This morning we come to the end of our series in 1 Kings – considering the life of Solomon. And in particular today we are looking at the building of the temple and the lessons we can learn from that project. I have put a basic sketch of the temple on the sermon outline in your service sheets, and I have also included a sort of time-line overview of Solomon’s life as recorded in the first 12 chapters.
It is worth noting though, that the writer of Kings does not just provide us with a history of Solomon’s life. He also subtly comments on the things that Solomon got right and the things that Solomon got wrong. He is writing to the people of Israel at a later period in their history and is recording the slide into sin on the part of successive kings and their people.
So as we take an overview this morning of chapters 5 to 11, we need to hear the writer of Kings with his assessment of Solomon’s life and learn some lessons for ourselves and the way that we live. I want to apologise as well as we start that we are going to be jumping around so much – but unfortunately we don’t have time to read through all seven chapters this morning!
THE THINGS HE GOT RIGHT
Let’s make a start then with the things Solomon got right. You will find my headings at the bottom of your outline. And you will find it helpful to have your Bible open to 1 Kings chapter 5, page 340.
He managed the project
The first thing that Solomon got right was that he managed the building project. He successfully co-ordinated a lot of activity and got the resources he needed. His first resource was wood which he got from Hiram king of Tyre. Have a look at verses 8 and 9 of chapter 5.
We are told that
“. . . Hiram sent word to Solomon: ‘I have received the message you sent me and will do all you want in providing the cedar and pine logs. My men will haul them down from Lebanon to the sea, and I will float them in rafts by sea to the place you specify. There I will separate them and you can take them away. And you are to grant my wish by providing food for my royal household’.” (1 Ki 5:8-9, NIV).
My wife Sarah and I lived in Western Canada for several years and it was a common sight to see huge rafts of logs, in rivers and out to sea, being pulled along by a tug boat. Well it was no different for Solomon – except there were no tugs, so it would have been sailing ships or manpower that floated the logs up the coast.
The second resource Solomon needed was stone. And he got it from the hills, verse 17.
“At the king’s command they removed from the quarry large blocks of quality stone to provide a foundation of dressed stone for the temple” (1 Ki 5:17, NIV).
And then Solomon surrounded himself by craftsmen (5:18) and skilled labourers like Huram the bronze worker. Turn over to chapter 7 verses 13 and 14. “King Solomon sent to Tyre and brought Huram . . .” He was “. . . highly skilled and experienced in all kinds of bronze work. He came to King Solomon and did all the work assigned to him” (1 Ki 7:13-14, NIV). And there is a list of all that Huram made in verses 41 to 45. So Solomon did a good job of managing the project and of using gifted people.
That should be true of us as well today as we build God’s church. Not in the sense of building a physical building, although potentially we might well have to do that one of these days. But in the sense of using our skills to invest in people and build God’s church here in Newcastle, and throughout the world, by adding disciples. By helping people become Christians and grow as Christians.
As you and I are involved in Christian service we do want to use our skills, gifts and abilities to do a good job. That is why CLASS 3 involves an interview to help each of us find an appropriate area of service. Those of you who have business skills should be able to transfer them to running Christian activities. Which is why some of you serve as finance advisors, and management advisors on the PCC. It is why many of you with organisational skills make church events happen and help us all do things better.
So a question to ask yourself this morning is “Am I using the skills God has given me to make disciples and build God’s church to the best of my ability?
He built an impressive building
The second thing that Solomon got right was that he built an impressive building. He built a building that brought praise to God and that was an appropriate resting place for God’s name. It reflected the beauty and holiness of God. We heard about the dimensions of the building in our reading from chapter 6.
The temple was based on the pattern of the tabernacle – the tent of meeting that Moses had erected in the desert. But in this case the dimensions seem to be double the original tabernacle. There was an outer courtyard surrounding the temple. Then the temple building itself was in two sections – the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place.
Solomon covered the inside with gold, and he made two imposing gold covered cherubim to stand with their wings spread out over the ark. If you have a look at the end of chapter 7, verses 48 and 49 you can see a list of some of the other golden articles that Solomon made for the temple. It was a spectacular construction. Careful thought was even given to the way it was constructed so that no hammer or chisel was heard on site (6:7), and so that no beams had to be inserted into the temple walls (6:6).
Part of our vision here at Jesmond Parish Church is to be a big church. We pray, asking God to grow us in to a church of thousands of people. Not for the sake of being big, but in order that we can influence society, and so that we can be even more effective at telling people about Jesus.
We do want to do a good job here of building God’s church. We want to care effectively for every member through small groups. We want to do our youth work, our music, our preaching, our student work, our administration with excellence. It would be great if people walked into this church and were amazed by what we were doing because we do everything well.
But let me say this, if you are here this morning and you are just investigating this church or the Christian faith. I really hope and pray that you are not just impressed with the numbers, or with what we are doing. I want you to be impressed with Jesus. I want you to see the holiness and greatness of God. I don’t want you to focus on what we do. I want you to focus on God and your relationship with him.
Solomon’s splendid temple was only of use when it pointed people to the Lord God, the Holy one of Israel. So if you are involved in running a group in this church, and you simply put on a good program for the young people, or students, or retired people, or whatever group, then all you are doing is providing entertainment – being a social club. We want to have an impressive church, but we want this church to point people to Jesus and bring glory to God, not to us.
He had a good dedication service
The third thing that Solomon got right was that he had a good dedication service. He gathered the people together, moved the ark into the Most Holy Place, and sacrificed loads of animals in worship and thanksgiving to God (8:1-11, 8:62-66). Have a look with me at chapter 8 verses 1 to 5.
“ . . . King Solomon summoned into his presence at Jerusalem the elders of Israel, all the heads of the tribes and the chiefs of the Israelite families, to bring up the ark of the LORD’s covenant from Zion, the City of David. All the men of Israel came together to King Solomon at the time of the festival in the month of Ethanim, the seventh month. When all the elders of Israel had arrived, the priests took up the ark, and they brought up the ark of the LORD and the Tent of Meeting and all the sacred furnishings in it. The priests and Levites carried them up, and King Solomon and the entire assembly of Israel that had gathered about him were before the ark, sacrificing so many sheep and cattle that they could not be recorded or counted” (1 Ki 8:1-5, NIV).
And jumping down to verses 10 and 11,
“When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the LORD. And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled his temple” (1 Ki 8:10-11, NIV).
We recently dedicated our newest building – Number 3 Osborne Road. We had a good celebration. David Holloway cut the ribbon and unveiled the plaque. We had snacks and we clambered all over the new fire-escape! But Solomon’s dedication service was on a completely different scale. So many sheep and cattle were sacrificed that they could not be counted, and the glory of the Lord filled the new building.
But just like David Holloway, standing on the steps of our new building, King Solomon also gave a speech and prayer in front of the people gathered below him. And the speech Solomon made (8:12-21 & 54-61) and the prayer he prayed (8:23-52) were good and honouring to God. Take a look at verses 20 and 21 of chapter 8.
“The LORD has kept the promise he made: I have succeeded David my father and now I sit on the throne of Israel, just as the LORD promised, and I have built the temple for the Name of the LORD, the God of Israel. I have provided a place there for the ark, in which is the covenant of the LORD that he made with our fathers when he brought them out of Egypt” (1 Ki 8:20-21, NIV).
And then on down in verse 27 Solomon prays saying
“But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built! Yet give attention to your servant’s prayer and his plea for mercy, O LORD my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence this day. May your eyes be open toward this temple night and day, this place of which you said, ‘My Name shall be there,’ so that you will hear the prayer your servant prays toward this place” (1 Ki 8:27-29, NIV).
When God does great things among us at Jesmond Parish Church let us make sure that we give glory to God. In our speeches and in our prayers let us never be conceited thinking that we have achieved success by our own efforts. If your home group has gone well, or the event you planned has come off without a hitch, or you have been able to use your gift to serve others, then remember to thank God and praise God for what he has done in and through you. And let us do so, both within the church and in front of our friends and work colleagues.
THE THINGS HE GOT WRONG
We have plenty to learn then from the things Solomon got right. But Solomon also got a number of key things wrong in his life.
He put more effort into his own palace
It seems that the first thing that Solomon got wrong was that he put more effort into his own palace than into the temple. It is really hard to know, but I think that is the reason for the comment by the author in verse 1 of chapter 7. Let us have a look at what he says from verse 37 of chapter 6.
“The foundation of the temple of the LORD was laid in the fourth year, in the month of Ziv. In the eleventh year in the month of Bul, the eighth month, the temple was finished in all its details according to its specifications. He had spent seven years building it. It took Solomon thirteen years, however, to complete the construction of his palace. He built the Palace of the Forest of Lebanon a hundred cubits long, fifty wide and thirty high, with four rows of cedar columns supporting trimmed cedar beams” (1 Ki 6:37-7:2, NIV).
And jumping down to verse 6.
“He made a colonnade fifty cubits long and thirty wide. In front of it was a portico, and in front of that were pillars and an overhanging roof. He built the throne hall, the Hall of Justice, where he was to judge, and he covered it with cedar from floor to ceiling. And the palace in which he was to live, set farther back, was similar in design. Solomon also made a palace like this hall for Pharaoh’s daughter, whom he had married” (1 Ki 7:6-8, NIV).
I don’t want to be over critical of Solomon on this point, because we can’t know the attitude of Solomon’s heart, and the author’s comment is implicit rather than explicit. Personally I think the author is being critical of Solomon. He is saying that Solomon put too much effort into building his own house. But it is possible that the author is just stating a fact about the length of time it took Solomon to build the various buildings. It is even possible that Solomon got it right by building the temple before building his own house.
So let me simply make the point then that we need to be careful to get the balance right. As you and I choose between investing in God’s kingdom or investing in our own house and pleasure, let us be careful not to go to one extreme or the other.
God has given us good things to enjoy and we are supposed to have houses and possessions and enjoy them. But let us remember that they are temporary and passing away. The only thing that will endure is our investment in God’s kingdom, in his work, in the lives of people, in his church.
So stop for a moment, or ask yourself when you go home today, “Do I put more effort into building my own house than into God’s?” Do you spend more time on DIY than on serving in the church? Do you invest more money in the latest possessions, gadgets and clothes than you do in helping people become Christians and grow as disciples? Are you building your own estate rather than God’s house – the church? You and I need to take a check on our priorities and make any adjustments that we find necessary.
He oppressed the people
The second thing that Solomon got wrong (and he definitely did get this wrong) was that “he oppressed the people”. He was so concerned with the great building projects of his temple, palace and fortified cities that he resorted to slave labour and oppression.
Look with me at chapter 5 verses 13 to 16.
“King Solomon conscripted labourers from all Israel—thirty thousand men. He sent them off to Lebanon in shifts of ten thousand a month, so that they spent one month in Lebanon and two months at home. Adoniram was in charge of the forced labour. Solomon had seventy thousand carriers and eighty thousand stonecutters in the hills, as well as thirty-three hundred foremen who supervised the project and directed the workmen.” (1 Ki 5:13-16, NIV)
And turn over to chapter 9 where we have a further account of the forced labour. We see in verses 20 and 21 that Solomon conscripted thousands of non-Israelites as “slave labour” (9:21) and verse 22 he forced thousands of Israelites to be “his fighting men” and “his government officials” (9:22).
It was a great achievement to co-ordinate so much activity but Solomon oppressed the people. And according to the writer of Kings, it was the oppression of the people that was one of the main causes of Solomon’s kingdom falling apart during the reign of his son, Rehoboam. We read in chapter 12 that Israel asked Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, to “lighten the harsh labour and the heavy yoke” that his father had put on the people (12:4). But Rehoboam refused, the people rebelled, and the kingdom was split in two.
Solomon got it wrong he oppressed the people to get the project done. Is that by any chance a condemnation on your or my life? It is often easy to get that balance wrong, isn’t it? For those of us who are good at making things happen, getting tasks done, we can end up mistreating the people around us if we are not careful.
I was recently talking to a friend who was involved in running a very large Christian conference. He was telling me about the problems created for him by the event manager. The manager seemed to be quite good at getting things done but he bossed people around in such a way that people were hurt and alienated. My friend had to do an awful lot of smoothing behind the scenes to make sure that the event didn’t fall apart.
But as my friend was telling me about his experience, I was thinking about the fact that I don’t always get that balance right between people and tasks. So here is a lesson for each of us from Solomon’s life. If you have a tendency to be “task orientated” rather than “people orientated” then you need to be very careful to not oppress people. That is true as you and I work in the church, and it is true as you work in your secular work place, or in your home. There is no point achieving great things for God if you hurt the people that God loves in the process.
He didn’t watch his own life
The third thing that Solomon got wrong was that “he didn’t watch his own life”. Solomon had the correct theology and prayed good prayers but at the end of the day the writer of Kings issues a damming condemnation on his life. He tells us that the LORD was angry with Solomon because Solomon had married foreign women and worshipped their gods (11:9-10).
Have a look at chapter 9 verses 6 to 8. God had appeared to Solomon a second time after the completion of the temple (9:1-2) and at that time of Solomon’s life the LORD warned him, verse 6:
“. . . if you or your sons turn away from me and do not observe the commands and decrees I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land I have given them and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. Israel will then become a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples. And though this temple is now imposing, all who pass by will be appalled and will scoff and say, ‘Why has the LORD done such a thing to this land and to this temple?’ ” (1 Ki 9:6-8, NIV).
And then turn over to chapter 11, and the end of Solomon’s life. Let me read a few verses to you starting at verse 1.
“King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter—Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. They were from nations about which the LORD had told the Israelites, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.” Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love” (1 Ki 11:1-2, NIV).
And then verse 4:
“As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been” (1 Ki 11:4, NIV).
And jumping down to verse 9.
“The LORD became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice” (1 Ki 11:9, NIV).
“The LORD became angry” – a sad condemnation on a life that had so much potential.
So what can we learn. The challenge for us is that we can be involved in great building projects but fail to watch our own lives. You and I can accomplish great things for God, we can serve him in the church and in the world, we can build his church. But if we fail to guard our relationship with God and walk before him for the whole of our lives in a righteous manner – then we can find ourselves on judgement day coming under the same condemnation as Solomon.
There is no point being a great home group leader, or a superb organiser of children’s events, or even the vicar of the church, and yet fail to love God and live a life of holiness. You and I need to remember to watch our own life as we serve God in this church. Guard your times of Bible reading and prayer. Make yourself accountable to others for your lifestyle. Flee from temptation and the devil. Ask God to help you stand firm in the faith to the very end of your life.