The Temple built by King Solomon in Jerusalem was by all accounts a magnificent building. It was constructed and decorated with the utmost skill and the finest of materials to reflect the greatness of the God Who was worshipped there.
There are no shortage of books and online resources for those interested in the building details or what it may have looked like but I’d like to suggest three quite simple but important lessons the Temple might have for Christians.
It was firstly a place of meeting, a location set apart for this purpose, where people could meet with God and one another in worship.
Like the Tabernacle before it, this was symbolically ‘the house of the Lord’. Although Solomon readily acknowledged that the Maker of heaven and earth doesn’t need a physical house, the temple symbolised God’s presence among His people. God reigns from heaven but is also very much with those who trust and obey Him.
Such people gladly build a worthy house to honour God’s name. We can pray to Him literally anywhere but are thankful for opportunities to approach Him with our offerings of praise and receive from Him assurances of grace together in services like this. Our souls are enriched as we meet with our Lord and as we share fellowship with other believers.
The Temple also provides people with a story to remember.
For Israel in Old Testament times, travelling regularly up to Jerusalem and the Temple for religious festivals was a tangible reminder of their history. Here was a special place, a kind of hallowed ground to remember and reflect on the promises God made to their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Samuel, David. Here, from the books of Moses and Samuel they would recall together how God had been true to His word, rescuing Israel from slavery in Egypt, providing for them in the wilderness and prospering them in this ‘promised land’.
We all have a story of how we came to be where and how we are today. Christians have some common story lines. Wherever we were born, whatever our ethnic or social circumstances we once were lost and distant from God because of our sinful disobedience but in His mercy He called us to Himself.
He sent His Spirit to convict us of our sin and help us turn from it. He helped us see how Jesus and what He did on the cross is the crucial thing on which we must depend. He brought us to faith and new life and has been leading us into ever closer obedience. Praise His name!
This is why we love to come to church and sing these songs and read this book and bring our lives as a living offering. We love to remember, we are determined never to forget or neglect God’s goodness to us in Christ.
And there is the third thing, a principle to learn and teach subsequent generations. The Temple layout with its closed off ‘Holy of Holies’, its basin for washing and its altar for sacrifice teaches us that God is holy and can only be approached with the utmost reverence through the cleansing blood of sacrifice. Old Testament Israelites brought animals as offerings. It was a substitution, a life given for a life to be spared.
Christians look in faith to Jesus, the Shepherd Who laid down His life at Calvary that we might be forgiven and considered fit to come into God’s presence. Cleansed and clothed in His perfect righteousness we approach the Almighty and find not a stern Judge but a loving and generous Father.
The Temple built by Solomon is long gone but Jesus continues to build His global Church. The Apostle Peter writes that all who follow and serve Jesus are like ‘living stones’. Fellowships of believing, practising Christians from all backgrounds, that is where God now makes His home on earth!
Let us seek to live in such a way that our Lord and Master would always feel welcome and honoured among us. Let us live to glorify our Saviour’s wonderful name.