If this is your first viewing, please see my Introduction before reading this.
14 April. 1 Kings chapters 6-7
In these chapters, Solomon arranges the building of his great Temple, which takes seven years, and his even bigger palace, which takes thirteen. The furnishings of these, especially the Temple, are described in great detail.
The Temple in its three versions – this first one, the rebuilt one after the Exile, and finally Herod’s Temple that Jesus knew – would be the central focus of religious life in Israel/Judah for the best part of a thousand years. There is no longer a central Temple for either Jews or Christians. But its symbolism continues in Christianity – for example the plan of many Catholic and Anglican churches with narthex, nave, chancel and altar sanctuary deliberately echoes the plan of the temple, and some church fonts are made to resemble the “sea” or large basin of water in the nave of the temple.
Today (as I write this) is Good Friday 2017, the most solemn day of the Christian year when Jesus died for our sins. One of the ‘crimes’ for which he was condemned was the blasphemous claim that he would destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days. What he meant was that in his death, he would instantly put an end to the the purpose of the Temple (indeed its curtain that kept ordinary people away from the holiest part of the shrine was miraculously torn down at the moment of his death), and on the third day when he rose from the dead he himself would become the temple for us.
The Christian understanding is that Jesus replaced the temple, a central place of prayer by priests on behalf of the people, as the way to God, for he was God incarnate, and he “lives for all time to make intercession for us”. He replaced it as the location where God can be encountered, for we can know his presence at any time. He replaced the function of its altars for making sacrifice for sin, for he himself became the ultimate sacrifice.
This week, Jews have celebrated the Passover and Christians prepare to celebrate Easter – these are really two versions of the same story of God’s saving love. But one led, after over five hundred years, to a man-made temple in which God’s love for Israel could be remembered and kept sacred. The other instantly opened up God’s love to the whole world for ever.
May you have a blessed day and look forward to the celebration on Sunday.