Thursday, June 3, 2021

June 3 - 1 Kings 9, Romans 8

 Key verse: 1 Kings 9:9

Big idea: Worship starts with obedience.

After Solomon completed the Temple, God came to him in a second vision, like the one where He had granted him wisdom. This is not as well known as the first, but it is perhaps even more important. In this chapter, God reaffirms the covenant that He had made with David in 2 Samuel 7. God's blessing would not depend on the faithfulness of the whole world, on the faithfulness of all of Abraham's descendants, or even on the faithfulness of all of Israel. Instead, God would give His people His presence through the Temple if David's son was faithful, and forsake the Temple and the land if David's son was faithless. God's rescue plan that we first considered in Genesis is now nearing its fulfillment: there is only one more stage of narrowing left. One particular Son of David would perfectly obey, redeeming Israel and through Israel the whole world. 

The connection between the Temple and obedience is not arbitrary. Truly experiencing God's presence is inseparable from holy living. When we love God, our first response will be to recognize Him as who He is: the King. If we reject obedience (the most basic form of worship), all of our other worship is superficial and meaningless. As Samuel said back in 1 Samuel 15:22, "to obey is better than sacrifice". 

Discussion idea: Why did God wait to give this assurance until after the Temple was built? How does the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD relate to Jesus' final victory as the rightful King?

Prayer focus: Thank God that He provides His presence and the opportunity for us to worship Him through Christ's perfection, despite our sin.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

June 2 - 1 Kings 8, Romans 7

 Key verse: 1 Kings 8:56

Big idea: Worship gives rest.

Back in Exodus 33, when the Israelites had built the golden calf and Moses had to plead with God to continue personally dwelling among them. God's answer was staggering, "My presence will go with thee and I will give thee rest." From the Garden of Eden on, people had lost both the presence of God and their own home because of sin, and were forced to wander apart from Him. It was impossible to restore one without the other: there is no rest without God and no real understanding of God that does not bring rest. Here, when the Temple was finally completed, the presence of God came to rest in the Temple (like He had in the Tabernacle), and His brightness was so intense that no one could enter. Solomon prayed to dedicate the Temple, and said something very interesting: "Blessed be the LORD, that hath given rest unto his people Israel, according to all that he promised: there hath not failed one word of all his good promise, which he promised by the hand of Moses his servant. The LORD our God be with us, as he was with our fathers: let him not leave us, nor forsake us."

Israel had been in the land of promise for centuries, but when the Temple was inaugurated, a new level of peace and rest became available to them. They could rest in His forgiveness, His provision, and His promises. The knowledge that He would not leave them or forsake them gave them rest. For us, there is no greater rest than in worshipping the God of grace. We do not need to earn His love, but can rest knowing that we have His Spirit by faith.

Discussion idea: Have you ever felt refreshed and rested after a time of worship? What is the connection?

Prayer focus: Pray for the kind of faith that brings peace and rest.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

June 1 - 1 Kings 6, Romans 6

 Key verse: 1 Kings 6:29

Big idea: Worship is a taste of paradise.

Four years into his reign, King Solomon was finally able to do what God had forbidden David to do: build a permanent Temple. Since the end of the book of Leviticus (about 500 years earlier), people had gone to the tent known as the Tabernacle to worship God. But David desired to build God a permanent structure, more fitting of the importance and glory of God. The Lord told David that he would not build God a house to be worshipped, but that God would build David a house - a family. The first heir in that family, Solomon, was now ready to build the Temple. It was a large, impressive structure, where the larger population of Israel could be accommodated, which would be durable enough to last for generations.

Two elements of the Temple are especially worthy of note. First, much of the Temple was covered in gold. This was no casual display of Solomon's wealth, although it certainly did demonstrate that, but an important part of the Temple's symbolism. At the heart of the Temple, in the "holiest place" (literally, "holy of holies"), was the mercy seat on the ark of the covenant that represented God's throne, flanked by two large statues of angels. The gold all around reminds us of Revelation 21:21, where we are told that the streets in the New Jerusalem are like pure gold. Whatever Revelation 21 means, the throne and gold together show us that the Temple was meant to be a taste of the new age now. 

Further, our text tells us that the Temple was engraved with palm trees and flowers. While the gold points forward, this garden imagery points back to the Garden of Eden. While Adam had walked with God in the Garden, that consistent access to God was lost because of sin. But in the Temple, when sins were covered and peace was restored, there was a sense in which people were able to experience a taste of Eden too. The New Jerusalem, when Heaven comes down to Earth, includes Garden imagery too (Revelation 22:1-5). Throughout the whole Bible, God weaves a thread of His presence with His people, where what we lost is restored, and even more is given to us.

Discussion idea: 1 Corinthians 3:5-17 uses two metaphors to describe the church. What are they? How do they connect to the imagery within the Temple?

Prayer focus: Lord, thank you for giving me access to Your presence through the cross. I did not need to go up to a Temple or a Tabernacle, or climb up to Heaven or down to the grave. You came to me! You let me know You and experience Your love. Help me to never take that for granted and to rejoice in that worship today.