Cherubim, Palm Trees, and Open Flowers
1 Kings 6:29
And he carved all the walls of the house round about with carved figures of cherubim and palm trees and open flowers, within and without…

The question cannot but occur, Why this peculiar carving exclusively? Everywhere they looked they were met by this threefold ornamentation, everywhere cherubim, palm trees and open flowers; these and nothing but these. If only beauty had been the object, if simply ornament had been studied, greater variety would have been introduced; but the perpetual recurrence of these three, amid all the visible forms that convey ideas of beauty, could not fail to strike and to raise inquiry.

I. THE UNION OF THE EARTHLY AND HEAVENLY, THE NATURAL AND THE SPIRITUAL, IN WORSHIP AND RELIGION. The highest spiritual creatures and two of the most prominent natural objects were portrayed together in the house of God. The cherubim representing heaven, the highest grade of spiritual creation, and the palm tree and the open flower representatives of earth and nature in their finest and noblest shapes, were brought together on the walls of the house of God. And there was nothing else to be seen. The highest creature in the spiritual realm was here set alongside of natural objects known to all. Teaching that heaven's service, though higher, is of the same sort with the service on earth. Representatives from the temple of nature were there, and representatives from the heavenly temple. In the house of God and in worship heaven and earth are brought together. We represent in our worship all creatures that cannot worship. We are the priests of the whole visible creation, and our worship unites us with the highest intelligences. We link together the seraph and the flower. Both are represented and contained in us. In worship, space and time vanish. We are in the same company with those who are worshipping around the throne the unveiled glory.

II. LIFE THE GRAND SOURCE, MATERIAL, REALITY. There were three kinds of life portrayed on these walls. Of all the beautiful objects in nature they were living and only living things that were pictured there. Life was here in three stages: life rooted and growing, like the palm tree; life expanded, like the open flower; and life in its highest state, the life of the cherub. How plainly did the voice come from the innermost sanctuary: "Life is all." It is life that is the grand desideratum in the worship of God. It is life that gives value to all things. Nothing is valuable without life. The true life of the soul, then, what is it? The temple explains this. The worshippers were incessantly brought to this question: What is life which is thus so prominent? And they were evermore thrown back on the temple for the answer. In the temple was the answer found. What is life? Life is that which has fellowship with God, life is that which loves God, and longs after Him; life is that which feeds upon God's truth. We are no nearer answering the question precisely and definitely in words than they were. It is still the grand secret. One great lesson taught by this threefold exhibition of life in the temple was undoubtedly this, that all life has the same grand, general laws. How widely apart these different forms of life were — vegetable life and highest seraphic life; and yet widely apart as they are they have the same laws. God does all His work from the humblest to the highest according to the same principles. The life of the plant is sustained by the same laws as the spiritual life of the cherub. The seraph burns and sings by the same simple laws of being as the plant grows and the flower expands.

III. THE UNION OF THESE THREE THINGS IN SPIRITUAL LIFE — WORSHIP, FRUITFULNESS, AND BEAUTY. Worship represented by the cherub, fruitfulness by the palm tree, and beauty by the open flower. True spiritual life shows itself not in one of these but in all. Worship is the foundation and the nutriment of life. It is by the perception of the glory of God and by the adoration of it that the soul is sustained; and it is by fruitfulness that this food finds scope for its energy; for food that is taken into the spiritual nature, and that does not find outlet and space for its energy ceases to be food. Wherever there is true worship of God there is also the fruitfulness of the palm tree, and wherever there is true fruitfulness arising from the worship of God, there is beauty as the result of these. True spiritual beauty is the outcome of the union of these two things — worship and practical fruitfulness.

IV. THE UNION OF THESE THREE THINGS IN THE WORSHIP OF GOD — ASPIRATION, GROWTH, AND RECEPTIVITY. Aspiration was taught by the cherub. The highest form of spiritual life was presented continually before the worshipper in order that he might know what he had to aspire to; and the palm tree, the emblem of steady, straight, upward growth, was a constant lesson and reminder. Did the question rise, How shall I become like the cherub? Were there no hearts that could read the answer in the open flower? The open flower is the way to the cherub. One of the finest pictures of reception among all the objects that God has made is a flower that lies open to catch the sunshine, and to drink the rain and the dew, shuts up when the sun departs, but expands itself again when the sun's rays touch it. By reception the plant and the flower live; and by reception the soul of man lives and grows. Our life is that of a flower. Man cometh forth like a flower and is cut down. It is by aspiring to the cherub life that we gain the victory over that. We are no longer distressed with the thought of the brevity of the life when that of immortal beauty has dawned upon us, and when we firmly grasp the record that God hath given to us eternal life, and that this life is in His Son.

(T. Leckie, D. D.).

Parallel Verses
KJV: And he carved all the walls of the house round about with carved figures of cherubims and palm trees and open flowers, within and without.

WEB: He carved all the walls of the house around with carved figures of cherubim and palm trees and open flowers, inside and outside.

The Mystery of the Cherubim
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