1 Kings 8: Dedication of the Temple
Solomon and the people of Israel were gathered in the court of the temple at Jerusalem. The temple had been building for seven years, and now all was finished - the walls of stone sheathed inside with cedar wood and lined with gold, the court with the brazen sea, and the great brazen altar. They had come to dedicate the temple, to set it apart as sacred to the Lord, to ask His blessing upon it, and on all who turned toward the Lord and the temple in their worship.
First of all they must bring in the ark and put it in its place. They took it from the tent on Mount Zion where it had been put by David, and other holy things of the tabernacle. The priests carried the ark by its staves upon their shoulders, and Solomon and the people offered sacrifices before it. So they passed in through the court and through the holy chamber to the holy place. There they set down the ark under the wings of the great cherubim. You know what was in the ark, the tables of the Ten Commandments. When it was put in its place the cloud of the Lord's glory filled the temple. It was a sign that the Lord was there and that the place was holy.
Then Solomon standing and kneeling by the altar before the temple with his hands spread forth toward heaven (verses 22, 54), gave thanks and prayed to the Lord. He thanked the Lord for himself and all the people, that He had helped them to build the temple; and he prayed that the Lord's presence and power might be felt there by all who looked to Him for help. Those who lived near the temple would come into the court and pray; others in their homes would turn their faces toward the temple; and even when they were captives far away in Babylon, we read that Daniel, his windows being open toward Jerusalem, kneeled in prayer three times a day. (Dan. 6:10) So Mohammedans today bow in prayer toward their holy city Mecca. Solomon prayed for people in many kinds of trouble, that their prayers might be heard and answered. When he had finished, the king arose from his knees and blessed all the people with a loud voice, and charged them to be faithful and obey the Lord.
Many sacrifices were offered that day, oxen and sheep, so many that they could not all be offered on the altar, and the king hallowed the middle of the court for the offering. The king and the people held a feast for fourteen days and they "went unto their tents joyful and glad of heart for all the goodness that the Lord had done."
The beautiful temple was finished. Where did it stand? From the court one could look eastward to the Mount of Olives, and southward down the Kidron valley, and westward over the buildings of Jerusalem. Can you see the temple in your mind, so that you can tell me about it - its materials, its plan? How long had it been building? It was now about to be dedicated "at the feast in the month Ethanim which is the seventh month." The seventh month was in the autumn. Do you know what feast was kept at that harvest thanksgiving season? The Feast of Tabernacles which you can read about in Lev. 23:33-44. The feast is mentioned also in the Gospels. (John 7) It was a joyful thanksgiving feast and was a fitting time for the dedication of the temple.
The most important thing to be brought into the temple was the ark. From where must they bring the ark? How must they carry it? Where was its place in the temple? Do you understand about the cherubim mentioned in verse 6? See 1 Kings 6:23-28. The staves were never to be taken out of the rings of the ark (Exod. 25:15), but they were drawn so far out that the ends of the staves could be seen from the holy place, but not from outside the temple building. And what was in the ark? Comparing verse 9 with Hebrews 9:4 and Exod. 16:34 and Num. 17:10, we may believe that the pot of manna and Aaron's rod were near the ark rather than in it. Other sacred furniture was brought in besides the ark (verse 4), and perhaps what remained of the sacred tabernacle itself was folded up and laid away for safe keeping in the temple.
And now that the ark was in its place the cloud filled the temple, and in the next verse it is added, "The glory of the Lord had filled the house of the Lord." Read again what was said of the glory that filled the tabernacle when it was finished. (Exod. 40:33-34)
There is a wonderful dignity and beauty in Solomon's prayer, hardly equaled by anything in the English language, or perhaps in any language. We realize as we read it that these are words that the Lord gave Solomon to say. The heaven and heaven of heavens could not contain the Lord, much less this little building, but he prayed that the Lord's eyes might be always open toward the temple, and that He would hear and answer all prayers which the people should make toward that holy place. It does not matter now what way we turn our bodies, but it does matter how our love and thought are turned; they must be turned toward the Lord, and if they are turned to Him, every earnest prayer is heard by Him and brings His blessing. As we read the several clauses of Solomon's prayer describing people in different kinds of trouble, we think at the same time that they are describing us in various troubles that we may be in, in which we need the Lord's help.
First, Solomon prays for one who is accused of doing wrong to a neighbor, that the Lord will judge and show who is guilty and who is not (verses 31, 32); then for those who are smitten down by an enemy because they have sinned (verses 33, 34); for those who ask the Lord's help in time of drought, when all the earth is dried up because there is no rain (35, 36); for those who pray in time of famine or sickness (37, 40); he asks also that the prayers of strangers should be heard (41-43); and his petition is especially tender for those who are taken captive, and in a distant country turn with longing toward their dear land and the holy city and the temple (44-53).
We read at the end of the chapter of the thousands of sacrifices offered, more than could be offered on the altar, and of the feast held by the king and the people. The Feast of Tabernacles usually lasted for a week. The feasting was extended to two weeks on this joyful occasion of dedicating the temple.
1. The temple was finished: where did it stand? How long had it been building? Who had built it?
2. What filled the temple when the ark was carried to its place? What was done with the staves by which the ark was carried?
3. For what did Solomon thank the Lord? What did he ask of the Lord in his prayer?
4. To whom must we turn in our prayer, as the Jews turned toward the temple?
What does the temple represent in our life? In the Lord's life? It is a type of a heavenly character and of the Lord's Divine Humanity. (E. 220; R. 191; T. 221, 301) This thought in regard to the meaning of the temple gives a wonderful interest to the story of its building, and to this account of its completion and dedication. The temple was seven years in building. So the preparation of the Lord's Divine Human temple required a full week of labor, leading to holy Sabbath peace. And what is represented by the glory which filled the tabernacle and temple when they were done, so that the priests could not stand to minister? It is a picture of the Divine presence completely filling and glorifying the Humanity of the Lord, so that nothing of imperfect, finite life could stand in its presence.
It was fitting that the temple should be dedicated at the Feast of Tabernacles in the seventh month. The three great feasts of the Jewish year represented three stages of regeneration, or of the Lord's glorification. The Passover in the spring represented deliverance from evil. The Feast of First Fruits in the early summer represented the doing of good works from knowledge of what is right. The Feast of Tabernacles in the autumn, when they had gathered in from the wine-press and the threshing-floor (Deut. 16:13), represented a state of full regeneration, and in the Lord, of glorification. (A. 9294, 10671)
Solomon represents the peaceful state which follows conflict and victory. Solomon's words express the gratitude of the Lord's heart that He had been enabled to do His work, and that His saving presence with humanity was forever insured. They suggest the Lord's tender thought for people in every kind of trouble, and His desire that they should turn to Him and accept the help which He now could give.
The Lord's words to the woman of Samaria (John 4:20-24) teach that in the Christian Church it is not necessary to worship in one place or another, or to turn the face toward any natural temple. The Lord Himself in His Divine Humanity, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the temple to which we must turn in spirit and in truth. The picture of the Lord's people near and far worshiping toward the temple was a prophecy of the day of which the apostle writes. "At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow . . . and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord." (Phil. 2:10-11)
As we read the several clauses of Solomon's prayer, we must think how they describe states of distress in which we may be and in which we need the Lord's help.