It took Solomon seven years to build the temple for God. He began it in the fourth year of his reign and completed it in the eleventh year (1 Kings 6:37-38). He also built a palace for himself which took another thirteen years to build (1 Kings 7:1-12).
Once the temple and all the items to be used in the worship of God was completed, Solomon brought the Ark of the Covenant to be placed in the inner sanctuary. Israel’s elders, tribal leaders, and all the men of Israel came to witness the transfer of the Ark to the temple.
Solomon then blessed the assembled Israelites and offered a prayer to God. The prayer is rather long as it is recorded in both the Kings and Chronicles, but there are themes which are worth our attention.
“O Lord, God of Israel, there is no god like you in heaven above or on earth below! You maintain covenantal loyalty to your servants who obey you with sincerity…Now, O Lord, God of Israel, keep the promise you made to your servant, my father David, when you said, ‘You will never fail to have a successor ruling before me on the throne of Israel, provided that your descendants watch their step and serve me as you have done.’” (1 Kings 8:23-25 NET)
There was no god like YHVH, the God of Israel! God had promised that the line of David would always have a king on the throne of Israel. But notice that there was a condition placed on this: provided that they were faithful to God and served him. Today there is no throne in the land of Israel. No descendant of David reigns on a physical throne. But there is one of the lineage of David who is reigning: Jesus the Messiah. His throne isn’t a physical one nor is his kingdom physical. He told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world.” This is the kingdom we are part of as Christians.
“God does not really live on the earth! Look, if the sky and the highest heaven cannot contain you, how much less this temple I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27)
The temple Solomon constructed, from its description, was a building of beauty with the walls covered with gold. It was impressive! But Solomon realised that it could not contain God. In fact, the earth cannot contain him nor any other part of Creation. The God we serve is so much greater than anything on the earth.
Solomon realised that having a temple would not keep the Israelite faithful to their God. He said, “The time will come when your people will sin against you (for there is no one who is sinless!) and you will be angry with them and deliver them over to their enemies” (1 Kings 8:46). He appealed to the people to be faithful but when they sinned to repent and come back to God, asking for forgiveness. The same is true today. We need to realise that we are not sinless and make sure we ask our Father in Heaven to forgive us.
Solomon realised that God was faithful. He said, “Not one of all the faithful promises he made through his servant Moses is left unfulfilled!” (1 Kings 8:56). Sadly, many today are looking for God to still restore a physical kingdom in Israel to fulfil his promises to Moses. Yet time and again in scripture we read that God fulfilled all his promises. Joshua was aware of it (Joshua 23:14) and we see Solomon emphasising the same thing. God fulfilled all his promises to Israel.
May we learn the lessons that Solomon was trying to get his people to understand. “May he make us submissive, so we can follow all his instructions and obey the commandments, rules, and regulations he commanded our ancestors” (1 Kings 8:58).
Photo of First Temple taken by Jon Galloway, November 2019.
Readings for next week: 1 Kings 8-9; 2 Chronicles 6-8; Psalms 46-48