[Solomon wrote] “I intend, therefore, to build a temple for the Name of the Lord my God, as the Lord told my father David, when he said, ‘Your son whom I will put on the throne in your place will build the temple for my Name.”
1 Kings 5:5 (NIV)
Wendy and I recently returned from a trip to Scotland where we visited our kids and grandkids living there. One afternoon we made a point of visiting a small pub in Edinburgh that had become a favorite haunt of ours on our last visit to Edinburgh. The White Hart boasts of being Edinburgh’s oldest pub, having opened for business in the year 1516 on a street below Edinburgh Castle just a stone’s throw from where official public beheadings and executions took place.
While enjoying a pint at the White Hart, we went to the internet to find out what was happening in the world in 1516. Henry VIII, who famously broke with the Roman Catholic Church and marries six different wives (two by beheadings that were not conducted down the street from the White Hart Pub), is on the throne in England. Martin Luther is a year away from nailing his 95 theses to the Wittenburg Door. Christopher Columbus’ cousin was doing his own bit of exploring in Asia after Chris had discovered the Americas just over a decade before. The Ottoman Empire was waging war against Syria. And, the White Hart pub was pouring pints for their first customers.
Wendy and I sat in the same pub, contemplating how much life had changed in 500 years.
In today’s chapter, the narrative switches from a focus on who Solomon was to a focus on what Solomon did. Namely, his major building projects. The major focus is on the building of the Temple in Jerusalem, but the text also describes the building of Solomon’s palace, as well.
The building of the Temple is a major event in the context of the Great Story that God is authoring from Genesis through Revelation. All the way back in the book of Exodus God gave instructions, through Moses, for the building of a traveling tent temple known as the Tabernacle. It could be repeatedly set up and taken down as the Hebrew people left slavery in Egypt and traveled through the wilderness to the Promised Land. The Tabernacle was always set up in the center of the Hebrew camp and their lives centered on the sacrificial system of worship that God established in the Law of Moses.
That was roughly 500 years before Solomon, the same amount of time that passed between our pub in Scotland opening its doors and our visit last month. The Hebrew tribes have been well established in the land of Canaan for about 400 years. Think about all that changes in 400-500 years. In all of that time, there’s been no central place of worship for the Hebrew people. The Tabernacle was still around, but it had moved from place to place and there’s some belief that the Ark of the Covenant (which was to be kept in the Tabernacle according to the Law of Moses) may have been removed and kept elsewhere which would have watered-down the entire system of worship. With no established Temple, sacrifices took place in different locations and the worship of God became mixed in with the practices of local pagan religions. The author of 1 Kings even mentions that Solomon was guilty of worshipping in the “high places” favored by local pagan deities (1 Ki 3:3).
Building a Temple, therefore, is a huge deal for the Hebrew people. It will be known as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It will become the center of Hebrew worship for centuries. It will be destroyed and rebuilt. It will be where Jesus will drive out the moneychangers and draw crowds with His teaching. Jesus will also correctly prophesy that it will be ultimately torn down. The foundational remnants of the Temple are centrally sacred in Judaism to this very day.
In the quiet this morning, my heart and mind are pondering both purpose and legacy. The texts of Samuel and Kings make it clear that Solomon was purposed by God to build the Temple that would become an important thread of the Great Story. The legacy of Solomon’s Temple continues to resonate to this day as people gather this moment, around the clock, to worship and pray at the Western Wall, the foundation stones of the Temple that still remain on the western side of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
Jesus’ taught His followers to live with purpose, prioritizing God’s Kingdom above the things of this earthly life. In doing so, He spoke of a legacy of things that will remain for eternity when every earthly treasure has long since burned away.
What do I purpose to do with this day?
What legacy am I building and leaving?
Good questions to ponder over a pint, and then act on it. The oldest pub around here, however, has yet to reach its tenth birthday.
If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.