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Devotion: 2 Chr. 2:4-6, 1 Ki. 8:27-30
4 Now I am about to build a temple for the Name of the LORD my God and to dedicate it to him for burning fragrant incense before him, for setting out the consecrated bread regularly, and for making burnt offerings every morning and evening and on the Sabbaths, at the New Moons and at the appointed festivals of the LORD our God. This is a lasting ordinance for Israel.
5 “The temple I am going to build will be great, because our God is greater than all other gods.
6 But who is able to build a temple for him, since the heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain him? Who then am I to build a temple for him, except as a place to burn sacrifices before him?
27 But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!
28 Yet give attention to your servant’s prayer and his plea for mercy, 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.
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.
As we heard this morning, the Holy Spirit caused the writers of Scripture to use the imagery of the shepherd and his sheep in many different places in the Bible. The first person to use this imagery was King David, in the 23rd Psalm. David was the shepherd king of Israel. He was an ancestor of, and one who foreshadowed the Good Shepherd, Jesus. David wanted to build a proper temple for the Lord. He didn’t think it was right that he lived in a palace while the Ark of the Lord had only a tent. But the Lord told him through the prophet Nathan that he was not going to be the one to build the temple. His son Solomon would be the one who would carry out David’s wishes and build a beautiful temple for the Lord.
When you think of Solomon what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Probably wisdom, right? He was one of the wisest men who ever lived. Today we want to take note of what this wise man says about building a temple, a building for the name of the Lord.
The first thing he says (v 5) is that the building he would build for the Lord would be great. It would be the best he could build. It would have gold and silver and expensive cloth with beautiful embroidery. He wanted it to be great, the best, because it would reflect what he thought of God. God is greater than all so-called gods. He is the one and only true God who had offered to give Solomon whatever he asked. And when he humbly asked for wisdom so that he could be the best he could be in service of God and his people, God had given him fame and fortune as well. Solomon wanted this temple, this building for the Lord, to reflect his respect, love and thankfulness to God for all he had done for him.
There’s always a tension in our hearts, and between Christians, when it comes to building a building for the Lord. How much should you spend on a building, and how much should you spend on actual ministry? It’s a good discussion to have. I have known congregations who are building poor. The mortgage on their building is so large that they can’t afford to spend much on ministry. But sometimes people mistakenly think that if only they had a great building they wouldn’t have to do any ministry.
The bottom line of this discussion is, God always deserves our best, both in whatever building we build for his name, and in whatever ministry we do. We want to have the heart of Solomon, the desire to do the best we can for God because of all he does and has done for us- He gave his only perfect Son to save us. You can’t get much better than that. Our God is the greatest! He deserves the best.
The building and the courts around the Temple were to be the place where the OT priests brought the required offerings and where the great required festivals were celebrated. It would be a place where people would learn the truth about the one and only true God; that he is holy and righteous, but also a God who has provided a way for sin to be forgiven- through a sacrifice that served as your substitute.
Today we are not required to bring sacrifices because what those sacrifices foreshadowed has been fulfilled. Jesus has offered himself as the once-for-all-time sacrifice for sin. He is the Lamb of God who has taken away the sin of the world.
Our buildings today are a place where people learn the truth about God; that he is holy and righteous, that he requires payment for sin, but that he has provided that payment in Jesus. They are places where we see the new covenant in action as children are received by him through baptism in place of circumcision, and as the Passover is replaced with its fulfillment, the New Covenant in Jesus’ blood for the forgiveness of sins.
Solomon knew that the building he built for the Lord, no matter how great, could not contain God, as the heathen thought. Heaven, even the highest heaven, cannot contain him. But, Solomon knew that God promised to be present with his people who gathered at the temple courts for worship. Jesus still promises to be present with us when even as few as 2 or 3 gather in his name, here in this building, or anywhere.
A building dedicated to the Lord doesn’t save anyone. But, when people come to a building dedicated to the Lord and hear his word, the Holy Spirit is at work. God himself is present as he promised, wherever he causes his name to be honored he will come and bless.
Solomon also reminded the people, and he reminds us, that whether we are in a building dedicated to the Lord or not, he promises to hear our prayers. Although we can pray at anytime, anywhere, about anything, the most fervent prayers usually come when we are in trouble. The most fervent prayers come when we realize that we have sinned and brought not only earthly trouble on ourselves, but that we deserve to have God punish us for all eternity. So, Solomon says, when you pray, remembering what you learned at the building dedicated to God’s name, that you are a chief of sinners and that Jesus came to save sinners, then be assured that the Lord hears and forgives.
Today Bethel is celebrating 10 years of worshiping in the current building, and Grace dedicated their/this building 7 years ago in January. As you thank God for the blessing of theses buildings, do so remembering the wisdom of Solomon. God is the greatest! He always deserves your best. Make sure these buildings are always places where people, where anyone, can come and learn the truth about God. He is holy and just, but also gracious and forgiving. Make sure these buildings are always a place where God’s word is taught in truth and purity, and the sacraments are given as Christ instituted them, for the forgiveness of sins. When you face trouble, when your conscience convicts you of sin, remember that God hears your prayers. In Jesus God forgives.