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The Temple of the Lord

by Feb 5, 2024Friar Reflection

Did the first reading for today make you feel like you were dropped into the middle of a movie and you want to lean over to your friend and ask, “What’s going on?” The reading is from the 1st Book of Kings and describes a key event in the history of ancient Israel. King David wanted to build a “house” (temple, tabernacle) for the Lord, but instead God promised to build David a “house” (dynasty from which would come the Messiah). Nonetheless, King David brought the Ark of the Covenant (but not the Tent of Meeting which was still in Gibeon) to Jerusalem (1 Chron 5). There he built a “tent” to house the Ark (1 Chron 21). The building of the “house” (permanent Tent of Meeting – we know as the Jerusalem Temple) was left to David’s son King Solomon. The plans for the Temple are described in 1 Chronicles 22-28, but the construction and dedication of the Temple is one of the major topics of 2 Chronicles. And by the way, Kings and Chronicles overlap on the story line with Chronicle providing more details and information about some events.

One more detail: the reading describes King Solomon bringing “the ark of the LORD’s covenant from the City of David, which is Zion” to Jerusalem. You might be asking yourself, “Isn’t that the same thing?” What we know as Jerusalem consists of a number of hills all near each other. King David conquered the Jebusite fortress on one hill (Zion) which then became known as “the city of David.” The Temple that Solomon built was located on a different higher hill. And so, the Ark of the Covenant is being relocated from Zion to the newly constructed Temple. All this is described in far greater detail in 2 Chron 6.

In this simple reading, the great symbols of God’s freeing the people from slavery in Egypt, the Ark and the Tent of Meeting, are finally together again.  The Glory of the Lord has filled the Temple just as the Glory did long ago in the wilderness of Sinai. Then Solomon said, “The LORD intends to dwell in the dark cloud;…a dwelling where you may abide forever.” Of course, that doesn’t happen because of the sins of the people. Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed in 586 BC by the Babylonians. The Prophet Ezekiel has a vision of the Glory of the Lord leaving the Temple. But that is not the end of the story.

And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14) The word “dwelling” is more accurately translated as “tent.” In the person of Jesus Christ, the glory of the Lord has returned, the Tent of Meeting is re-established, not in a building, but in Jesus. Jesus is the new Temple – and as the writers of the New Testament witness, we are given the Spirit of the Lord so that we, together, will be living stones, the Church, the Temple, where the glory of the Lord resides

The apostle Paul writes, “do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you” (1 Cor. 6:19-20). At face value, this could be mistaken as an individualistic idea, and that is often how many modern Jesus followers are introduced to this passage. However, in English, we don’t have a grammatically correct way to differentiate between a singular “you” and a plural “you all.” All of the “yous” in this text are actually second-person plurals. That means we should read Paul’s words as, “y’all’s body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.”

The Prophet Isaiah wrote about the people and the Temple “on the hill” being a light to the world that draws all people to the Lord. The Temple is no longer, but the people are still called to draw people to the Lord to be that light to the world – because y’all are that Temple that the world needs.

Question is: are you letting the glory of the Lord shine from your Temple into the world?

Image credit: Architectural model of the temple of King Solomon in Jerusalem (after a design by Thomas Newberry) | Metropolitan Museum of Art NYC | PD