When I think about Solomon’s Temple, I think about God’s presence, ornate decorations, and highly formal worship rituals. I also think about how that temple was eventually destroyed and replaced by Herod’s Temple.
Reading the story, though, I realized that there was much more to it. Although the temple was blessed by God, what God said about it revealed much about faith and how Israel and we relate to the Lord.
Here’s the passage:
11 Thus Solomon finished the house of the Lord and the king’s house. All that Solomon had planned to do in the house of the Lord and in his own house he successfully accomplished. 12 Then the Lord appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. 13 When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, 14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. 16 For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time. 17 And as for you, if you will walk before me as David your father walked, doing according to all that I have commanded you and keeping my statutes and my rules, 18 then I will establish your royal throne, as I covenanted with David your father, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man to rule Israel.’
19 “But if you turn aside and forsake my statutes and my commandments that I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, 20 then I will pluck you up from my land that I have given you, and this house that I have consecrated for my name, I will cast out of my sight, and I will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples.21 And at this house, which was exalted, everyone passing by will be astonished and say, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this land and to this house?’ 22 Then they will say, ‘Because they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers who brought them out of the land of Egypt, and laid hold on other gods and worshiped them and served them. Therefore he has brought all this disaster on them.’”
– 2 Chronicles 7:11-22 (ESV)
That was a long passage, I admit. When I read this a while back, it was a single word, though, that stood out: “when” (verse 13).
The Deep Meaning in a Single Word
God told Solomon that his divine presence would be in the temple. He then followed this by talking about judgment, wrath, famine, and other dreary things. However, he didn’t say “if” these things would come, but “when” they come.
Think about that for a moment.
God told Solomon that Israel would be judged in that he would send drought, famine, and sickness to his people.
That seems harsh.
Solomon builds a beautiful temple, God blesses it, then says he’ll punish the people. Why? The answer lies in the entire passage (hence the reason God led me to read it all).
By saying “when,” God is telling Solomon that despite the temple’s existence, he knew that the people would rebel. He was fully aware that the people he chose (cf. Isa 41:9) would turn against him and worship false gods and adopt other philosophies. Thus, he would judge them when they do.
However, check out what God says next.
After promising to send famine and pestilence as punishment for sin, he is not doing this out of malice or vengeance. Rather, he will judge them in order to motivate his people to turn back to him.
God promises that if his people turn from their sin (i.e., repent), then he will not only forgive their sin, he will also restore their land. This is followed by warnings and cautions intended to keep the people from falling away, even though God knows they will.
Thus, I see at least two interesting dynamics in the word “when”:
- God’s sovereignty and our free will
- Judgment and restoration
God is sovereign. Things are never out of his control. God knows exactly what’s going to happen. Nevertheless, we are still able to choose to obey or sin, to follow him or rebel. That does not mean we usurp God’s authority or that things are out of his will. Rather, it indicates that God knows all, yet we still are free to choose.
I also see a clear contrast of judgment and restoration, sin and grace. God must–and will–punish sin. Evil will be judged. However, this punishment isn’t cruelty, but discipline. God promises to restore those who come back to him, repent of their sin, and earnestly seek the Lord.
To put it more succinctly, what God says is that the temple is a picture of our relationship with God. If we obey him, he will bless and care for us. If we sin, he will judge us; if we repent, he will restore us to himself.
So, what about us? We don’t have Solomon’s Temple. The principle still applies.
Bringing it Home
Although Solomon’s Temple is long gone, God still wants a relationship with us. Furthermore, the nature of that relationship is unchanged.
If we remain faithful to God, then he will remain faithful to us. If we rebel against him and sin, then he will judge us. If we repent of that sin, then we will be forgiven and restored to him.
The question, though, is how to remain faithful. God gave all sorts of warnings, so how do we keep the faith?
In the passage God deals with the past, the present, and the future. He reminds Israel of what he has done for them in the past, he encourages them to remain faithful in the present, and he tells then not to worry about the future.
We should do the same. Remember how God has helped you in the past. If you can’t think of something, think about how God helped someone else.
In light of that, we should be remain strong and trust God in the present. Just as he provided before, he can provide again. All we need to do is focus on obeying him each day.
Finally, we need not worry about what tomorrow will bring. It could be hardship, it could be great times of ease. Regardless, we can’t control the future, so we shouldn’t let it bring us down.