Kings of Judah Lived in Reference to the Temple – Part 1

Israelite PrayingJudah was blessed to enjoy God’s presence in their midst. In Jerusalem, any Jew could look to the highest hill and see the monumental structure of Solomon’s temple standing tall against the sky, and he could know his God had promised to dwell there among His people. If a priest walked into the temple, he would find it dazzlingly beautiful–but empty of any form of presence. No physical image lived in this temple because God is spirit. A Jew knew God lived there only through faith.

After Solomon’s son Rehoboam assumed the throne, he did not walk in the righteousness of David nor in the wisdom of Solomon. During Rehoboam’s reign “Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem and took away the treasuries of the house of the LORD…” (2 Chr. 12.9), including the gold shields Solomon had made. Instead of crying out to God for help, Rehoboam accepted the loss and replaced the gold shields with bronze replicas, settling for less than the best. Indeed, without God we must settle for less than the best.

Instead of trusting in God for help, Rehoboam’s grandson Asa took “silver and gold from the treasuries of the house of the LORD and of the king’s house and sent to Ben-Hadad king of Syria” in order to make a treaty with Syria against Israel. Can you imagine taking what is God’s and giving it to a pagan king in order to protect yourself? Asa did that.

Praying at Wailing WallAfter Asa came Jehoshaphat. While Scripture does not record his jumping habits, it does record his abiding righteousness and faith. When the nations of Moab, Amon, and Edom simultaneously threatened Judah, Jehoshaphat prayed to Yahweh God from the Temple. His prayer contains a wealth of riches:

Then Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the LORD, before the new court, and said: “O LORD God of our fathers, are You not God in heaven, and do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations, and in Your hand is there not power and might, so that no one is able to withstand You? Are You not our God, who drove out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel, and gave it to the descendants of Abraham Your friend forever? And they dwell in it, and have built You a sanctuary in it for Your name, saying, ‘If disaster comes upon us—sword, judgment, pestilence, or famine—we will stand before this temple and in Your presence (for Your name is in this temple), and cry out to You in our affliction, and You will hear and save.’ And now, here are the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir—whom You would not let Israel invade when they came out of the land of Egypt, but they turned from them and did not destroy them—here they are, rewarding us by coming to throw us out of Your possession which You have given us to inherit. O our God, will You not judge them? For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.” (2 Chr. 20.5-12)

Though all these kings lived with reference to the temple, some defiled the house of the Lord and some adored and honored God’s house. Faith made the difference. Many of the kings of Judah were not men of faith and righteousness; they were not interested in following God’s commandments or keeping the covenant. But a few loved God, loved His presence, loved living close to His house.

Where would you like to live? How would you like to live in God’s house? Jesus said in John 14.2, “In My Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” In His presence we shall live!

Solomon Builds the Temple (2 Chronicles 1-9)

Solomon's TempleIn a letter addressed to Hiram, king of the nearby region of Tyre, Solomon wrote:

And the temple which I build will be great, for our God is greater than all gods. But who is able to build Him a temple, since heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain Him? Who am I then, that I should build Him a temple, except to burn sacrifice before Him? (2 Chronicles 2.5-6)

With the copious provisions his father had collected along with further materials he prepared from surrounding regions, “Solomon began to build the house of the LORD at Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the LORD had appeared to his father David, at the place that David had prepared on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. And he began to build on the second day of the second month in the fourth year of his reign” (2 Chr. 3.1-2; cf. 1 Chr. 21.28-22.4). Hiram, king of Tyre, sent his master craftsman, Huram, to aid Solomon in the fine metal work, cloth work, and engraving which decorated the Holy House (2.13-14).

Solomon’s structure surely outshone every other earthly temple, as the details in chapters 3-4 suggest. Many have constructed replicas and models of this temple based on the details found here, and I encourage you to check out some online pictures and videos (for example, this one and this one) to get a feel for it’s grandeur.

When Solomon dedicated the Temple, he first performed a ceremony to dedicate the Ark of the Covenant, which David had brought into Jerusalem many years previous. The priests placed the Ark in the Most Holy Place under the wings of two giant cherubim.

For the cherubim spread their wings over the place of the ark, and the cherubim overshadowed the ark and its poles. The poles extended so that the ends of the poles of the ark could be seen from the holy place, in front of the inner sanctuary; but they could not be seen from outside… Nothing was in the ark except the two tablets which Moses put there at Horeb, when the LORD made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they had come out of Egypt. (2 Chr. 5.7-10)

Solomon's TempleAs the priests sang and played music with cymbals, stringed instruments, harps, and trumpets, “the house of the LORD was filled with a cloud so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the house of God” (2 Chr. 5.13-14). What an awesome sight!

But God wasn’t finished displaying His glory. Solomon continued with a dedication ceremony for the entire Temple, during which he prayed an amazing prayer asking God to remain in the Temple and always hear His people when they prayed towards the Temple in repentant, trusting faith. In His prayer, Solomon recognized that God alone knows the hearts of the sons of men (6.30) and that there is no one who does not sin (6.36). Again and again he petitioned, “When they return to you with all their heart…may You hear…and when You hear, forgive.”

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. And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD had filled the LORD’s house. (7.1-2)

They responded with praise:

“For He is good,
For His mercy endures forever.” (7.3)

Amen!

“So the house of the LORD was completed” (8.16).

David Prepares for the Temple (1 Chronicles)

Hewn StoneYou may recall that David deeply desired to establish a majestic house for Yahweh God. Once the thought entered his heart, it became his life’s passion. However, God forbade David from actually building it, because he was a man of great bloodshed. Instead, his son Solomon, a man of peace, would build it.

Undeterred, David enthusiastically prepared for construction, devoting the last few years of his life to gathering materials, drawing the plans, and commissioning his son with the high honor.

Next time you read 1 Chronicles, look for the bold thread of TEMPLE PREPARATION. Here are some breadcrumbs:

  • David brought the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem (15.1-28)
  • David chose the Temple site: the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite (21.28-22.1)
  • David prepared hewed stones and iron nails and gate fittings, collected bronze and cedar trees in abundance, making “abundant preparations before his death” (22.2-5)
  • David officially charged Solomon with the Temple’s construction (22.11)
  • David appointed directors for the music of the house of the Lord (25.6)
  • David appointed gatekeepers (26.12)
  • David appointed treasurers (26.22)
  • David dedicated the treasury in preparation to build the house of the Lord (29.1-20)

LumberIMPORTANT: All David did in preparation and the plans he delivered to Solomon were not of his own design and imagination. “David gave his son Solomon the plans…the plans for all that he had by the Spirit” (28.11-12), and he claimed, “All this the LORD made me understand in writing, by His hand upon me, all the works of these plans” (28.19). David was Spirit-filled; the plans for the Temple were God-breathed.

In a final prayer, David poured out his heart:

“O LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, our fathers, keep this forever in the intent of the thoughts of the heart of Your people, and fix their heart toward You. And give my son Solomon a loyal heart to keep Your commandments and Your testimonies and Your statutes, to do all these things, and to build the temple for which I have made provision.” (29.18-19)

Looking back from beyond Babylonian captivity, the second-temple Jews remembered the first temple as they read these Chronicles. David’s passion for God’s glory must have inspired them, and the descriptions of God’s blessing and the beauty of the first house must have filled them with pride. Of course, their second temple couldn’t hold a candle to Solomon’s temple, but at least their heritage continued and they were able to worship Yahweh God in His prescribed manner.

The Temple of Chronicles

Solomon's TempleOld Testament books contain spectacular messages, enticing us to diligently search for them. As our church has lately studied through First and Second Chronicles, we have noticed the strong Temple Theme exposed in those books. The author of Chronicles wrote after Israel had returned from Babylonian captivity, and in this history he focused his efforts on the nation and kings of Judah, paying little attention to the norther kingdom of Israel, which God had scattered among the nations by this time. He also focused on the Levitical line, the tribe of priests. Jesus, of course, was both King and Priest, so Chronicles points strongly and definitely towards the coming Son of David and High Priest who fulfills all.

The first nine chapters of Chronicles often bore us to death with copious genealogies, lists of names we mostly don’t recognize and cannot now place. But notice the heavy emphasis even in the genealogies to the bloodlines of Judah (2-3; 9.3-9) and Levi (6; 9.10-34). In these introductory genealogical chapters, we discover the first mentions of the temple, the “house of the LORD” in 6.31-32:

“Now these are the men whom David appointed over the service of song in the house of the LORD, after the ark came to rest. They were ministering with music before the dwelling place of the tabernacle of meeting, until Solomon had built the house of the LORD in Jerusalem, and they served in their office according to their order.”

David did the preparing and Solomon did the building. Chronicles fleshes out this history.

  1. David Prepares for the Temple (1 Chronicles)
  2. Solomon Builds the Temple (2 Chronicles 1-9)
  3. Kings of Judah Live with Reference to the Temple (2 Chronicles 10.1-36.14
  4. Nebuchadnezzar Destroys the Temple (2 Chronicles 36.15-21)
  5. God Promises the Temple’s Rebuilding (2 Chronicles 36.22-23)

Outside JerusalemI plan to flesh this out more over the next few posts. But what is the point? To the Jewish readers in the 5th-4th Century BC, this history must have inspired great hope but also served as a sobering warning. Although they were God’s special and chosen people among all the nations of the earth and although they had been allowed to build God’s house in their capital city, their idolatry still provoked God to anger and caused Him to withdraw His favor.

When I read this today, I stand in awe of the LORD’s brilliant plan as He worked through human history to prepare the way for Jesus! Jesus did not enter the world unannounced, but the world had centuries of advance teaching. And if God cast Israel away from His sight because they defiled His house, how much more will He cast us from His presence if we defile the temple of His Son?

Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will? (Hebrews 2.1-4)

Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The LORD will judge His people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10.28-31)