1 Kings 5
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Read also 2 Chronicles 2:1-10, where additional light is thrown on this transaction. It marks a period of extreme interest and importance in Hebrew history. It introduces us, by anticipation, to that which was the crowning glory of the reign of Solomon, for his name must ever stand connected with the magnificence of the first Temple, though it be but as a gorgeous dream of the far distant past, which imagination strives in vain to reproduce with distinctness and certainty. Whether the Hiram who entered into this treaty with Solomon is the same as the Hiram who was the friend of David is a matter of doubt. Menander of Ephesus (quoted by Josephus) describes him as a man of great enterprize, a lover of architecture, noted for his skill in building and adorning the temples of the gods. And in this we have a valuable indirect confirmation of the Biblical history. Look at this purpose of Solomon to build a splendid temple to the Lord in two or three different lights.

I. IT EXPRESSES HIS DESIRE TO CARRY OUT THE GOOD DESIGNS OF HIS FATHER DAVID. Filial feeling prompted it. It drew the inspiration of its enthusiasm from the warmth of a filial heart. "Thou knowest how that David my father could not," etc. We are told why he "could not" (1 Chronicles 22:7, 8; 1 Chronicles 28:5). He had been "a man of war," and had "shed much blood." Noble purposes may be conceived in a time of discord and confusion; they can be actualized only in a time of rest. The hands must be free from the blood of men that would build a worthy dwelling-place for a righteous God. Nothing was more natural than that Solomon, under happier auspices, should resolve to do what his father had the "heart to do," but "could not." To how large an extent is human life a record of thwarted purposes! A tale cut short before it is half told; a laying of plans that are never worked out; a reaching forth towards fair ideals that men have not the power or the time to turn into realities. What can the high mission of each succeeding generation be but just to take up the good purposes that a previous generation failed to accomplish and develop them to their ripe issues? This is the real law of human progress. All honour to the son who, knowing what was truest and deepest in his father's heart, endeavours worthily to fulfil it.

II. IT IS THE SPONTANEOUS OUTCOME OF HIS OWN DEVOUT FEELING. Solomon never had the pure and lofty spirit of devotion that inspired the soul of David; but as yet, at least, his religious sentiment is deep and true. A "house great and wonderful," dedicated to the Lord, in the royal city, will give it fitting public expression. All religious feeling instinctively seeks to body itself forth in appropriate forms. Forbidden as the Jews were to "make any likeness or image" of the great Object of worship (Exodus 20:4), it was quite in harmony with the Divine dispensation of the time that the spirit of worship should robe itself in a grand symbolic garb. Solomon only sought to develop the service of the tabernacle into a system more imposing and enduring (2 Chronicles 2:4, 5). In every age symbolism has its place as the spontaneous and natural expression of religious thought and feeling. Let it be relied on as the means of awakening such thought and feeling, as the prescribed form in which it shall move - an artificial substitute for it - and it becomes a mockery and a snare. The magnificence of Solomon's design for the Temple indicated not only the fervour of his devotion, but the breadth of his view as regards the essential sacredness of all natural things. "The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof." All things beautiful and precious are turned to their true use when dedicated to Him. We cannot be too careful to give Him our richest and best. The true heart says," I will not offer burnt offering to the Lord of that which doth cost me nothing." Let us not be more concerned for our own houses than we are for the Lord's. The history of the Temple, however, and of all ecclesiology, shows how easily the wealth of outward adornment in worship may become the grave of the spiritual and the veil of the Divine. In proportion as care for the symbolic form - the mere shrine of worship - has increased, the living reality - the worship of the Father "in spirit and in truth" - has passed away.

III. IT EXPRESSES HIS SENSE OF THE FACT THAT THE ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF GOD IS THE HEAL STRENGTH AND GLORY OF A NATION. The Temple was to be dedicated "to the name of Jehovah" - the visible sign and symbol of the sovereignty of that name over the whole life of the people. There was worth in the sign just so far as that sovereignty was real. The Jewish commonwealth was a theocracy - the Temple the palace and throne of the great invisible King. Judaism was not the union of Church and State as two separate or separable powers, but their identification. No distinction between the political and ecclesiastical, the secular and spiritual spheres. The two were one. The ideal Christian nation is a theocracy in which Christ is king. Not made so by its institutions, but by the spiritual life that pervades it. True to its name only so far as the law of Christ is honoured in the homes of the people, moulds the form and habit of their social life, controls commerce, rules in Parliament, strengthens, ennobles, glorifies the Throne. Its Christian Churches are thus the very flower of a country's highest life.

"Those temples of His grace,
How beautiful they stand!
The honour of our native place
And bulwark of our land." As the graveyard - where "the rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep" - tells of the vanity of all earthly things, how the pride and glory of man must one day moulder down to dust, so the church is the memorial of the unfading inheritance of truth and purity and love - the blessed fellowship of the redeemed - the "House of God, not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."

IV. IT EXPRESSES HIS DESIRE THAT ISRAEL SHOULD HAVE A CENTRE OF RELIGIOUS ATTRACTION AND BOND OF RELIGIOUS UNITY. The tabernacle had been the movable sanctuary, of a wandering people, the Temple should be the resting place of the Divine presence (Psalm 132:14). Hitherto there had been a divided worship, connected both with the tabernacle at Gideon and the ark in the city of David (1 Chronicles 16:37-39). But in future all sacred associations are to be gathered up in the central glory of the Temple. One nation, one faith, one God, one sanctuary. But this localization of the highest forms of worship had its dangers. Men came to think of" the Holy Presence as belonging to the building, instead of the building as being hallowed and glorified by the Presence." Christ proclaims the infinite Presence, the impartial Love. "The hour cometh when ye shall neither in this mountain," etc. (John 4:21). "One greater than the Temple is here" - in whom all its sacred symbols are fulfilled - the attractive centre and bond of union for redeemed souls of every age and nation. Our thoughts are led on to the glorious vision of the holy city of which it is written, "I saw no temple therein, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it" (Revelation 21:22). - W.

Behold I purpose to build an house unto the name of the Lord my God. Every man has some special work given him by God. It is of the utmost importance that he should find out what that work is, if he would not make his life a failure and come short of the purpose of God for him. In the ease of Solomon the great work given him to do was not to extend the boundaries of his kingdom, but to build the temple of the Lord. This he clearly understood, as is evident from his saying, "I purpose to build an house to the name of the Lord." This was to him the work of paramount importance. The building of the Temple was to give a religious centre to the theocracy. This was part of the Divine plan, a branch of the education of the people, by which God would prepare the way for the new covenant. The old covenant was essentially preparatory; it was "the shadow of good things to come" (Hebrews 10:1). The Temple was to form a part of this preparation.

I. IT WAS A VISIBLE SYMBOL OF THE PRESENCE OF GOD WITH HIS PEOPLE. This was the only way in which such an idea could be brought home to men in the state of rude infancy in which they then were, and with their incapacity to apprehend directly spiritual graces. The material was thus the necessary medium of the spiritual.

II. The erection of a holy place for worship REMINDED MEN THAT THE EARTH WHICH THEY INHABITED WAS DEFILED; it developed in them the sense of sin.

III. THE POSSIBILITY OF DRAWING NEAR TO GOD IN THIS HOLY PLACE pointed to the time of reconciliation, when every spot of a redeemed earth might be a place of prayer; when there should be no longer one sanctuary for one nation alone, but when all the nations should have free access to God as worshippers in spirit and in truth. The fact that Solomon sought out workmen for the Temple, not only among the Israelites, but among the Gentiles, is prophetic, and prefigures the time when the multitude of worshippers shall be "of every kindred, and nation, and people, and tongue" (Revelation 5:9).

IV. THERE IS NOT A SINGLE CHRISTIAN LIVING WHO HAS NOT A TASK LIKE THAT OF SOLOMON TO FULFIL. Every Christian ought to say, "I purpose to build an house to the name of the Lord." (a) He must first become himself a living stone of the spiritual temple (2 Peter 2:51). (b) His body must be the temple of the Holy Ghost (1 Corinthians 6:19), his whole being a sanctuary (1 Corinthians 3.) His house should be a house of prayer (Joshua 24:15). Are not these human temples themselves the stones elect, precious, to be used by and by in that great heavenly temple which the Lord shall build and not man? (2 Corinthians 5:1.) - E. DE P.

Describe the condition of Type at this period, alluding to its commerce, its religious beliefs, its proximity to the kingdom of Solomon (the capitals being distant from each other about 122 miles), its monarchical institutions, as opposed to the usual republican government of Phoenician settlements - as exemplified in Carthage, the splendid daughter of Type, founded about 140 years after the building of Solomon's temple. Point out some of the effects of the intercourse between these two states, as suggested by Old Testament history. Suggest from this the responsibilities and the perils accruing to us as a Christian people, from the fact that our own destinies are so interwoven with distant and heathen nations. Allude to the fearlessness of Scripture in ascribing what is good and commendable to those whom the Jews generally scorned. Various examples may be given, e.g., Abimelech king of Egypt, Cyrus, Hiram; and in the New Testament, Cornelius, Publius, etc. Compare the words of our Lord (Matthew 8:11, 12). The conduct of Hiram teaches us the following lessons.

I. THAT WE SHOULD REJOICE IN THE PROSPERITY OF OTHERS (ver. 7). Hiram was moved to joy, partly because of his love and admiration for David. It is an unspeakable advantage to have the position won by a father's toil, the affection and confidence deserved by a father's worth. In our material possessions, in our worldly occupation, in our ecclesiastical and, above all, our Christian relationships, how much of good has come from parentage! Contrast the possibilities of a lad, born of honoured parents, and therefore trusted till he proves untrustworthy, whose path in life is smoothed by the loving hands of those who care for him, for his father's sake, with the terrible disadvantages of the child of a convict, who is distrusted and ill treated from his birth. Hiram was well disposed to Solomon for his father's sake. There were many reasons for jealousy. The two kingdoms adjoined each other, and national pride would be fostered by religious differences. It is easier to rejoice over the success of a distant trader than over the prosperity of a neighbour who is our competitor. Nor is it common for a heathen to be glad over the welfare of a Christian. Hiram was large hearted enough to overlook barriers which were erected by the hands of rivalry and religious distinction.

II. THAT WE SHOULD FAIRLY CONSIDER THE DEMANDS OF OTHERS. "I have considered the things which thou sentest to me for" (ver. 8). The request of Solomon was bold. It would require sacrifice on the part of the Tyrians. They were asked to help in building a temple for another nation, and for the worship of One who was to them a strange deity. No prejudice, however, interfered with Hiram's fair consideration of Solomon's request; and as it was more fully understood, it seemed more and more feasible. How often prejudice prevents men from looking at a novel scheme for work, from welcoming a new expression of old truth, etc. A false patriotism sometimes refuses to see any excellency in another people. Sectarianism checks Christians in learning from each other. There is much presented to us which we cannot at once welcome, but at least it should be fairly considered. "Prove all things, hold fast that which is good."

III. THAT WHEN WE DO A KINDNESS, IT SHOULD BE DONE WITHOUT GRUDGING. "I will do all thy desire." It is not right to ask another for what is unreasonable, or to give to another what is unreasonable for him to expect. Sometimes to grant a request is easier than to refuse it, and we do what is asked to save ourselves trouble. Every demand should be weighed in the balance of equity. But if, after the test, it seems right to accede to it, we should not do it reluctantly, or partially, or murmuringly, lest we should mar the beauty of the act to others, and rob ourselves of the bliss of ministering to others in Christ's spirit. "Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men," etc. (Colossians 3:23, 24). "Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure," etc. (Luke 6:38).

IV. THAT WE SHOULD RECOGNIZE AND RECOMPENSE THE ABILITIES OF THE HUMBLEST. In 2 Chronicles 2:13 we read that Hiram chose from amongst his subjects a skilful man, to be set over this business. Christians can serve their Lord in this way amidst their ordinary occupations. In the counting house, or office, or factory the recognition and encouragement of diligence and skill may be a means of grace to employer and employe. We should devoutly recognize that knowledge, skill, capacity of any sort, are the gifts of God; and while we employ our own faithfully, we should, as opportunity serves, aid our fellow servants in the use of theirs.

V. THAT WE SHOULD ACKNOWLEDGE OUR MUTUAL DEPENDENCE. Solomon and Hiram were not independent of each other. It was for the good of these kings and of their peoples that they should be associated in this holy work. Solomon confessed, "There is not among us any that can skill to hew timber like unto the Sidonians" (ver. 6). Each nation, each individual has his own sphere to fill in the economy of God. No one of these can serve well in isolation. See St. Paul's teaching about the body and its members. Show how nations are mutually dependent, commercially and in their political relations. Point out the special responsibility of God's people when they are associated with heathen nations. Suggest the possibility that each section of Christ's Church may be doing its own appointed service, though all must feel that they are mutually dependent if the prayer of our Lord is to be fulfilled (John 17:21). Apply the principle to the association of Christians in Church fellowship, in evangelistic enterprize, in religious worship, etc., and show the benefits arising to the individual from the fact that he is one of many.

VI. THAT EACH SHOULD LOYALLY ACCEPT, AND HEARTILY DO, HIS OWN SHARE IN BUILDING THE TEMPLE OF THE LORD. (2 Chronicles 2:16.) Christians are likened to labourers in a vineyard, to servants in a household, to builders of a temple by our Lord and His apostles. In none of these spheres of activity is the work of all the servants alike in its publicity, in its honour, in its immediate effects, in its pleasant. ness, etc. Yet to every "good and faithful servant" the recompense will come; and he who shaped the stone in the quarry, or bore the burdens for more distinguished builders, will, in the great day, not lose his reward. - A.R.

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