I once knew a fellow many years ago in New Jersey who was a likeable sort of guy, but with a rather ragged and earthy edge about him. He had lived life a bit too much in the fast lane, foolishly dabbling into a partying and drinking side of adventure. He would hang around with those of us who were a part of the local running club, still jogging a bit, but certainly not able to do much. For someone like me who only knew him at this stage of life, it was rather difficult to imagine him at an earlier stage of his life when he was one of the better runners in the country. But bad lifetime choices had taken a toll upon him.
Our story today of Solomon and the dedication of the Temple is one of an incredible day and event. Knowing the tragic sadness and end of the story of Solomon and the split of his kingdom into a divided nation north and south, it is striking to see this Solomon of earlier years.
You will recall that David wanted to build a Temple for the Lord. God was blessed by the desire, being something that the Lord had not actually called upon David to do. It was decreed that this would not be something for David’s time, but that his son Solomon would make this happen. And to the great credit of David, he did not mourn over this or resent this loss of opportunity, but rather he used the remaining years of his life to make helpful preparations for this great project. There is a great and timeless generational lesson in that story.
So Solomon picks up the effort and does indeed make it happen. We read in 1 Kings 6:1-2 …
6:1 – In the four hundred and eightieth year after the Israelites came out of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, the second month, he began to build the temple of the Lord.
2 The temple that King Solomon built for the Lord was sixty cubits long, twenty wide and thirty high.
The passage goes on to give details of the splendor of this structure, and then in verses 37-38 it says …
37 The foundation of the temple of the Lord was laid in the fourth year, in the month of Ziv. 38 In the eleventh year in the month of Bul, the eighth month, the temple was finished in all its details according to its specifications. He had spent seven years building it.
The actual presence of God within the House of the Lord was the Ark of the Covenant, being the place of atonement within the most holy place. So the key moment of the Temple was that of bringing the ark into this permanent structure …
8:1 – Then King Solomon summoned into his presence at Jerusalem the elders of Israel, all the heads of the tribes and the chiefs of the Israelite families, to bring up the ark of the Lord’s covenant from Zion, the City of David. 2 All the Israelites came together to King Solomon at the time of the festival in the month of Ethanim, the seventh month.
3 When all the elders of Israel had arrived, the priests took up the ark, 4 and they brought up the ark of the Lord and the tent of meeting and all the sacred furnishings in it. The priests and Levites carried them up, 5 and King Solomon and the entire assembly of Israel that had gathered about him were before the ark, sacrificing so many sheep and cattle that they could not be recorded or counted.
6 The priests then brought the ark of the Lord’s covenant to its place in the inner sanctuary of the temple, the Most Holy Place, and put it beneath the wings of the cherubim. 7 The cherubim spread their wings over the place of the ark and overshadowed the ark and its carrying poles. 8 These poles were so long that their ends could be seen from the Holy Place in front of the inner sanctuary, but not from outside the Holy Place; and they are still there today. 9 There 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.
What an amazing scene this is! The presence of God was so “thick” that the priests could not long endure this cloud of God’s glory. And Solomon speaks at this moment to recall the history and significance of the event …
12 Then Solomon said, “The Lord has said that he would dwell in a dark cloud; 13 I have indeed built a magnificent temple for you, a place for you to dwell forever.”
14 While the whole assembly of Israel was standing there, the king turned around and blessed them. 15 Then he said: “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who with his own hand has fulfilled what he promised with his own mouth to my father David. For he said, 16 ‘Since the day I brought my people Israel out of Egypt, I have not chosen a city in any tribe of Israel to have a temple built so that my Name might be there, but I have chosen David to rule my people Israel.’
17 “My father David had it in his heart to build a temple for the Name of the Lord, the God of Israel. 18 But the Lord said to my father David, ‘You did well to have it in your heart to build a temple for my Name. 19 Nevertheless, you are not the one to build the temple, but your son, your own flesh and blood—he is the one who will build the temple for my Name.’
20 “The Lord has kept the promise he made: I have succeeded David my father and now I sit on the throne of Israel, just as the Lord promised, and I have built the temple for the Name of the Lord, the God of Israel. 21 I have provided a place there for the ark, in which is the covenant of the Lord that he made with our ancestors when he brought them out of Egypt.”
Solomon went on with an extended prayer of dedication from verses 22-53, which is rather awesome as well. And finally, the King addresses the people in a pastoral leadership sort of way …
54 When Solomon had finished all these prayers and supplications to the Lord, he rose from before the altar of the Lord, where he had been kneeling with his hands spread out toward heaven. 55 He stood and blessed the whole assembly of Israel in a loud voice, saying:
56 “Praise be to the Lord, who has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses. 57 May the Lord our God be with us as he was with our ancestors; may he never leave us nor forsake us. 58 May he turn our hearts to him, to walk in obedience to him and keep the commands, decrees and laws he gave our ancestors. 59 And may these words of mine, which I have prayed before the Lord, be near to the Lord our God day and night, that he may uphold the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel according to each day’s need, 60 so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God and that there is no other. 61 And may your hearts be fully committed to the Lord our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands, as at this time.”
What an amazing day. It had to be the greatest day of Solomon’s life, and that is saying something! The festive event went on for multiple days with tens of thousands of sacrifices. It was even a bigger event than the Olympics in Rio that we see on TV this week.
God appears again in a dream, as he had earlier and as we wrote about yesterday. So it says …
9:1 – When Solomon had finished building the temple of the Lord and the royal palace, and had achieved all he had desired to do, 2 the Lord appeared to him a second time, as he had appeared to him at Gibeon. 3 The Lord said to him:
“I have heard the prayer and plea you have made before me; I have consecrated this temple, which you have built, by putting my Name there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.
4 “As for you, if you walk before me faithfully with integrity of heart and uprightness, as David your father did, and do all I command and observe my decrees and laws, 5 I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised David your father when I said, ‘You shall never fail to have a successor on the throne of Israel.’
6 “But if you or your descendants turn away from me and do not observe the commands and decrees I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, 7 then I will cut off Israel from the land I have given them and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. Israel will then become a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples. 8 This temple will become a heap of rubble. All who pass by will be appalled and will scoff and say, ‘Why has the Lord done such a thing to this land and to this temple?’ 9 People will answer, ‘Because they have forsaken the Lord their God, who brought their ancestors out of Egypt, and have embraced other gods, worshiping and serving them—that is why the Lord brought all this disaster on them.’”
Wow, what a story. Anyone who had all of this blessing and all of this affirmation from God would surely not fall prey to the sort of warnings that God had given in this dream. The remainder of the chapter and all of the following 10th chapter of 1 Kings lists all of the deeds of the height of Solomon’s reign. He built many great structures, had a fleet of ships, and his wisdom was legendary along with his wealth – the rulers of the earth came to see it.
It is not an exaggeration at all to say that Solomon was THE GUY who indeed had it all. He could just rest in it all and enjoy all of this succession of successes, right? Nope. Even the guy with it all needed to work daily to be faithful to remain in obedient relationship with God. I think the timeless application of that is rather obvious to every last one of us!