle – and later, Moses and his successor, Joshua – and go into the Holy of Holies to sit it God’s presence and to speak with God.
      • And Scripture also tells us that this Tabernacle was beautiful. It was built with the finest wood and decorated with the most beautiful and expensive cloth – purple and red and pure white linen – along with gold and precious gems. And for generations, it served the people of Israel as a place to worship the Lord their God – to offer up their prayers and their sacrifices to God as they lived into their faith and the covenant life which God had entrusted to them. But it was also a temporary structure.
        • Made to be mobile
        • Made to travel from place to place with God’s people as they sought out their forever home in the land that God had promises to their ancestors – to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob
    • Next phase in the story of the Temple = King David
      • Following his long, difficult, convoluted, and frankly bloody ascension to the throne, one of the first things David did was attempt to move the ark of the covenant to a permanent and central home in Jerusalem. → yet another difficult endeavor for David fraught with all manner of setbacks BUT David is finally able to bring the ark of the covenant safely and worshipfully with much fanfare and rejoicing into the city and establish it within the tent he had constructed up on the holy hill overlooking the city[3] (today: Temple Mount)
      • Yet despite his best intentions, God makes it clear to David that he cannot and will not be the one to build a temple – God’s permanent dwelling among the people – text (1 Chr 17): When David was settled into his palace, he said to the prophet Nathan, “I’m living in a cedar palace while the chest containing the Lord’s covenant is under curtains.” Nathan replied, “Go ahead and do whatever you are thinking, because God is with you.” But that very night, God’s word came to Nathan: Go to my servant David and tell him, This is what the Lord says: You are not the one to build the temple for me to live in. … When the time comes for you to die, I will raise up a descendent of yours after you, one of your own sons, to succeed you, and I will establish his kingship. He is the one who will build me a temple, and I will establish his throne forever.[4]
  • And so we come to today’s reading.
    • Begins with Solomon’s intent to build the temple
    • Ends with Solomon’s dedication of the temple 7 yrs. later (roughly 957 B.C.E.)
    • Text: When all of Israel’s elders had arrived, the priests picked up the chest. They brought the LORD’s chest, the meeting tent, and all the holy equipment that was in the tent. The priests and the Levites brought them up, while King Solomon and the entire Israelite assembly that had joined him before the chest sacrificed countless sheep and oxen. The priests brought the chest containing the LORD’s covenant to its designated spot beneath the wings of the winged creatures in the inner sanctuary of the temple, the most holy place. The winged creatures spread their wings over the place where the chest rested, covering the chest and its carrying poles. The carrying poles were so long that their tips could be seen from the holy place in front of the inner sanctuary, though they weren’t visible from outside. They are still there today. Nothing was in the chest except the two stone tablets Moses had placed there while at Horeb, where the LORD made a covenant with the Israelites after they left Egypt. When the priests left the holy place, the cloud filled the LORD’s temple, and the priests were unable to carry out their duties due to the cloud because the LORD’s glory filled the LORD’s temple. Then Solomon said, “The LORD said that he would live in a dark cloud, but I have indeed built you a lofty temple as a place where you can live forever.”[5] → Finally, the Lord had a permanent dwelling place among the people.
      • The people were settled
      • The promised land was settled
      • The monarchy was settled 
      • And God was settled among the people
      • Rev. Dr. Alphonetta Wines (author, retired UMC pastor, biblical scholar and theologian) explains just how meaningful and significant the temple truly was to the people: The temple held deep meaning for the Israelite community. It was built on Mount Moriah where, had it not been for God’s intervention, Abraham would have sacrificed his son Isaac. Moreover, the temple was built on land that David purchased from Araunah at God’s command, to make a sacrifice to avert the death angel which had already killed 70,000 as punishment for the census David commanded. In other words, the temple was built on land where, despite dire circumstances with death on the horizon, life prevailed. … Artistic and architectural excellence made the temple something to behold. Unlike other temples, there were no gods anywhere in this temple. Instead of images of gods, there were decorations of palm trees, flowers, and cherubim, reminders of God’s creation. The Ark of the Covenant with two tablets of the Ten Instructions (Ten Commandments), Aaron’s rod, and some manna was all that was in the Holy of Holies. This sparsity was a reminder of the invisible God, the one God, transcendent and immanent, separate from yet inexorably connected to humanity and all creation.[6]
    • But as we know, it was not as permanent a dwelling place as Solomon intended it to be.[7]
      • Under the command of King Nebuchadnezzar II, Babylonians invaded Jerusalem
        • Ransacked the Temple and removed all the treasures in 604 and 597 B.C.E.
        • Completely destroyed the Temple in 587/586 B.C.E.
        • (Part of that Babylonian captivity that we’ve talked about before → after the temple was razed, the Babylonians carted off the best and brightest of Israel’s citizens and took them to Babylon where they lived for an entire generation)
      • After King Cyrus II released the Jewish captives and allowed them to return to Israel in 538 B.C.E., the people built a new Temple → completed this 2nd temple in 515 B.C.E. (less than 100 yrs. after the first Temple was destroyed)
      • During the Jewish rebellion against Rome in the late 1st C.E., the Temple was destroyed for the 2nd and final time in 70 C.E. by Roman forces under Emperor Titus
    • And we have to take a moment to acknowledge just how devastating a loss this must have been for the people of Israel. God’s true and permanent dwelling place among them had been desecrated, looted, and completely destroyed. → utter sanctity of the Holy of Holies
      • Place where the most holy relics of the people of Israel were kept
      • Place that was only entered by the high priest and only once a year on Yom Kippur – the day of atonement – to offer a sacrifice of blood and incense
      • Place where the presence of God dwelt
      • And yet this sacred place – this place of worship and sacrifice, of prayer and praise, of holiness beyond holiness – was truly and utterly gone.
  • But for us today – us Christians sitting here in our own place and time of worship, be that here in the sanctuary or viewing from the sacred space and time we’ve created at home – what can remembering Solomon’s dedication of that holy space centuries (even millennia!) ago mean for us? – again, the words of Rev. Dr. Alphonetta Wines: Remembrances of Solomon’s temple call us to wholehearted worship. When the Woman at the Well asked a question about worship, Jesus explained that worship is not about a specific place, but is a matter of spirit and truth. We would do well to examine ourselves to be sure that our worship and our lives mirror the ideals of wholehearted worship in the temple as well as Jesus’s commandments to love God, others, and oneself, for they are indeed one.[8] → To help us remember that today, we’re going to conclude our sermon with the words of our hymn. I know we don’t have Katha here to help us sing it today, but the words and the sentiment of this hymn so perfectly encompass those ideals of wholehearted worship that Dr. Wines speaks of – that wholehearted worship that we see in Solomon’s dedication of the temple and that we hear in Jesus’ command to love – that we’re going to embark on this hymn a cappella together anyway. So friends, let us join our hearts and voices in praise. Let us make a joyful noise! [SING HYMN “Let Us Build a House”] Amen!

[1] 1 Kgs 6:11-38

[2] Ex 25:10-27:21.

[3] 1 Chr 15:1-16:3.

[4] 1 Chr 17:1-4, 11-12.

[5] 1 Kgs 8:3-13.

[6] Alphonetta Wines. “Commentary on 1 Kings 5:1-5; 8:1-13” from Working Preacher, https://www.workingpreacher.org/commentaries/narrative-lectionary/solomons-temple-2/commentary-on-1-kings-51-5-81-13-3.

[7] https://www.britannica.com/topic/Temple-of-Jerusalem.

[8] Wines.

One response to “Sunday’s sermon: A Holy House

  1. Pingback: Sunday’s sermon: Wilderness (Un)Rest | Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

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