Today is all about Solomon's construction project at the temple of the Lord. If you remember, David wanted to build a house for the Lord, but God gave that project to Solomon instead. The Lord knew David's heart, but He had other plans for him. David was busy fighting wars and expanding and defending the borders of the kingdom of Israel. He did not have time for supervising such a demanding and complex build. Solomon was a man of peace...God gave him rest on every side...and he undertook this massive project. David had prepared him for the task and encouraged him. We won't read quantities for this building project yet, but we will see in 2Chronicles what David had amassed for Solomon. There were 3,750 tons of gold, 37,500 tons of silver and an unmeasured quantity of bronze, iron, wood, and stone. Much of this came from spoils of battle. David also added his personal treasure which brought the totals to 4,050 tons of gold and over 38,000 tons of silver as well as precious stones. To put this in perspective the price of gold this morning was $1,712 per ounce. I cannot do numbers that big. David also gave Solomon the plans for the temple God had given him.
Solomon contracted with Hiram, king of Phoenicia for building materials and labor. Hiram had been David's friend and Solomon trusted him. A bit about the Phoenicians. They were descendants of the Canaanites. Phoenicia was never an official city-state but instead a group of independent port cities along the northern seacoast of Israel. Tyre and Sidon were two of the main cities along with Byblos. They had established themselves as the preeminent sea traders in the Mediterranean. They were famous for their lumber trade as well as a thriving purple dye industry. The king of Tyre, Hiram, provided Solomon with cedar wood and pine in exchange for wheat and olive oil. This amounted to 125,000 bushels of wheat and 115,000 gallons of pure olive oil per year. He also sent experienced sailors to assist Solomon's fleet. But the Phoenicians also exported their religion to Israel. The Sidonian princess Jezebel was given in marriage to Omari's son Ahab and between the two of them they made Baal worship widespread in Israel. Those practices eventually spilled over into Judah as well. Worshiping Baal became a stumbling block for both Israel and Judah resulting in God's discipline of His people through exile.
It was 480 years after the Israelites left Egypt that the temple building began, and it took seven years to build. We read in great detail what the actual structure looked like, and all the pieces that were needed for service in the temple. The temple was 90 feet long, 30 feet wide, and 45 feet tall. I would imagine that when we read about this magnificent temple built for the name of the Lord, we expect something huge, but that was not the case. It was, however, incredible. Not only was it made of cedar, which would have been an amazing smell, but then Solomon covered everything in pure gold. The furnishings of the temple were important for the priests to perform their ministry. They needed divinely ordained furniture. The entrance of the temple faced east, just like the opening of the tabernacle had. Just inside was the brazen altar where sacrifices were made for the atonement of the people's sins. The altar was made of brass and stood 15 feet high and thirty feet square. The fire was kept burning so the priests could offer sacrifices continually.
While the altar was to the right of the entrance of the inner courtyard of the priests, the bronze laver or sea was to the left. It was solid brass, and it was a handbreadth thick, which would have been 4-5 inches. And it held nearly 12,000 gallons of water. It sat on the backs of twelve full size bronze bulls. Nowhere do we read exactly how the priests accessed the water, but they needed it to keep clean as they ministered in the temple. Otherwise, they were in danger of death. In scripture, water for drinking is a picture of the Spirit of God but water for washing is a picture of the Word of God. As the priests labored for the Lord in the temple, they became defiled and needed to be cleansed. Hence the need for available water. Sometimes when we serve the Lord, we too can become defiled and need the washing of the water of the Word.
The golden altar of incense was made of cedar covered with gold and it stood in front of the curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. The priests burned incense on it each morning and evening when they tended the lamps. In scripture...Psalm 141:1-2 and Revelation 5:8...we see the burning of incense is a picture of our prayers rising up to the Lord. And we can read in Exodus 30:34-38 the recipe the Lord gave Moses for the special blend of incense to be used only in the temple. This golden altar was used only for incense. On the day of atonement, the high priest would apply blood to it to cleanse and purify it. There are many more pieces made for use in the temple. When we look at the cost of the materials and the labor to build it, this temple was priceless. But it was all confiscated in 589 B.C. when the Babylonian army captured Jerusalem, destroyed the city and the temple, and took the people into exile for their disobedience to the Lord. It is difficult to think that Solomon, the man who built the temple was also the man who married a multitude of foreign wives who brought idolatry to Israel. This was the very sin that turned people away from God and brought upon them judgement at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians.
Our reading ends with the ark of the covenant being brought to the temple, the dedication of this building, God's presence coming in a cloud, and Solomon's prayer. Now there was a home for the Lord. There was one place to worship the one true Lord and one place for the people to come and offer sacrifices. The ark was brought from the city of David, originally the only part of the city, to Jerusalem, which was the expanded city, the upper city. Once the ark was installed in the Holy of Holies and the curtain drawn, the priests could not minister in the temple because the cloud of the presence of the Lord arrived. God was moving into His house. First Solomon gave a speech of dedication of the temple. In this speech Solomon included an assessment of the work His people did in building the temple in accomplishing God's will. But sprinkled throughout, Solomon gave God glory for what He had done for His people. Solomon recognized God had fulfilled the promises He made to Abraham in giving them land and a place to live. He also remembered the covenant God had made with David.
Last, Solomon prayed a prayer of dedication. He had begun his reign with great dependence on the Lord and now he was acknowledging that he still needed to depend totally on the Lord. And all the people needed to rely on and come to the Lord for continued blessings and help in their lives. He stressed God’s faithfulness to His people and the people's need to be faithful back. Solomon reminded the people that since God was present in the temple in Jerusalem, prayer was to be directed towards this place. He made several requests of the Lord in his prayer. The first is a request for righteous judgement. The second was a request for forgiveness when the people's sin against God caused a military defeat. Requests three and four dealt with the healing of the land after distress or drought due to the people's disobedience. Request number five dealt with prayers by a foreigner and numbers six and seven were about wartime situations. Battle was to be waged according to divine instructions and disobedience would be costly. Solomon had knelt for this prayer with his arms raised and outstretched. When he stood up, he blessed the people who had gathered and reminded them again God had given them rest from their enemies, always kept His promises, and would never leave them or forsake them. For seven days the people celebrated, offered sacrifices to the Lord, and feasted. On the eighth day Solomon sent them home. People had come from all parts of the kingdom to celebrate. Now it was time to get back to business.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W