Week 24 Devotion
So this week we get back to jumping around again between all these different books and the point of this is to help us understand what is taking place at this time in Israel. With Solomon on the throne, we are witnessing the high point of the nation. There is peace, there is wealth, there is plenty of food and drink, there is a wise king on the throne and all the nations want a front row seat to the glory that is God’s people.
But also, at the center of it all is this magnificent temple of God that is being built in the city of Jerusalem. This week we are going to read about the temple construction. We are going to read about the planning, preparation, architecture, artwork, and construction of what became known as Solomon’s temple. If you have a good study Bible with illustrations of the temple, then I recommend that you take some time to look at those illustrations and try to picture in your mind the beauty and grandeur of this temple where the people of God would come to worship and make sacrifices to the Lord.
We are also going to see the Ark brought into the Temple, Solomon will make an amazing dedication speech and then the Lord is going to appear before Solomon with promises of blessing but also warnings about sin and disobedience. This appearance of God marks a turning point in the story because rather than follow the Lord the King will actually turn away and the decline of Israel begins.
Also, this week we will be reading the end of the book of Psalms and the last five books serve as a the grand-finale. These five Psalms are like the end of the greatest fourth-of-July fireworks show you have ever seen and they all focus on giving praise to the Lord. So we will look at that in just a minute.
Here is something to Meditate on…
The Temple of God in Israel is easily one of the most magnificent structures in the Ancient Near Eastern world and for Solomon to build it was the single greatest achievement of his life. Solomon knew that the temple of Yahweh must reflect the greatness of God because this temple was to be the location on earth where the presence of God would dwell in the midst of the people. It’s beauty and glory would need to be a reflection of the beauty and glory of the God that dwelt in it.
The temple was also the place on earth where God and man could meet together. It was a bridge between Heaven and Earth, and whether we realize it or not, it is designed to be like the Garden of Eden, which was the original place where God and man walked together. How is the temple like the Garden? Notice that the temple itself is walled off from the outside world much like the garden was separated from the outside world. The sanctuary is filled with plants and trees, with animals and angels, all of these are meant to give the picture of the Garden where God and man walked together in the presence of creation.
But the inner sanctuary, the holiest place, is different. In order to come into that place one had to pass through a curtain, one had to be a priest who had been purified and cleansed in order to enter, and then that priest had to pass by the two Cherubim that guarded the presence of God. This is symbolic of the angels that God placed at the edge of the Garden after Adam and Eve sinned, whose job it was to keep them out and away from the tree of the life.
When the high priest would come into the inner sanctuary to present an offering to God, he was being allowed to come past the angel guards and meet with God in the only place on earth where such access to the Creator could be experienced. And then only after sacrifices of atonement for sin had been made and ritual cleansing had been performed.
The magnificence of the temple was breathtaking but it was all intended to show the profound separation that exists between God and man. Sin has caused that separation it still does to this day even though the temple is no longer standing. But the temple is no longer on earth because it had served its purpose.
Today there is still only one way to come into the presence of God. It still requires atonement, forgiveness, and cleansing; but all that is required has been provided by Jesus Christ. With Christ’s first coming the problem of our sin was dealt with and by his resurrection, the problem of death is no more. We now have access to God through faith in the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus is the bridge that overcomes our sin and brings us into the presence of God. And God now dwells not in the temple made by hands but in us, He dwells in the hearts of His people. Take some time to meditate on this reality and praise God that we now have access directly to Him through Jesus.
Here is something to Discuss…
The last five Psalms in the Psalter all begin the same way:
“Praise the Lord!”
And these five psalms serve as the conclusion to the entire collection and the only appropriate response to who God is and to what He has done. We are to praise the Lord!
But what does it mean to praise God? We might have a tendency to think of praise in a formal, perhaps even a stiff sort of way. But that is not what praise means. We naturally praise what we love. A husband praises his wife when he says to her, “Honey you look gorgeous.” A hiker praises the landscape when he stops to declare, “What a view.”
A child praises his newly opened toy when he/she shouts at the top of their lungs, “Thank you, mommy, it’s just what I wanted.” A reader praises their favorite book when they insist to their friend, “You have to read this book, it is incredible.”
We naturally praise with our mouths what we already enjoy in our hearts and the point of these Psalms is to give guidance and direction to the praise that should flow out of our hearts toward God. We praise Him because He is our God and there is none like Him. We praise Him because there is salvation in no other name than the name of our God. We praise Him because He builds us up, He heals the broken-hearted, He brings justice to the earth, He knows us, loves us, and cares for us.
“Everything that has breath should praise the Lord!”
One of the clearest pieces of evidence of spiritual life and health in our soul and in our church is that praise for God comes easy. But is that what we experience? Do you long to gather with the church to praise the Lord, no matter what songs we might be singing? Do you long to be alone in the car so you can crank up the praise music and sing your heart out to the Lord? Do you long to praise the Lord?
God deserves our praise, yes, but oh that we would be filled with a spirit of praise. Let’s take the time to think on this and then talk with others about how they engage in the worship of God. Take some time to ask others how they worship God in private, how they prepare their hearts to worship God on Sunday, what do they focus their minds on in worship and how do they express that worship.
Here is something to pray about …
For all the blessings that God gave to Solomon, it comes as a bit of a surprise that the king turns away from the Lord. I mean we know that it’s coming and we also know that the same potential rests in our hearts as well, but it still takes us by surprise. Here is the wisest man in the world and the wealthiest man in the world. Solomon was the king of one of the most powerful nations on earth. He had every earthly thing that one could possess and yet he turned from following God.
The scriptures tell us that his wives led him away from obeying the Lord. He disobeyed the command of God to marry all these foreign women in the first place (1 Kings 11) but then the women themselves turned his heart away from God and led him to worship other gods, their gods. It’s a tragic story and all the more frightening because we just don’t see it coming. There is nothing in his life up to this point that would indicate that he would allow this to happen, but it does.
So here is how I want us to pray this week. Let’s pray that God would not only make us wise but also that He would keep us faithful. Let’s pray that we would be wise enough to protect our hearts and lives from the type of temptations that would pull our hearts away from Christ. Let’s pray that God would make us wise enough and humble enough to confess our sins to others and heed their counsel when our hearts begin to go astray. Let’s pray that God would protect our hearts, our marriages, our homes, and our churches.
Even though things might be going great right now we need God to protect our tomorrow, so let’s pray to that end.