We’ll come to another significant moment with the construction and completion of the Temple this week. I’m always struck how at almost every significant moment in Israel’s history, there’s space created to remember God’s faithfulness up to that point. When God’s relation to his people is about to “change” and no one can really predict what’s going to happen next – the people of God trust the character of the God who’s brought them thus far (if that’s not instructive for our current cultural moment as the church, then I don’t know what is).
480 years after the people of Israel came out of Egypt, Solomon begins construction of the Temple. The promise God made to Israel then, is the promise he makes to Solomon: “I will dwell among the children of Israel.” It would be easy to skip over the details of the Temple’s design, but let me encourage you to pay attention to the “garden” imagery. Think back to the Garden of Eden and how it was the first place God dwelled with his people. Also remember after Adam and Eve sinned, God set a cherubim and a flaming sword to guard the way into God’s presence. It’s all represented here in the Temple, which sits on Mount Moriah – the place Abraham nearly sacrificed Isaac.
Not only was the Temple itself artfully constructed, so were its furnishings and tools. It’s admittedly a difficult passage to read and understand – but pictures help. You can see all the items in this picture. The details in this passage remind me of how the apostle Paul describes people in the church: “If anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work” (2 Tim. 2:21).
The ark of the covenant is brought into the Temple and the glory of the Lord descends. God is again dwelling with his people in the place he chose to set his name. Solomon’s prayer of dedication recounts all the covenant blessings and curses, pleading for Israel’s faithfulness and pleading for the Lord to continually “incline their hearts toward him.” This is a prayer we can support, I think. How often we need the Lord to continually incline our hearts back to him. Mercifully, on this side of the cross and resurrection, the Spirit is the one who reminds us of all the Father has accomplished through the Son on our behalf.
Chapter six gives us the same prayer we read yesterday. It’s helpful to hear again because something new might catch your attention this time. I’d remind us that Solomon is not making this prayer up on his own. He’s taking Scripture from Deuteronomy (and other places, I’m sure) and praying it for his own day and time. I think that can be instructive for our own prayer lives. Psalm 136 is an excellent companion with the line from 2 Chron. 7:3 where the people bowed down saying, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” The people remember and praise God for his goodness over the 480 years since the Exodus.
These psalms each speak of blessing or praising the Lord. Psalm 134 is a song of ascents for times when the people of Israel traveled to Jerusalem – they’re looking forward to blessing the Lord. Psalm 146 speaks to your own soul and all the ways we’re tempted to place our trust and our praise elsewhere. Psalm 147 is for the brokenhearted and oppressed who, even when they can’t see it, must learn to trust that the Lord’s understanding is beyond measure and he takes pleasure in those who fear the Lord. Psalm 148 is a call for all of God’s creation to praise him – moon, sun, stars, beasts, peoples. Psalm 149 is a call for the gathered congregation of Israel to praise the Lord, who made them a people. Psalm 150 is a resounding testimony with the symphony of instruments and voices for everything that has breath to praise the Lord – because the praise and glory of God is the ultimate goal of all things.
In these chapters, we read about all the other things Solomon did during the twenty years (!) it took to build the temple and his house. If it’s not clear enough yet, the Lord reminded Solomon again about the blessings and curses of the covenant. Even amid all the great accomplishments, we’re still reminded about Solomon’s potential downfalls: his wife – the daughter of Pharaoh, and all the descendants of the Amorites. Solomon is establishing his rule and reign, yet the seeds of destruction are just under the surface.
After noticing Solomon’s seeds of destruction yesterday, it’s hard not to see a correlation with these proverbs. Chapter 25 mentions the singleness of thoughts, speech, and action. The one who is wise has no hint of “dross,” no “unfit” words, does not presume oneself higher than he ought, does not boast or bear false witness. I see a common themes of purity, wholeness, honesty, self-control. The contrast is shown in chapter 26 – where whispering, fools, drunkards, quarrels, and lies abound. I’ll take 25:26 as our application point today: