1 Kings 6
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
The three chapters thus introduced describe the erection and dedication of Solomon's temple. Magnificent as the building was, architecturally and artistically, it deserves more consideration as that which was the divinely appointed centre of true worship. Its significance to Christians can hardly be overrated. This the Epistle to the Hebrews clearly shows. While it stood it was for all nations a witness for Jehovah; and now that in sub. stance it has passed away, the spiritual truths it embodied are a heritage for us. Essentially it was one with the tabernacle, the erection and ritual of which were directly revealed by God on Sinai. Neither in principle nor even in minute detail were the directions of Jehovah about its construction to be disobeyed. From the ark of the covenant down to the hooks for the curtains the command ran, "See that thou make all things according to the pattern showed thee in the mount." There are far reaching issues ever flowing from the smallest details of Divine law. Great meanings are wrapped by God in trifling things. (Give examples of this.) Solomon was right in superseding the tabernacle by the temple. The tent was suitable for the wandering life of an unformed nation, but the stately and stable temple for an organized people whose pilgrimage had ended. God's utterances both to David and Solomon, and the presence of the Shechinah on the day of consecration, prove that the erection of the temple was according to the will of God. The temple had meanings which no other building subsequently erected could have. It was "a shadow of good things to come." It symbollzed much that was revealed in the person of Christ (Hebrews 9:11, etc.), and much that is now existing, not on earth, but in heaven (Hebrews 9:24, etc.) But, though its symbolism is a thing of the past, some of its purposes and uses are things of the present, known in the places set apart by Christian men for the worship of God. To some of those we now refer.

I. THE TEMPLE WAS A PLACE OF SACRIFICE (2 Chronicles 7:12). The sin offering typified the atonement made by the Lamb of God, who once was offered for the sins of the world. This is the fact made known by the ministry of the Word and represented by the broken bread and outpoured wine of the Eucharistic feast. No time and no place can be more suitable than the sanctuary for the acknowledgment of sin, and the expression of faith. There each Christian sings -

"My faith would lay her hand
On that dear head of Thine."

II. THE TEMPLE WAS A PLACE FOR PRAYER AND PRAISE. Solomon used it thus (ch. 8) Incense typified it. In Isaiah 56:7 we read, "My house shall be called a house of prayer, for all people." The Lord Jesus referred to this when the temple was used for other purposes (Matthew 21:18). Describe the praise of the temple. Many there understood the words, "Praise ye the Lord; for it is good to sing praises unto our God; for it is pleasant, and praise is comely." Show the advantages of united praise, the promises given to combination in prayer, e.g., sympathies enlarged, weak faith invigorated by contact with stronger faith, etc.

III. THE TEMPLE WAS A PLACE FOR THE CONSECRATION OF PERSONS AND THINGS. There priests were set apart; there sometimes prophets were called (Isaiah 6.); there dedicated things were laid before the Lord (2 Chronicles 5:1). Show how in modern days this is still true of the assembly of God's people. Men are there roused to a sense of responsibility, and there consecrate themselves to the service of God. Resolutions and vows are made there which carry with them the impress of Divine approval. The cares of life, its purposes, its companionships are there made to appear in their Godward aspect. Through the worship of the sanctuary heavenly light falls on daily toil, and men learn to call nothing that God has cleansed common or unclean.

IV. THE TEMPLE WAS A PLACE FOR REMEMBERING THE LAW OF THE LORD. The temple was incomplete until the ark of the covenant was brought in; and "there was nothing in the ark save the two tables of stone which Moses put there at Horeb, when the Lord made a covenant with the children of Israel" (1 Kings 8:9). Show the importance of organized Christian worship as a perpetual witness for the law of God. In the busy week there are temptations to forget it; to put expediency in the place of righteousness, etc. The whole tone of English society is raised by the faithful exhibition of God's requirements each sabbath day.

V. THE TEMPLE WAS A PLACE FOR THE UNION OF THE PEOPLE. The Psalms of the Ascents (Songs of Degrees) show this. The people overlooked their social distinctions and the tribes ignored their tribal jealousies when they ascended the sacred hill to unite as a nation in the worship of the one true God. Jeroboam was shrewd enough to see that it would be impossible for two separate kingdoms to exist while all the people met in the one temple. Hence the calves at Bethel and Dan, and hence in our Lord's day the temple on Gerizim. Show how in the Christian Church the rich and the poor meet together, and how essential Christian principle is to fuse together the various classes of society. There are many disintegrating forces at work - the capitalists and the working classes, for example, are seriously divided. Common meeting ground cannot be found in the home, but in the Church. The recognition of the one Fatherhood precedes the realization of the one brotherhood. Christians are, unhappily, divided amongst themselves. Sectarianism has increased the division of society. Relief is to be found not in form, but in spirit; not in union, but in unity. As we worship together and work together, the oneness of which we dream may become a reality.

VI. THE TEMPLE WAS A PLACE FOR THE REVELATION OF GOD (see vers. 10, 11; 1 Chronicles 5:13; 1 Chronicles 7:2). His presence is not confined to any temple made with hands; but wherever His people meet, there He reveals Himself as he does not do unto the world. "Where two or three are gathered together in My name there am I in the midst of them." It was when the disciples were assembled with one accord for prayer that the Holy Spirit came. So may our assemblies be blessed; and sinners will find pardon, the careworn will find rest, the doubters will find faith, the weakly will find strength, and the despondent will find hope in the house of the Lord our God. - A.R.

1 Kings 6:2
1 Kings 6:2. The temple is described as "the house which King Solomon built for the Lord." This idea of consecration ran through the whole plan of the building. Without having recourse to a minute and fanciful symbolism, we see clearly that everything is so disposed as to convey the idea of the holiness of God. IN THE CENTRE IS THE ALTAR OF SACRIFICE. The holy of holies, hidden from gaze by its impenetrable veil, strikes with awe the man of unclean heart and lips, who hears the seraphim cry from beneath their shadowing wings, "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty!" (Isaiah 6:3.) The temple of holiness is not the temple of nature of colossal proportions, as in the East, nor is it the temple of aesthetic beauty, as in Greece. It is the dwelling place of Him who is invisible, and of purer eyes than to behold evil (Habakkuk 1:13.) Hence its peculiar character. It answers thus to the true condition of religious art, which never sacrifices the idea and sense of the Divine to mere form, but makes the form instinct with the Divine idea. Let us freely recognize the claims of religious art. The extreme Puritanism which thinks it honours God by a contemptuous disregard of the aesthetic, is scarcely less mistaken than the idolatrous materialism which makes beauty of form the primary consideration. It was not for nothing that God made the earth so fair, the sky so glorious; and it was under Divine inspiration that the temple of Jerusalem was reared in such magnificence and majesty as to strike all beholders. Only let us never forget to seek the Divine idea beneath the beauty of the form. When we admire merely the beautiful, whether in a temple, as did the disciples, or in the great world of nature, the warning words of Christ fall upon upon our ear: "As for these things which ye behold, the days will come in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another" (Luke 21:6). "Tous les cieux et leur splendeur ne valent pas le soupir d'un seul coeur." Love is the crowning beauty. It is like the precious vase of ointment which Mary of Bethany broke over the feet of Christ. Beauty is the fit associate of worship, so long as it is kept subordinate, and does not distract our minds from the higher spiritual realities of which it is but symbolic. Let us seek in the temple of nature the high and holy God, of whom it is said, that "the invisible things of Him are clearly seen from the creation of the world, being understood by the things that are made" (Romans 1:19). Let us recognize His presence beneath the arches of the mediaeval cathedral, among the memorials of a worship which we ourselves have left behind. Let us seek Him in the great monuments of Christian art, whether reared by poet, musician, painter, or sculptor. Let it be our aim to glorify Him in the forms of our worship, while we sedulously guard against the worship of the form, which is sheer idolatry. Such are the principles of Christian aestheties, which are one branch of Christian morals. "The beautiful is the glory of the true," says Plato. When one corner of the veil which hides heaven from us is lifted, the Divine life shines forth in all its radiance of purity and beauty. - E. de P.

This was due partly to the reverential feelings of those engaged in so holy a work. "The Lord is in his holy temple, let all the earth keep silence before him." If we are upbuilding Christian character in ourselves, or in our children; if we are helping to rear the spiritual temple of God, such reverence, as opposed to thoughtlessness, flippancy, etc., should characterize us. The silence of the building was not only the outcome of devout feeling, but it was (like the temple itself) symbolical of spiritual truth; as we propose to show. A noble temple is being reared (1 Corinthians 3:16, 17; Ephesians 2:22; 1 Peter 2:5). This temple is imperishable and unassailable; that of Solomon's was pillaged (1 Kings 14:25; 2 Kings 12:17), polluted by the unworthy (2 Kings 21:4-7), burnt by the enemy (2 Kings 25:9). The erection described in our text teaches us something of the work which is still carried on by the builders of the true temple.

I. THE BUILDERS OF GOD'S HOUSE ARE OFTEN DOING A SECRET WORK. Picture the workmen in the quarries, the moulders in the clay, the artist with his graving tool, etc. Their names were unknown, they were unrecognized by the multitudes who would worship in the temple they were helping to build. Illustrate from this the work of mothers influencing their children; of visitors to haunts of sin and sorrow, whose ministry of love is not known to their nearest friends; of literary men in obscure rooms who are influencing the destinies of a people, etc. Draw encouragement from this, e.g., that we do not see all the good that is going on in England and abroad, in the Churches and outside them. So Elijah was cheered by the revelation that there were seven thousand in Israel who had not bowed the knee to Baal, when he thought he alone was left to witness for Jehovah. Refer to the Lord's teaching about the secret progress of His kingdom; the leaven hid in three measures of meal; the seed cast into the earth and left buried by the man who sleeps and rises, unconscious that it is springing and growing up he knows not how.

II. THE BUILDERS OF GOD'S HOUSE DO VARIED WORK. Enumerate some of the different kinds of labour and of skill which were required for the temple. Show that the work varied in dignity, in arduousness, in remunerativeness, etc. None of it, however, was without its value or final effect. Describe the multitudinous forms of Christian activity, and the advantages of such diversity. It demands self-abnegation, it calls forth all graces and gifts, it makes one Christian dependent on another, and so evokes sympathy and gives place for co-operation, etc. Let none despise his own work, nor envy another his.

III. THE BUILDERS OF GOD'S HOUSE DO THEIR WORK WITH CAREFUL COMPLETENESS. How exact the measurements, how perfect the finish of work, which only required to be brought together in order to make a complete whole. Piece joined piece in the woodwork, and every separate casting found its appropriate niche. Nothing but painstaking accuracy could have insured such a result. Yet probably no workman knew the whole design; he was only intent on finishing his own appointed work. Observe the carefulness of God in little things, whether in creation or in moral law. Small infringements of Divine ordinances bring lamentable results. Illustrate from the consequences of disobedience to natural law in pain, disease, etc. Argue from this to the higher in mental and moral spheres. Carelessness is not tolerated. How much less in concerns of the soul. Negligence is sin. "How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?" There must be care in laying the foundations of heavenly hopes (see Matthew 7:24-27). Care also is required in doing work for our Lord. "But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon" (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).

IV. THE BUILDERS OF GOD'S HOUSE ARE MORE ANXIOUS FOR THOROUGHNESS THAN FOR NOISE. No sound of hammer or axe was heard to call the attention of passers by to the noble work going on; but all the inhabitants of the kingdom saw the effects of the quiet labour. Quietude is hard to obtain in the activities of the present day, yet God's servants must have it. Christ saw His disciples were excited, and said, "Come ye yourselves apart into the desert and rest awhile." Moses needed the solitude of Midian and of Sinai; Elijah the loneliness of Horeb, etc. Great souls are fashioned in silence. Our lonely times are our growing times. Exemplify by reference to a man laid aside by illness, to a mother or wife who is for a time absorbed in ministry to some invalid. The busy workers need quiet most. They wait on the Lord, and so renew their strength. Some of the best work done for Christ is silent. It is not proclaimed by large organization, or applauding crowds, but lies in the whispered counsel, the interceding prayer, etc.

V. THE BUILDERS OF GOD'S HOUSE WILL SEE THEIR LABOUR ISSUE IN THE DIVINE IDEAL. The work was widely distributed, secretly done, etc., but all was tending to an appointed end - the temple. The building existed in the mind of the master builder before it had material existence. So with God's work. A Divine purpose is controlling all, appointing all; and out of what seems confusion and contradiction He will bring forth "the new heaven and the new earth." Faithfully doing each one what lies to his hand, we shall all find that what we have done has its place and results; that our "labour is not in vain in the Lord." Forgotten and obscure workers will have their reward from Him who noticed the widow's mite, and gratefully accepted Mary's offering. We shall do more than we expect, if we do what we can.

VI. THE BUILDERS OF GOD'S HOUSE FIND THEIR REWARD IN THE GLORY OF THEIR GOD. Describe the temple - complete at last - resounding with songs of praise, crowded with worshippers, overwhelmed by the Divine presence - and use it as a type of the temple not made with hands, where the redeemed serve God day and night. The wish of God's noblest servant is that God may be glorified whether by life or by death. Apply the idea of silent working to what God is doing in each Christian heart by the discipline of life and the influence of the Holy Spirit. It is felt within, but it is not known or heard without. - A.R.

That the cherubim were symbolic no one denies. They are so often mentioned in Scripture that their meaning has been frequently discussed. Enumerate some of the opinions held. The view we accept is that they were symbolic representations of redeemed humanity. They were intended to inspire men with hope of redemption, from the day when the Lord placed them at the east of the garden of Eden, till the vision of John (Revelation 21.) is fulfilled in the "new heavens and new earth," wherein the cherubim are no longer seen, having vanished before the reality they symbolically represented. In the cherubim we are reminded of the following -

I. THE PERFECTING OF HUMANITY. Some obscurity lingers about the forms of these beings. They are introduced in Genesis without a word of description; and in Exodus (25 and 37.) little is said beyond this, that they had "wings and faces." Turning to their visionary appearances - to Ezekiel and to John - there is variety in form. But whatever latitude there may be in detail, the leading form was always that of a man - e.g., Ezekiel says (Ezekiel 1:5), "they had the likeness of a man." With this, other creature forms were combined, viz., the lion, the ox, and eagle. These were selected for special reasons. They belonged to the noblest kingdom, that of animal life, as distinguished from that which was vegetable or mineral. They were amongst the highest after man in the nature of their life; very different, for example, from sea anemones, etc. They had loftier attributes than those of other creatures; greater powers or wider usefulness. Hence, combined with the image of man to form the cherubim, they suggested the addition to him of the powers they specially represented. The lion, especially to the Hebrews, was a type of kingly majesty and glorious strength. Give quotations from Scripture. The eagle, with its keen vision and swift flight, was a type of rapidity of thought and movement (Deuteronomy 28:49; Job 9:26; Proverbs 23:5). The ox, used in ploughing, harrowing, carrying home the sheaves, and treading out the corn, represented patient and productive activity. In the cherubim all these were grafted on man - an ideal combination, to show that, though man was the highest creature of God (he alone having a moral and a rational nature), he could be, and would be, ennobled by having hereafter the powers bestowed, of which in creature life these animals were representatives. Show the Scripture evidence for expecting in heaven the faculties for knowing, for serving, for enjoying, which we have not here.

II. THE FULNESS OF LIFE. In Ezekiel and Revelation the cherubim are frequently spoken of as "the living ones" (animantia, ζωα). This expression is obscured in our translation by the unhappy rendering "beasts" (Revelation 4:6), etc. The expression denotes life in its highest and most active form. In harmony with this, Ezekiel speaks of their "running and returning." John says, "they rest not day nor night." Though the cherubim in the temple and tabernacle were of necessity stationary, the same idea was there expressed by the outspread wings. The cherubim pointed on to the plenitude of life, Divine and spiritual, over which weald. ness should have no power, and towards which death would never approach. "I give unto them eternal life," etc. "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly," etc.

III. THE DWELLING WITH GOD. The cherubim were always associated with the Divine Presence. After man was driven from Eden, the cherubim was placed there to occupy the place he had forfeited; where life was full, and where holiness was a necessity. When the tabernacle was constructed, all the inner curtains were inwoven with cherubic figures, and images of cherubim appeared on the sacred ark, which was the throne of Jehovah. This was repeated in the temple, as the passage before us shows; for the magnificent cherubim, each ten cubits high, were stationed in the "oracle," the place where the Shechinah proclaimed God's presence. We must add, therefore, to the ideas we have dwelt on - this thought, that the life represented was life essentially connected with God Himself. Not only will the life of the future be full, but it will be holy. Holiness will be its essence. "The pure in heart shall see God." "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord." "Neither shall there enter into it anything that defileth," etc.

IV. THE BLISS OF THE FUTURE. A careful reading of Genesis 3:24 shows that the "sword" and the "cherubim" were not only distinct, but had different functions. The sword "kept" the way to the tree of life, so that it was more accessible to fallen man. It was a symbol of repulsion and alarm. The cherubim "kept" the garden in a different sense. They did not defend it against man, but occupied it for man, and therefore gave to those who were shut out the hope of that which the promise of Jehovah had already announced. The presence of the cherubim said to fallen man: "This region of life is not destroyed, it is not given over to other creatures, but it is occupied and kept provisionally for you by a being in whom your nature predominates; and hereafter, you yourself changed, enriched with new powers, restored by redemptive love to holiness, shall share Paradise regained." The means of realizing this became more clear as the ages rolled by. The hope that ideal humanity would inherit bliss did not die out, but the method of its fulfilment was unfolded in the Mosaic institutions. Not only did the cherubim in the oracle witness, as the cherubim in Eden had done, but once a year the high priest, as the representative of the people, went in, and stood with the cherubim in the presence of Jehovah. He entered not "without blood," but after atonement had been made for the sins of the people. Apply this to the truth revealed in the Epistle to the Hebrews. Show how Christ, who has atoned for the world's sin, has entered as our High Priest into the holiest of all, and how He has opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers. No wonder that in the Revelation "the Lamb that was slain" is depicted as being the object of heaven's praise; the link between man's guilt and God's mercy. [For justification of this use of the cherubim, see Fairbairn's "Typology of Scripture."] - A.R.

In comparison with other sacred shrines of antiquity the temple of Solomon was small in its dimensions and brief in the time of its building. Nor will the mere fact of its material splendour account for the extraordinary interest with which it has ever been regarded - an interest in which Jew, Mohammedan, and Christian alike participate. The place it occupied, the part it performed in the religious history of the world, will alone account for this. If it is necessary to suppose any pre-existing model as suggesting the plan of its structure, it is to Assyria and not to Egypt, as some have thought, that we should look for such a type. But however this may be, it has a deep Divine meaning which raises it above comparison with any other temple that the hand of man has ever reared. Let us look on it now as the ancient symbol of the Church of the living God, that fellowship of newborn souls of whom St. Peter says, "Ye also as living stones are built up a spiritual house," etc. (1 Peter 2:5). Note certain points of special interest in this analogy - those features of the temple which are suggestive of similar features in the spiritual fabric of the redeemed Church.

I. THE FIRMNESS OF ITS FOUNDATION. The threshing floor of Araunah, the site of the temple, was part of the plateau on the top of Mount Moriah (2 Chronicles 3:1). Solomon, as we are told by Josephus, in order to enlarge the area, built massive walls on the sloping sides of the mountain, filling in the spaces with earth; and the foundations of these walls were composed of huge stones bedded and, as it were, mortised in the solid rock How forcibly are we reminded of the word of Christ to Peter, "Upon this rock will I build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18). Whatever the bearing of this word on the disciple himself may be, it is certain that it cannot refer to him apart from the grand confession he has just made - " Thou art the Christ, the son of the living God." Peter may be one of the great foundation stones, but Christ Himself is the solid, primary, unhewn Rock on which the fabric rests. Not so much any truth about Him, but the personal Christ in the grandeur of His being, the integrity of His righteousness, the strength and fidelity of his wondrous love, is the Church's firm foundation.

II. THE SILENT PROCESS OF ITS STRUCTURE. "There was neither hammer, nor axe, nor any tool of iron heard in the house while it was in building (ver. 7). This was probably in obedience to the prohibition recorded in Exodus 20:26 and Deuteronomy 27:5. It expressed the king's sense of the sanctity of the work. The tranquillity of the scene must not be broken by the clang of inharmonious sounds. "Like some tall palm the noiseless fabric grew." The fact is suggestive. The building up of the Church of God is a silent, hidden process. Outward visible agencies must be employed, but the real constructive forces are out of sight. Truth works secretly and silently in the souls of men. "The kingdom of God cometh not with observation." Noise and show are out of harmony with the sanctity of it. Clamour and violence only hinder the work. Let us not mistake a restless, busy, fussy zeal for the externalities of Church life for true spiritual service. This is often in inverse ratio to the amount of real edification. The best machinery works with least friction and noise. The quiet, thoughtful workers, who move on steadily by the inspiration of their holy purpose, without much public recognition, may after all be the most efficient builders of the temple of God.

III. THE VARIETY OF THE AGENCIES BY WHICH THE WORE WAS DONE. Foreign power was enlisted in the service - Hiram and his artificers. Cedars from Lebanon, gold and silver and precious stones from Ophir and Parvaim, brass "without weight" from the foundries of Succoth and Zarethan - all were consecrated to it. So also with the spiritual fabric. The resources of the world are at the command of Him who rears it. "All things serve His might." All beings, with all their faculties, are at His disposal All streams of human interest, and thought, and speech, and activity may be made tributary to the great river of His purpose. Our faith rests in the assurance that it is so - that just as our physical life is nourished by all sorts of ministries, near and remote, so the kingdom of truth and righteousness in the world is being built up by a vast variety of agencies which it is beyond our power to trace. All human affairs are but as the scaffolding within which the structure of God's great house is slowly rising to its completion. To this structure it is that the prophetic word, in its deepest meaning, may be applied, "The sons of strangers shall build up thy walls" (Isaiah 60:10). And in its final consummation shall be fulfilled the apocalyptic picture, "The kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it." (Revelation 21:22).

IV. THE MINGLED STRENGTH AND BEAUTY OF THE FABRIC. The blocks of stone were lined with cedar planks, and the cedar overlaid with plates of gold; the walls covered with carved "cherubims and palm trees and open flowers;" the brazen pillars crowned with "lily work." The building was not of large dimensions, but wonderful for its combination of solidity and adornment, partaking of the firmness of the rocky mount on which it stood, glittering in the sunlight, the crowning glory of the royal city. How much more truly may we say of the spiritual temple, "Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary." There is no strength like that of truth and righteousness; no beauty like that of holy character: - strength drawn from Christ, the living Foundation, the reflected beauty of that purer heaven which is the eternal home of God.

V. THE ORDERLY ARRANGEMENT OF ITS PARTS AND APPURTENANCES. The temple was framed apparently after the model of the tabernacle, but with doubled dimensions and more enduring materials, and that was "after the pattern shown to Moses in the mount" - all regulated with regard to the due administration of the service of God. Courts, chambers, galleries, altars, layers, utensils - all consecrated to some sacred use, or meant to enshrine some high symbolic meaning. The gathering up of a complex variety of parts in one grand structural unity. Such is the Church - an aggregate of various but harmonious and mutually helpful parts. "There are diversities of gifts and administrations and operations, but the same Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:4). "All the building fitly framed together," etc. (Ephesians 2:13). "The whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth," etc. (Ephesians 4:16). It would seem necessary that the social religious life should assume some visible organized form; and though there may be no such form or forms ecclesiastical that can claim to have the stamp of distinct Divine approval, yet all are Divine so far as they minister to the general edification and preserve "the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace." They each and all have their place in the Divine order, if they help to fulfil the holy uses, and to heighten the glory of the great temple of the Lord.

VI. ITS SUBLIME DISTINCTION AS THE HABITATION OF GOD (see vers. 12, 18, etc.) This was but the repetition of a more ancient promise (Exodus 25:8; Exodus 29:45). And what are all these promises, with all the marvellous manifestations that verified them, but typical foreshadowings of the richer grace by virtue of which the Church becomes "the habitation of God through the Spirit"? "The Most High dwells not in temples made with hands;" His dwelling place is the fellowship of redeemed souls. - W.

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