Archive for November, 2018

1 Kings 8:1-11 (Part 1 of 2)
The Ark Brought to the Temple

I remember my college graduation for what is wasn’t and for what it almost was. In June 1983, Ronald Reagan was our President and George H.W. Bush was our Vice-President. The school that I graduated from, Furman University, in Greenville, SC had landed quite a coup for our graduation. We were to have Vice-President Bush for our commencement speaker. It was quite the big deal. However, it was not to be. For some reason that I cannot remember, VP Bush had to cancel at the last minute. So close to graduation it was, our university president ended up having to give the commencement speech.

At Furman, a small school of about 3,000 students and is a school that plays football at the division of NCAA football just below the big boys known then as Division 1-AA, we held our graduations in our football stadium that holds about 20,000 people – the home side of the stadium being about 12,000 of that total. On the home side of the stadium you can observe Paris Mountain in the distance, some 3 miles away from the stadium. It is a beautiful view. So, families and friends of the graduates were sitting in the home stands and the graduating seniors were sitting in folding chairs on the football field in front of the graduation platform that held all the dignitaries, special guests and other participants in the late afternoon of early June. It was a beautiful day but hot as blazes as it often is in the South in the summertime. It was so humid that day I remember it clearly as I remember sweating a lot underneath the graduation gown and my suit and tie. As was usual in that time of year, with all the heat and humidity, summer afternoon/evening thunderstorms were bound to pop up. Well, on this day, it was no different. As we proceed through all the festivities, you could see this large dark group of clouds approaching. During the various speeches, it was creeping ever closer and ever closer. Our university president, Dr. Johns, was the final and keynote speaker before the conferring of degrees. Since the stage was facing the graduates and the home side stands in the football stadium, the approaching clouds were behind the dignitaries. I think Dr. Johns was oblivious to the approaching storm. Maybe, it had been a while since he had given a commencement speech, but he seemed to go on and on and on. And the clouds kept getting closer and closer to the stadium. Finally, he was done.

The thunderstorm cloud was now such that you could no longer see Paris Mountain in the background and the skies were gray above us. We proceeded to get through all the degrees being handed out and the final charge to the graduates and the final prayer and then of course the tossing of our mortarboards into the air after we were declared graduates of Furman University forever the Class of 1983. Then the rains came and it poured for about a half hour. So, we came oh so close to having to walk across the stage in an active thunderstorm. But God was kind to us and held the rain off until we began exiting the field as graduates. Thank goodness we could all mill around in the concession area/concourse underneath the upper stands as the storm passed.

Isn’t funny though how you remember little details like that of your life? The mile markers of life. I remember graduation from college, my graduations from graduate school and seminary, my marriage ceremonies, the births of my children, the day of my salvation, moving days, both of Clemson’s national championship games in football, and other important and seminal events in my life. This is how we measure life – by the mile marker moments in them. What are the mile marker moments of your life?

Those mile marker moments of life are what I thought of this morning as I read this passage, 1 Kings 8:1-11, for today. This moment in Israel’s history is momentous. It is a mile marker in the history of Israel. In the history of ancient Israel, this moment when the Temple was finished is a reference point. It is that moment that things happened before and things happened after. It is a mile marker in history. Let’s read the passage now:

Chapter 8

1 Solomon then summoned to Jerusalem the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes—the leaders of the ancestral families of the Israelites. They were to bring the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant to the Temple from its location in the City of David, also known as Zion. 2 So all the men of Israel assembled before King Solomon at the annual Festival of Shelters, which is held in early autumn in the month of Ethanim.[a]

3 When all the elders of Israel arrived, the priests picked up the Ark. 4 The priests and Levites brought up the Ark of the Lord along with the special tent[b] and all the sacred items that had been in it. 5 There, before the Ark, King Solomon and the entire community of Israel sacrificed so many sheep, goats, and cattle that no one could keep count!

6 Then the priests carried the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant into the inner sanctuary of the Temple—the Most Holy Place—and placed it beneath the wings of the cherubim. 7 The cherubim spread their wings over the Ark, forming a canopy over the Ark and its carrying poles. 8 These poles were so long that their ends could be seen from the Holy Place, which is in front of the Most Holy Place, but not from the outside. They are still there to this day. 9 Nothing was in the Ark except the two stone tablets that Moses had placed in it at Mount Sinai,[c] where the Lord made a covenant with the people of Israel when they left the land of Egypt.

10 When the priests came out of the Holy Place, a thick cloud filled the Temple of the Lord. 11 The priests could not continue their service because of the cloud, for the glorious presence of the Lord filled the Temple of the Lord.

In this passage, we see that Solomon gathered the people not just to dedicate the Temple, but to rededicate themselves to God’s Service. Solomon could well be speaking these words to us today as he did later in this chapter in 1 Kings 8:61 when he said, “And may you be completely faithful to the Lord our God. May you always obey his decrees and commands, just as you are doing today.” Thus, as the university president did at my college graduation and his charge to us to be difference makers in the world, so too does Solomon use this opportunity, this mile marker moment, to remind the Israelites that they are God’s people and that they must continue to be faithful to him. The establishment of a permanent Temple was a moment for them to realize that God has blessed them mightily and that He has shown them favor, often when they did not deserve it. It was a moment to realize that they were no longer wandering from place to place. They now have what God promised them – a homeland where they could be at peace and serve the Lord and be a beacon to the rest of the world.

It is in these mile marker moments of life when they happen right in front of us that we can take time to realize how far we come and where we have to go. It is a time to celebrate and a time to realize what comes next as we stand here in this moment. As Christians, we have mile markers too. We reference our entire lives and the history of God’s people by the greatest mile-marker moment in history – when Jesus went to the cross to die for our sins, my sins, your sins, the sins of all men of all time. Without that mile marker moment, none of us would have any hope. We should reflect on this mile marker moment every day and be thankful and grateful for what Jesus has done for us. Without that moment, we are left to the condemnation of our mountains of sins that we commit every day.

Another important mile-marker moment for Christians is the day of their salvation. I can still remember the sights, sounds, and smells of that day, the Sunday before Christmas in 2001 (December 23, 2001). It was the moment that I realized that if I continued to live in the false security that I had about my general goodness that I was destined for hell in the absence of Jesus Christ. It was that moment that the reality of my sins overwhelmed me and thrust me at the feet of Jesus – begging for his mercy. It was a seminal moment in my life and our salvation day is a seminal moment in each Christian’s life. I often think that we should celebrate our salvation day anniversary with the same fervor that we do our birthdays. It is that important. It is that mile marker by which my life is measured – before salvation and after salvation. It is a mile marker moment that should be remembered and treasured. Do you remember your salvation day? Let us not forget that moment when our life changed forever. Let us remember that joy that we felt that day. Let us remember the sights, sounds, and smells of that day. Let us always remember the tears of joy, the moment when the burden seemed lifted, that moment when everything changed. That mile marker moment!

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 7:13-51 (Part 7 of 7 – Conclusion of A Series)
Furnishings for the Temple

Today, we continue looking at the furnishings of the Temple in a 7-part series with Part 7. Because God is a God of order, everything in the Temple has a meaning. It symbolizes something in the relationship between God and His people.

Similarly, each of us has items that we have retained in our lives that are symbolic of some experience, particularly if you are a husband and wife. For Elena and me, we have things that we own that we have retained and not thrown away because they have significance to our relationship over the last 11 years (3 years of dating and 8 years of marriage). In my last blog, we talked about a dining room table that represents more than just a place to have a meal. They symbolize what God has done for us, to us, and through us.

For today, I think about our house itself. This house reminds Elena and me of just how blessed we are. First, we are blessed because this house is just so unique. Second, we see this house as confirmation of what can happen when we live more simply. Third, we blessed because it contains all treasures of a life built together. God’s blessings come from us seeing Him work in our lives. This house is an example of that fact. It reminds us God’s favor for those who seek Him.

First, we are blessed to have a home. One of the ways that we are blessed to have a home is that this house is just so unique. When I arrive home from work at the church each day I come in purposely from 39th Street so that I can drive past all four sides of our house and property. I come down 39th Street and see the north and the east side (front) of our house and then turn on to 20th Avenue to see the southside and the west side (back) of our house as I approach the detached garage on the very back edge of the west side of our property. It allows me to give myself a quick visual inspection of the house and property but I just love looking at our cute little house. I fell in love with it from the first time that we saw it. This house was built in 1914 so it is not some cookie-cutter house. It is distinctive. Further, it was completely remodeled on the inside by the previous owner who bought to “flip it” so it is modern on the inside, but yet, still has that 1914 character as well. It is just a neat old house that we consider ourselves lucky to have found. Every other house we looked at when shopping for a house when we moved here just had something wrong with it that was a deal breaker. There as so many old homes in this town that finding a perfect house is often difficult. But this house just spoke to us as it had no structural issues, was in our price range, and it had just been remodeled, and it was only 20 minutes from the church. We love older homes with character but that have been updated to keep up with modern amenities. This house just fit the bill.

Another way we look at this home and the two homes that we have purchased in our marriage before this one is that we are blessed to have a home. Since we began taking a biblical view of our finances where God calls us to be generous first, we have been able to rid ourselves of debt, live on less, and be generous to our church, family, friends and even strangers. The practical benefit of living biblically when it comes to your finances is that it changes your perspective on having to have stuff. It changes your perspective on the need for debt to finance what we want. As a result, practically, living life this way improves your credit rating. Over time, our credit rating has become quite excellent and we have had no troubles getting mortgage loans. That is such a blessing. Being able to own a home is just a blessing and we have achieved that is through learning to live more simply and doing our finances “God’s way”. What peace has come to us during the last 10 years! Being able not to worry about buying a house. Being able not to worry about making ends meet no matter our salary is simply a mindset reboot that we have received from God himself. And, then, when you think of people that are homeless on top of this mindset changing of managing money God’s way, then it brings you to tears. To know that we have been doubly blessed – learning to live more simply and to be blessed to have a place to live at all it can really bring you to tears when you sit and think on it. Especially on a day like today when it got down to 12 degrees Fahrenheit overnight last night and it is only 13 degrees outside in the Quad Cities at 8am this morning.

Another way to look at this house for us is that it contains our life. It may look simple on the outside. You may even say, like we do, that is such a cute house and it is. It’s not grand home. It’s not a mansion. But it is a cute, unique house. It is not the most expensive house in the Quad Cities, but it is nice looking. But the thing that makes it a cute home for us is that before we moved in it was a cute house. It is now a cute home. What makes it a home instead of just a house is the fact that it contains the treasures of a life built together. Everything in the house has a meaning. Everything in the house is a treasure to us. Otherwise, we would not keep the things that we have kept. Everything in this simple but cute house is a treasure to us. It represents what we have built together in our relationship over the last 11 years since we met. This house contains all of our meaningful things, some of which we have talked about in this blog series which we are concluding today. The life that we have built together is contained in this house. It is our place to be together after a hard day out in the world. It is our place to be ourselves and relax. It is our place to recharge. It our place to call home.

Thus, our house is a visual reminder of how God has blessed us over many years now. The house represents simply us submitting our lives and our finances and our everything over to Him. That’s the blessing and this house is a reminder of God’s blessing upon us. Similarly, It is this type of deeper meaning that we will look at in this passage today. Let’s continue today by discussing the storehouse of treasures in the Temple and what they mean and symbolize:

13 King Solomon then asked for a man named Huram[a] to come from Tyre. 14 He was half Israelite, since his mother was a widow from the tribe of Naphtali, and his father had been a craftsman in bronze from Tyre. Huram was extremely skillful and talented in any work in bronze, and he came to do all the metal work for King Solomon.

15 Huram cast two bronze pillars, each 27 feet tall and 18 feet in circumference.[b] 16 For the tops of the pillars he cast bronze capitals, each 7 1⁄2 feet[c] tall. 17 Each capital was decorated with seven sets of latticework and interwoven chains. 18 He also encircled the latticework with two rows of pomegranates to decorate the capitals over the pillars. 19 The capitals on the columns inside the entry room were shaped like water lilies, and they were six feet[d] tall. 20 The capitals on the two pillars had 200 pomegranates in two rows around them, beside the rounded surface next to the latticework. 21 Huram set the pillars at the entrance of the Temple, one toward the south and one toward the north. He named the one on the south Jakin, and the one on the north Boaz.[e] 22 The capitals on the pillars were shaped like water lilies. And so the work on the pillars was finished.

23 Then Huram cast a great round basin, 15 feet across from rim to rim, called the Sea. It was 7 1⁄2 feet deep and about 45 feet in circumference.[f] 24 It was encircled just below its rim by two rows of decorative gourds. There were about six gourds per foot[g] all the way around, and they were cast as part of the basin.

25 The Sea was placed on a base of twelve bronze oxen,[h] all facing outward. Three faced north, three faced west, three faced south, and three faced east, and the Sea rested on them. 26 The walls of the Sea were about three inches[i] thick, and its rim flared out like a cup and resembled a water lily blossom. It could hold about 11,000 gallons[j] of water.

27 Huram also made ten bronze water carts, each 6 feet long, 6 feet wide, and 4 1⁄2 feet tall.[k] 28 They were constructed with side panels braced with crossbars. 29 Both the panels and the crossbars were decorated with carved lions, oxen, and cherubim. Above and below the lions and oxen were wreath decorations. 30 Each of these carts had four bronze wheels and bronze axles. There were supporting posts for the bronze basins at the corners of the carts; these supports were decorated on each side with carvings of wreaths. 31 The top of each cart had a rounded frame for the basin. It projected 1 1⁄2 feet[l] above the cart’s top like a round pedestal, and its opening was 2 1⁄4 feet[m] across; it was decorated on the outside with carvings of wreaths. The panels of the carts were square, not round. 32 Under the panels were four wheels that were connected to axles that had been cast as one unit with the cart. The wheels were 2 1⁄4 feet in diameter 33 and were similar to chariot wheels. The axles, spokes, rims, and hubs were all cast from molten bronze.

34 There were handles at each of the four corners of the carts, and these, too, were cast as one unit with the cart. 35 Around the top of each cart was a rim nine inches wide.[n] The corner supports and side panels were cast as one unit with the cart. 36 Carvings of cherubim, lions, and palm trees decorated the panels and corner supports wherever there was room, and there were wreaths all around. 37 All ten water carts were the same size and were made alike, for each was cast from the same mold.

38 Huram also made ten smaller bronze basins, one for each cart. Each basin was six feet across and could hold 220 gallons[o] of water. 39 He set five water carts on the south side of the Temple and five on the north side. The great bronze basin called the Sea was placed near the southeast corner of the Temple. 40 He also made the necessary washbasins, shovels, and bowls.

So at last Huram completed everything King Solomon had assigned him to make for the Temple of the Lord:

41
the two pillars;
the two bowl-shaped capitals on top of the pillars;
the two networks of interwoven chains that decorated the capitals;
42
the 400 pomegranates that hung from the chains on the capitals (two rows of pomegranates for each of the chain networks that decorated the capitals on top of the pillars);
43
the ten water carts holding the ten basins;
44
the Sea and the twelve oxen under it;
45
the ash buckets, the shovels, and the bowls.

Huram made all these things of burnished bronze for the Temple of the Lord, just as King Solomon had directed. 46 The king had them cast in clay molds in the Jordan Valley between Succoth and Zarethan. 47 Solomon did not weigh all these things because there were so many; the weight of the bronze could not be measured.

48 Solomon also made all the furnishings of the Temple of the Lord:

the gold altar;
the gold table for the Bread of the Presence;
49
the lampstands of solid gold, five on the south and five on the north, in front of the Most Holy Place;
the flower decorations, lamps, and tongs—all of gold;
50
the small bowls, lamp snuffers, bowls, ladles, and incense burners—all of solid gold;
the doors for the entrances to the Most Holy Place and the main room of the Temple, with their fronts overlaid with gold.

51 So King Solomon finished all his work on the Temple of the Lord. Then he brought all the gifts his father, David, had dedicated—the silver, the gold, and the various articles—and he stored them in the treasuries of the Lord’s Temple.

In this passage, we see that Solomon placed all the treasures of the kingdom that David had accumulated over his reign and through all his military victories over the years. It was a wealth of gold and other precious metals. There was now a resting place for the valuable things that the Kingdom of Israel had acquired. It became the treasury storehouse of the kingdom. By modern standards, what we know of what became known as “The First Temple” or “Solomon’s Temple” it was simple by comparison to the rebuilt Temple grounds that continued from the time of return from the time of Nehemiah all the way through until the New Testament era. By the time of Jesus and for three decades after his death, it was an ornate facility that mushroomed what the original First Temple looked like. The First Temple was simple but yet ornate. It was small but yet was an architectural beauty. Its small size and simplicity from the outside belied the fact that it contained the most valuable items in the kingdom and held the treasury of gold, silver, gems and all the most valuable items belonging to the nation of Israel. It reminds me though our house looks cute by simple from the outside, the thing that makes it most valuable to us is that it contains our life together. This house contains the life of Mark and Elena that we have built over our lives together. In the same way, the Temple was beautiful in its outward simplicity but what made it wonderful was that it contained such beauty and treasure and it contained the presence of God.

In the same way, you and are simple vessels on the outside. Though we all have slight variations that make us all look different slightly, we are have the same physiology. We may have different heights, weights, facial features, hair color, and so on but we are all simple variations on the same human body. We all operate the same way. Process oxygen the same way. Process food the same way. Breath the same way. Process energy and expel energy the same way. We are all just basically the same. The human form is common to us all. That makes us, when you think about, rather unspectacular. We are all just human bodies that are basically the same physical structure operating on the same common operating systems. We are just common clay pots, as Paul called us in 2 Corinthians 4:7-9.

But, as Paul put it, our outward commonness belies the fact that within our clay jars we contain the greatest treasure of all – the message of the gospel! We who have made Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord contain Jesus Christ himself and the message of redemption that we have to offer the world. Clay jars containing great treasure. Simple houses containing great treasure. Simple temples containing the treasure of the kingdom. We are simple vessels containing the beauty of the gospel that makes us valuable and unique and worthy to God.

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 7:13-51 (Part 6 of 7)
Furnishings for the Temple

Today, we continue looking at the furnishings of the Temple in a 7-part series with Part 6. Because God is a God of order, everything in the Temple has a meaning. It symbolizes something in the relationship between God and His people.

Similarly, each of us has items that we have retained in our lives that are symbolic of some experience, particularly if you are a husband and wife. For Elena and me, we have things that we own that we have retained and not thrown away because they have significance to our relationship over the last 11 years (3 years of dating and 8 years of marriage). In my last blog, we talked about scrambled eggs and how they represent more than just food on a plate. They symbolize what God has done for us, to us, and through us.

For today, I think about our dining room table. This table reminds Elena and me of just how blessed we have been since we began preparing for full-time ministry. God’s blessings are not always directly financial. God’s blessings come from us seeing Him work in our lives. This table is an example of that fact. It reminds us of unmerited generosity. This table reminds me of hospitality. This table reminds me of discipleship and fellowship.

First, it reminds me of unmerited generosity. This beautiful table was a gift to us from Doc and Shirley Hoover. They gave us this table less than six weeks after we moved to The Quad Cities from South Carolina and within just a few days after we moved into the cute little house that we bought in Rock Island. This gift was so unmerited. The Hoovers barely knew us at that point. It is a significant gift. It is not just some prefab dining room table that could easily be replaced by them. This is not a Wal-Mart dining room table. This is not a Big Lots dining room table. It is a high-end furniture store dining room table. Sure, the Hoovers were buying a new table that would better match the new motif they were going for in their house. However, this table they gave us is beautiful, well-cared for, and is really made well, sturdy. It reminds us of the Christ followers that we continue to strive to be – generous to others. As I had mentioned in a previous blog in this series, we have given away two cars – one to one of Elena’s family members, and one to my daughter. But this gift just pointed us toward generosity beyond our family borders. The Hoovers showed us generosity beyond what we deserved. It reminds me of what God has done for us through Jesus. We are habitual sinners that should have the book thrown at us by the Righteous Judge. We cannot claim that we are just one-time offenders. Our rap sheet of sins could wrap around the world. However, we are pardoned of our habitual offenses toward God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross and recognizing that He is the Son of God who was raised from the dead. We certainly don’t deserve such generosity. We deserve our sentence to hell, eternally separated from God. However, unmerited generosity has been shown us through Jesus Christ just as the Doc and Shirley showed us unmerited generosity that we did not deserve. They loved us because we were part of the pastoral team of their church. They did not measure whether we had done anything for them. They just showed us love because…that’s what God through Jesus calls us to do – live by His example.

Elena and I love to have people over to our house for meals and then long conversations at the table. Just in the time that we have been in this house in Rock Island, we have forged some deep friendships around this table. It is a reminder to us that it is better to have some intimate friends with which you can share life than a thousand “acquaintances”. This table represents those conversations in which laughter permeates, and similar interests are discovered. This table represents our desire to express hospitality to those who are members of our church and those who live in our neighborhood. Hospitality is something our Lord and Savior represents to us. He welcomes us home to the family of God. It is through intimate conversations with Him that we grow to be and desire to be more and more like Him. He makes us feel at home at His banquet table for the family of God.

At this table, we have had deep conversations in marriage mentoring and in theological discussions. We have had the privilege of helping several couples to strengthen their marriage or to begin their marriage in the ways of the Lord. We have also helped dear friends to understand theology of the Christian faith and why Jesus is just so absolutely necessary to us. At this table, we have had opportunities to help couples to grow in their faith. Elena and I are passionate about helping others to see their faith as a daily thing not just something you do on Sunday. At a similar table in California, a decade ago, we were challenged at the table in intimate conversations with our spiritual parents, Pastor Luke & his wife, Felisha Brower. And, now it is our turn to be that pastor and his wife to disciple others into a deeper and more abiding faith in Jesus Christ. We are reminded how Jesus used meals at a table to teach others about God and about a real relationship with Him.

Thus, our dining room table is a visual reminder of deeper things about our relationship that remind me of the deep and abiding love that God has for us. It is deeper meaning that we will look at in this passage today. Let’s continue today by looking then at the lampstands in the Temple and what they mean and symbolize:

13 King Solomon then asked for a man named Huram[a] to come from Tyre. 14 He was half Israelite, since his mother was a widow from the tribe of Naphtali, and his father had been a craftsman in bronze from Tyre. Huram was extremely skillful and talented in any work in bronze, and he came to do all the metal work for King Solomon.

15 Huram cast two bronze pillars, each 27 feet tall and 18 feet in circumference.[b] 16 For the tops of the pillars he cast bronze capitals, each 7 1⁄2 feet[c] tall. 17 Each capital was decorated with seven sets of latticework and interwoven chains. 18 He also encircled the latticework with two rows of pomegranates to decorate the capitals over the pillars. 19 The capitals on the columns inside the entry room were shaped like water lilies, and they were six feet[d] tall. 20 The capitals on the two pillars had 200 pomegranates in two rows around them, beside the rounded surface next to the latticework. 21 Huram set the pillars at the entrance of the Temple, one toward the south and one toward the north. He named the one on the south Jakin, and the one on the north Boaz.[e] 22 The capitals on the pillars were shaped like water lilies. And so the work on the pillars was finished.

23 Then Huram cast a great round basin, 15 feet across from rim to rim, called the Sea. It was 7 1⁄2 feet deep and about 45 feet in circumference.[f] 24 It was encircled just below its rim by two rows of decorative gourds. There were about six gourds per foot[g] all the way around, and they were cast as part of the basin.

25 The Sea was placed on a base of twelve bronze oxen,[h] all facing outward. Three faced north, three faced west, three faced south, and three faced east, and the Sea rested on them. 26 The walls of the Sea were about three inches[i] thick, and its rim flared out like a cup and resembled a water lily blossom. It could hold about 11,000 gallons[j] of water.

27 Huram also made ten bronze water carts, each 6 feet long, 6 feet wide, and 4 1⁄2 feet tall.[k] 28 They were constructed with side panels braced with crossbars. 29 Both the panels and the crossbars were decorated with carved lions, oxen, and cherubim. Above and below the lions and oxen were wreath decorations. 30 Each of these carts had four bronze wheels and bronze axles. There were supporting posts for the bronze basins at the corners of the carts; these supports were decorated on each side with carvings of wreaths. 31 The top of each cart had a rounded frame for the basin. It projected 1 1⁄2 feet[l] above the cart’s top like a round pedestal, and its opening was 2 1⁄4 feet[m] across; it was decorated on the outside with carvings of wreaths. The panels of the carts were square, not round. 32 Under the panels were four wheels that were connected to axles that had been cast as one unit with the cart. The wheels were 2 1⁄4 feet in diameter 33 and were similar to chariot wheels. The axles, spokes, rims, and hubs were all cast from molten bronze.

34 There were handles at each of the four corners of the carts, and these, too, were cast as one unit with the cart. 35 Around the top of each cart was a rim nine inches wide.[n] The corner supports and side panels were cast as one unit with the cart. 36 Carvings of cherubim, lions, and palm trees decorated the panels and corner supports wherever there was room, and there were wreaths all around. 37 All ten water carts were the same size and were made alike, for each was cast from the same mold.

38 Huram also made ten smaller bronze basins, one for each cart. Each basin was six feet across and could hold 220 gallons[o] of water. 39 He set five water carts on the south side of the Temple and five on the north side. The great bronze basin called the Sea was placed near the southeast corner of the Temple. 40 He also made the necessary washbasins, shovels, and bowls.

So at last Huram completed everything King Solomon had assigned him to make for the Temple of the Lord:

41
the two pillars;
the two bowl-shaped capitals on top of the pillars;
the two networks of interwoven chains that decorated the capitals;
42
the 400 pomegranates that hung from the chains on the capitals (two rows of pomegranates for each of the chain networks that decorated the capitals on top of the pillars);
43
the ten water carts holding the ten basins;
44
the Sea and the twelve oxen under it;
45
the ash buckets, the shovels, and the bowls.

Huram made all these things of burnished bronze for the Temple of the Lord, just as King Solomon had directed. 46 The king had them cast in clay molds in the Jordan Valley between Succoth and Zarethan. 47 Solomon did not weigh all these things because there were so many; the weight of the bronze could not be measured.

48 Solomon also made all the furnishings of the Temple of the Lord:

the gold altar;
the gold table for the Bread of the Presence;
49
the lampstands of solid gold, five on the south and five on the north, in front of the Most Holy Place;
the flower decorations, lamps, and tongs—all of gold;
50
the small bowls, lamp snuffers, bowls, ladles, and incense burners—all of solid gold;
the doors for the entrances to the Most Holy Place and the main room of the Temple, with their fronts overlaid with gold.

51 So King Solomon finished all his work on the Temple of the Lord. Then he brought all the gifts his father, David, had dedicated—the silver, the gold, and the various articles—and he stored them in the treasuries of the Lord’s Temple.

In this passage, we see that the lampstands which are found in the room representing the heavens above us which are skies and the heavenlies and where angels are active, has some obvious symbolism. Firstly, the lampstands would give light all night long, and was the only light besides the shekinah glory of God. The seven lights of each lamp would have reminded the Israelites of the Sun and Moon and the five known planets of the day. Reminding them of the light which God provides for them. However, the Sun and Moon and the stars and planets were not only for light but to order the Israelites lives, giving them times and seasons. And as you look at the Jewish calendar the number seven recurs quite often. There were 7 days in a week, the seventh month of the year was the month of atonement, the seventh year was the year of the release of slaves, and the seventh times seventh year was the year of Jubilee when all bought land would be returned to its rightful owner.

However, the symbolism would have gone deeper. The fact that the lamps are in the shape of a tree and hidden in the inaccessible presence of God would have reminded them of the tree of life in the Garden of Eden, a Garden from which they had been thrown, never to eat of that tree again. At the Tabernacle and then at the Temple, there is access, by way of a priest, to the tree in God’s inaccessible presence once again. There is also an obvious connection between the bread and the lamp to the pillar of fire, and the Manna from heaven which God provided for them in the Wilderness. But the most obvious connection for the Christian is that the lamp reminds us of Jesus. He is our High Priest. He intercedes on our behalf before God. He is the vehicle by which we can exist in the presence of God without being consumed. It is through His holiness that we can approach a just and holy God without fear. Jesus is the light of the world, the light that has come from the presence of the Father into this world to save us. He is like the lamp, for he is the only light there is in this world of darkness. He is our light of hope.

Just as our dining room table represents and reminds us of the unmerited favor shown us by Jesus Christ and about abiding in Him, so, too do the lampstands in the Temple remind us of the light in the darkness that Jesus represents. The lampstands remind us that is only through Jesus that we have hope of reconciliation with God. The light illuminates our need for Jesus.

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 7:13-51 (Part 5 of 7)
Furnishings for the Temple

Today, we continue looking at the furnishings of the Temple in a 7-part series with Part 4. Because God is a God of order, everything in the Temple has a meaning. It symbolizes something in the relationship between God and His people.

Similarly, each of us has items that we have retained in our lives that are symbolic of some experience, particularly if you are a husband and wife. For Elena and me, we have things that we own that we have retained and not thrown away because they have significance to our relationship over the last 11 years (3 years of dating and 8 years of marriage). In my last blog, we talked about the significance of our wedding pictures taken at the beach and how they represent more than just pictures on a bookcase. They symbolize what God has done for us, to us, and through us.

On this Thanksgiving Day 2018, I am thankful for a little symbolic thing. The symbolic thing in my relationship and life with Elena is scrambled eggs. I was single from 2004 until Elena became my bride in 2010. During my single days, breakfast was not a part of my life. I barely could cook dinner and certainly getting up early enough to fix my own breakfast was just not worth the trouble. However, when Elena and I began living together as husband and wife, that all changed. Being the great wife that she is, she fixes me a quick breakfast each morning. She doesn’t want her man to walk out the door hungry in the morning. To save time and to keep it simple, it is usually my favorite morning food – scrambled eggs. I love scrambled eggs. Pour on some salsa or ketchup and bam it’s a quick filling meal. So scrambled eggs are a part of every workday morning breakfast now. Even on weekends when we have more time, eggs as in omelets or as in perico, but eggs are part of the morning deal around our house. But scrambled eggs on a workday morning symbolizes something for me and it’s more than just morning food.

Scrambled eggs, when it comes to my relationship with Elena, represent stability. After years of being single and the up and down life and the uncertainty that singleness represents, scrambled eggs made by Elena for me represents the fact that we are settled and we are long-term. That there is this daily reminder of the stability of our relationship gives me great comfort. Knowing that she is always there in my life makes the uncertainty of the world outside our doors easier to handle. When work is crazy, there are the scrambled eggs in the morning. When things are difficult at work, there are scrambled eggs in the morning. When things are uncertain, the scrambled eggs are certain. The scrambled eggs are symbolic of how Elena is my certainty. The scrambled eggs are symbolic of how Elena gives my life its mooring. No matter what is going on outside the doors of our home, I know that she believes in me. No matter how uncertain things may seem when I walk out the door, I know that she knows that I have been successful before and will be successful again. No matter what people may think of me outside of our doors, Elena knows what I have done, can do, and am capable of in the future. Pure and simple, she is my rock in a quicksand world.

I know that this all sounds silly to romanticize and imbue scrambled eggs as a symbol. However, they simply represent the love of my wife for me. It’s a little thing that she has done for me ever since we got married. It is important to her to make sure that I am taken care of. One of the ways that she expresses her love for me is through cooking. She is an amazing cook and she is the main reason that I have to exercise each week! LOL! When I did not exercise regularly (during the first 6 years of our marriage), I ballooned up to 234 pounds because she is such a good cook. She can create some amazing meals and it is not because she has to. It is because she loves to cook for me. It’s one way that she shows me that she loves me. So, laugh if you want, but scrambled eggs just represent Elena’s deep and abiding love for me as her husband. When I see those scrambled eggs in the morning during the work week, it represents love to me. It represents Elena’s constant love, day in and day out. It represents that underlying love, that permeating love, that love that has caused her to follow me from Rock Hill, SC to Livermore, CA to Duncan/Lyman, SC and now to Rock Island/Moline, IL. Scrambled eggs. Little symbols. Elena’s love – no matter the location, no matter what goes on in my life beyond the doors of our home, wherever that may be.

Thus, the scrambled eggs on workday mornings are a visual reminder of deeper things about our relationship that remind me of the deep and abiding love that God has for us. It is deeper meaning that we will look at in this passage today. It is ironic in God’s timing that in today’s blog we are talking about the showbread – on the holiday of Thanksgiving here in the United States, food and thankfulness. Let’s continue today by looking then at the showbread in the Temple and what they mean and symbolize:

13 King Solomon then asked for a man named Huram[a] to come from Tyre. 14 He was half Israelite, since his mother was a widow from the tribe of Naphtali, and his father had been a craftsman in bronze from Tyre. Huram was extremely skillful and talented in any work in bronze, and he came to do all the metal work for King Solomon.

15 Huram cast two bronze pillars, each 27 feet tall and 18 feet in circumference.[b] 16 For the tops of the pillars he cast bronze capitals, each 7 1⁄2 feet[c] tall. 17 Each capital was decorated with seven sets of latticework and interwoven chains. 18 He also encircled the latticework with two rows of pomegranates to decorate the capitals over the pillars. 19 The capitals on the columns inside the entry room were shaped like water lilies, and they were six feet[d] tall. 20 The capitals on the two pillars had 200 pomegranates in two rows around them, beside the rounded surface next to the latticework. 21 Huram set the pillars at the entrance of the Temple, one toward the south and one toward the north. He named the one on the south Jakin, and the one on the north Boaz.[e] 22 The capitals on the pillars were shaped like water lilies. And so the work on the pillars was finished.

23 Then Huram cast a great round basin, 15 feet across from rim to rim, called the Sea. It was 7 1⁄2 feet deep and about 45 feet in circumference.[f] 24 It was encircled just below its rim by two rows of decorative gourds. There were about six gourds per foot[g] all the way around, and they were cast as part of the basin.

25 The Sea was placed on a base of twelve bronze oxen,[h] all facing outward. Three faced north, three faced west, three faced south, and three faced east, and the Sea rested on them. 26 The walls of the Sea were about three inches[i] thick, and its rim flared out like a cup and resembled a water lily blossom. It could hold about 11,000 gallons[j] of water.

27 Huram also made ten bronze water carts, each 6 feet long, 6 feet wide, and 4 1⁄2 feet tall.[k] 28 They were constructed with side panels braced with crossbars. 29 Both the panels and the crossbars were decorated with carved lions, oxen, and cherubim. Above and below the lions and oxen were wreath decorations. 30 Each of these carts had four bronze wheels and bronze axles. There were supporting posts for the bronze basins at the corners of the carts; these supports were decorated on each side with carvings of wreaths. 31 The top of each cart had a rounded frame for the basin. It projected 1 1⁄2 feet[l] above the cart’s top like a round pedestal, and its opening was 2 1⁄4 feet[m] across; it was decorated on the outside with carvings of wreaths. The panels of the carts were square, not round. 32 Under the panels were four wheels that were connected to axles that had been cast as one unit with the cart. The wheels were 2 1⁄4 feet in diameter 33 and were similar to chariot wheels. The axles, spokes, rims, and hubs were all cast from molten bronze.

34 There were handles at each of the four corners of the carts, and these, too, were cast as one unit with the cart. 35 Around the top of each cart was a rim nine inches wide.[n] The corner supports and side panels were cast as one unit with the cart. 36 Carvings of cherubim, lions, and palm trees decorated the panels and corner supports wherever there was room, and there were wreaths all around. 37 All ten water carts were the same size and were made alike, for each was cast from the same mold.

38 Huram also made ten smaller bronze basins, one for each cart. Each basin was six feet across and could hold 220 gallons[o] of water. 39 He set five water carts on the south side of the Temple and five on the north side. The great bronze basin called the Sea was placed near the southeast corner of the Temple. 40 He also made the necessary washbasins, shovels, and bowls.

So at last Huram completed everything King Solomon had assigned him to make for the Temple of the Lord:

41
the two pillars;
the two bowl-shaped capitals on top of the pillars;
the two networks of interwoven chains that decorated the capitals;
42
the 400 pomegranates that hung from the chains on the capitals (two rows of pomegranates for each of the chain networks that decorated the capitals on top of the pillars);
43
the ten water carts holding the ten basins;
44
the Sea and the twelve oxen under it;
45
the ash buckets, the shovels, and the bowls.

Huram made all these things of burnished bronze for the Temple of the Lord, just as King Solomon had directed. 46 The king had them cast in clay molds in the Jordan Valley between Succoth and Zarethan. 47 Solomon did not weigh all these things because there were so many; the weight of the bronze could not be measured.

48 Solomon also made all the furnishings of the Temple of the Lord:

the gold altar;
the gold table for the Bread of the Presence;
49
the lampstands of solid gold, five on the south and five on the north, in front of the Most Holy Place;
the flower decorations, lamps, and tongs—all of gold;
50
the small bowls, lamp snuffers, bowls, ladles, and incense burners—all of solid gold;
the doors for the entrances to the Most Holy Place and the main room of the Temple, with their fronts overlaid with gold.

51 So King Solomon finished all his work on the Temple of the Lord. Then he brought all the gifts his father, David, had dedicated—the silver, the gold, and the various articles—and he stored them in the treasuries of the Lord’s Temple.

In this passage, we see that Next we have the showbread. This was placed on a table in the inner room. In Ancient Middle Eastern custom to give a meal and hospitality was a very important thing. If someone was in your home and having a meal with you. You were not only offering food but protection and whatever other needs they may have. The showbread is a meal that God invites Israel to have with him, that they might enjoy his fellowship and protection. Of course, the Israelites are not able to eat the bread, only the priests are, but the priests do it vicariously, that is on behalf of Israel. The bread was made up of twelve loaves symbolizing the twelve tribes all provided for and invited to the supper. The bread was renewed every day indicating that God was always, daily inviting the Israelites to have this meal with him. But the bread would also have reminded the Israelites of the Manna from heaven and the wonderful way in which God provided for them while they were in the wilderness.

For the Christian, the showbread at the Temple points to our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. The main significance of the bread is that it points to Him as the bread of life who has come down from heaven. And anyone who eats of Him will never hunger again. It points to Him as our communion with Him through the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives. Through Jesus, we have hospitality and protection as part of the people of God. The number of loaves is meaningful to us as Christians because we are grafted into the people of Israel through Jesus Christ. The twelve loaves represent our membership in the people of God. In Christ the bread which we could never eat is now accessible to all by faith, and the fellowship meal with God is no longer done by priests on our behalf, but by all who will accept Christ by faith.

So, the showbread in the Temple had oh so much greater meaning that just being twelve loaves of bread. They spoke to the people of Israel about their unique relationship with God. It represented God’s faithfulness to them in the past and comfort about what He would do for them in the future. For the Christian, we can see Christ all in what the showbread represents as we are part of God’s chosen people through Jesus. For me, scrambled eggs tell a great story of my relationship with Elena. They represent stability and abiding love – that I have been able to and will continue to be able to count on Elena to be my anchor at home even when the storms of life rage outside our doors. Scrambled eggs point me to Elena’s love. Elena’s constant and abiding love points me to the love that Jesus Christ has for each one of us – constant and abiding, always faithful, always providing what we need when we need it, always believing that we can be what He intended us to be, believing that we can be what He called us to be.

I am thankful and blessed and when I see my wife bringing me a small plate of scrambled eggs each workday morning I know it. I am thankful to God for what He has given me in my wife, Elena.

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 7:13-51 (Part 4 of 7)
Furnishings for the Temple

Today, we continue looking at the furnishings of the Temple in a 7-part series with Part 4. Because God is a God of order, everything in the Temple has a meaning. It symbolizes something in the relationship between God and His people.

Similarly, each of us has items that we have retained in our lives that are symbolic of some experience, particularly if you are a husband and wife. For Elena and me, we have things that we own that we have retained and not thrown away because they have significance to our relationship over the last 11 years (3 years of dating and 8 years of marriage). In my last blog, we talked about the significance of our wedding pictures taken at the beach and how they represent more than just pictures on a bookcase. They symbolize what God has done for us, to us, and through us.

The thing that comes to mind today is the nativity scene that sits on our coffee table during the Christmas season. We normally have waited to put out our Christmas decorations until the day after Thanksgiving. However, this year, being far from family in South Carolina and North Carolina, we decided to put out the decorations last week. We knew that we would not be back to our homeland for Thanksgiving so we needed a visual boost to our spirits last week. In addition we will be down there the week of Christmas so we justified our break with our tradition in that we would miss a whole week of enjoying our decorations. So, we jumped the gun a week early.

But back to the nativity scene that we place on the coffee table. It has meaning. It has a funny story. It has a point of contention between Elena and me. First, it has meaning on many levels. The first thing is that it represents constancy on our relationship. Our Christmas decorations have changed variously over the past 11 years, between our dating years with separate homes and decorations and the married years since then with combining decorations and adding and taking away over the years. However, the one constant in all of our decorations is that miniature coffee table top nativity scene (complete with little lambs, cows, Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus in a manger. With all the change in our lives over the past 11 years and all the changes in decorations and now working with our 2nd Christmas tree, the nativity scene is a constant. That constancy is reminder that Jesus came into the world by setting aside His glory and coming into the world as a child is a timeless story that will never change. That He came into the world to teach us about God and to show us how to live for God in our everyday life is a story that is timeless. That He came into the world to offer Himself up as the once and final sacrifice for our sins is a fact that shouts through the ages and never grows old or tired.

One of the things that happens when you have had kitty cats in your life as we did for a time is that Christmas time is a time that cats just love! Not because of the birth of Jesus. Not because their masters are home more often during these days. Yes, it is because Christmas decorations provide grand new adventures of things to paw, things to knock off and chase, you get the picture (and you may be experiencing that right now!). Back when we had to little kitties name Rowdy and Angel, they were the most mischievous cats I know. My long-time cat, Flash (God rest his soul), was never like these two. Flash was so laid back but Rowdy and Angel were into everything – especially the Christmas decorations. And, yes, you guessed it, our nativity scene was one of the casualties of their playfulness. They would, when we were not looking or not home, jump up on the coffee table and paw at and play with the pieces of the nativity scene – including Baby Jesus in the manger. Baby Jesus in the manger was a single piece but the features of the top of Jesus’ baby body were easily discernable. So, this piece could be broken in multiple places. And of all the pieces of the manager that they chose to knock in the floor, of course, it was Baby Jesus himself. Of course, when we found Baby Jesus in the floor, the head of Baby Jesus had broken off. Yes, just the head. Since this was a one-of-a-kind nativity scene, we couldn’t just order a new Baby Jesus! Well, Elena being the crafty gal that she is was able to fit Jesus’ head back on his baby body with Superglue. No one notices that flaw but Elena and me. We know it’s there but no one else does (well…us and now those who read today’s blog). To us, though, it is kind of symbolic of what Jesus does for us too. He takes broken people and puts them back together with His divine glue and makes us useful to His kingdom. And, it is because he came into the world and gave himself up for us that we can be mended back together from our brokenness in our sin.

That last thing that is interesting about this nativity scene that has been with us throughout our life together is the point of contention that it brings to Elena and me each year. Since nativity scene does not have but one open side (the rear of the scene is closed off to give the scene a sense of scale and intimacy), we have an annual debate as to which way the nativity scene should face on our coffee table. Should it face outward where more people can see it but yet the people who sit on our couch can only see the blank back of the scene (like looking at the back of barn). This is the Elena Bowling position. Or…or…should the scene face the couch where those who sit on the couch have a close up look at the scene but those in the rest of the room can only see the blank back of the scene. Oh the annual debate on this! LOL! The scene will get flipped around multiple times over the holiday season and we get as big a laugh out of it as we do holding dear to our opinion. But, the point of contention about the direction of the nativity scene is a reminder to us that we shouldn’t sweat the small stuff in our marriage. These little irritations about little things are things to laugh at and not fight over. It reminds us that we are each unique and we should not try to mold the other into what we want them to be. We are just to love each other despite her need to have the nativity scene facing one way and me having to have it facing another. We are different people with differing perspectives about things but that’s what makes us a great couple together. She is weak where I am strong and she is strong where I am weak. We complement each other. That’s the way it is supposed to be in God’s plan.

Thus, the nativity scene on our coffee table is a visual reminder of deeper things that are necessary in our walk with Jesus. It is the deeper meaning that we will look at in this passage today. Let’s continue today by looking then at the wash basins in the Temple and what they mean and symbolize:

13 King Solomon then asked for a man named Huram[a] to come from Tyre. 14 He was half Israelite, since his mother was a widow from the tribe of Naphtali, and his father had been a craftsman in bronze from Tyre. Huram was extremely skillful and talented in any work in bronze, and he came to do all the metal work for King Solomon.

15 Huram cast two bronze pillars, each 27 feet tall and 18 feet in circumference.[b] 16 For the tops of the pillars he cast bronze capitals, each 7 1⁄2 feet[c] tall. 17 Each capital was decorated with seven sets of latticework and interwoven chains. 18 He also encircled the latticework with two rows of pomegranates to decorate the capitals over the pillars. 19 The capitals on the columns inside the entry room were shaped like water lilies, and they were six feet[d] tall. 20 The capitals on the two pillars had 200 pomegranates in two rows around them, beside the rounded surface next to the latticework. 21 Huram set the pillars at the entrance of the Temple, one toward the south and one toward the north. He named the one on the south Jakin, and the one on the north Boaz.[e] 22 The capitals on the pillars were shaped like water lilies. And so the work on the pillars was finished.

23 Then Huram cast a great round basin, 15 feet across from rim to rim, called the Sea. It was 7 1⁄2 feet deep and about 45 feet in circumference.[f] 24 It was encircled just below its rim by two rows of decorative gourds. There were about six gourds per foot[g] all the way around, and they were cast as part of the basin.

25 The Sea was placed on a base of twelve bronze oxen,[h] all facing outward. Three faced north, three faced west, three faced south, and three faced east, and the Sea rested on them. 26 The walls of the Sea were about three inches[i] thick, and its rim flared out like a cup and resembled a water lily blossom. It could hold about 11,000 gallons[j] of water.

27 Huram also made ten bronze water carts, each 6 feet long, 6 feet wide, and 4 1⁄2 feet tall.[k] 28 They were constructed with side panels braced with crossbars. 29 Both the panels and the crossbars were decorated with carved lions, oxen, and cherubim. Above and below the lions and oxen were wreath decorations. 30 Each of these carts had four bronze wheels and bronze axles. There were supporting posts for the bronze basins at the corners of the carts; these supports were decorated on each side with carvings of wreaths. 31 The top of each cart had a rounded frame for the basin. It projected 1 1⁄2 feet[l] above the cart’s top like a round pedestal, and its opening was 2 1⁄4 feet[m] across; it was decorated on the outside with carvings of wreaths. The panels of the carts were square, not round. 32 Under the panels were four wheels that were connected to axles that had been cast as one unit with the cart. The wheels were 2 1⁄4 feet in diameter 33 and were similar to chariot wheels. The axles, spokes, rims, and hubs were all cast from molten bronze.

34 There were handles at each of the four corners of the carts, and these, too, were cast as one unit with the cart. 35 Around the top of each cart was a rim nine inches wide.[n] The corner supports and side panels were cast as one unit with the cart. 36 Carvings of cherubim, lions, and palm trees decorated the panels and corner supports wherever there was room, and there were wreaths all around. 37 All ten water carts were the same size and were made alike, for each was cast from the same mold.

38 Huram also made ten smaller bronze basins, one for each cart. Each basin was six feet across and could hold 220 gallons[o] of water. 39 He set five water carts on the south side of the Temple and five on the north side. The great bronze basin called the Sea was placed near the southeast corner of the Temple. 40 He also made the necessary washbasins, shovels, and bowls.

So at last Huram completed everything King Solomon had assigned him to make for the Temple of the Lord:

41
the two pillars;
the two bowl-shaped capitals on top of the pillars;
the two networks of interwoven chains that decorated the capitals;
42
the 400 pomegranates that hung from the chains on the capitals (two rows of pomegranates for each of the chain networks that decorated the capitals on top of the pillars);
43
the ten water carts holding the ten basins;
44
the Sea and the twelve oxen under it;
45
the ash buckets, the shovels, and the bowls.

Huram made all these things of burnished bronze for the Temple of the Lord, just as King Solomon had directed. 46 The king had them cast in clay molds in the Jordan Valley between Succoth and Zarethan. 47 Solomon did not weigh all these things because there were so many; the weight of the bronze could not be measured.

48 Solomon also made all the furnishings of the Temple of the Lord:

the gold altar;
the gold table for the Bread of the Presence;
49
the lampstands of solid gold, five on the south and five on the north, in front of the Most Holy Place;
the flower decorations, lamps, and tongs—all of gold;
50
the small bowls, lamp snuffers, bowls, ladles, and incense burners—all of solid gold;
the doors for the entrances to the Most Holy Place and the main room of the Temple, with their fronts overlaid with gold.

51 So King Solomon finished all his work on the Temple of the Lord. Then he brought all the gifts his father, David, had dedicated—the silver, the gold, and the various articles—and he stored them in the treasuries of the Lord’s Temple.

In this passage, we see that we have the golden altar or the altar of incense. In the Ancient Middle East, incense was part of every good host’s hospitality. In the ancient world, the smells of animals and sweat were always a reality especially in the desert where water was scarce. Incense was supplied to disguise the smells and was a thoughtful touch by any host. In this instance, the incense is covering over the offense of our sin. And in the altar of incense we have a graphic picture of how a sacrifice is received from the bronze altar. An animal would be offered and the fat of the animal, or the appropriate parts would be burned, the smell and smoke would rise into the heavens. The altar of incense shows that the smell is as incense to God and penetrates to his throne where it pleases Him. Prayer is often seen as incense in the Scriptures and so we associate the incense that penetrates God’s presence as a sweet odor with Christ’s prayers on our behalf. Christ is our mediator who intercedes on our behalf, his high priestly prayer in John 17, and his heavenly intercession are more effective than the physical incense offered in the Tabernacle.

Just as our nativity scene is symbolic to us on several different levels, the altar of incense is a reminder to us that our sins are putrid and must be covered by the incense of Jesus’ purity and sinlessness. His incense is an odor that pleases God. Without Jesus, we are just stinking sinners to God. That incense is simply symbolic of God’s grace to us through Jesus Christ.

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 7:13-51 (Part 3 of 7)
Furnishings for the Temple

Today, we continue looking at the furnishings of the Temple in a 7-part series with Part 3. Because God is a God of order, everything in the Temple has a meaning. It symbolizes something in the relationship between God and His people.

Similarly, each of us has items that we have retained in our lives that are symbolic of some experience, particularly if you are a husband and wife. For Elena and me, we have things that we own that we have retained and not thrown away because they have significance to our relationship over the last 11 years (3 years of dating and 8 years of marriage). In my last blog, we talked about the significance of our wedding pictures taken at the beach and how they represent more than just pictures on a bookcase. They symbolize what God has done for us, to us, and through us.

The thing that comes to mind today is Elena’s previous car, a 2008 Mazda 3. That car was part of our relationship from almost the beginning and was with us until the Fall of 2017. That was the best little car ever. It was a sharp looking little car – gun metal gray, with black interior, and sport wheels. It still looked good almost 10 years later. That car followed us from the beginning of our relationship in Rock Hill, SC to Livermore, CA and to our first house back in South Carolina in Duncan, SC and then to our last house in nearby Lyman, SC (the place we were living before we moved to Illinois). That car went on many long trips and vacations. It was Elena’s car for everyday driving and it was the “family car” when we would go anywhere together. That car followed the story of our lives as it played out in front of us. It was the vehicle that took us to all the key events of almost the first full decade of our relationship. To say that there was sentimental value to that car is an understatement.

It was kind of symbolic of our relationship. It was not some overpowering flashy car, but it was comfortable and, yet, spunky at the same time. It was good on mileage but yet it could fly when you got it going on a long trip. Everything in that car always worked. It was never a moment’s trouble to us other than some routine maintenance such as new tires and new brake pads. It was the most reliable and fun car all at the same time. It reminds us of the fact that our relationship was kind of the same way. After marriages that nearly destroyed us and left us stranded, we found each other. We were each other comfort and reliability. Our relationship has been steady and filled with comfort in ways that we never experienced before. But, yet, at the same time, there is a spunk to our relationship. We feel so comfortable with each other and accept each other completely but yet we still have fun together and just can’t wait to be together. The spunkiness to the relationship is there in ways you would expect between two people that love each other but also there is this laughter that underlies our relationship. We make each other laugh hysterically at times. But, yet some of our best times too are those silent moments of comfort holding hands. We have seen a lot together. Been a lot of places together. We are best friends.

Also, that Mazda 3 also represents the generous spirit that our relationship has had in it through our gratitude to the Lord for what He has done in our lives. That Mazda 3 is the second car that we have given away to a family member. In 2012, we were able to give away my Nissan Sentra to Elena’s brother when they needed another car. Then, in 2017, when my youngest daughter was in dire straits after her jalopy of a car was toast and she had no way of getting another vehicle any time soon, we were able to donate that Mazda 3 to her, exactly when she needed it the most. Though the Mazda 3 was important and treasured in our relationship, being able to give it to someone who needed it more is symbolic of what God has done for us.

When we started living biblically from a financial standpoint, God has blessed us with a different attitude about things. We no longer desire to have the newest, flashiest thing. We desire to live as debt-free as possible so that we can be generous in honoring God with our tithes and offerings but also to be free to be generous to others. It is so freeing to live simply and to pay off things instead of owing for them. That Mazda 3 given to our youngest daughter is an example of that spirit of simplicity and generosity that the Lord has blessed us with.

Thus, the Mazda 3 is visual reminder of deeper things that are necessary in our walk with Jesus. It is the deeper meaning that we will look at in this passage today. Let’s continue today by looking then at the wash basins in the Temple and what they mean and symbolize:

13 King Solomon then asked for a man named Huram[a] to come from Tyre. 14 He was half Israelite, since his mother was a widow from the tribe of Naphtali, and his father had been a craftsman in bronze from Tyre. Huram was extremely skillful and talented in any work in bronze, and he came to do all the metal work for King Solomon.

15 Huram cast two bronze pillars, each 27 feet tall and 18 feet in circumference.[b] 16 For the tops of the pillars he cast bronze capitals, each 7 1⁄2 feet[c] tall. 17 Each capital was decorated with seven sets of latticework and interwoven chains. 18 He also encircled the latticework with two rows of pomegranates to decorate the capitals over the pillars. 19 The capitals on the columns inside the entry room were shaped like water lilies, and they were six feet[d] tall. 20 The capitals on the two pillars had 200 pomegranates in two rows around them, beside the rounded surface next to the latticework. 21 Huram set the pillars at the entrance of the Temple, one toward the south and one toward the north. He named the one on the south Jakin, and the one on the north Boaz.[e] 22 The capitals on the pillars were shaped like water lilies. And so the work on the pillars was finished.

23 Then Huram cast a great round basin, 15 feet across from rim to rim, called the Sea. It was 7 1⁄2 feet deep and about 45 feet in circumference.[f] 24 It was encircled just below its rim by two rows of decorative gourds. There were about six gourds per foot[g] all the way around, and they were cast as part of the basin.

25 The Sea was placed on a base of twelve bronze oxen,[h] all facing outward. Three faced north, three faced west, three faced south, and three faced east, and the Sea rested on them. 26 The walls of the Sea were about three inches[i] thick, and its rim flared out like a cup and resembled a water lily blossom. It could hold about 11,000 gallons[j] of water.

27 Huram also made ten bronze water carts, each 6 feet long, 6 feet wide, and 4 1⁄2 feet tall.[k] 28 They were constructed with side panels braced with crossbars. 29 Both the panels and the crossbars were decorated with carved lions, oxen, and cherubim. Above and below the lions and oxen were wreath decorations. 30 Each of these carts had four bronze wheels and bronze axles. There were supporting posts for the bronze basins at the corners of the carts; these supports were decorated on each side with carvings of wreaths. 31 The top of each cart had a rounded frame for the basin. It projected 1 1⁄2 feet[l] above the cart’s top like a round pedestal, and its opening was 2 1⁄4 feet[m] across; it was decorated on the outside with carvings of wreaths. The panels of the carts were square, not round. 32 Under the panels were four wheels that were connected to axles that had been cast as one unit with the cart. The wheels were 2 1⁄4 feet in diameter 33 and were similar to chariot wheels. The axles, spokes, rims, and hubs were all cast from molten bronze.

34 There were handles at each of the four corners of the carts, and these, too, were cast as one unit with the cart. 35 Around the top of each cart was a rim nine inches wide.[n] The corner supports and side panels were cast as one unit with the cart. 36 Carvings of cherubim, lions, and palm trees decorated the panels and corner supports wherever there was room, and there were wreaths all around. 37 All ten water carts were the same size and were made alike, for each was cast from the same mold.

38 Huram also made ten smaller bronze basins, one for each cart. Each basin was six feet across and could hold 220 gallons[o] of water. 39 He set five water carts on the south side of the Temple and five on the north side. The great bronze basin called the Sea was placed near the southeast corner of the Temple. 40 He also made the necessary washbasins, shovels, and bowls.

So at last Huram completed everything King Solomon had assigned him to make for the Temple of the Lord:

41
the two pillars;
the two bowl-shaped capitals on top of the pillars;
the two networks of interwoven chains that decorated the capitals;
42
the 400 pomegranates that hung from the chains on the capitals (two rows of pomegranates for each of the chain networks that decorated the capitals on top of the pillars);
43
the ten water carts holding the ten basins;
44
the Sea and the twelve oxen under it;
45
the ash buckets, the shovels, and the bowls.

Huram made all these things of burnished bronze for the Temple of the Lord, just as King Solomon had directed. 46 The king had them cast in clay molds in the Jordan Valley between Succoth and Zarethan. 47 Solomon did not weigh all these things because there were so many; the weight of the bronze could not be measured.

48 Solomon also made all the furnishings of the Temple of the Lord:

the gold altar;
the gold table for the Bread of the Presence;
49
the lampstands of solid gold, five on the south and five on the north, in front of the Most Holy Place;
the flower decorations, lamps, and tongs—all of gold;
50
the small bowls, lamp snuffers, bowls, ladles, and incense burners—all of solid gold;
the doors for the entrances to the Most Holy Place and the main room of the Temple, with their fronts overlaid with gold.

51 So King Solomon finished all his work on the Temple of the Lord. Then he brought all the gifts his father, David, had dedicated—the silver, the gold, and the various articles—and he stored them in the treasuries of the Lord’s Temple.

In this passage, we see that the 10 mini-basins were used to wash burnt offerings. The Hebrew word for “burnt offering” actually means to “ascend,“ literally to “go up in smoke.” The smoke from the sacrifice ascended to God, “a soothing aroma to the LORD” (Leviticus 1:9). Technically, any offering burned over an altar was a burnt offering, but in more specific terms, a burnt offering was the complete destruction of the animal (except for the hide) in an effort to renew the relationship between Holy God and sinful man. With the development of the law, God gave the Israelites specific instructions as to the types of burnt offerings and what they symbolized.

Leviticus 1 and 6:8-13 describe the traditional burnt offering. The Israelites brought a bull, sheep, or goat, a male with no defect, and killed it at the entrance to the tabernacle. The animal’s blood was drained, and the priest sprinkled blood around the altar. The animal was skinned and cut it into pieces, the intestines and legs washed, and the priest burned the pieces over the altar all night. The priest received the skin as a fee for his help. A turtledove or pigeon could also be sacrificed, although they weren’t skinned. A person could give a burnt offering at any time. It was a sacrifice of general atonement—an acknowledgement of the sin nature and a request for renewed relationship with God. God also set times for the priests to give a burnt offering for the benefit of the Israelites as a whole, although the animals required for each sacrifice varied. So, the number of wash basins represents that God’s grace is sufficient for all of God’s people. Also, to Hebrews and thus to us as God’s people, the number of basins is symbolic. The number 10 seems to reflect God’s authority or God’s governmental rule over the affairs of mankind. This is seen elsewhere as in the 10 commandments, the 10 elders that were placed in most of the city gates of Israel (Ruth 4:2), the 10% tithe. Thus, the number 10 also seems to represents man’s responsibility of obedience to God’s law. Such a number seems to indicate the law, responsibility and a completeness of order in both divine and human structures of society.

Back to the burnt offerings washed in the 10 basins, the ultimate fulfillment of the burnt offering is in Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. His physical life was completely consumed, He ascended to God, and His covering (that is, His garment) was distributed to those who officiated over His sacrifice (Matthew 27:35). But most importantly, His sacrifice, once for all time, atoned for our sins and restored our relationship with God.

Simple wash basins representing so much more just as the Mazda 3 was more than just a car to Elena and me.

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 7:13-51 (Part 2 of 7)
Furnishings for the Temple

Today, we continue looking at the furnishings of the Temple in a 7-part series with Part 2. Because God is a God of order, everything in the Temple has a meaning. It symbolizes something in the relationship between God and His people.

Similarly, each of us has items that we have retained in our lives that are symbolic of some experience, particularly if you are a husband and wife. For Elena and me, we have things that we own that we have retained and not thrown away because they have significance to our relationship over the last 11 years (3 years of dating and 8 years of marriage). In my last blog, we talked about the significance of our coffee table and end table and how they represent more than just a coffee table and an end table. They symbolize what God has done for us, to us, and through us.

Today, I think about the photographs of our wedding that sit on the bookcase in our living room. They are just pictures but they are so much more. First, they are photos made on the sandy shore of North Myrtle Beach, SC. The beach is Elena and my favorite vacation destination. We love the beach. For us, laying on the beach in the sunshine in the summer represents rest, relaxation and freedom. When we go to beach, we go to the beach! A lot of people try to pack a thousand activities into a beach trip and just have to be doing something all the time. For us, at the beach, it is sleeping late (as late as our mid-fifties bladders will allow). It is having a couple of cups of coffee with Elena reading her morning devotional/Bible study and me writing my blog. It is having some breakfast and another cup of coffee. Then and only then is it time to pack up the cooler with drinks and sandwiches and grabbing the beach chairs. Then its hauling all of that across the street to the beach. We then proceed to read a book, listen to the radio or our iTunes and periodically cool off in the water. This takes from about 10:30 or so until about 4 in the afternoon. We come home. Take showers get cleaned up. Go to dinner somewhere. Get full as a tick. Come home and plop down on the couch and find a good movie and proceed to veg out the remainder of the evening. We repeat this process for 6 more days after that. There is no better vacation that one in which you actually relax and do pretty much nothing. We did not get to do that this year because of our move and I miss that down time with my toes in the sand. These pictures remind us that God rested on the 7th day after creation began. We must all remember to make time for down time.

Another thing these pictures represent is the friendship that we have had over the years with Luke and Felisha Brower. The photos were taken by Felisha. She is an unbelievably talented artist and photographer. Her eye for photography and her artistic flair just boggles the mind. I can’t draw a straight line even with a ruler but Felisha can just sketch a beautiful drawing on a piece of paper without thinking. Luke is this super-intelligent, super-funny guy that always seems to be able to cut to the chase on any subject and help you see things more clearly. They were our pastor and wife when we lived in California. It was under their pastoral care that Elena came to the Lord as her Savior and I started growing up as a Christ follower after having been a spiritual baby for about 8 years. They challenged us and pushed us to grow in the Lord. Without our time with them in California, who knows where we would be right now. Most likely, we would not be in Illinois serving the Lord full-time. They gave us that hunger to serve the Lord. They gave us the view that being a Christ follower is an all the time thing and not just something you do on Sunday. These pictures remind us of that relationship with the Browers. These pictures remind us of their instrumental role in our lives and our walk with Jesus. These pictures remind us of the fact that our time in California with the Browers was part of the process that led us to LifeSong Church in Lyman, SC which prepared us for Calvary Church in Moline, IL. These photos remind us of trusting the process that the Lord has each of us in – where each step is a preparation for the next step.

Thus the pictures from our wedding are visual reminders of deeper things that are necessary in our walk with Jesus. It is the deeper meaning that we will look at in this passage today. Let’s continue today with the cistern of water and what it means and symbolizes:

13 King Solomon then asked for a man named Huram[a] to come from Tyre. 14 He was half Israelite, since his mother was a widow from the tribe of Naphtali, and his father had been a craftsman in bronze from Tyre. Huram was extremely skillful and talented in any work in bronze, and he came to do all the metal work for King Solomon.

15 Huram cast two bronze pillars, each 27 feet tall and 18 feet in circumference.[b] 16 For the tops of the pillars he cast bronze capitals, each 7 1⁄2 feet[c] tall. 17 Each capital was decorated with seven sets of latticework and interwoven chains. 18 He also encircled the latticework with two rows of pomegranates to decorate the capitals over the pillars. 19 The capitals on the columns inside the entry room were shaped like water lilies, and they were six feet[d] tall. 20 The capitals on the two pillars had 200 pomegranates in two rows around them, beside the rounded surface next to the latticework. 21 Huram set the pillars at the entrance of the Temple, one toward the south and one toward the north. He named the one on the south Jakin, and the one on the north Boaz.[e] 22 The capitals on the pillars were shaped like water lilies. And so the work on the pillars was finished.

23 Then Huram cast a great round basin, 15 feet across from rim to rim, called the Sea. It was 7 1⁄2 feet deep and about 45 feet in circumference.[f] 24 It was encircled just below its rim by two rows of decorative gourds. There were about six gourds per foot[g] all the way around, and they were cast as part of the basin.

25 The Sea was placed on a base of twelve bronze oxen,[h] all facing outward. Three faced north, three faced west, three faced south, and three faced east, and the Sea rested on them. 26 The walls of the Sea were about three inches[i] thick, and its rim flared out like a cup and resembled a water lily blossom. It could hold about 11,000 gallons[j] of water.

27 Huram also made ten bronze water carts, each 6 feet long, 6 feet wide, and 4 1⁄2 feet tall.[k] 28 They were constructed with side panels braced with crossbars. 29 Both the panels and the crossbars were decorated with carved lions, oxen, and cherubim. Above and below the lions and oxen were wreath decorations. 30 Each of these carts had four bronze wheels and bronze axles. There were supporting posts for the bronze basins at the corners of the carts; these supports were decorated on each side with carvings of wreaths. 31 The top of each cart had a rounded frame for the basin. It projected 1 1⁄2 feet[l] above the cart’s top like a round pedestal, and its opening was 2 1⁄4 feet[m] across; it was decorated on the outside with carvings of wreaths. The panels of the carts were square, not round. 32 Under the panels were four wheels that were connected to axles that had been cast as one unit with the cart. The wheels were 2 1⁄4 feet in diameter 33 and were similar to chariot wheels. The axles, spokes, rims, and hubs were all cast from molten bronze.

34 There were handles at each of the four corners of the carts, and these, too, were cast as one unit with the cart. 35 Around the top of each cart was a rim nine inches wide.[n] The corner supports and side panels were cast as one unit with the cart. 36 Carvings of cherubim, lions, and palm trees decorated the panels and corner supports wherever there was room, and there were wreaths all around. 37 All ten water carts were the same size and were made alike, for each was cast from the same mold.

38 Huram also made ten smaller bronze basins, one for each cart. Each basin was six feet across and could hold 220 gallons[o] of water. 39 He set five water carts on the south side of the Temple and five on the north side. The great bronze basin called the Sea was placed near the southeast corner of the Temple. 40 He also made the necessary washbasins, shovels, and bowls.

So at last Huram completed everything King Solomon had assigned him to make for the Temple of the Lord:

41
the two pillars;
the two bowl-shaped capitals on top of the pillars;
the two networks of interwoven chains that decorated the capitals;
42
the 400 pomegranates that hung from the chains on the capitals (two rows of pomegranates for each of the chain networks that decorated the capitals on top of the pillars);
43
the ten water carts holding the ten basins;
44
the Sea and the twelve oxen under it;
45
the ash buckets, the shovels, and the bowls.

Huram made all these things of burnished bronze for the Temple of the Lord, just as King Solomon had directed. 46 The king had them cast in clay molds in the Jordan Valley between Succoth and Zarethan. 47 Solomon did not weigh all these things because there were so many; the weight of the bronze could not be measured.

48 Solomon also made all the furnishings of the Temple of the Lord:

the gold altar;
the gold table for the Bread of the Presence;
49
the lampstands of solid gold, five on the south and five on the north, in front of the Most Holy Place;
the flower decorations, lamps, and tongs—all of gold;
50
the small bowls, lamp snuffers, bowls, ladles, and incense burners—all of solid gold;
the doors for the entrances to the Most Holy Place and the main room of the Temple, with their fronts overlaid with gold.

51 So King Solomon finished all his work on the Temple of the Lord. Then he brought all the gifts his father, David, had dedicated—the silver, the gold, and the various articles—and he stored them in the treasuries of the Lord’s Temple.

In this passage, we see next item to note is the sea, this was the large basin of water used by the priests to wash themselves in v23-26. This large basin held almost 12,000 gallons of water. It had a circumference of 45 feet. This large pool probably had two main meanings. Firstly, it indicated the need for cleansing before coming into God’s presence Ex. 30:17-21,

‘The LORD said to Moses, 18 “You shall also make a basin of bronze, with its stand of bronze, for washing. You shall put it between the tent of meeting and the altar, and you shall put water in it, 19 with which Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet. 20 When they go into the tent of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister, to burn a food offering to the LORD, they shall wash with water, so that they may not die. 21 They shall wash their hands and their feet, so that they may not die. It shall be a statute forever to them, even to him and to his offspring throughout their generations.”’

Together with the altar these two external parts of the furniture would be the first things we encounter and the only way forward. The altar with its sacrifices figures our need for someone to die in payment for our sins, and the washing indicates the need for forgiveness and cleansing. The message is clear, no sinner can come into the presence of God without first being cleansed.

The basin is also thought to be a reminder of the Red Sea in one way every part of the furniture reminds Israel of the Exodus. The Passover sacrifice was what secured their freedom and corresponds with the Bronze altar, after that the Israelites came to the Red Sea and God parted it for them, this matches the Basin. Then there was the Manna from heaven and the pillar of fire, which line up with the lampstand and showbread. And then finally they come to Sinai and receive the Ten Commandments which are in the Ark. And all these items also point to Christ. He is our Passover Lamb; He cleanses us by His work on the cross. He is the light of the world and the bread from heaven. And He is the presence of God among us who fulfils the law.

Some see significance in the fact that this large body of water, kept still and peaceful in the presence of God would have had significance for the Ancient Near mind. The sea was often associated with chaos, it was the place the enemies came from, but here it the ‘sea’ brought to order indicating God’s rule over the chaos.

So, as you can see, the cistern of water, represents so much more than just a big tub of water. Just as our wedding photos have meaning and history attached to them, so do these furnishings of the Temple. Each one tells a story of God’s never-ending and faithful relationship to and with His people. More than just a tub of water!

Amen and Amen.