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Wednesday, February 23, 2022

2022.02.23 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Kings 8:1–21

Read 1 Kings 8:1–21

Questions from the Scripture text: Whom did Solomon assemble (1 Kings 8:1)? To do what? When did they assemble (1 Kings 8:2)? When they came, who took up the ark (1 Kings 8:3)? What all did they bring up (1 Kings 8:4)? Who else was there (1 Kings 8:5)? What were they doing? To where did the priests bring the ark (1 Kings 8:6)? Upon what do 1 Kings 8:6b–1 Kings 8:7 especially focus? What extended out (1 Kings 8:8)? What could be seen where? What was in the ark (1 Kings 8:9)? What happened when the priests came out (1 Kings 8:10)? What effect did this have (1 Kings 8:11)? What filled where? Who speaks in 1 Kings 8:12? Where had the Lord said He would dwell? But what has Solomon built (1 Kings 8:13a)? For what purpose (verse 13b)? Then to whom does Solomon speak (1 Kings 8:14)? What kind of words? What was the assembly doing? Whom do the words bless, while Solomon blesses the people (1 Kings 8:15)? What had the Lord spoken and done (1 Kings 8:16-20)? For what had Solomon built this temple (end of verse 20)? For what had he especially made a place (1 Kings 8:21)? What was in it?

As the temple is inaugurated, the Lord displays to His people His mercy and holiness, His glory, His faithfulness, and His nearness/presence.

First, the Lord displays His mercy and holiness. This mercy can be seen in that He has provided substitutes to die and burn in their place. It’s important that Solomon assembles the elders and heads and chiefs in 1 Kings 8:1. Just as with the consecration of the firstborn who have to be redeemed in Exodus 13, so here when the people see that an innumerable multitude of sacrifices must be offered by their own federal representatives (1 Kings 8:5), they realize that it is they who deserve to die. It is they who deserve God’s wrath. Each of us needs to learn this about ourself. 

The number of the sacrifices necessary for coming near in this earthly temple communicates the great holiness of God. For us to come near to Him in the presence of His glory in Christ, we need an infinite sacrifice (cf. Romans 1:18, Romans 3:25). This is how great His holiness is. And it is communicated also by the fact that only the priests could ever again see the poles of the ark from the holy place (1 Kings 8:8), and only the high priest could ever see the ark itself (1 Kings 8:7). And the place where he would see it contained not only the ark but the giant cherubim that would communicate to the high priest the holiness of God. Even though he is high priest, he would know himself to be tiny and earthly before even the temple furniture in the holy of holies—let alone before the God Whose holiness that furniture declares.

But the greatness of this holiness proclaims all the more the greatness of His mercy. For it is God Himself, in the Person of the Son, Who has died and Who suffered, upon the cross ,the burning fury of the wrath of God against our sin. In this, God has demonstrated His love for us. Jesus Christ has propitiated. He has so entirely endured God’s wrath against our sin that God is only and entirely propitious—favorable—toward us now.

Second, the Lord displays to His people His glory. His glory is related to His holiness. To simplify a little bit, we can think of His holiness as His other-ness, and of His glory as the incomprehensible greatness of that other-ness. The most common word for His glory, which 1 Kings 8:11 uses, is a word that means “heavy.” We can borrow a modern physics word and think of it in terms of density. The intensity of the reality of God is so great that apart from His own protection, it is utterly destructive to any creaturely thing that even attempts to be in its presence (cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:9). Due to the wondrousness of His glory, it’s really no wonder that the glory of the Lord filling the house of the Lord rather literally squeezes the priests out of the holy place (1 Kings 8:10) so that they could not continue to minister (1 Kings 8:11). 

And yet even this was only an anticipatory glory, a mere shadow of the glory to come when Christ Himself is the temple of God unto us, and the priest of God for us, having offered Himself as the sacrifice in our behalf (cf. Hebrew chapters 7–10). How marvelous, then, that the Lord is outfitting His people to be able to stand before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy (cf. Jude 24). Those whom He justified, He also glorified (cf. Romans 8:30)! And He has done this because He predestined us not merely to be forgiven but to be conformed to the Son so that at the last, the Lord Jesus in His glory would appear as the firstborn among many brethren who have derived that very glory from Him (cf. Romans 8:29).  

Third, the Lord displays to His people His faithfulness. He has made promises, and now He has kept them. He spoke with His mouth (1 Kings 8:15). The Lord doesn’t have an actual mouth, but the Spirit gives us such anthropomorphic speech to emphasize the reality of those words. And the Lord has fulfilled His Word which He spoke (1 Kings 8:20). “Your son who will come from your body, he shall build the temple for My Name” (1 Kings 8:19). “I have filled the position of my father David, and sit on the throne of Israel, as the Lord promised; and I have built a temple for the name of the Lord God of Israel” (1 Kings 8:20). The Lord spoke, and the Lord fulfilled.

Also, the Lord entered into covenant with His people, and the Lord has sustained that covenant. The ark itself is known as “the ark of the covenant.” It’s almost as if God’s covenant with His people “survives” their rebellion because just as He had done for Noah, so God has done for His covenant: He put it in an ark of safety. It is interesting to note in 1 Kings 8:9 that the only things left in the ark are the two tablets. Gone is the jar of manna and Aaron’s rod that had budded. But these tablets are still called, in 1 Kings 8:21, “the covenant of Yahweh, which He made with our fathers.”

This also helps us understand the ceremonial law that looked forward to Christ, and the civil law that belonged to Israel as a nation-state (“as a body politic,” to use the Westminsterian term). They are implications and applications of the moral law for being in covenant with God as a redeeming, sanctifying Savior. The tablets only had “the Ten Commandments” (though Scripture says “ten words” to refer to them). But these commandments are expressive of the character of God Himself and the difference that makes for us both as redeemed creatures (Exodus 20) and as redeemed sinners (Deuteronomy 5). The Lord isn’t just faithful to us. Far more importantly, He is faithful to Himself!

Finally, the Lord displays to His people His presence/nearness. Here, we focus especially on 1 Kings 8:12-131 Kings 8:21. The Lord dwelling “in dark cloud” (1 Kings 8:12) does not mean that He is somehow a creature who prefers moist locations of low luminosity. Rather, it communicates the impossibility of our being in His presence. 

However, here we are at a temple built for Him to “dwell” among His people (1 Kings 8:13). And this isn’t just a wishful desire of Solomon’s, for the Lord’s display of Himself in the glory cloud has already taken up residence (1 Kings 8:11)! Whatever else this house (literally, 1 Kings 8:101 Kings 8:111 Kings 8:131 Kings 8:16 and the same word in the original of 1 Kings 8:61 Kings 8:181 Kings 8:20) is, it is “a place for the ark” (1 Kings 8:21). The holy, holy, holy God of incomprehensible and unapproachable glory is making a way for His people to come near. And indeed in Christ, we pass even through the veil into the holy of holies—through the new and living way that is His flesh (cf. Hebrews 10:19–20). How marvelous will be that declaration at the end: “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God” (Revelation 21:4)!

So as we see the Lord in 1 Kings 8 displaying His mercy and holiness, His glory, His faithfulness, and His nearness/presence, we are the better enabled to see how great indeed is the greatness of Who Christ is and of what He has done for us and of what He is doing in us and for us! 

How do you come near to God on earth? Where are you really coming near to Him and how? In what way will you at last be in His presence? What will it be like then? What will you be like then? How has this been purchased for you? How are you being brought into what was purchased? What are some of the ways that you ought to be responding to the God Who has done this and is doing this?

Sample prayer:  Lord, how completely other You are and incomprehensibly great You are! And yet, You have brought us near through Your unfathomable mercy in Christ—faithfully doing all that You have promised. You displayed this already in Solomon’s temple, but how much more in the Lord Jesus, Who is the reality of which tabernacle and temple were mere shadows. Forgive us for when we draw near to you casually, which makes light of Who You are and what You have done for us in Christ. How marvelous is Your mercy that even for those who commit such heinous sin as this is, You have atoned for our guilt by Christ’s cross and are glorifying us so that we may enjoy Your glory forever! Do this work by Your Spirit, we pray through Jesus Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP122 “I Was Filled with Joy and Gladness” or TPH164 “God Himself Is with Us”

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