In the Old Testament, we return to the story of King Solomon and the building of the temple. Solomon started on this mammoth project, making deals with other kings for materials, and organizing a huge forded labor force. It amazes me what people could accomplish in ancient history, without the technology we have today. The temple was amazing.
Unlike the commands for the Tabernacle, or the Ark of the Covenant, or Noah’s Ark for that matter, there are no specific requirements for this temple. Personally, it seemed like this temple was more important to the people than it was to God. When God speaks to Solomon about it, he dismisses it right off and instead emphasizes the importance of obedience to God’s decrees, regulations and commands. The promise for the throne to continue in David’s lineage was actually dependent on it. It was one of those promises of God that starts with “If…”.
11 The word of the Lord came to Solomon: 12 “As for this temple you are building, if you follow my decrees, carry out my regulations and keep all my commands and obey them, I will fulfill through you the promise I gave to David your father. 13 And I will live among the Israelites and will not abandon my people Israel.” (1 Kings 6:11-13)
Solomon completes the construction in seven years, but then takes thirteen years building his palace, which was four times bigger that the Temple! (And in Ecclesiastes we read how all of this extravagance gave only fleeting pleasure…)
Fast forward to the New Testament, and we hear what Stephen has to say about this Temple as he addresses the crowd:
46 “David found favor with God and asked for the privilege of building a permanent Temple for the God of Jacob.[j] 47 But it was Solomon who actually built it. 48 However, the Most High doesn’t live in temples made by human hands. As the prophet says,
49 ‘Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool.
Could you build me a temple as good as that?’
asks the Lord.
‘Could you build me such a resting place?
50 Didn’t my hands make both heaven and earth? (Acts 7:46-50)
This Temple became a stumbling block to the Jews. By having something concrete to focus on they missed the whole point of having God present with them all the time. Stephen continues:
51 “You stubborn people! You are heathen[l] at heart and deaf to the truth. Must you forever resist the Holy Spirit? That’s what your ancestors did, and so do you! 52 Name one prophet your ancestors didn’t persecute! They even killed the ones who predicted the coming of the Righteous One—the Messiah whom you betrayed and murdered. 53 You deliberately disobeyed God’s law, even though you received it from the hands of angels…
57 Then they put their hands over their ears and began shouting. They rushed at him 58 and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him.” (Acts 7:51-53,57-58)
Lord, temples can’t contain you. You are omnipresent. My relationship with you is more important than elaborate buildings, riches, or anything I can see, feel, or touch. I crave your presence. I want to hear the truth. I want to trust you. Come stay with me.