“Bricks and Mortar – The Bigger Picture” or “Where God meets man”

Before we jump into today’s topic, please read the following verses; Gen 3:1-9 and Rev 21:1-3, 22. This will set the theme for today’s discussion. We will look at the dedication of the temple of Solomon (found in 1 Kings 8).
The Cathedral of Cologne from the inside
Briefly think about the most beautiful building or place you have been to. What does make this particular location so gorgeous and attractive to you? Mine, for example would be the Cathedral of Cologne (German: Koelner Dom). This building is tremendous in architecture and with its high and arched ceilings the gaze of the worshipper is lifted heavenwards.
The temple must have been a tremendous building – breath-taking to the ancient Israelites. But before we delve into today’s passage, consider these two statements:
1)   God is the Wholly Other, above creation, beyond our understanding – He 
       is holy
2)     God is our friend, He loves us and cares for us, and He is involved in our daily lives

The first statement talks about the transcendence of God; that is it talks about God being so different from us; that He is above the world and cannot be grasped by our intelligence; whereas the second emphasizes the immanence of God; the immanence portrays God as being involved in creation by sustaining it and being deeply concerned about His people.

The emphasis of the Cathedral of Cologne for example would be the transcendence of God. With which of the two statements can you identify the most?

In my mind this is the struggle king Solomon is wrestling with. Let us look at 1 Kings 8. Let us briefly summarize vv. 1-26 since vv. 27-30 is the main passage we are going to look at. Verses 1-10 tells us what happened when king Solomon dedicated the temple in Jerusalem. Crucial to this event was the bringing in of the Ark of the Covenant. According to verse 9 “[t]here was nothing in the ark except the two stone tablets that Moses had placed in it at Horeb, where the Lord made a covenant with the Israelites after they came out of Egypt.”

This is significant comment. God made a covenant with Israel at Mount Sinai and chose her as His own. God said that Israel would be his possession, a royal priesthood and further that “they would be His people and He would be their God” (cf. Gen 17:1-8; Exod 6:1-8; 29:42-46; Jer 7:21-26). “The presence of Moses’ tablets underscores Israel’s ties to the Sinai (Horeb) covenant. God’s presence, God’s word, and God’s covenant with Israel are inextricably linked” (House, 139).
We want to state two further crucial comments on vv.1-10 which will be of tremendous significance as we will see later. Notice that we read in v. 2 that all this takes place in the month of Ethanim. In this month, the seventh–month, the festival of Booths (also called Tabernacles or Succoth) was celebrated, signifying “the end of the wilderness wanderings” (Richards, 226) and stressing God’s faithfulness to His people Israel. The Day of Atonement on which the sins of Israel would be forgiven was also celebrated in this month.
The second observation is in reference to v. 5. Here we are told that there were so many sacrifices on this occasion that “they could not be recorded or counted.”

Having briefly summarized vv. 1-10 we read in vv. 10-11 “When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the Lord. And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled his temple.” Here we see the tremendous holiness of God…it was too overwhelming for the priests to stay put and do their duties…God is the Wholly Other.
[Just by the way God’s presence can be depicted in Holy Writ by a cloud (cf. Ex. 19:9; 34:5; Lev. 16:2; Deut. 4:11; 31:15 and in the NT Lk 9:34; Acts 1:9)]
For vv. 11-26 we will only mention that in this passage Solomon remembers God’s covenant with his father David (you can read more about that in 2 Sam 7). Solomon praises God for His faithfulness in keeping the promise he gave to David. In vv.23-25 we see that God is loving, faithful, and consistent (cf. House, 144).
          Then we hear a remarkable question out of the mouth of Israel’s king: But will God really dwell on earth? Have you ever thought about that? How ridiculous is the idea the God, who – according to verse 23 – cannot be compared to anything “in heaven above or on earth below,” should dwell on earth!
But Solomon recognizes that. “The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!” v. 27 continues. Solomon is well aware that the temple he has been building is not big enough for the God of the universe – as Solomon states “even the highest heavens cannot contain you God” (v.27). The king of Israel actually states several times in this chapter that “heaven is God’s dwelling place” (v. 30 and also vv. 32, 34, 36, 39, 43, 45 and 49).
Let us look at verses 28-29: Yet give attention to your servant’s prayer and his plea for mercy, O Lord my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence this day. 29 May your eyes be open toward this temple night and day, this place of which you said, ‘My Name shall be there,’ so that you will hear the prayer your servant prays toward this place.
In other words: “Yet” Solomon prays … “Yet you will be with us, God” … “You have promised that your ‘name will be here’”… “we trust in your promise!” God promised to let His name dwell there in the temple…He promised to be there in a special way … Here a holy God is ready to meet His people. Here it is…where God meets man!
But how can this be? How can such a holy God be approached? Solomon gives us the answer – v.30: Hear the supplication of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place. Hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.   
Solomon is absolutely aware that in order for man to approach God there needs to be forgiveness (stressed five times in 1 Kings 8; vv. 30, 34, 36, 39, 50). And forgiveness can only be accomplished through the shedding of blood – that is through sacrifices!
One theologian said that the love of God “was shown in many ways, specifically in the sacrificial system which was God’s gracious provision for his sinful people” (Morris, 608) and we read in Leviticus 17:11 that “the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.”
Remember that we mentioned in the summary of vv. 1-10 that there a two crucial elements we need to remember: (1) The month in which Solomon dedicated the temple (Ethanim) and (2) that there were so many sacrifices on this occasion that “they could not be recorded or counted” (v.5).  

Here now comes the crux of this message: Remember Solomon’s question? But will God really dwell on earth? (v.27). The God who is above creation, the Maker of the universe, the Holy One of Israel; will He dwell on earth? And the resounding answer God gives is: “YES!!!”
            But how so? In God’s Word – His Son Christ Jesus of whom we read in the Gospel of John: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (1:14) –  in Him God meets man!
In Christ Jesus … God’s name is made known, as we read in John 1:18 “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known” – in Him God meets man! In Christ Jesus – who himself says that he is the true temple (John 2:19-22); in Christ Jesus – God’s mercy meets humanity; in Christ Jesus – God meets you and me. “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him,” (Col 1:19; NIV). “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form,” (Col 2:9; NIV).
So here we are. God being holy God and we being sinful; as Solomon also points out in 1 Kings 8:46 “for there is no one who does not sin.” Yet there is hope – because God is loving, faithful, and consistent. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
There is forgiveness! The ultimate Day of Atonement has occurred – on the cross. There is forgiveness! The ultimate sacrifice has been made, the death, the shedding of the blood of “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). The true and ultimate Passover-Lamb has been sacrificed and died for our sins and rose again on the third day! “He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might have superior status in everything” (Col 1:18; author’s translation). He is the Son of God – Jesus Christ!
If you want to experience “God’s tabernacling presence” (Beale, 30) believe in him who loves you and gave himself for you (cf. Gal 2:20); believe in him who rose from the dead and reigns as “the King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Tim 6:15; Rev 17:14; 19:16); believe in Jesus Christ because “there is no other name under heaven given to [us] by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12)…
…and he will send the promised Holy Spirit who will dwell in you! Then you can come to the Most Holy God and call Him “Abba” which means Father (Gal 4:6)!  
To those who do not know Jesus and are not yet following him I want to say that the question God was asking in Genesis 3 is still being asked by Him:  “Where are you?” To those who do know him, I want to encourage you with the hope which is to come, the Coming of our Lord, so that we will be with him forever as Rev 21:3 states:
Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.
And to all of us, whether you are a Christian or not – there is Good News, there is forgiveness! If you have been a Christian for 10 years, if you have been a Christian for 50 years, if you have been a Christian for 10 days or 50 weeks; or if you have been coming to church for quite some time, but you never answered Him who is calling you, or if this is your first time you hear this message – we all need forgiveness.
There is new life for those who believe in Christ Jesus. Through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit we are restored to that which we were created for –an intimate relationship to God; through the Holy Spirit’s indwelling we are the temple of God (1 Cor 3, 16; 6:19; cf. Eph 2:19-22). 
Bibliography
Beale, G. K. “Eden, the Temple, and the Church’s Mission in the New Creation.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 48, no. 1 (2005): 5-31. 
House, Paul R. 1, 2 Kings. NAC, vol. 8. Electronic ed.; Logos Library System. The New American Commentary Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001.
Morris, L. L. “Sacrifice” In New Dictionary of Theology. Ed. Sinclair B. Ferguson and J.I. Packer. electronic ed. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000.
Richards, Lawrence O. The Bible Readers Companion, electronic ed. Wheaton: Victor Books, 1991.

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