1 King 7:13-51 (Part 4) – More Than Just An Incense Altar; More Than Just A Christmas Decoration!

Posted: November 21, 2018 in 11-1 Kings

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:

the two pillars;
the two bowl-shaped capitals on top of the pillars;
the two networks of interwoven chains that decorated the capitals;
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);
the ten water carts holding the ten basins;
the Sea and the twelve oxen under it;
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;
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;
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.

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