The Power of His Presence

Audio:

The world’s most expensive building is the Abraj Al Bait, located in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It is a government owned complex of seven skyscraper motels designed to cater to the Muslim pilgrims traveling to Mecca. The royal clock tower has the world’s largest clock tower. It cost, in American dollars, $15billion to construct. 

The second most expensive building is the Marina Bay Sands Skypark in Singapore. At a construction cost of US$5.50bn, Marina Bay Sans is the most expensive resort ever built. The construction consists of three connected 55 story towers and is situated in an area of 38 acres …  the world’s most expensive standalone casino.

The most expensive building in the US is the Apple Park campus in Cupertino, California. It is running upwards of 5 billion dollars to complete this year.

If the Great Pyramid were to be built today, it is estimated that it would cost about 1.3 billion US dollars. 

The temple of King Solomon probably didn’t measure up to these architectural wonders in many ways, but it was supreme over them in the most important way. Aside from legendary wealth, King Solomon had one thing he sought to emphasize in the building of the temple: the presence of God. 

1 Kings 8:1-13 Then King Solomon summoned into his presence at Jerusalem the elders of Israel, all the heads of the tribes and the chiefs of the Israelite families, to bring up the ark of the Lord’s covenant from Zion, the City of David.  … When all the elders of Israel had arrived, the priests took up the ark, and they brought up the ark of the Lord and the tent of meeting and all the sacred furnishings in it. The priests and Levites carried them up, and King Solomon and the entire assembly of Israel that had gathered about him were before the ark, sacrificing so many sheep and cattle that they could not be recorded or counted. The priests then brought the ark of the Lord’s covenant to its place in the inner sanctuary of the temple, the Most Holy Place, and put it beneath the wings of the cherubim. The cherubim spread their wings over the place of the ark and overshadowed the ark … There was nothing in the ark except the two stone tablets that Moses had placed in it at Horeb, where the Lord made a covenant with the Israelites after they came out of Egypt. When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the Lord …  for the glory of the Lord filled his temple. Then Solomon said, “The Lord has said that he would dwell in a dark cloud; I have indeed built a magnificent temple for you, a place for you to dwell forever.”

1. TEMPLE TALK: The Amazing Symbolic Power of Solomon’s Temple

*Symbolizes God’s Dwelling Place – often called ‘house of God’ or ‘house of the Lord’.  Psalm 132:13 (NRSV) says, “For the Lord has chosen Zion;  he has desired it for his habitation…” This doesn’t mean God is contained there, but it does give a symbolic place representing his presence. Psalm 11:4 (CEB) “But the Lord is in his holy temple.  The Lord! His throne is in heaven. His eyes see— his vision examines all of humanity.

*Symbol of Divine Victory over his enemies. It is after God’s enemies have been defeated that King David conceives the idea for the temple. God let him know that his son Solomon would build it.

*Place of communication with and about God. The priests instructed the people as to the law of God. There were prayers and pledges made to serve the Lord. Even in acts the disciples do not abandon the temple but preach in its precincts. 

*Symbol of holiness. Unlike a synagogue or church, the inside of the temple itself was not a place of public worship. The spread wings of the cherubim on the ark of the covenant in the holy of holies suggest a picture of divine sanctity and protection. 

*A place of community. God’s people gathered there, but more, the temple would symbolize God’s people. Apostle Paul would later say that we are God’s temple and Apostle Peter would say we are living stones being built into a spiritual house (1 Peter 2:4-5).

*Much of the imagery of the Temple is attributed to Jesus Christ in the New Testament. He even referred to his own death and resurrection when he said, “Destroy this temple and in three days I’ll raise it up.” The Jewish leaders replied, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and you will raise it up in three days?” But the temple Jesus was talking about was his body.  (John 2:19-21)

*The image of the temple remains a part of our eternal hope. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long” (Psalm 23:6, NRSV).

None of these things matter if the Lord is not present. Each of them express in some way the power of God and His impact in the lives of those who are devoted to following Him. We have some lessons to learn from this temple talk…

-THREE POWERFUL TRUTHS-

1. He Empowers Us With His Presence

From the time he walked in the cool of the garden with Adam to the pillars of fire and cloud in the Exodus, God is always revealing His presence. The Temple provided an absolutely awesome expression of His presence. It’s size and lavish appointments made it source of pride for the Israelites. The contents of the Ark of the Covenant – stones carried down the mountain by Moses – remind us that it wasn’t the monument Solomon built, but the God who inhabited the monument that gave it power. The same is true for us – it is not our structures, ideas, our goodness  that empowers us. It is the indwelling God who is with us 24/7 and from whom we are too often distracted. 

We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito. -C. S. Lewis

What distracts us from seeing the God who is present? Flooded with information, technology, a thousand voices all calling for our attention … can we hear the God who is there? We are empowered by His presence.

He Empowers Us As His Priests

Priests of God helped people bridge the gap between humanity and divinity.  His presence empowers us to be bridges between those who live far from Him and the God who cares. 

1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

Priestly duties included praying on behalf of the people and sharing the will of God with the people. 

To stand in the presence of God, that is what the Gospel is. The Gospel is not primarily about forgiveness. It’s not primarily about good feelings. It’s not primarily about power. All those things are byproducts, sparks. It’s primarily about the presence of God. -Timothy Keller

Our mission is to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world that surrounds us. We won’t do it perfectly, but we are to keep in mind our commitment to the Great High Priest. In serving FOR Him, we are actually Serving HIM. 

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ – Matthew 25:40

If we are constantly distracted from SEEING Him how can we ever SERVE him? This should drive our deep concern for:

*the hurting world around us

*the world that is far away from the God who loves them

*the church that calls together those who serve in priestly ways 

He  Empowers  Us In His Praises

When we praise God we are focused on His majesty and greatness. Solomon instructed the people to make the Temple a Temple of praise and prayer as they recognized his presence and power:

*Praise God who keeps his covenant of love! Lord, the God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below—you who keep your covenant of love with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in your way. ” (1 Kings 8:23)

*Worship the God who Hears our Prayers! “May your eyes be open toward this temple night and day, this place of which you said, ‘My Name shall be there,’ so that you will hear the prayer your servant prays toward this place. 30 Hear the supplication of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place. Hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.“(1 Kings 8:29-30)

*Entreat the God of Justice who sets things right! “Judge between your servants, condemning the guilty by bringing down on their heads what they have done, and vindicating the innocent by treating them in accordance with their innocence.” (1 Kings 8:32)

*Return to the God who Forgives “When your people Israel have been defeated by an enemy because they have sinned against you, and when they turn back to you and give praise to your name, praying and making supplication to you in this temple, then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your people Israel “(1 Kings 8:33-34)

1 Kings 8:51-64 When Solomon had finished all these prayers and supplications to the Lord, he rose from before the altar of the Lord, where he had been kneeling with his hands spread out toward heaven.  He stood and blessed the whole assembly of Israel in a loud voice, saying: “Praise be to the Lord, who has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses. … May he turn our hearts to him, to walk in obedience to him and keep the commands, decrees and laws he gave our ancestors.so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God and that there is no other. 61 And may your hearts be fully committed to the Lord our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands, as at this time.”

Only when we are captured by an overwhelming sense of awe and reverence in the presence of God, will we begin to worship God in spirit and in truth.
-Alistair Begg

Worship – both personal worship and worship together as a church has fallen on hard times. People all over in every denomination are ditching worship for other pursuits. Nothing good can come from leaving the worship of God untended. We need a revival of commitment – not of church attendance but of WORSHIP attendance! We can be so in awe of the world that we forget to be in AWE OF A LIVING GOD!

Conclusion

It wasn’t the Temple that provided all of this, although it served as a visual reminder of all that God was doing. It was God, not the temple that provided strength, reprimands, and provision for grace and mission.

Solomon’s temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian army. Another temple was rebuilt by decree of Cyrus, King of Persians, but it did not measure up in glory to the first temple. It was refurbished a couple of times but as Jesus predicted, in the year A. D. 70 the city of Jerusalem was ransacked by the Roman army and the temple was demolished. However, the building of Solomon’s temple was a major development in the story line of Israel. It teaches us a lot about ourselves, our view of holy places, and how we need to devote our attention to God and less to the distractions around us. What has distracted you from serving God and putting him in the first place of honor in your heart?

Today we do not sing songs of praise to our cathedrals, but to God who inspires us to beauty and to service. 

In the house of God there is never ending festival; the angel choir makes eternal holiday; the presence of God’s face gives joy that never fails.
– Augustine

LIFEGROUP DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

1. Describe the most beautiful church building you have ever been in. What made it so exceptionally beautiful? Was there a feeling that went along with being in a building like that? Why do beautiful places seem holy sometimes?

2. Christian author Ann Voskamp writes: “The practice of giving thanks … eucharisteo … this is the way we practice the presence of God, stay present to His presence, and it is always a practice of the eyes. We don’t have to change what we see. Only the way we see.” How can we grow in the art of giving thanks to God? In what ways can we change ‘the way we see’ the world around us, causing us to give greater thanks?

3. What are some of the blessings and privileges that distinguish Christians from the world according to 1 Peter 2:9–10? 

4. When we gather as a church to worship, think about the actions we take together. As you mention each one, can the group think of ways that each one demonstrates the presence and power of God among us? Why do we often fail to see these as representing God’s living presence?

5. Who are some people in the Bible who were distracted or drawn away into the world? Why does this ever remain a danger for us? What can help us to be strongly connected to God? What would you say to a friend you could see wandering from God? (We likely won’t have 300 foreign wives like Solomon, but what other things draw our heart away from God?)

6. The physical temple was an amazing structure, but it was destroyed twice by enemies of God. Even so, God reigns and nothing can destroy His work on the earth. How can that truth help you face up to some of the great challenges the church faces in our culture and world? What about the challenges you’re facing in your own world right now?

7. How could our church serve as priests in our community … serving and loving others and drawing them closer to the God who loves them? How could our LifeGroup function as priests both in our community and in our church? Instead of listing things we already do, what is something that might be a new way to serve and love? Let’s pray about these ideas…that they become more than ideas!

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Resources

Most Expensive Buildings in the World

The Ten Most Expensive Buildings in the World

The Abraj Al Bait 

Apple’s Spaceship Campus

Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, IVPress 1998.