Written by Courtney McHill, United Methodist Pastor
Bible Background This week we continue the story by following David’s line into 1 Kings. The first chapters of this book show us the transition of power from David to his son Solomon. Solomon’s mother was Bathsheba (does that name ring a bell from a story before?). Solomon was not meant to be king but through a series of conversations with Bathsheba and the prophet Nathan (and a bit of trickiness) Solomon is named king by David.
Solomon seems to have good taste and likes what he likes. In chapter 4, we are told of who stands around him in his court and all of the mighty things that he acquires. In vs. 22 we hear that in one day he used, “thirty cors of choice flour, and sixty cors of meal, ten fat oxen, and twenty pasture fed cattle, one hundred sheep, besides deer, gazelles, roebucks, and fatted fowl.” Solomon is rich in goods and people and he likes it. God likes Solomon. We are told God gives Solomon great wisdom and discernment. King Solomon is known for his wisdom throughout. All seems well.
There is just one problem; there is not just one place for God. King Solomon needs to create a central location for God. These are not a transient wilderness people any more and while Israel is still unified, it seems odd to Solomon that there is no building space. When we enter the story, we see rationale for a Temple by declaring that God needs a place. King David built the Ark but Solomon will do something even more permanent, build a place for God. Solomon also has the luxury of peaceful times and much wealth to build such a place. It will be in grand style as King Solomon knows how to do with gold, bronze and special carvings. There is also much scripture about his own house which takes thirteen years to build. The temple becomes the heart of this story. King Solomon will be known forever and ever because of this building.
He chooses a significant spot, MountMoriah. This should sound familiar from our Abraham days. MountMoriah was the spot where Abraham almost sacrificed his son. Now it has become the spot where God meets us. The Temple is spared no expense. What is important to realize here is that King Solomon is deciding that there will be a place of encounter with God. There has not been such a location before. Up until this point, the message has been clear that God cannot be boxed in (remember Moses and God’s name?). God cannot be confined.
In God blessing the Temple and in the building of the Temple, God does promise that God will meet us in certain places and in certain ways. Our relationship with God shifts again. This becomes a central piece of the Jewish faith. In the Temple (which becomes a place of rebuilding and destruction and central Jewish life in the New Testament and beyond), God’s people can be with God. In the center of the building lies the ark, the word of God. Their lives will now revolve around this place, where God meets us. A place of encounter. We may not be able to fully grasp just how pivotal this story is. Can we imagine a place where God meets us?
Quotes of the Week “This is the place of places and it is here.” ― Gertrude Stein
“We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.” ― Winston Churchill
“The physician can bury his mistakes, but the architect can only advise his client to plant vines – so they should go as far as possible from home to build their first buildings.” ― Frank Lloyd Wright
1 Kings 5:1-5; 8:1-13 (NRSV) Now King Hiram of Tyre sent his servants to Solomon, when he heard that they had anointed him king in place of his father; for Hiram had always been a friend to David. Solomon sent word to Hiram, saying, “You know that my father David could not build a house for the name of the Lord his God because of the warfare with which his enemies surrounded him, until the Lord put them under the soles of his feet. But now the Lord my God has given me rest on every side; there is neither adversary nor misfortune. So I intend to build a house for the name of the Lord my God, as the Lord said to my father David, ‘Your son, whom I will set on your throne in your place, shall build the house for my name.’
Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the leaders of the ancestral houses of the Israelites, before King Solomon in Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of the city of David, which is Zion. All the people of Israel assembled to King Solomon at the festival in the month Ethanim, which is the seventh month.And all the elders of Israel came, and the priests carried the ark. So they brought up the ark of the Lord, the tent of meeting, and all the holy vessels that were in the tent; the priests and the Levites brought them up. King Solomon and all the congregation of Israel, who had assembled before him, were with him before the ark, sacrificing so many sheep and oxen that they could not be counted or numbered. Then the priests brought the ark of the covenant of the Lord to its place, in the inner sanctuary of the house, in the most holy place, underneath the wings of the cherubim. For the cherubim spread out their wings over the place of the ark, so that the cherubim made a covering above the ark and its poles. The poles were so long that the ends of the poles were seen from the holy place in front of the inner sanctuary; but they could not be seen from outside; they are there to this day. There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets of stone that Moses had placed there at Horeb, where the Lord made a covenant with the Israelites, when they came out of the land of Egypt. And when the priests came out of the holy place, a cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord. Then Solomon said,
“The Lord has said that he would dwell in thick darkness.
I have built you an exalted house, a place for you to dwell in forever.”
Questions for the Week
How do you imagine the Temple?
What are the physical places that you meet God?
If you could build a place for God to dwell, would you? What would it look like?