1 Kings 8:1-11 (Part 2) – What Do You Think of First When You Think of Your Church?

Posted: December 1, 2018 in 11-1 Kings

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

Why do we build churches? You’ve heard the comments before like “You know, the church is more than the building.” This is often said in a rather condescending tone, with the sense that the speaker is delivering some novel piece of wisdom. It’s often followed with a line like, “I mean, Jesus never had a building.” Or, “Think of all the ministry we could do if we just sold our buildings and gave the money away!” True, we are often a little too fond of our buildings. We are willing to wage million-dollar capital campaigns to fix aging structures while at the same time overlooking the needs in the neighborhoods around our church buildings.

A church building is only as useful to the people of God as what we are using it for. If it becomes a place where we fulfill only our own needs, or on which we mistakenly focus our worship, then we are focused in the wrong direction (looking inward rather than outward). But if we live in right relationship with our buildings, we can use them as incredible tools for ministry. We can use our buildings as signs that we are rooted and planted in our communities, and that we are not going anywhere. We are committed to our neighborhood and town because we are built into the town’s own streets. And we exist not just in our towns but FOR our towns. We would rather be seen as a church that our town can count on rather that that big old building on the corner of Maple and Main.

Let us remember a couple of things when we think of our church buildings. What is it that you think of first when you think of your church building? Do you think of its beauty first or do you think of the ministries and the worship that takes place within the buildings? When I think of my church, Calvary Church, yes, we have a nice building (but it is simple on purpose, not some fancy ornate building) but that’s not what I think of when I think of Calvary Church. I think of powerful musical worship and I think of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our services. I think of well-crafted and powerfully delivered sermons that make you think, that challenge you, and that always bring home the need for repentance at the feet of our Savior. I think of all the new people I have seen come into the church in the last 9 ½ months that I have been able to observe. I think of those things first before I even consider the building itself. What do you think of when you think of your church? What is the first thing that comes to mind? Is it the ministry that is done FROM that building or is it how beautiful the building itself is?

That was the thing that struck me this morning was why did God direct the Israelites to build the Temple when the Tabernacle tent was working just fine? What was the point? Then that led me to the question of why we build churches in today’s world? We build sometimes build buildings that cost millions of dollars so why do we do this? It is a question that we often do not ask because it is just a given that if you have a church, you build a building. It often signifies that a congregation has grown large enough and has been at a level of attendance that is consistent that it is time to stop renting facilities and invest in an actual building of our own. And, that is an awesome reason to build a building. However, if we ever get to the point that we are afraid to use our building to invest in our own people or to invest in our community, then, we must question whether our building has become an idol or not.

In ancient Israel, that is ultimately what we will see happening is that the Israelites treasured the building more than what was happening inside it. The prophets warned against the empty religious practices that went on inside the Temple. Things got so bad that it ultimately led God to withdraw the manifestation of his presence in the Temple. They were more concerned about the pomp and circumstance of the Temple than they were with worshiping God. Thus, the opening of the Temple represented a new era for Israel. They were no longer nomads and the permanent Temple was God signifying many things to Israel, two of which were that they were now and peace and they were at rest in their Promised Land. However, the Israelites were supposed to be a beacon to the rest of the world but rather became self-serving and the Temple was a showpiece and not a center for worshiping God.

So, with the idea of answering the question of what do we think of first when we think of our church buildings, let’s read the passage, 1 Kings 8:1-11, 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 must ask the question, “what was the difference between the Tabernacle and the Temple?” As a tent the Tabernacle was a portable place of worship designed for the people as they were traveling toward the Promised Land. The Temple was a permanent place to worship God after the Israelites were at peace in their land. To bring the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant to the Temple signified God’s presence there.

Another question might be, “Why is there so much emphasis on the Temple in the Old Testament?” First, it was symbolic of God’s authority over Israel. The Temple was God’s way of centralizing worship at Jerusalem in order to ensure correct beliefs would be kept through many generations. Second, it was a symbol of God’s holiness. The Temple’s beautiful atmosphere inspired respect and awe for God. Third, it was a symbol of God’s covenant with Israel. The Temple kept people focused on upon God’s law rather than a king’s exploits. It was the central focus for the people of Israel. Fourth, it was a symbol of forgiveness. The Temple’s design, furniture, and customs were great object lessons for all the people reminding them of the seriousness of sin, the penalties for sin, and their need for forgiveness. Fifth, it prepared the people for the Messiah. In the New Testament, Christ said He came to fulfill the law not destroy it (Hebrews 8:1-2, Hebrews 9:11-12). Finally, it was a place of prayer. In the Temple, people could spend time intimately and reverently with God in prayer.

So, ultimately, we see what the Temple represents and what it was supposed to mean for the Israelites. And, yes, I am sure it did mean all these things at first. But as we shall see in the coming chapters of 1 and 2 Kings and the other historical and prophetic books of the Old Testament, the Israelites lost their way. They became more focused on appearances rather than really honoring and obeying God from the heart. The Temple became a showpiece rather than a house of worship. The Temple no longer was pointing us toward Jesus but rather a place to be seen, a place to transact business, a place to go through the motions. It was then that the building of the Temple became more important than what was supposed to be happening inside it.

That ultimately challenges us in the 21st century. The challenge is that we need for our church to be known as a church that ministers to the world around it in the name of Jesus and they happen to do it from that building over there. If the only thing that our community knows about our church is that it is that big building over there, then, we have a problem. We want to be known for spreading the gospel FROM that building over there. We want to be known for using our building as a base of operations to send out people equipped to minister to the world around them. We want to be known as a building from which ministry begins. We want to be known that our building is simply a filling station to fuel up our saints to be sent back out in the world to glorify Jesus and lead others to our building where they can know Jesus and be sent back out too!

Amen and Amen.

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