1 Kings 8: the House of the LORD (pt. 3)

1(A) Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes,(B) the leaders of the fathers’ houses of the people of Israel, before King Solomon in Jerusalem,(C) to bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of(D) the city of David, which is Zion. 2And all the men of Israel assembled to King Solomon at(E) the feast in the month Ethanim, which is the seventh month. 3And all the elders of Israel came, and(F) the priests took up the ark. 4And they brought up the ark of the LORD,(G) the tent of meeting, and all the holy vessels that were in the tent; the priests and the Levites brought them up. 5And King Solomon and all the congregation of Israel, who had assembled before him, were with him before the ark,(H) sacrificing so many sheep and oxen that they could not be counted or numbered. 6(I) Then the priests brought the ark of the covenant of the LORD(J) to its place in(K) the inner sanctuary of the house, in the Most Holy Place, underneath the wings of the cherubim. 7For the cherubim spread out their wings over the place of the ark, so that the cherubim overshadowed the ark and its poles. 8(L) And the poles were so long that the ends of the poles were seen from the Holy Place before(M) the inner sanctuary; but they could not be seen from outside. And they are there to this day. 9There was nothing in the ark except(N) the two tablets of stone that Moses put there at Horeb, where(O) the LORD made a covenant with the people of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt. 10And when the priests came out of the Holy Place,(P) a cloud filled the house of the LORD, 11so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD.

After 2 chapters of describing the monumental significance of the Temple, the build-up inevitably leads to one very stark question – what is the LORD’s purpose for the Temple, and more importantly, where is the LORD in relation to the Temple?

This one question, uniting the LORD’s purpose and the LORD Himself to the Temple, is found firstly in Solomon’s worship of the LORD and the LORD’s response to Solomon’s worship.  We begin chapter 8 with Solomon assembling all the elders, heads and leaders to bring up the ark of covenant out of the city of David.  Of all the furniture in the Temple, the ark is the only item which is brought from the tabernacle to the Temple, whereas all the other items of the tabernacle are effectively replaced by the Temple.   It is important for us to see here that the ark is taken from the city of David, Zion, and brought to Jerusalem.  Although geographically different places, throughout the Word we learn that Zion and Jerusalem are identified as one and the same (soon thereafter Zion is the metonym for Israel and the Promised Land c.f. Psalm 147:12; Isaiah 2:3, 4:3-4, 24:23, Zechariah 8:3, 9:9 – though Jerusalem is the very name of the new city which we will inherit in new creation, c.f. Revelation 3:12; 21, whereas Zion is referred to as the Mount where the Lamb dwells (Hebrews 12:22; Revelation 14:1)).  It is significant for us to therefore recognize that the Temple is not built on Mount Zion, but rather is built on the very threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite where the LORD appeared to David and where the LORD will appear as prophesied by Abraham in Genesis 22 concerning Moriah in Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 3:1).

Furthermore, this inauguration of the Temple takes place in the month of Tishri (before the Babylonian captivity, called Ethanim here (v.2)), both names bearing the significance of “strength” and “beginning”, the Feast of Booths, Day of Atonement, creation and fall of Adam and Eve, the dove’s final mission to obtain the olive branch (Genesis 8), the binding of Isaac (Genesis 22); the provision of the second set of tablets  (on 10th Tishri) and finally the erecting of the tabernacle itself on the first day of this month (Exodus 40:2) tells us that the inauguration of the Temple bears the full weight of the events of this month.  The Temple is not only a “renewal” of the tabernacle (though no longer mobile, but steadily built into the ground of Moriah), but it is also the House of the LORD where both Feast and Atonement occurs, where the fall of Adam and Eve is undone, where new creation and firstfruit of the olive branch is truly witnessed (1 Corinthians 15:20-23), where the prophecy of Abraham is fulfilled, where the first set of Mosaic law shall be shattered and fulfilled in the second set’s focus on the eternal Promised Land:

“The 2 stone tablets on which the Ten Words rest, represent the dual witness to Christ Himself, the Rock, the basis of all the Law, who will be shattered for our sins that we may be spared, like the temple, His body will be renewed, made again. During that time Moses intercedes for the people and the glory of the Lord is revealed, all testifying to the works of oblation and intercession of Christ on the cross. Thus the 2nd giving of the Decalogue is differently quoted from the first: Deuteronomy 5:13-16 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. 15 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day. 16 “‘Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. The Sabbath is refocused on the new land, the new creation instead of on the first creation, and now things will go ‘well’ in that land.” – Dev Menon in “Law and Gospel” essay

Thus, taking us in an upward spiral through to the Temple’s establishment.

However, unlike Exodus 35:20-29 where the Israelites’ have collectively contributed to the materials of the tabernacle, there is nothing of that sort here.  Instead, it is the two Hirams and the hired workers who contribute the material; even David’s gold and treasures had to be stored (in 2 Chronicles 5:1) as Solomon did not exhaust them in the building of the Temple.  Contrarily, the tabernacle was finished with a very immediate entry of the glory of the LORD filling the tabernacle (Exodus 40:34-38), though here we witness in v.5 a grand sacrifice, the very first thing which comes to the mind of these many men in their worship of God.  In their free-will offering, they offer up lambs and sheep without blemish, such innocent creatures, providing the propitiatory image to us of the Temple.  Innocent blood is spilled as the first human act prior to the instatement of the ark in the Temple from Mount Zion, just as Christ’s blood was spilled prior to the Father and the Lamb’s entry into New Jerusalem from the Holy Hill of Zion.

Thus, v.6-8 sees the mediatory nature of the cherubim between us and the ark – as if acting as a barrier or a protection between us and the item which represents the holy Father (c.f. 2 Samuel 6:8, Uzzah’s death), His sent ones often acting on behalf of the Father to speak with us.  And in the extension of the poles into the Holy Place but not visible from the outside, so we also peer into the secrets of new creation as Christians standing in the Holy Catholic Church, represented by the Holy Place; yet only the Son who now stands in the Holy of Holies (Hebrews 8-9) is in the immediate and physical presence of the Father, compared to our present firstfruit yet dimness of the Father’s glory (1 Corinthians 13:12-13).

Finally, only once the ark has entered the Holy of Holies that the glory of the LORD, like a cloud, filled up the entire house (akin to Exodus 40, the establishment of the tabernacle).  Yet – it should be interesting to note the contrast between the author of Hebrews (chapter 9:4) and the author of 1 Kings.  It is specifically stated in v.9 that there is only the Mosaic tablets; yet what of the jar of manna and Aaron’s staff which the writer of Hebrews focuses on?  Some views on this matter:

But he says that the pot in which Moses had deposited the manna, and Aaron’s rod which had budded, were in the ark with the two tables; but this seems inconsistent with sacred history, which in 1 King s 8:9, relates that there was nothing in the ark but the two tables. But it is easy to reconcile these two passages: God had commanded the pot and Aaron’s rod to be laid up before the testimony; it is hence probable that they were deposited in the ark, together with the tables. But when the Temple was built, these things were arranged in a different order, and certain history relates it as a thing new that the ark had nothing else but the two tables.  – John Calvin

Though it may be due to the actual perspective and angle on viewing the items in and around the ark as John Calvin suggests (and depending on the time difference between what the writer of Hebrews understood to be in the ark and what was initially the case in 1 Kings 8), Matthew Henry visits the more spiritual reasoning behind these items:

This typified Christ, his perfect obedience to the law and his fulfilling of all righteousness for us. Now here we are told both what was in this ark and what was over it. [1.] What was in it. First, The golden pot that had manna, which, when preserved by the Israelites in their own houses, contrary to the command of God, presently putrefied; but now, being by God’s appointment deposited here in this house, was kept from putrefaction, always pure and sweet; and this to teach us that it is only in Christ that our persons, our graces, our performances are kept pure. It was also a type of the bread of life we have in Christ, the true ambrosia that gives immortality. This was also a memorial of God’s miraculously feeding his people in the wilderness, that they might never forget such signal favour, nor distrust God for the time to come. Secondly, Aaron’s rod that budded, and thereby showed that God had chosen him of the tribe of Levi to minister before him of all the tribes of Israel, and so an end was put to the murmuring of the people, and to their attempt to invade the priest’s office, Num. xvii. This was that rod of God with which Moses and Aaron wrought such wonders; and this was a type of Christ, who is styled the man, the branch (Zech. vi. 12), by whom God has wrought wonders for the spiritual deliverance, defence, and supply of his people, and for the destruction of their enemies. It was a type of divine justice, by which Christ the Rock was smitten, and from whom the cool refreshing waters of life flow into our souls. Thirdly, The tables of the covenant, in which the moral law was written, signifying the regard God has to the preservation of his holy law, and the care we all ought to have that we keep the law of God–that this we can only do in and through Christ, by strength from him nor can our obedience by accepted but through him. [2.] What was over the ark ( 5): Over it the cherubim of glory shadowing the mercy-seat. First, The mercy-seat, which was the covering of the ark; it was called the propitiatory, and it was of pure gold, as long and as broad as the ark in which the tables of the law were laid. It was an eminent type of Christ, and of his perfect righteousness, ever adequate to the dimensions of the law of God, and covering all our transgressions, interposing between the Shechinah, or symbol of God’s presence, and our sinful failures, and covering them. Secondly, The cherubim of glory shadowing the mercy-seat, representing the holy angels of God, who take pleasure in looking into the great work of our redemption by Christ, and are ready to perform every good office, under the Redeemer, for those who are the heirs of salvation. The angels attended Christ at his birth, in his temptation, under his agonies, at his resurrection, and in his ascension, and will attend his second coming. God manifest in the flesh was seen, observed, visited, by the angels.  – Matthew Henry

Yet, what I find fascinating is that all three items, the branch of Aaron (Numbers 17), the manna (Exodus 16), and the two tablets (Exodus 32-34) renewed are all sources of Israel’s shame, rather than Israel’s pride.  Their rebellion against God in all three circumstances remind us of the Father’s judgment; and rightly the three items represent three key events in Israel’s history, prior to their entry into the Promised Land and securing Moriah for Christ’s fulfillment, which prophesy the stripping down of Israel to her knees in anticipation of the Messiah who is the firstfruit, the bread of life, and the fulfillment of the New Covenant.  It is unimportant at what stage the Hebrews writer saw the three items in the Temple, whether it is in the construction of the Temple in 1 Kings 8, or whether some period further on – the key unshakeable understanding here is the sin of Israel cast within and under the very mercy seat of the ark of covenant, highlighting the Father’s mercy towards Israel, but not without the blood of sacrifice first.

Hence v.10-11 remind us that the cloud of the LORD is used as a veil and a protective covering (Psalm 105:38), just like the pillar of fire by night.  Yet, both rain of clouds and fire of the pillar are emblems of the first Noahic judgment and the coming global judgment of the world.  It is in this joint imagery of Temple establishment and impressive but bloody sacrificial offering of the innocent; mercy seat and Israel’s shame; and finally the cloud of the LORD (c.f. 2 Samuel 22:12; Psalm 18:11; compared against the pillar of fire) that we see a grander picture of the seemingly paradoxical ways of the LORD in uniting these dichotomies together under the name of Christ.

12(Q) Then Solomon said, “The LORD[a] has said that he would dwell(R) in thick darkness. 13(S) I have indeed built you an exalted house,(T) a place for you to dwell in forever.” 14Then the king turned around and(U) blessed all the assembly of Israel, while all the assembly of Israel stood. 15And he said,(V) “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who with his hand has fulfilled(W) what he promised with his mouth to David my father, saying, 16(X) ‘Since the day that I brought my people Israel out of Egypt, I chose no city out of all the tribes of Israel in which to build a house,(Y) that my name might be there.(Z) But I chose David to be over my people Israel.’ 17(AA) Now it was in the heart of David my father to build a house for the name of the LORD, the God of Israel. 18But the LORD said to David my father, ‘Whereas it was in your heart to build a house for my name, you did well that it was in your heart. 19(AB) Nevertheless, you shall not build the house, but your son who shall be born to you shall build the house for my name.’ 20Now the LORD has fulfilled his promise that he made. For I have risen in the place of David my father, and sit on the throne of Israel,(AC) as the LORD promised, and I have built the house for the name of the LORD, the God of Israel. 21And there I have provided a place for the ark,(AD) in which is the covenant of the LORD that he made with our fathers, when he brought them out of the land of Egypt.”

It is also interesting to witness Solomon’s thinking here – does he really believe that the LORD who dwells in such dread-inducing, awesome but fearful thick darkness (Isaiah 8:22; 60:2; Zephaniah 1:15) will truly dwell in this man-made house?  Of course not (see v.27).  It is entirely the mercy of the LORD’s and the outward pouring love between the Father and the Son (John 17) that the Father comes to dwell with us after the Son’s first humiliation.  Yet in the day that the Father dwells with us, He shall no longer be the very same darkness which plagued the land in Christ’s death (Acts 2:20); rather, He shall be the everlasting light (Revelation 22:5).  Even the very Hebrew phrasing of v.20 here, “Now the LORD has fulfilled his promise that he made” is better fitted if we were faithful to the verb quwm (יקם) which suggests that the LORD is arising / accomplishing this very promise that he made, but it is not necessarily already complete or fulfilled as the ESV indicates.

22Then Solomon(AE) stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the assembly of Israel and(AF) spread out his hands toward heaven, 23and said, “O LORD, God of Israel,(AG) there is no God like you, in heaven above or on earth beneath,(AH) keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to your servants who walk before you with all their heart, 24who have kept with your servant David my father what you declared to him.(AI) You spoke with your mouth, and with your hand have fulfilled it this day. 25Now therefore, O LORD, God of Israel, keep for your servant David my father what you have promised him, saying,(AJ) ‘You shall not lack a man to sit before me on the throne of Israel, if only your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me as you have walked before me.’ 26(AK) Now therefore, O God of Israel, let your word be confirmed, which you have spoken to your servant David my father.

What we then see is a picture of humility, the bookends of this doctrinal prayer and plea beginning in v.22 and ending in v.54, the transition from Solomon standing before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, with hands widespread toward heaven, to kneeling with hands outstretched toward heaven.  Here is the mark of the man who begs for the LORD’s acceptance of the Temple – a man who seeks the LORD’s mercy and His Presence to grace the Temple, for the Temple is nothing without His Presence.  Like Moses whose arms and hands were spread during battle (Exodus 17:9-13), so also Solomon’s plea is one of weakness in the shape of Christ on the cross, arms widespread and entirely vulnerable to the Father’s will (and man’s abuse):

“For it was not without design that the prophet Moses, when Hur and Aaron upheld his hands, remained in this form until evening. For indeed the Lord remained upon the tree almost until evening, and they buried Him at eventide; then on the third day He rose again. This was declared by David thus: ‘With my voice I cried to the Lord, and He heard me out of His holy hill. I laid me down, and slept; I awaked, for the Lord sustained me.’ (Psalm 3:4-5) And Isaiah likewise mentions concerning Him the manner in which He would die, thus: ‘I have spread out My hands unto a people disobedient, and gainsaying, that walk in a way which is not good.’(Isa. lxv. 2; comp. also Rom. x. 21.) And that He would rise again, Isaiah himself said: ‘His burial has been taken away from the midst, and I will give the rich for His death.’ (Isa. liii. 9.) And again, in other words, David in the twenty-first (That is, Ps. xxii. 16–18.) Psalm thus refers to the suffering and to the cross in a parable of mystery: ‘They pierced my hands and my feet; they counted all my bones. They considered and gazed on me; they parted my garments among themselves, and cast lots upon my vesture.’ For when they crucified Him, driving in the nails, they pierced His hands248 and feet; and those who crucified Him parted His garments among themselves, each casting lots for what he chose to have, and receiving according to the decision of the lot. And this very Psalm you maintain does not refer to Christ; for you are in all respects blind, and do not understand that no one in your nation who has been called King or Christ has ever had his hands or feet pierced while alive, or has died in this mysterious fashion—to wit, by the cross—save this Jesus alone.” – Justin Martyr in “Dialogue with Trypho”, Chapter XCVII.—Other predictions of the cross of Christ.

Solomon rightly states that there is only one LORD in heaven and on earth who keeps covenants – all other “gods” are lifeless, and dead, non-responsive and unable to fulfill promises, testament to Elijah’s battle with the false prophets (1 Kings 18:36-39).  Such is the LORD who fulfills promises, the LORD of David (v.25-26), the second king of Israel who never saw the Temple built, just as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob looked forward to the day of the Messiah’s work on the cross, seeing it by the Spirit but long after they have fallen asleep (John 8:56).  What is Solomon’s mentality when the LORD promised David these things?  On what basis did David “pay close attention to his way” when walking before the LORD as an example to the later kings?  Surely this murderer of Uriah, adulterer with Bathsheba, passive contributor to the abuse of Tamar, among several other chronicled sins of his life marks him as perhaps even worse than Saul whose greatest sin seems to have been the unfounded persecution of David?

Yet, it is not David’s own righteousness which Solomon understands.  It is the LORD’s righteousness which David inherits; for David did not cease his pursuit of the LORD in spite of his life marred with sin.  David need only walk with the LORD, walking in the footsteps of the faith of our father Abraham (Romans 4:12), walking according to the Spirit (Romans 8:4; Galatians 5:16, 25), walking by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7), walking in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us (Ephesians 5:2), walking in Christ (Colossians 2:6), in the light (1 John 1:7).  David had walked in Christ, experienced the mercy of Christ the Angel at the field of Araunah (2 Samuel 24:16), the second LORD of David’s worship (Psalm 110), the Son who should not be denied (Psalm 2) – this is the way in which David walked.  So, too, will we be fellow heirs of the Father’s kingdom if we walk in Christ.

27“But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold,(AL) heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built! 28Yet have regard to the prayer of your servant and to his plea, O LORD my God, listening to the cry and to the prayer that your servant prays before you this day, 29(AM) that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which you have said,(AN) ‘My name shall be there,’ that you may listen to the prayer that your servant offers toward this place. 30And listen to the plea of your servant and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. And listen in heaven your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.

And what we find in v.27-30 is also very profound.  Despite the Pharisees take on the Temple, Solomon, the builder of the Temple himself acknowledged that the man-made Temple cannot possibly contain God!  “But will God indeed dwell on earth?”, Solomon proclaimed (v.27)!  Yet, note his please in v.28-30 – this is a plea of mercy, a place of worship, a place where His name, Christ, will be there (Acts 19:17).  So also this dwelling is prophesied in Ezekiel 37:27, finally fulfilled in new creation (Revelation 21:3) where the LORD’s true dwelling place is with man and not simply to remain in third heaven.  So also, the LORD is man’s dwelling place (Psalm 91:9), the beauty of this mutual indwelling phrased by Paul in Ephesians 2:19-21, where the whole structure of the church is joined together, growing into a holy temple of the LORD; and in Him, we are built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.  Thus, in these times of end days we are growing into that eschatological Temple, the new creation dwelling where both God and man shall dwell forever.  And His Name shall be there – Christ shall be there, through Whom we experience the Spirit and the Father in fullness.

Upon noting Solomon and the saints’ Christological take of the true meaning of “God’s dwelling”, the portion of the plea and prayer in v.31-53 outlines Solomon’s thinking based on his theology of God’s merciful dwelling in relation to this symbolic house:

Summary Verses
“swears oath before your altar in this house… hear in heaven… and act and judge and condemn and vindicate and reward” 31-32
“turn to your name, pray and plead with you in this house… hear in heaven… and forgive and bring them to the land that you gave” 33-34
“pray toward this place… hear in heaven… and forgive, and teach, and grant rain upon your land which you have given to your people as an inheritance” 35-36
“plea…stretching out his hands toward this house… hear in heaven your dwelling place… and forgive, and act, and render, in the land that you gave 37-40
“pray towards this house… hear in heaven your dwelling place… and do so all may know your name” 41-43
“pray toward the city that you have chosen/house built for your name…” then  “hear in heaven…and maintain their cause” 44-45
“pray toward their land which you gave to their fathers, the city which you have chosen, the house that I have built…” 46-48
Then “hear in heaven your dwelling place… maintain their cause… forgive… grant them compassion… (they are your people, your heritage, from the midst of the iron furnace)… open your eyes, give your ears… you separated them when you brought out fathers out of Egypt” 49-53

A quick summary provides us with such important details which build upon each other – the first few statements which reveal that the Israelites are now to swear bear the altar of the house, turning to His name and praying in the house, praying toward the house, praying toward the city where the house is built, praying toward the land – all in the name of the Saviour of Israel during the great exodus.  As Solomon zooms out from the altar (v.31-32) to the land  (v.48), we begin to see that this house is symbolic of the salvation of Israel, of the elected church in the Elect Christ, so powerfully demonstrated by the Angel’s guidance out of Egypt through the pillar of cloud and fire.  For such salvation extends from personal and intimate, to the congregate (c.f. Joshua 7 – sin of Achan), and it is through this house as a medium that the LORD hears, even in the midst of the iron furnace of the refiner’s fire (Revelation 3:18).

One wonders – why must it be done through this Temple?  For Christ is the true Temple (John 2:19), in Whom we dwell and through Whom the mutual indwelling of the Trinity and us could be finally effectuated.  Yet, in the day of Christ, the Temple has lost its significance.  Rather than a house of invitation, it became a house of rejection; rather than a house of the priesthood of nation of nations, it became a house of isolation.  Solomon prayed over the house, that the LORD may mercifully use it as a typological medium between Him and man; yet Solomon, like the Christian saints before him, knew that the true medium, or better yet, Mediator, is the Anointed and Appointed Son and Lamb who will help build the new kingdom (2 Samuel 7) and take our sins away (Genesis 22) like a lamb to the slaughter (Isaiah 53:7).

54(BN) Now as Solomon finished offering all this prayer and plea to the LORD, he arose from before the altar of the LORD, where he had(BO) knelt with hands outstretched toward heaven. 55And he stood and(BP) blessed all the assembly of Israel with a loud voice, saying, 56“Blessed be the LORD who has given rest to his people Israel, according to all that he promised.(BQ) Not one word has failed of all his good promise, which he spoke by Moses his servant. 57The LORD our God be with us, as he was with our fathers.(BR) May he not leave us or forsake us, 58that he may(BS) incline our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments, his statutes, and his rules, which he commanded our fathers. 59Let these words of mine, with which I have pleaded before the LORD, be near to the LORD our God day and night, and may he maintain the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel, as each day requires, 60that(BT) all the peoples of the earth may know that(BU) the LORD is God; there is no other. 61(BV) Let your heart therefore be wholly true to the LORD our God, walking in his statutes and keeping his commandments, as at this day.”

And what confidence Solomon has, in the LORD whose promises have never failed (v.56) spoken by Moses his servant; the LORD who inclines our hearts to him (v.58), He who renews us to life beyond our own volition for we are but living corpses (Ezekiel 37).  This is the House of the LORD, the House through which (and as a type of the “through Whom”) all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God, [that] there is no other (v.60)!

62(BW) Then(BX) the king, and all Israel with him, offered sacrifice before the LORD. 63Solomon offered as peace offerings to the LORD 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep. So the king and all the people of Israel dedicated the house of the LORD. 64The same day the king consecrated the middle of the court that was before the house of the LORD, for there he offered the burnt offering and the grain offering and the fat pieces of the peace offerings, because(BY) the bronze altar that was before the LORD was too small to receive the burnt offering and the grain offering and the fat pieces of the peace offerings.

This chapter thus ends beautifully with v.62-66 – by the peace offering (or better described as the fellowship offering as per the NIV translation of Leviticus 3):

“Of course, we learn much about Jesus through the peace offering, and something about the worshipper as well.  The worshipper should give the best portions to the LORD in response to his initiating love for us; yet this “best portion” business stems from Christ offering the best of himself to the LORD.  It is the Christ who, as a male young and without blemish, in the prime of his life (~30 years old), who offered himself willingly and voluntarily to appease the wrath of Himself and of His Father against sin and sinner.  This offering is one that is given wholeheartedly, expressed through the message of giving the “best portion” of the sacrifice to the LORD…

Eating the offering and the Holy Communion

On the point about eating the offering, the person sacrificing the animal is shown to be allowed to invite brethren to enjoy the meat at the tabernacle in the presence of the Seen God in the Holy of Holies.  This is the reason why I think ‘fellowship’ offering is far better than relying on the ESV translation of ‘peace’ offering – because there is now an image of the smaller fellowships of Israel congregating outside the tabernacle, having their self-sacrificial meal with the LORD.

This message is quite profound.  Unlike the last two burnt and grain offerings; and the following two concerning sin and guilt offering, the voluntariness and the grounded nature of this offering points to the importance of this offering is a natural outshoot of our Christian lifestyle.  Do we want to enjoy our fellowship with God, or do we want to go to ‘heaven’ where God does not preside (i.e. the Islamic heaven)?  Do we want to eat with God, or do we want to make God our omnipotent genie?

The fellowship offering therefore points towards the Marriage Feast of the Lamb in Revelation 19:6-9 – we will take part in consuming from the same table which the LORD eats; we will take part in consuming from the same food which the LORD partakes.

There is only one time that the fellowship offering is made compulsory, which is the Feast of Pentecost mentioned earlier in Exodus and later in Leviticus 23.  I have already spoken that the Feast is one which prophesies the coming of the Holy Spirit, and is a clear expression of the forward looking hope of New Creation – and there is no doubt that this fellowship offering speaks the same message of the Marriage Feast with the LORD which even Exodus 24, the manna, and the bread of presence merely point towards.

As application: the fellowship offering as we know it should be a time of spiritual intimacy and further bonding within the family (Deuteronomy 12:7):

7And(A) there you shall eat before the LORD your God, and(B) you shall rejoice, you and your households, in all that you undertake, in which the LORD your God has blessed you.

and Jude 12:

12These are hidden reefs[a](A) at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear,(B) shepherds feeding themselves;(C) waterless clouds,(D) swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead,(E) uprooted…

May we try and understand the utter importance of the Holy Communion and that though it is a physical manifestation of the spiritual truth, our LORD isn’t only Spirit, but he is also MAN – and he will come down to eat with us in New Jerusalem in physical form, just as we partake the meal with him in our physical bodies.” – from my commentary on Leviticus 3.

This is but the description of the fulsome peace/fellowship offering; not to mention the consecration of the area in the court, beyond that of the altar, for more burnt and grain offering!  So beautiful is the typology of the Temple and Solomon’s understanding of the Temple’s symbolic use that he does not stick to hard religion and understands that all ground can be holy, for the purpose of heart-felt sacrifice which no man-made altar could contain; such is the overflowing mutual love which Christ had hoped from His church (John 17:26), and now we see one of the rarer occasions where this is fulfilled in the Old Testament.  And to emphasise this as as an offering of fellowship rather than merely that of peace, note v.65 onwards:

65So Solomon held(BZ) the feast at that time, and all Israel with him, a great assembly, from(CA) Lebo-hamath to(CB) the Brook of Egypt, before the LORD our God, seven days.[c] 66On the eighth day he sent the people away, and they blessed the king and went to their homes joyful and glad of heart for all the goodness that the LORD had shown to David his servant and to Israel his people.

Can one imagine how glorious this image is, that of the holy golden Temple and House of the LORD taking the central typological stage where the church of Christ stands in relation to this House – a great assembly (להָקָ qel), the Hebrew word for the Greek equivalent of church in the NT (a great ekklesia,εκκλησια μεγαλη” c.f. LXX translation of 1 Kings 8:65), a full seven on seven days of worship (c.f. LXX which has two weeks, as opposed to one week, of celebration) of the feast of tabernacles, and rejoicing looking to the eighth day of true renewal after the seventh day of Sabbath:

“The command of circumcision, again, bidding [them] always circumcise the children on the eighth day, was a type of the true circumcision, by which we are circumcised from deceit and iniquity through Him who rose from the dead on the first day after the Sabbath, [namely through] our Lord Jesus Christ. For the first day after the Sabbath, remaining the first2061 of all the days, is called, however, the eighth, according to the number of all the days of the cycle, and [yet] remains the first.” – Justin Martyr’s “Dialogue with Trypho”, Chapter XLI.—The oblation of fine flour was a figure of the Eucharist.

In the words of Matthew Henry whereby “Solomon was herein a type of Christ, the great intercessor for all over whom he rules”, both him and Adam Clarke agree in the LXX interpretation of these final verses, that there is a feast lasting fourteen days (v.65) of the feast of tabernacles after the feast of dedication.  What beauty it is to see this joyful feast in relation to the Temple’s replacement of the tabernacle, both after the model of God’s design, both typifying Christ’s work from the Holy Place entering the Holy of Holies, as we await His glorious return from before the veil and the doors separating between us and the Father, finally and truly ripping this veil apart where we will see the Father face-to-face, and have true fellowship with the Trinity.

1 Kings 8: the House of the LORD (pt. 3)

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