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WEEKLY REFLECTIONS

~ How To Build a Temple ~


Although King David wanted the task, God commissioned King Solomon to build the magnificent temple. The biblical records provide an interesting explanation of how this remarkable feat of engineering was even more worthy of awe: "In building the temple, only blocks dressed [cut and shaped] at the quarry were used, and no hammer, chisel or any other iron tool was heard at the temple site while it was being built" (I Kings 6:7, NIV). The verse before that states, "The lowest floor was five cubits [about 7.5 feet] wide, the middle floor six cubits [about 9 feet] and the third floor seven [about 10.5 feet]. He made offset ledges around the outside of the temple so that nothing would be inserted into the temple walls."

Imagine a construction site that was reverently silent. No hammering, chiseling or even the chipping and grinding of stone to make final adjustments for impeccably close tolerance of fit was heard. Before those great blocks of stone left the quarry, they were already perfectly formed and ready for insertion into the ones at the construction site. Thinking about it, I should change my terminology: The construction site was the quarry; the temple site was the place of formation, of unification.

Making each floor less wide than that above it allowed for a free standing structure that did not need bolting together "so that nothing would be inserted into the temple walls." Each level was dependent upon the others yet each was also independent, and no violence against the other, as it were, was needed to achieve this.

Exegesis, or extracting meaning of literature, requires an understanding of literary techniques. For example, one with which many have problems is hyperbole, or exaggeration, to drive home a point. Hyperbole is not to be taken literally and isn't when it is understood. "I'll believe that when hell freezes over" is hyperbole. One is just emphasizing his position knowing that "hell freezing over" is a ridiculous and actually humorous image while also realizing there is always a margin of possibility of one's beliefs changing although hell will never be an arctic environment. The change in belief is really not dependent on any change in hell and the user of hyperbole knows it.

Concerning the temple, we are presented with a different literary technique, that of prefiguration. What's with all those sacrificial rites of shedding the blood of animals that had to be perfect and "unblemished"? This was a prefigure of the ultimate sacrifice of Christ, the "Lamb without blemish" whose blood was shed for the atonement of the sins of the world. "When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!" (Hebrews 9:11-14, NIV).

Once understood (and it is by secular as well as biblical writers), we can exegete or extract the meaning of what appears on the surface as mere historical records. As background, let us consider a few scriptural declarations: "Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple" (1 Corinthians 3:16-17); "As you come to him, the living Stone -- rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him -- you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 2:4-5).

In the present state of Christian development, we must acknowledge that many believe that Roman Catholics are works-based, Mary-worshipping apostates who do not know the way to heaven or union with Christ and do not have a "personal relationship with Jesus". (Somehow, the Jehovah Witnesses slid under the critical radar whose theology is didactically heretical, to the point that this "denomination" needed to rewrite (not translate) Scripture into their own blasphemous "New World Translation" to fit their anti-Gospel teachings. There is no anti-Jehovah Witnesses sentiment compared to anti-Catholic scorn. Go figure.) Baptists, Pentecostals, Episcopalians, Coptic and Eastern-rite Catholics and the thousands of other denominations also have problems with each other. If Christians, all baptized into one Spirit and Body (which is also, sadly, another issue of contention) cannot be united here on earth, how can we be expected to be suddenly serving and loving each other in the heavenly realm?

The prefiguration of how the physical temple was built offers an answer. We are all still in the quarry, as individuals and denominations. Whether in the quarry or on the temple mount being silently and reverently unified with the stones already sanctified, we are still, as the Scriptures declare, all living stones of the holy, heavenly Temple, Christ's Body.

Living stones do feel the pain of being perfectly shaped to fit into the Temple without any further shaping upon being unified with the rest. Let us be grateful for this quarry, welcoming the suffering of being cut, chiseled and worked in preparation for the kingdom unity. Let us pray for one another in this quarry, in humble recognition we are not yet ready for the ultimate place that is being prepared for us, but will be, only by God's grace and not our own self-righteous belief and claim that we are the most worthy reflection of Christ's presence on earth.

Thus the prayer, "May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it" (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

Given that, consider again what I wrote above: "The construction site was the quarry; the temple site was the place of formation, of unification...Each level was dependent upon the others yet each was also independent, and no violence against the other, as it were, was needed to achieve this." I belong in the quarry. Yet even there I am still a living stone belonging to the Temple of God. "Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain" (Psalm 127:1a). Let us value our time in the quarry of formation and always remember we are not building this Temple, but are being built into it, through no credit to ourselves. "The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it."

John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
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