The Dignity of God’s House – Lessons From 1 Kings 8-98 min read
The Old Testament is filled with profound references to the house of God. For instance, we can look to Ezekiel and see the importance of making a “separation between the sanctuary and the profane place.” Or in Psalms we can read “we shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of thy holy temple” or “and in his temple doth every one speak of his glory.” Over an over again God reminds his earthly people, Israel, that His house is a place of dignity and honor; for one to worship God he had to do so with an understanding of the temple and its place. One especially profound reference in the Old Testament to the dignity of God’s dwelling place in in 1 Kings 8, which records the dedication of Solomon’s temple. It only speaks again in loud echoes “The Lord makes His dwelling place one of dignity!”
Dignity Defined By Its Worship
“And king Solomon, and all the congregation of Israel, that were assembled unto him, were with him before the ark, sacrificing sheep and oxen, that could not be told nor numbered for multitude.” In a later verse, it is recorded that 22,000 oxen were sacrificed as well as 120,000 sheep. That was definitely a record! But in Solomon’s mind it was only appropriate to do this, for the “Lord has performed His word that He spoke.” One could say he had an accurate view of worship before the work and presence of the Most High. This set the temple apart as dignified, because not only was it a means of communicating the worth of God but it was a place where God accepted worship since it was ordained by Himself. While worship is no longer confined to a specific place (John 4), we do see the assembly marked by it in the New Testament (1 Cor. 14 / Heb. 13:15). So then, just as Solomon understood the sacred nature of Israel’s worship, we too would do well to prize the assembly and its meetings since that too is a means of communicating God’s own worth. If we accept this, we really cannot deny the dignity of a local assembly, for God chooses to make it a main means of worship. We worship in our service. We worship in preaching the gospel. And we especially worship in the Breaking of Bread when we “do this in remembrance of” Him. It would be easy for us to lose sight of the value of these things, since they are spiritual in nature, while Solomon could actually see the glory of God; but the eye of faith would say “This is a place of dignity and great privilege: God must take pleasure the worship that goes on here.” Is this our conclusion?
Dignity Defined By Its Holiness
“I have hallowed this house, which thou hast built.” A similar idea as to the holiness of God’s house can be seen in Ezekiel 42. In just two verses, God mentions the word “holy” six times to emphasize the separation that existed between “the sanctuary and the profane place.” While this temple hasn’t been built yet, since it is prophetic, the principle doesn’t change, because we serve a God Whose holiness doesn’t change. Evidently this was a lesson the Corinthians needed to learn: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are [as an assembly].” (1 Cor. 3:16-17). Obviously the temple of God in the New Testament is just as dignified as the temple of God in the Old Testament. Is it so obvious to us? Or do we more closely reflect the attitudes of Nadab and Abihu who thought God’s holy presence could be mixed with the preferences of self? Let us beware of defiling God’s assembly: oh the horror of contaminating the place of His holiness!
Dignity Defined By God’s Presence
“And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the LORD, So that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of the LORD.” By the wording in the last phrase, it would almost seem the author assumed the intimate connection between the house of the Lord and the glory of the Lord – as if they were fitted for each other and belonged together. It was a very sad day when that glory departed on account of Israel’s rebellion. But while it still was theirs to enjoy, there was one thing that marked them: a deep sense of awe. Solomon expressed it this way: “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?” Does that kind of thankfulness mark us whenever we gather together with God’s people in assembly capacity? It is just as much ours to claim, for He promises “Where there are two or three gathered together unto My name, there am I in the midst.” Wonderful thing to be centered around the Saviour! Horror of horrors to lose sight of Him! The day when an assembly meeting becomes a social event or mere ritual will be a sad day indeed. We need to constantly examine why we go. Is it the Lord’s presence that draws us? When someone asks us why we love the assembly, should say “Why, because the Lord is there, of course!” The gathering of God’s people is one of dignity, and though we do not look for a physical and visible glory, it is still His presence. That is not a thing to take lightly.
Dignity Defined By God’s Intense Pleasure In and Deep Connection With It
“I have hallowed this house… mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually.”It is no wonder that when God addressed the failures of the nation in the prophets that He targeted contempt toward His house. He loved His temple! It was the place He constantly beheld, perhaps in both a sense of examination and a sense of pleasure: “My eyes will be there perpetually.” It was also the place of His dear affection: “My heart shall be there perpetually.” These expressions sound similar to the concepts with the seven churches of Revelation. Chapter 1 says “His eyes were as a flame of fire” in their constant penetrating gaze at what the churches were doing. And to the lukewarm church he says “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore and repent. Behold! I stand at the door and knock.” Imagine, both the heart and the eyes of the Saviour were burning with interest toward His assemblies! Evidently the promise to Solomon in regard to his temple is the same promise to us today. God finds intense pleasure in a local assembly. How can that not make it dignified? After all, what other place can really claim that in such a wicked world? When God is interested in and delighted by a certain group of people, we had better pay attention to that, because if God takes pleasure in it we must take pleasure in it. Can one honestly claim to love the Lord his God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength if he doesn’t even have a sensitivity toward what God Himself takes pleasure in? Paul in exhorting the Ephesian elders said they must be watchful in the assembly, and he gave this reason: it is the “assembly of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood.” Oh to grab hold of this!
Dignity Defined By the Name Associate With It
“The house which I have built for thy name… I [the Lord] have hallowed this house, which thou hast built, to put my name there forever.” God chose the temple to bear the standard of His name, that is, the expression of Who He is, what He is like, and the glory He deserves. We too are name-bearers in the assembly. Paul could write to the Corinthians as one of many assemblies that “call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.” He could also write to the Thessalonian assembly with a desire “that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you.” Each assembly is marked by a stewardship to uphold the truth of Who God is to the world. It is marked by authority that comes with His name. It is also marked with the honor that comes with His name. God says that His name and His Word are two of the things to be most highly revered. As an assembly, we have both entrusted to us. God would never be arbitrary in that decision; thus, the assembly must be a place of dignity in His eyes to mark us by such things. But the accountability must be tremendous, for adulteration of His name and His Word will never go without consequence. So then, we should feel privileged to be called to assembly fellowship, yet we should feel the weight of holding it in an appropriate sense of honor.
In light of all these things, what a grave mistake it would be to pretend the assembly is secondary – or even worse, pretend it exists to suit our preferences. It cannot be emphasized enough: God honors and values and dignifies the assembly. What a tragedy to lose this by making it about us! All of this, then, demands a response from us. It demands that we, in every way we can, treat the assembly as a place of honor: we must give it priority, faithfulness, professional behaviour, etc. It also demands we make God’s Word the sole prescription of our pattern, for the place of God’s dignity will only remain dignified when it is ordered in God’s way. It would be a paradox to say otherwise.