June 29, 2010 David Balzer

2 Chronicles 1-9: Solomon and the Temple

What things do you have CONFIDENCE in?  I’m reasonably confident with most handyman jobs around the house. Building. Carpentry. Painting. Gyprocking. Hanging pictures. Building shelves and furniture.

But my confidence finishes at the driveway. Anything under the bonnet of a car is a mystery to me. I’ve got no confidence at all. I guess a lot of that comes from my Dad. He did most of those handyman jobs as well. But he had no idea about cars. So I never worked on them.

But at least part of my lack of confidence / comes from the time I tried to change the oil in my first car. A 1972 Mitsubishi Galant. I unscrewed the plug at the bottom of what I THOUGHT was the sump. Drained the oil. And then poured the new oil in at the top. “That was pretty easy!” I thought to myself.

Although I did wonder at the time why I didn’t have to replace much oil. Until I was halfway down the motorway from Gosford to Sydney. And the gearbox seized up.

I’d drained the gearbox instead of the engine!

And I’ve never had much confidence in cars since then.

What things do YOU have confidence in?

Or what about when it comes to God? What gives you the confidence to approach God? To pray?. On what basis do you think he’d be mildly interested in what you’ve got to say?

Is it confidence that’s got something to do with YOU? Or confidence in WHO GOD IS?

And before answer too quickly, think about this. How many of you are reluctant to pray. When you’ve just yelled at the driver who cut in on you? Or you’ve had a fight with your husband or wife? Or you’ve fallen into that sin you’ve been trying to get on top of for ages? And you think “I won’t pray at the moment. I’ll just wait a few hours, or until tomorrow.”

If that’s ever happened to you. Then at least some of your confidence in standing before God comes from YOURSELF. Rather than God. In who he is. And what he’s promised.

And ultimately that’s a pretty shaky reason to be confident. Like trusting ME to be able to fix your car.

What if you were King Solomon? How would you feel if you were him? And you were about to start building the temple? Where would your confidence lie?

Your father, King David had spent the last part of his life setting it all up for you. Stockpiling materials. Organising labourers. Going over the plans with you. Making sure you understood everything.

You’ve got the riches. The connections. The education. The family. The political stability. The approval of everyone around you. Plenty of reasons to feel pretty confident about things.

In fact, Solomon probably had more reasons to feel confident, from a human perspective, than any other person in history. And yet he doesn’t trust in ANY of it. He knows that it’s always going to be God’s decision whether he succeeds. Everything he does is based on WHO GOD IS. And WHAT HE’S PROMISED Solomon.

And if you think about those first readers of Chronicles. Back in 450 BC. Sitting among the ruins of Jerusalem. Not much chance of trusting in riches. Or temples. Or kings. Or sacrifices. Because they didn’t HAVE any of that. And so all they COULD do/ was to cling to God, and the things he’d promised. It was God who was the reason they could confidently pray. And it was only because of him/ that they could see ANY hope for the future.

And the message to us is the same. As magnificent as the temple was. As spectacularly wealthy and wise as Solomon was. As popular and well-liked as he was. None of those things can give US any confidence before God.

And that’s a lesson the world out THERE needs to hear. Because it’s exactly those sorts of things that THEY’RE putting THEIR trust in.

It’s only God’s faithfulness to his promises. Seen in the and resurrection, and ascension of his Son, Jesus. That gives us the confidence to PRAY. Or to believe that our sins are forgiven. Or to hope that there’s anything BEYOND this life.

As we read these chapters in 2 Chron, what we’ll see is that Solomon gets excited by GOD’s wisdom and glory and righteousness and approval and riches. Rather than anything that this world can offer him.

1. God’s wisdom– not man’s

And we see that right at the start of Ch 1. He’s got everything organised. It’s all ready for him to start. The PEOPLE are behind him. The MATERIALS are there. The WORKERS are waiting for his orders.

But despite it all. Solomon doesn’t PRESUME. In v6, he checks with God. He wants to make sure this is what God wants.

And then, v7, God says, “I’m with you. Ask for ANYTHING. And I’ll give it to you!”

Imagine that! It’s the genie in the bottle question. There’s a new Tim Tam ad on tele. Have you seen it? Three Aussie s wander into a middle eastern market. Looking for lamps. They finally find one with a genie. And when he asks them what they want. “A never-ending pack of Tim Tams”. And as they wander off munching their Tim Tams, the genie says to the shopkeeper “Strange Aussies!”

What would WE say if someone said to US “Ask for anything, and I’ll give it to you”? There are probably lots of things we’d be tempted to ask for. But look at what Solomon says. V10

(2 Chr 1:10 NIV)  Give me WISDOM and KNOWLEDGE, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?”

As smart as Solomon was/ he knew that by himself he wasn’t up to the task. Above anything else, Solomon knows he’s going to need GOD’S wisdom.

And God agrees. And then throws in riches as well. V11

(2 Chr 1:11-12 NIV)  God said to Solomon, “Since this is your heart’s desire and you have not asked for wealth, riches or honor, nor for the of your enemies, and since you have not asked for a long life but for wisdom and knowledge to govern my people over whom I have made you king, {12} therefore wisdom and knowledge will be given you. And I will also give you wealth, riches and honor, such as no king who was before you ever had and none after you will have.”

Seek God’s priorities first. And he will look after you. That’s a lesson that Solomon’s greatest descendant ALSO knew. Jesus. In the Sermon on the Mount. Mt 6:33.

(Mat 6:31-34 NIV)  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ {32} For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. {33} But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. {34} Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

As I was thinking about Solomon this week. It’s amazing how many parallels there are between the lessons HE Learned. And the lessons Jesus taught 900 years later. And we’ll look at a few more.

Lesson one. Trust God’s wisdom. Not your own. Look for God’s way of doing things. Not what YOU reckon.

2. God’s glory– not the temple’s

And so Solomon gets to work. And even though the temple’s going to be magnificent. And even though he’s totally committed to the task. He still keeps some perspective. Look at what he says about the temple. It’s in Ch 2 v5.

(2 Chr 2:5-6 NIV)  “The temple I am going to build will be great, because our God is greater than all other gods. {6} But who is able to build a temple for him, since the heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain him? Who then am I to build a temple for him, except as a place to burn sacrifices before him?

You see, even though the temple’s going to be great. Solomon doesn’t put his confidence in THAT. And even though Solomon himself is the greatest man alive, he doesn’t put his confidence in that either.

It’s the glory of GOD. Not the glory of the temple. THAT’S what’s important. God’s too huge. And too important. And too powerful to actually live in a temple. No matter HOW special it is. THAT’S THE GOD Solomon’s serving.

So what’s the point of the temple? It’s magnificent because God’s magnificent. But it’s not the TEMPLE ITSELF that Solomon puts his trust in. The temple’s just a convenient place to offer sacrifices. Convenient for PEOPLE. To help them focus on the one who’s more important than the glorious temple.

And Chapters 3 and 4 describe what the temple’s like. And it IS magnificent. There’s gold everywhere. Beautiful material for the curtains. Finely decorated pillars and walls and doors and beams. There’s a bronze altar that’s 9 m long and 9 m wide. That’s room for a pretty big BBQ! And a huge circular pool for the priests to wash in. It was about 4½ m in diameter.

And then there was the equipment. There were basins for washing, and lamp-stands, and tables, and gold sprinkling bowls, and pots and shovels, and meat forks, and dishes and wick trimmers, and censers.

And then to top it all off, Solomon brought in all the treasure King David had collected in his battles. And brought all THAT in. And put it in the temple treasury. That’s Ch 5 v1.

That’s a pretty glorious temple. … But that’s NOTHING compared to the glory that’s about to come.

In Ch 5, Solomon and all the people bring the Ark of the Covenant into the temple. And finally, after all these years. The Ark is where it belongs. Not in a tent. Not in someone’s house. Not passed from one person to the next like a hot potato. But in the centre of the temple. In the centre of Jerusalem. In the centre of Israel. Because that’s where GOD deserves to be.

And what does everyone think about that? Look at Ch 5 v13. They sing and play their instruments. They PRAISE GOD.

And as GLORIOUS as the singing might be. And as GLORIOUS as the temple is. None of it was could hold a CANDLE to what happened next. The end of v13.

(2 Chr 5:13-14 NIV) … Then the temple of the LORD was filled with a cloud, {14} and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for THE GLORY OF THE LORD filled the temple of God. 6:1 Then Solomon said, “The LORD has said that he would dwell in a dark cloud;

And even though the highest heavens couldn’t contain God. God came to dwell in his temple. Well, at least HIS GLORY CLOUD did. It was the cloud that REPRESENTED him. It was a sign that God would be taking a special interest in the temple. The sign that the God who made the Universe was focusing his attention on this tiny part of it. This would be the one place where people could do business with God.

And that’s far more glorious than the temple EVER was. And Solomon recognises it.Ch 6 v2.

(2 Chr 6:2 NIV)  I have built a magnificent temple (yes. Very nice. But here’s the important bit) It’s FOR YOU, A PLACE FOR YOU TO DWELL FOREVER.”

So what is Solomon confident in? God’s wisdom, not man’s. And God’s glory, not the temple’s.

3. God’s righteousness– not man’s

And thirdly, he recognises that it’s God’s righteousness, not man’s / that’s worth putting your trust in. And you can see that from what he does in v12.

(2 Chr 6:12-13 NIV)  Then Solomon STOOD before the altar of the LORD IN FRONT OF THE WHOLE ASSEMBLY OF ISRAEL and OUT HIS HANDS. {13} Now he had made A BRONZE PLATFORM, five cubits long, five cubits wide and three cubits high, and had placed it in the center of the outer court.

You’d think that if anyone has a reason to hold his head high. It would be Solomon. The project of a lifetime just finished. His adoring people watching and cheering his every move. God’s put the icing on the cake by coming in his glory cloud. And filling the temple. It’s enough to make Solomon stop for a moment and soak up the adulation. But does he do that? No. Because he knows there’s nothing about him that’s worth being proud about.

He’s up on the stage. Arms out. Everyone can see him. The exalted place for the exalted king at the exalted moment. And what does he do? V13. He

(2 Chr 6:13 NIV)  …knelt down before the whole assembly of Israel and out his hands toward heaven.

He knelt down and prayed! How extraordinary! And he’s sending a message. Even before he starts praying. “This is where mankind DESERVES to be. Even me. On my knees before the mighty God of the Universe. He’s the One who’s righteous. Not us.”

And you can see that from his prayer. He prays that God might pay attention to people when they pray at the temple. And one of his big themes is that God would FORGIVE. Because that’s what people need the most.

v21 …Hear from heaven, your dwelling place; and when you hear, FORGIVE.

v25 then hear from heaven and FORGIVE the sin of your people Israel

v27 then hear from heaven and FORGIVE the sin of your servants,

v30 then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Forgive, and deal with each man according to all he does,

v39 then from heaven, your dwelling place, hear their prayer and their pleas, and uphold their cause. And FORGIVE your people, who have sinned against you.

Forgiveness is what people need most. Because no-one DESERVES God’s attention. Solomon knows that. V36 says

(2 Chr 6:36 NIV)  “When they sin against you–for there is no one who does not sin”

And it’s what the whole temple system was designed to reinforce. How far away people are from God. The sacrifices. The need for ceremonial cleansing. The barriers. And the doors. God is a holy God. And no-one can be confident before him based on their own goodness.

Solomon knows it. And that’s why he trust God’s righteousness. Not his own. And, again, it’s the same lesson Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount. This time Mt 5:20.

(Mat 5:20 NIV)  For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Only 100% is the pass mark!)

4. God’s approval – not man’s

And in Ch 7 we see the NEXT part of Solomon’s confidence. He looks for GOD’S approval. Not MAN’S. God sends fire from heaven. His endorsement of Solomon’s prayer. Not because Solomon is perfect. But because he recognises where his confidence SHOULD lie. In the righteousness and approval of God.

And if we flip over to Ch 9, we can see the sort of temptation Solomon’s up against. The temptation to look for the approval of OTHERS rather than God.

Because the Queen of Sheba comes visiting. Gorgeous. Exotic. Rich. And she’s INTERESTED in Solomon. Asking questions. And she FLATTERS him. Ch 9 v5 “I’d heard you were wise and rich. But that was nothing on what I’ve seen. You’re even BETTER than that! How happy people who work for you must be!”

Now it would be easy for that sort of attention to go to your head, wouldn’t it? But look at what the Queen says next. She hits the nail on the head. V8.

(2 Chr 9:8 NIV)  Praise be to the LORD your God, WHO HAS DELIGHTED IN YOU and placed you on his throne as king to rule for the LORD your God. Because of the love of your God for Israel and his desire to uphold them forever, he has made you king over them, to maintain justice and righteousness.”

Solomon seeks the things of God, rather than people. Because none of that stuff lasts. God’s approval. Not men’s. That’s what’s important.

And once again, Jesus teaches that lesson, too. Mt 6:5.

(Mat 6:5-6 NIV)  “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners TO BE SEEN BY MEN. I tell you the truth, THEY HAVE RECEIVED THEIR REWARD IN FULL. {6} But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. THEN YOUR FATHER, WHO SEES WHAT IS DONE IN SECRET, WILL REWARD YOU.

5. God’s riches– not man’s

And now the story of Solomon’s winding to a close. We see his staggering wealth. His gold shield collection. Every utensil made from gold. Ivory. Even apes and baboons. V22

(2 Chr 9:22 NIV)  King Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth.

And down to v27

(2 Chr 9:27-28 NIV)  The king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stones, and cedar as plentiful as sycamore-fig trees in the foothills. {28} Solomon’s horses were imported from Egypt and from all other countries.

But if we’ve been paying attention, that should sound familiar. We already know all that. Right back at the start of Solomon’s story. Ch 1 v15

(2 Chr 1:15 NIV)  The king made silver and gold as common in Jerusalem as stones, and cedar as plentiful as sycamore-fig trees in the foothills.

So why mention it again? I think the writer’s making a point. Because look at what comes next. Ch 9 v 27

(2 Chr 9:27 NIV)  The king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stones, and cedar as plentiful as sycamore-fig trees in the foothills.

Then ch 9 v30.

(2 Chr 9:30-31 NIV)  Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel forty years. {31} Then he rested with his fathers and was buried in the city of David his father. And Rehoboam his son succeeded him as king.

All that wealth. And he still died. And he handed his throne over to Rehoboam. Who was wicked and stupid. And who ruined it all. But that’s just life (and ). Why trust in Man’s riches, when God’s riches are the only ones that last.

And once again, Jesus got it right when he said in Mt 6:19

(Mat 6:19-21 NIV)  “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. {20} But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. {21} For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Where is YOUR treasure? Where are YOUR riches? It’s foolishness to put your confidence in riches that RUST. How much better to put your confidence in riches in heaven. Trust God’s riches, not men’s.

Friends with God, through the of his Son, Jesus, on our behalf. That’s the way to riches with God. The only riches worth putting your confidence in. And that’s a lesson Solomon knew.

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