36. The place of gathering.

It was the climax of their civilization. The glory and splendour of the most impressive building of their time crowned the reign of Solomon. His wisdom, which he so dramatically received from God, was well known far beyond the borders of his kingdom. He built the temple that was the life ambition of his father David to the God of his heart.

1 Chronicles 29:1:

Furthermore King David said to all the assembly: “My son Solomon, whom alone God has chosen, is young and inexperienced; and the work is great, because the temple is not for man but for the Lord God.

This temple would have the best of the best. The building material is listed to describe the opulence and grandiose planning. David addresses the people and challenges them to give abundantly.

Now for the house of my God I have prepared with all my might: gold for things to be made of gold, silver for things of silver, bronze for things of bronze, iron for things of iron, wood for things of wood, onyx stones, stones to be set, glistening stones of various colors, all kinds of precious stones, and marble slabs in abundance. Moreover, because I have set my affection on the house of my God, I have given to the house of my God, over and above all that I have prepared for the holy house, my own special treasure of gold and silver: three thousand talents of gold, of the gold of Ophir, and seven thousand talents of refined silver, to overlay the walls of the houses; the gold for things of gold and the silver for things of silver, and for all kinds of work to be done by the hands of craftsmen. Who then is willing to consecrate himself this day to the Lord?”

The gold of Ophir was famous for quality and purity. Just imagine walls covered in silver, so much gold, marble, precious stones and mosaic – a building that has never been and would not be copied in centuries to come, maybe never.

The temple of Solomon as described in the Bible was not an imitation of any pagan temple of Egypt and Phoenicia that existed at the time and could be reconstructed by archeologists. This architectural wonder was unique and would stand for 410 years.

So was the actual structure – matchless and magnificent. The most important, however was the presence of the Most High God. That is the foundation, the pillars, the essence of the significance of the physical building.

 2 Chronicles 7:1

 [Solomon Dedicates the Temple ] When Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the Lord filled the temple.

 So overwhelming was the presence of God that the priests could not enter.

It is in the light of this glory and majesty that we can begin to grasp the tremendous task of the returning exiles. After the crippling siege of more than a year Nebuchadnezzar thoroughly humiliated his enemy and destroyed Jerusalem with a vengeance. Of course the magnificence of the Hebrew temple was famous in the ancient world and he would reap particular pleasure from the devastation of it. The deep reverence and joyful worship of Solomon’s age were so long neglected and forgotten. The people mocked and murdered the prophets’’ warnings. God’s punishment was executed by Babylon with dreadful consequence.

So effective was the destruction that archeologists remain uncertain about location and appearance to this day. That uncertainty does not apply to the spiritual “archeology” of the temple.

God lives in the praises of his people. Psalm 22:3:

But You are holy, enthroned in the praises of Israel.

There is no doubt. The core principle of the temple is established: God fills the place of gathering with His presence. This is the treasure and highest purpose of church.

The splendour of the temple of Solomon was the reason for the deep discouragement of the returning exiles. Even with the miraculous support of the Persian ruler, it wasn’t possible to restore the temple to its former glory. Persia was by far mightier and bigger than Babylon. Babylon became a province in the expansive empire of the Medes and Persians. The valuables of Solomon’s temple was still in safe-keeping in Babylon and by command of Artaxerxes, the Persian emperor, it was to be brought taken back to Jerusalem plus whatever more was needed from the royal treasury. [Ezra 7:18-21] I marvel at meticulous ancient administration.

Ezra prepares for the treacherous journey back to Jerusalem laden with treasures and building material. The road was full of dangers, especially robbers, who would murder for the goods. Ezra calls a day of fasting and prayer to earnestly seek God’s protection. In his own words:

For I was ashamed to request of the king an escort of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy on the road, because we had spoken to the king, saying, “The hand of our God is upon all those for good who seek Him, but His power and His wrath are against all those who forsake Him.”  So we fasted and entreated our God for this, and He answered our prayer. [Ezra 8:22,23]

By his prayer Ezra protected his testimony. He could not get his fear of robbers overpower his testimony. He spoke to the king about his God who cared for his children, so he had to live his own motion of trust in God.

This trust brings him and his caravan safely to Jerusalem without the protection of the mightiest empire on earth at the time, the precious cargo intact. Just take it in for a moment: 22 tons of silver, three and a half ton gold, more than 100 pieces of silverware and polished bronze almost as costly as gold. [8:31]

Then we departed from the river of Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month, to go to Jerusalem. And the hand of our God was upon us, and He delivered us from the hand of the enemy and from ambush along the road.

The restoration of the temple that started before Ezra’s return slowly came to complete standstill. The people went back to building their own houses. Ezra arrives filled with joyful encouragement to be a new inspiration to the builders.

Ezra 7:28:

So I was encouraged, as the hand of the Lord my God was upon me

Miracles mark our journey to restore the pace of gathering. Individual prayer, powerful testimonies, respect of and for the rulers and purposeful administration form the foundation of the temple.

These elements are the pillars in the place where we come together.

The church is a community of people who worship God in sprit and truth, who desire and experience the Holy Spirit in everyday life coming together at appointed times to celebrate the presence of God in their midst. Paul gives his version of a Christian lifestyle that has all the elements of a good service.

Colossians 3:16:

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

This is service in the temple; a Holy Spirit driven gathering. It may manifest in various denominations that have various measures of intensity and intentionality in striving to be the church of Acts. Denominations that wallow in stagnation become judgmental and predictive, fearing change. The only solution for complacency is to hear the word of God to Solomon.

1 Kings 6:12,13:

 “Concerning this temple which you are building, if you walk in My statutes, execute My judgments, keep all My commandments, and walk in them, then I will perform My word with you, which I spoke to your father David.  And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will not forsake My people Israel.”

The presence of the Most High is the highest purpose of the temple. Love convicts of grace – mercy triumphs over judgment. [James 2:13]

No doctrine can replace the doctrine of grace.

The church of Psalm 23 where the table of feasting is prepared in the valley of the shadow of death where enemies look on in frustration and disability and goodness and mercy pursue me to live in the house of the Lord forever – this is the place of gathering.

The Holy Spirit takes us into the glory and splendour of Solomon’s temple. The exiles had to be satisfied with so much less. Haggai 2:3:

Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? In comparison with it, is this not in your eyes as nothing?

The word of God promises the outstanding glory of the latter temple that served as encouragement to finish the work that was clearly inferior.

Haggai 2:9:

The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘And in this place I will give peace,’ says the Lord of hosts.”

Who is this temple of the future? It is us! The church of Christ has all the glory and splendour that Solomon could only have dreamed of and so much more. Through the cross and resurrection we are the ultimate temple.

Hebrews 12:22-24:

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.

Just revel in the description of the new Jerusalem in Revelation – the church. Revelation 21:2,3:

Then I, John, 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 heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.

We are the bride who is being prepared for the coming of Jesus. What an expectation?

Take courage to restore the temple. It is God’s dwelling place. Let us celebrate His presence.

Read with me in Revelation 21 how beautiful we are. Read the words until you know that words will fail…

having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal

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