This chapter describes the dedication of the temple. From this we can learn important lessons regarding the church. The origin of the church has taken place through the outpouring of or baptism with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4; 1Cor 12:13). Since then, the Lord Jesus has been building the church, seen as the house of God, with living stones. That house is still being built, it is not finished yet. It is only finished when the last stone is added and Christ comes to take His church to Himself.
However, the church is already the dwelling place of God in the Spirit on earth. Seen in this light, it is a building that is built on the day of Pentecost and on that day also fully completed to serve as the house of God.
1 The Work Finished
1 Thus all the work that Solomon performed for the house of the LORD was finished. And Solomon brought in the things that David his father had dedicated, even the silver and the gold and all the utensils, [and] put [them] in the treasuries of the house of God.
The first thing Solomon does is to put all the dedicated objects of his father David in the treasuries of the temple. These are objects that David took away as war booty (1Chr 18:11) and objects from his private property (1Chr 29:3). Herewith Solomon shows his respect for what his father did for the temple.
We can also apply this to us. Do we appreciate what believers have ‘prepared’ for the church before us, what they have discovered and passed on in writings or addresses? We would do well to make use of this when we study Scripture. If as a result we understand more of God’s house, will we also bring it into the present temple to worship God with it?
2 - 10 The Ark Brought up Into the Temple
2 Then Solomon assembled to Jerusalem the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the leaders of the fathers’ [households] of the sons of Israel, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of the city of David, which is Zion. 3 All the men of Israel assembled themselves to the king at the feast, that is [in] the seventh month. 4 Then all the elders of Israel came, and the Levites took up the ark. 5 They brought up the ark and the tent of meeting and all the holy utensils which [were] in the tent; the Levitical priests brought them up. 6 And King Solomon and all the congregation of Israel who were assembled with him before the ark, were sacrificing so many sheep and oxen that they could not be counted or numbered. 7 Then the priests brought the ark of the covenant of the LORD to its place, into the inner sanctuary of the house, to the holy of holies, under the wings of the cherubim. 8 For the cherubim spread their wings over the place of the ark, so that the cherubim made a covering over the ark and its poles. 9 The poles were so long that the ends of the poles of the ark could be seen in front of the inner sanctuary, but they could not be seen outside; and they are there to this day. 10 There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets which Moses put [there] at Horeb, where the LORD made a covenant with the sons of Israel, when they came out of Egypt.
Then Solomon brings the ark to the temple (verse 2). That reminds of what David did when he brought the ark to Zion in the tent he had made for it. Everything in the temple is larger than in the tabernacle, except the ark. This reminds us that the Lord Jesus is always the same, in the glorious days of the church and also in the days of decay in which we now live. Whether two or three come together as a church or two hundred or three hundred, He is as Personally present as the one Center. In connection with this, in bringing the ark to the temple we can see a picture of forming a local church where the Lord Jesus is in the midst.
The dedication of the temple takes place at the same time with a feast. The feast, “that is [in] the seventh month” (verse 3), is the Feast of Booths. The tabernacle was erected at the time of the Passover (Exo 40:2); the church was formed at Pentecost (Acts 2:1). The Feast of Booths is celebrated when all the harvests have been collected, that is to say the harvests of corn, wine and olives. It is a feast of peace. The blessing of the land is enjoyed by a people who live in the land with the dwelling place of God in their midst. This is a beautiful picture of what the church is and what is experienced when the Lord Jesus gets His place in the church.
The ark is ‘taken up’ (verse 4), which means that the Levites will transport the ark correctly, namely on their shoulders (Num 7:9; Deu 10:8). The ark now gets its final place in the “house of rest” (1Chr 28:2). The ark is lost forever later, at the destruction of the temple by Nebuchadnezzar (Jer 3:16). It is replaced by the Lord Jesus, of Whom the ark is a picture, when He comes on earth. The ark is a place of rest, it is “the footstool of our God” (1Chr 28:2). That is the Lord Jesus for God and also for us. Christ Himself finds peace in the midst of the church.
Not only the ark, but also “the tent of meeting and all the holy utensils which [were] in the tent” are brought up. Solomon has not received an order for this. The tent has been replaced by the temple. With that the tent has finished. Also the objects in the tent are not necessary for the temple, because everything is in it.
Everything is accompanied by many sacrifices (verse 6) that are made at the altar that Solomon made. Ark and altar are closely connected. They have been separated for a while, but are being reunited here again. It points out that the place of worship (altar) is the place where the Lord Jesus is (ark).
The ark goes “into the inner sanctuary of the house, to the holy of holies, under the wings of the cherubim” (verses 7-8). This indicates the complete protection of the ark. The ark cannot be affected by any outside evil influence. Then the poles (verse 9) are mentioned. They are not needed any longer, because the ark has found its resting place. This is the place David coveted, sought and found for it (Psa 132:3-5). The poles remain attached to it and are therefore a constant reminder of the journey through the wilderness. So it is with the Lord Jesus. Although He is in heaven now, there will always be the memory of His walk on earth.
In the ark are the two stone tablets, a golden jar holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod which budded (Heb 9:4). Yet it says here that only the two stone tablets are in it (verse 10). All three together give a picture of the life and death of the Lord Jesus. The manna is Christ as He lived on earth and died. Manna is the food of Israel in the wilderness. Christ is the manna for us. However, we are no longer in the wilderness. Therefore, there is no longer a jar with manna here (cf. Jos 5:12). We also don’t find a budding staff here. Christ not only died, He also rose up. He lives for us. We see that in the service of Aaron. A nation in the land, however, does not need a priest like Aaron.
What remains are the stone tablets: that is the covenant of the LORD. They represent the relationship that exists between God and His people. This relationship will continue forever. The stone tablets are the expression of God’s will, which always remains: “But the word of the Lord endures forever” (1Pet 1:25a).
11 - 14 The Glory of the LORD
11 When the priests came forth from the holy place (for all the priests who were present had sanctified themselves, without regard to divisions), 12 and all the Levitical singers, Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun, and their sons and kinsmen, clothed in fine linen, with cymbals, harps and lyres, standing east of the altar, and with them one hundred and twenty priests blowing trumpets 13 in unison when the trumpeters and the singers were to make themselves heard with one voice to praise and to glorify the LORD, and when they lifted up their voice accompanied by trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and when they praised the LORD [saying], “[He] indeed is good for His lovingkindness is everlasting,” then the house, the house of the LORD, was filled with a cloud, 14 so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the house of God.
The priests come forth so that the rightful Inhabitant can take up residence there (verse 11). The importance of the case justifies not yet taking into account David’s institutions with regard to divisions (1Chr 24:3-19). At this event, all priests from all divisions must be present. They all have to be eyewitnesses to the fact that the LORD takes His residence in the temple. They are able to do so because they have all sanctified themselves. We can only see the glory of the Lord when we are committed to Him.
The Levites and the priests stand on the east side of the altar (verse 12). The east side is the side where the sun rises. It is the side where the door of the tabernacle is, the closest to the people. When the carriers of the Levites have done their service, now the singers come forward. When the Lord Jesus has been given the central place in our lives, we become singers. This also applies to the local church. If the Lord Jesus is central there, this will be reflected in the hymn of praise.
The singers are standing at the altar. The names “Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun” mean successively “one who gathers”, “faithful” and “choir of praise”. This is reminiscent of the church gathering around the altar (a picture of the Lord’s Table) to faithfully praise the Lord as a choir of praise. The church does this as “sons” of God and “kinsmen” of each other and of the Lord Jesus. The “fine linen” indicates that they are made pleasant in the Beloved (Eph 1:6).
Besides the Levites there are also priests. The number of priests is one hundred and twenty. This number reminds of the one hundred and twenty disciples who are in the upper room after the ascension of the Lord Jesus (Acts 1:15), to wait there for the “promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4), which is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The priests blow “in unison” on the trumpets and “in unison” make their voices heard (verse 13). We also see this unanimity in Acts 2. After the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the church there is also unanimous (cf. Rom 15:5-6). They do everything together (Acts 2:44,46).
In their praise we hear the reference to the kingdom of peace. It is a song of praise that will never cease: “His lovingkindness is everlasting.” Then the house of the LORD is filled with the glory of the LORD. Not during sacrifice, but during singing about His lovingkindness, the answer comes from heaven in the form of the cloud. God’s lovingkindness is seen in His glory, of which the cloud is the expression. God is enthroned upon the praises of His people (Psa 22:3b).
The cloud filling the house here led the people out of Egypt (Exo 13:21-22) and through the wilderness (Exo 40:36-38). We also see this cloud of God’s glory with the Lord Jesus on the mountain of glorification (Mt 17:5), at the erection of the tabernacle (Exo 40:34-35), after the ordination of the priests (Lev 9:23), at the origination of the church (Acts 1:9; 2:2) and at the temple of Ezekiel (Eze 43:4). At the rebuilding of the temple by Zerubbabel after the return from exile we do not see this cloud of glory.
The priests cannot stand in the presence of God to serve (verse 14). They are overwhelmed by the presence of God’s glory in the temple. That is the situation in the Old Testament. For us it is a great privilege to behold the glory of the Lord with an uncovered face (2Cor 3:18). Under grace we are not driven out of the presence of God, but may we enter it and see the glory of the Lord Jesus there (Jn 17:24). In a way, we too cannot remain standing when we see the Lamb That has been slain standing “as if slain” (Rev 5:6,12): “And the elders fell down and worshiped” (Rev 5:14). Where He is, man and his service disappear.