TODAY’S READING: 1 Kings 5–6; 2 Chronicles 2–3
It’s wonderful that the temple (the place where God chose to manifest His presence, to signify His covenantal promise to bless all nations) was held up by Lebanese lumber. It’s wonderful that the temple Solomon dedicated to Jehovah included many construction details and designs common to the temples of that pagan time. God’s election of Israel was ever about inclusion of all peoples. Lebanon contributed to the glory of God and as a result was blessed and fed (1 Kings 5:9).
God’s passion for all peoples to be included in His blessing should be at the center of our houses of worship. Whenever God’s people gather to praise, there should be prayer for the missing family members from around the world. Those silent Lebanese beams, smothered in gold, held up the roof so that the people of God could petition heaven for His glory to be universally known. So too may God’s current pillars—men and women of faith—lift up holy hands on Sundays in temples scattered across this globe, praying that the 12 million Arabs from the Eastern Hijaz of Saudi Arabia would one day join our redeemed band. I wonder if it irritates Jehovah that He designed His temple to make the nations comfortable while we design ours to make ourselves at ease?
Jehovah reminded Solomon concerning the temple that if he walked in God’s statutes, judgments, and commands, then the promise to David was secured (6:12), a promise that the kingdom would include all peoples and that God would dwell among His people (v. 13). The promise of God to dwell among His children goes back to Genesis when He declared, “I will dwell in the tents of Shem,” and it is the first portion of the tripartite formula, the missionary core of the Bible: I will be their God, they will be My holy people, I will live among them and bless them, and they will bless all the people groups of earth. Ritual temple worship was essentially missionary: It kept the elect people of Israel holy, which kept God’s powerful presence among them, which gave them the blessing they needed to woo all peoples of earth to come join the party, to come join those Lebanese logs in God’s presence.
Jehovah’s temple was not just held up by the Lebanese lumber—all nations built it. Second Chronicles 2:17 tells us that Solomon numbered all the aliens in Israel and made 70,000 carry stuff, 80,000 cut stone, and 3,600 oversee the work. Hiram sent a skillful man who was half Phoenician (v.14) as the chief artist, engraver, and skilled worker. Decades before the Phoenicians crafted the beautiful city of Carthage, they beautified God’s holy house, built of course on the land of Ornan the Jebusite (3:1). It’s a wonder we are so blockheaded about God’s missionary heart when aliens cut and carried every block of the temple, when the creativity of a Phoenician created the whole artistic design, when Lebanese lumber held up the roof, and when the whole building sat on Jebusite land. Indeed, God’s house was always intended to be a house for all peoples.
If God was so intentional that the first temple be so missionary in design, composition, building, and flavor, ought not we be as intentional that the physical composition of our churches be nation-oriented? Should not the warp and woof of our worship times be multi-national, even if we live in the heart of the Bible Belt? Some churches accomplish the former by flags, maps, prayer walls, and pictures of unreached peoples. Bravo! Some churches accomplish the latter by having prayer for unreached peoples as part of every gathering, by constantly having missionaries or international Christians in their pulpits, and by repeatedly making their financial giving’s priority the nations, and not the needs that are near. There are many creative ways to make our churches and our services missionary, but the principle matter is to be as intentional about making our houses and temples inclusive and welcoming of all nations just as Jehovah was about His.