A Temple for God

January 09, 2014Filed under theology#devotionsMarkdown source

I have made it my goal to write short posts reflecting on my devotional reading every day. These posts are composed off the cuff, in 30 minutes or less. The following is one such post. Before writing this post, I read: 2 Chronicles 1–5, Psalm 9, Proverbs 9.

Note: today’s comments are a bit out of order on the sequence I’ve been reading. I accidentally started Second Chronicles rather than First. I’ll go back and start with First Chronicles tomorrow.

At first blush, the first five chapters of 1 Chronicles do not seem to be particularly scintillating material on the whole. Solomon’s request for wisdom, and God’s answer, are notable, but otherwise the entire section is taken up by details of the construction of the temple. It is at points like this that read- the-Bible-in-a-year plans tend to get bogged down, and it is because of points like this that most read-the-Bible-in-a-year plans include readings from the New Testament as well as the Old. We struggle–or at least, I have historically struggled–to make much of these passages. Why does it matter that there were “four hundred pomegranates for the two latticeworks, two rows of pomegranates for each latticework, to cover the bowls of the capitals that were on top of the pillars”?

As I read the parallel passage in 1 Kings a little while back, it struck me that what we have there—and thus, also what we have here—is enough information to get a sense of the beauty and majesty of this building. The enormous quantitites of precious metals that went into its construction, the attention paid to such fine details of every single aspect of the building and its adornments, the specially chosen timber brought in from a neighboring land: they all show us that this temple was magnificent.

We are not a temple-building people, and our monuments tend to be austere and formal. Think of the Lincoln or Washington memorials in Washington, D. C.: they are not exactly lively places. Though celebratory and laudatory, they seek to impress rather than to delight, focusing on clean, simple lines and shapes with little ornamentation. The Solomonic temple, and before it the tabernacle, were not like that. They were full of color and decoration, even as they were built at striking physical scales. They were designed to engage every sense, sight and smell especially. They were beautiful.

So: beautiful the temple may have been. We are still left asking why the beauty of a temple built in ancient Jerusalem almost three millennia ago matters to Christians today. The answer, I think, lies in two passages in the New Testament. First:

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22, ESV)

And again:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new….”

And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. (Revelation 20:1—5, 22—23)

Do you see? As magnificent and beautiful as that old temple was, it has been supplanted. The church is the temple, a dwelling place for God that is yet more beautiful. People are more stunning than the loveliest stones. And there will come a day when the dwelling place of God is with man, not only in spirit but in physical, at th econsummation of all things. That temple, filled as it was with the awesome presence of God, was but the tiniest taste of this age, when God indwells every believer. And this age is but the tiniest taste of that age, when the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb come down from heaven and make their dwelling place with man.

Hallelujah. Our Lord, come!