Everything in chapter 4 helped us to see how God had blessed his people, enabling them to live in peace and rest in a well-ordered and prosperous kingdom, where they were ruled by a wise and discerning king, who foreshadowed God’s true Anointed King who is Jesus Christ our Saviour, who gave up his life to pay for all that we have done wrong; and who was raised from the dead and exalted to heaven from where he is extending his everlasting kingdom throughout the earth. And when he comes again, all of his people who trusted in him will live in peace and rest in a well-ordered and prosperous eternal kingdom, where we will be ruled by a wise and discerning king forever.
And at the end of chapter 4 we read that men of all nations came to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom. And among those kings of the world who sent their men to listen to Solomon’s wisdom was Hiram, king of Tyre. According to verse 1 of chapter 5, when he heard that Solomon had succeeded his father, he sent his envoy to Solomon. He wanted to maintain the good relationship Tyre enjoyed with Israel when David was king.
And the way these foreign kings sent their men to Solomon anticipates how men and women and boys and girls from all over the world will come to Christ the King for salvation. And it also anticipates how people from every nation will be gathered into the new heavens and earth in the life to come to worship the Lord forever and forever. When the Apostle John received that vision of heaven in Revelation 7, he saw a great multitude of people from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne of God and in front of the Lamb, who is Jesus Christ our King. And in that vision of the church in glory in Revelation 21, John says that the kings of the earth will bring their splendour into the new Jerusalem to come. People from every nation will gather there. And, as an anticipation of that day, the kings of the world, including Hiram king of Tyre, sent envoys to Solomon.
In the following verses we see what was on Solomon’s mind at that time. He wrote to Hiram and explained that he wanted to build a temple for the Lord and he wants Hiram’s help. He explained that his father, David, was unable to build the temple, because there was no peace during his reign. David had many battles to fight. But God eventually put David’s enemies under his feet and the Lord has given Solomon rest on every side. No one was attacking him from the north or south or east or west. He had no adversaries and there were no disasters for him to deal with. He and his people enjoyed peace and rest. And so, he wants to build the temple, just as God said he would back in 2 Samuel 7.
Do you remember 2 Samuel 7? David wanted to build a house for the Lord, but God revealed to him through Nathan the prophet that David would not be the one to build a house for the Lord. And instead God was going to build a house for David. That is, God would build a dynasty for David: a succession of kings would come from him. And God also revealed that David’s son would be the one who would build God’s house. That’s what God said in 2 Samuel 7 and Solomon is repeating God’s promise in verse 5 of 1 Kings 5. Although the NIV refers throughout this passage to a temple, the Hebrew word is the word for a house. The temple was God’s house, because it was to be the place where God lived. He was said to dwell there, in his house, among his people. And we’ll come back to this idea of God dwelling with his people later.
Solomon wanted Hiram’s help. He asked him in verse 6 for cedars from Lebanon; and he offered to let Solomon’s men work alongside Hiram’s men. And he also offered to pay Hiram’s men their wages.
And, according to verse 7, Hiram was greatly pleased with Solomon’s request and he offered praise to God for giving David a wise son to rule over the nation. And you can see Hiram’s reply to Solomon in verses 8 and 9 and his willingness to supply him with timber — more timber, in fact, than Solomon requested. He also explained how he’ll transport the timber to Israel. And he adds at the end that he’d like Solomon to supply food to his household. And we read in verses 10 and 11 that in this way Hiram supplied Solomon with all the timber he needed; and Solomon supplied Hiram with all the wheat and oil he needed for his household.
And the way Solomon and Hiram maintained a good relationship between their two nations was another demonstration of the wisdom which God had given to Solomon. The wisdom that comes from heaven is peace-loving. That’s what James says in his New Testament letter. And God had given such peace-loving wisdom to Solomon — and to Hiram as well — so that there were peaceful relations between them.
And chapter 5 ends with this description of the four kinds of workers who built God’s house. In verse 13 we read about labourers who were conscripted from all Israel. They were sent off to Lebanon in shifts of 10,000 for a month at a time. We read in verse 14 that they then spent two months at home. The Hebrew literally says they spent two months ‘in his house’. And so, it’s possible it means that they spent a month working in Lebanon and then they spent the next two months working on God’s house. In verse 15 we read about carriers or burden-bearers and stone-cutters. And in verse 16 it refers to foremen or chief officers who oversaw the work. So, there were labours, carriers, stonecutters and foremen. And they not only used timber to build the temple, but also large blocks of quality stone. And Solomon’s men and Hiram’s men worked together to prepare the timber and stone.
All of what we read in chapter 5 is to do with preparations for building God’s house. So, in order to build it, Solomon needed timber and stone and he needed workers. And once that’s all sorted out, the work can begin. And verse 1 of chapter 6 tells us when the work started.
But it’s an interesting way of measuring the time, isn’t it? Yes, the verse refers to the fourth year of Solomon’s reign. That’s the kind of timestamp we would expect. But before it mentions Solomon’s reign, it mentions the Exodus in the days of Moses. So, it was now 480 years since the Exodus. And the point of this reference to the Exodus is to let us know that a new era in Israel’s history had begun. The Exodus was the beginning of one era; and the building of God’s house brings that era to an end and it marks the beginning of a new era.
Of course, a lot has happened since the Exodus: the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years; then they entered the Promised Land and settled there in the days of Joshua; then there was the period of the Judges; then there was Saul’s reign and David’s reign and now Solomon’s reign. A lot of things have happened since the Exodus, but the building of God’s house was the most important thing to happen to Israel since the Exodus.
And perhaps I can put it this way. The building of God’s house was the end of a journey which began with the Exodus. If you’ve got your Bible open in front of you, turn briefly back to Exodus 15 and to the song Moses and the Israelites sang after they crossed the Red Sea at the time of the Exodus. And this song is in two parts. In the first part, they praise God for what he has already done for them: he has hurled the horse and its rider — their Egyptian enemies — into the sea. So, he’s saved them. And in the second part, they anticipate what God will do for them in the future. And what’s God going to do for them in the future? Take a look at verse 13 of Exodus 15:
In your unfailing love you will lead
the people you have redeemed.
In your strength you will guide them
to your holy dwelling.
And verse 17 of Exodus 15:
You will bring them in and plant them
on the mountain of your inheritance —
the place, O Lord, you made for your dwelling,
the sanctuary, O Lord, your hands established.
When the Lord rescued the Israelites from Egypt, he began to lead them on a journey which would bring them to Jerusalem on Mount Zion where God’s dwelling place would be. And their journey is almost over, because now — 480 years after leaving Egypt and in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign — they began to build God’s house.
This was the end of one era and the beginning of a new era. Their journey from Egypt to God’s dwelling place was over. And what would the new era be like? It would be a kind of fulfilment of all of God’s promises, wouldn’t it? What had God promised? Do you remember the three Ps? I often referred to the three Ps when we were studying the first five books of the Bible. The first P is people; and the second P is place; and the third P is presence. God’s promise was that all of his people would live in the place he had prepared for them where they would enjoy his presence in their midst. And God had made them a numerous people, a great and mighty nation. And they were now living in the Promised Land, the place he had prepared for them, where they enjoyed peace and rest under Solomon. And they were now building God’s house, where he would dwell in their midst and they would enjoy his presence among them. God’s people in the place he prepared for them, enjoying God’s presence. God had kept his promises to them.
But God’s promises to them will be fully fulfilled in the life to come, where all of God’s people from every nation will live in the place he has prepared for us in the new heavens and earth and where we’ll enjoy God’s presence with us forever and forever. These two chapters are not really about building a house in Jerusalem. These two chapters are about the great hope which God gives to all who trust in Christ of everlasting life in his presence. And so, these chapters are about how God will dwell with his people forever.
In verses 2 to 10 of chapter 6 the writer describes the house which Solomon built for the Lord. And it was really to be one long building which was divided into three parts. There was a portico or porch. Then there was a main hall. And then there was the Most Holy Place, although this is not mentioned until verse 16. The measurements are probably the internal measurements. So, while it wasn’t a particularly large building, it was larger than these measurements suggest, because this is measuring the internal space. Along the side of the building, there were windows and there were also three levels of rooms. According to verse 7, the building was made with dressed stone. These were cut and prepared at the quarry and not on site, which meant there would be no unnecessary noise on the building site, which was fitting for this holy building.
According to verse 8, the entrance to the side rooms was on the south side. In other words, they couldn’t be accessed from inside the temple. And according to verses 9 and 10 the roof — or perhaps the ceiling — was made with beams and cedar planks. And so, Solomon completed God’s house.
We’ll come back to verses 11 to 13 at the end, but let’s jump to verses 14 to 30. Once again we’re told that Solomon built and completed God’s house. And while the walls were made of dressed stone, the inside walls were lined with cedar boards from the floor right up to the ceiling. The floor itself was also covered with planks of pine. And in verses 16 and 17 he refers for the first time to the inner sanctuary or the Most Holy Place. But before telling us anything more about it, the writer draws our attention back to the walls of the temple; and he tells us in verse 18 that the cedar boards were carved with gourds [i.e. fruit] and open flowers. The fruit- and flower-carvings resembles a garden and perhaps it resembles the Garden of Eden. Many scholars believe the Garden of Eden was a kind of temple, because it was the place where Adam and Eve enjoyed the presence of God in their midst. And therefore this temple recalls that garden-temple in the beginning.
Next the writer tells us that the inner sanctuary, or the Most Holy Place, was 20 cubits long and wide and high. So, it was a cube. And it was where the ark of the covenant would go, which was that gold-covered box which signified God’s presence. And the whole of the interior of the Most Holy Place was covered in gold. The altar of cedar was also covered in gold. This was probably the altar of incence, which was located in the main hall. And the gold was not only in the Most Holy Place, but it covered the interior of the main hall as well.
In verses 23 to 28 he takes us back to the Most Holy Place to tell us about the two cherubim who were there, standing before the ark of the covenant. You see, the gold-covered Most Holy Place represents heaven. And the gold-covered cherubim represents the angels in heaven. And the gold-covered ark of the covenant represents God’s throne. So, the Most Holy Place symbolised heaven, where the angels stand before God’s throne and worship him. And verses 29 and 30 tell us that not only are the walls carved with pictures of fruit and flowers, but also with pictures of angels. And not only were the walls covered in gold, but the floors were covered in gold as well. Gold represents the glory of heaven.
In verses 31 to 35 the writer draws our attention to the doors into the Most Holy Place and into the main hall, which were covered in gold and decorated with carvings of angels and trees and flowers. And according to verse 36 there was an inner court around the building.
And the final two verses of the chapter tell us that it took seven years to build the temple.
Let’s think a little more about the significance of what we’ve been reading.
As I’ve already said, the temple which Solomon built was really a house. It was a house for God. And God was going to come and dwell among his people.
But it wasn’t an ordinary house, was it? It was a special kind of house. In fact, it was a house which symbolised heaven. Just think about how the interior of this house was covered in gold. It was covered in gold to represent the glory of heaven above. And the ark of the covenant inside the Most Holy Place symbolised God’s throne in heaven above. And the gold cherubim in the Most Holy Place symbolised the angels who stand in God’s presence in heaven above and who worship him. And so, the temple in Jerusalem was designed to represent heaven above. But heaven has come down to earth, because God had come from heaven to earth to dwell with his people in Jerusalem.
However, many years later, God came to dwell among his people in an even greater way, didn’t he? He came to dwell among his people, not in a building, but in a person. God came and dwelt among us in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ, who is God in the flesh. In the person of his Son, God came down to us and he gave up his life on the cross as the perfect, once-for-all sacrifice for sins to make peace for us with God. And through faith in the Son, we receive, not only the forgiveness of our sins, but we also receive the hope of the resurrection and what? Everlasting life in the presence of God in the new heavens and earth. God came down to dwell among us in the person of his Son so that we could live with God forever in the new creation to come.
And if you read the last two chapters of the Bible, you’ll read about the church in the new creation to come. And the church is pictured as a city. It’s pictured as a New Jerusalem. But unlike the Old Jerusalem, there’s no temple in the New Jerusalem. Does that mean God is not there? No, it doesn’t mean God is not there. The reason there’s no temple in the New Jerusalem is because God’s presence fills the New Jerusalem and he’s always with his people forever and forever. It’s not that his people have to go to the temple to see God, because he’s always with them and his glory lights up the whole of the New Jerusalem.
And, of course, God dwells with his people right now, doesn’t he? He dwells with his people right now by his Spirit. Isn’t that what Paul tells us? He says in 1 Corinthians 3 that every believer is a temple of the Holy Spirit, because God dwells in every believer by his Spirit. And he’s with us in our daily lives to help us to honour God in all we do and say.
Verses 11 to 13
But before we finish today, do you remember there were some verses which I skipped over? Turn with me briefly to verses 11 to 13 of chapter 6 where we read that the word of the Lord came to Solomon. And what did God say to Solomon the King? He said this: If you follow my decrees, and carry out my regulations, and keep all of my commands, and obey them, I will fulfil through you the promise I gave to David your father. What was the promise? That God will live among the Israelites and will not abandon his people Israel.
Do you see what the Lord was saying? If you, the king, obey me, I will live among the Israelites. Whether I live among them or not depends on you, Solomon, and on your obedience to me.
God was placing an enormous responsibility on Solomon. And, of course, Solomon was a sinner who sinned against God continually and he wasn’t able to follow God’s decrees and regulations and commands and obey them. And none of the kings who came after him were able to live like that, because all of them were sinners who sinned against God continually.
That is to say: None of the kings who came after Solomon were able to live like that… until the coming of Christ the King. Unlike Solomon and everyone else, the Lord Jesus was holy from the time he was conceived so that his every inclination throughout his life was to do the will of God; and he was able to obey God perfectly throughout his life on earth. He is the only King who has followed God’s decrees and regulations and commands and who had obeyed them.
And because of his perfect obedience — which included giving up his life on the cross to pay for all that we have done wrong — God promises to live with us and never to abandon us. He’s with us by his Spirit and one day he’ll bring us into his presence in the new heavens and earth, where he will be with us and where we will see him and enjoy him forever and forever.
Solomon was a great king. But he was a sinner just like the rest of us. He wasn’t able to follow God’s decrees and regulations and commands perfectly. But Christ our King and Saviour: he was able to obey God perfectly. And he did it for us and for all who believe. And God has promised to be with all who believe and never to leave you and never to forsake you. Whatever you face in this life, you can face it with confidence, because God promises to be with you and in you by his Spirit. And when Christ comes again, you’ll be with God in body and soul forever. And so, we should give thanks to God for Christ our King and for the great hope of eternal life in the presence of God for all who believe in him.