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.
Key verse: Romans 6:22
Big Idea: Our lives are transformed by the gospel.
When you love someone and they love you, do you want to please them? Of course. It is not that doing what will impress them will give you a relationship with them, you want to do something they will appreciate because you already have a relationship with them. Trying to do something for someone to earn a relationship is frustrating and unfulfilling; instead of acceptance there is anxiety and instead of security there is strain. But when behaviors are a part of an existing relationship, they can deepen and strengthen it.
So far, Paul has argued in Romans that our relationship with God is not dependent on our behavior, but just on faith in what He has done in Christ. But does that mean that what we do does not matter? Some of Paul's opponents claimed the gospel of grace was permission to sin as if the only reason to serve anyone is a fear of punishment. But if someone has saved our life, we will want to serve them out of gratitude, not fear that they will throw us into danger. We have moved from the old realm of Adam to the new realm of Christ through His death; how could those who have joined in Christ's death go back to their old way of life? If someone died to help her son escape slavery, would that child then return to their old master? Our freedom is not because of our works, but our works are the only reasonable response to freedom.
The good news of Jesus tells us that our world has truly changed, and so our lives should change too. We have been freed from the chains of sin and been made Jesus' servants instead. All of our old servitude only earned us death, but God has given us something new and beautiful as a gift. That gift is free, but once we have received it, we should bear the fruit of gratitude. When God has changed our hearts by His grace, our whole lives will change too.
Discussion Idea: Would you serve God differently if you were afraid of punishment? How does the service of love and gratitude go further?
Prayer Focus: Pray that God would help you live in accordance with the gospel.