Sunday, 1 June 2014

(153) June 2: 2 Chronicles 4-6 & John 12:20-50

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­­
As you read consider the significance of the temple.

To ponder:
As the detail of the temple continues, we are faced not simply with the fact that it is richly adorned, but with its magnificence. For example, its altar (mentioned only in passing in 1 Kings 7v48) is around four times bigger than that in the tabernacle. And the “sea” (bowl) used by the priests for washing, is seven and a half feet in diameter, holding 14,500 gallons of water (4v2-6 and NIV footnotes). Moreover, whereas the tabernacle had only one washbasin, lampstand and table, the temple has ten, as well as many other items and much bronze – a strong and particularly gleaming metal. The wonder of it all is stressed by the fact that everything “amounted to so much that the weight of bronze was not determined.” Christians are not called to construct elaborate buildings for God’s presence as he now resides within his people. But it is not wrong to spend money on simply glorifying God (Mk 14v1-9).
            When all done, Solomon brought in the items David had dedicated (see 1 Chr 26v26-28, perhaps also 1 Chr 29v2-5), and then summond the leaders of Israel to bring in the ark (from elsewhere in the city), and the tabernacle itself (from Gibeon). (see notes on 1 Kings 8). This clearly symbolised the replacement of the tabernacle with the temple. Appropriately it was the feast of tabernacles when God’s provision is remembered. And it is made absolutely clear everything was done fittingly with the Levites carrying the articles as was required by the law, and an innumerable amount of sheep and cattle being sacrificed (presumably as burnt and fellowship offerings, Lev 1, 3). We should note the comment that the poles of the ark “are still there today” (5v9) must be from the source the author is using and included to affirm that the poles had been seen, proving the presence of the ark. The book actually ends after the temple has been destroyed and the ark lost (36v18-19).
            The climax comes as the priests withdraw from the Holy Place (ie. the room next to the Most Holy Place where the ark resided), marking the fact that everything was now in place. We are told they were consecrated and so fit to be there. With everyone dressed in “fine linen,” as required in God’s holy presence, a massive orchestra of trumpets, with cymbals, harps and lyres, then accompanied a choir comprising “all” the Levitical musicians in singing of God’s goodness and enduring love. Then God’s glory (the manifestation of his very nature) filled the temple in the form of a cloud so the priests couldn’t perform their service. This is why so much space has been given to listing those who served in the temple, to the preparations for its building and then the building itself. The temple was the place of God’s special presence – the sign of God’s goodness and love to Israel, without which she could never enjoy security or prosperity in the land, or fulfil the purposes God had for her. We cannot therefore stress the temple’s importance too much. For want of a better analogy, just as a ship is pointless without an engine room to power it, so Israel’s existence was futile without the temple because of the one who resided there. Likewise, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is essential to the Christian and church.
            Solomon’s praise reflects this understanding (see also notes on 1 Kings 8). He recounts God’s covenant with David in a way that parallels it in importance with his covenant with Israel, and suggests his choice of Jerusalem for “his name” as the most significant event since the Exodus (6v5-6). His prayer then displays his awareness that God cannot dwell in a building, seeing the temple instead as the place of what might be called his “attentive” presence (6v19, 40, 7v15). In Hebrew thought a name respresents the nature and so reputation of the individual (Ex 34v5-7). So for God’s name to reside in the temple, meant it was to there that the Israelite should look for God to act according to his nature and for the sake of his own glory or reputation. Solomon therefore prays that God would answer prayers prayed towards the temple, and so that he is honoured (6v31, 33). All this is implied as we pray in Jesus’ “name” to God’s presence in heaven.
            Solomon concludes calling God, as it were, to get up and come to his resting place. Praying that priests be “clothed with salvation” may refer to how the High Priest would wear the names of Israel’s twelve tribes and “bear their guilt” on a plate attached to his turban, and so be able to represent and make atonement for Israel (Ex 28v6-38). “Saints” (lit. “holy ones”) refers to all the people, here rejoicing in God’s goodness in forgiving them. 6v41-42 therefore pray that God would save his people through the work of the temple and so fulfil his promise of granting David an everlasting kingdom. For us it is a prayer that God would fulfil this in Christ by saving us according to the gospel, to our everlasting joy.

Praying it home:
Praise God for forever dwelling in us and in the church. Pray we would turn to him for mercy and in time of need.

Thinking further:
None today.
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