A House For God’s Name

In 1 Kings 8 we are told the story of the dedication of the Temple Solomon built in Jerusalem. Once the Ark of the Covenant is set up in the Temple, a cloud settles on the Temple and God’s glory fills it to the point that the Priests can no longer stay within, just like in the days of Moses at the Tabernacle’s dedication.

Solomon recounts the story of how David had begun to desire to build a “house” for God because of His greatness. While God appreciated David’s sentiment, he told David that a later descendant would complete “a house for my [God’s] name.” (That did not stop David from drawing up plans and laying aside the resources for this future descendant to use for that purpose.) In his address, Solomon claims that this promise has now been fulfilled in their presence. But had it? (If it hadn’t, it’s too late to tell Solomon now, isn’t it?)

We now flashback to David’s reign in 2 Sam. 7. Nathan is telling David that he will not accomplish his dream of building a temple to glorify God in his lifetime. God is not above giving David a pun. David wants to build God a “house” (“temple”). God wants to delay building that house in order to build a “house” (“dynastry” – using a different meaning of the same word) for David. Quoting God, Nathan continues, “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring [seed] after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him, and he will be a son to me.” (v. 12-14a NRSV).

Notice two things about this passage. This “seed” or offspring is not necessarily his son (though it is certainly true that the rest of 2 Sam. 7 does come to pass in Solomon’s life and that of the remaining kings of Israel and Judah). The term is indeterminate as far as which generation is being referred to. Notice also that the throne of his kingdom is to be established forever. One might argue, as British Israelites do, that the “throne” continues until today through the lineage of a modern royal dynasty. Given the image in Daniel 2, I have difficulty believing this. However, there is another way of approaching this idea of a descendant of David that is consistent with certain New Testament images of the church, as well as the prophetic image of “the rock that was rejected” becoming “the chief cornerstone” (Psalm. 118:22). Jesus refers to himself as the stone in Ps. 118:22 in Matthew 21:42-44. He suggests that this stone will crush anyone on whom it falls (compare with Daniel 2:44-45).

On the other hand, a cornerstone is sort of pointless without something constructed around it. There is another echo of Ps. 118 in Matt. 21:9 in the crowd’s “hosanna,” followed by Jesus cleansing the Temple and calling it “My house” in v.13. This is followed by more “hosannas” by children in the Temple area.

The parables at the end of chapter 20 are in response to critics of his Temple-cleansing escapade. Could Jesus be referring to himself as the chief architect of a new temple that would finally honour God’s name?

There is another echo of Ps. 118 in Matt. 23:37-39. Not only is Jerusalem’s “house” going to be desolate, but it will remain so until they say “blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (compare with Ps. 118:26). Jesus goes on to foretell the destruction of their physical temple, which was fulfilled in 70 AD at the hands of the Romans.

A generation later (probably before the destruction of the Jerusalem temple), the apostle Paul (formerly Rabbi Saul) picks up on the masonry imagery of Ps. 118 and Jesus’ interpretation of himself as “chief cornerstone.” He boldly declares in 1 Cor. 3:16-17 that the church is God’s temple because the Holy Spirit dwells in its members. (The “you” in verses 16 and 17 is plural in both cases in the original language, making it clearer in Greek than in English that this is a collective, not an individual temple.) Paul makes the connection with Ps. 118 even clearer in Eph. 2:17-22. He declares Jesus as the “chief corner stone” in a structure “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets” that “grows into a holy temple.”

In other words, the ultimate fulfilment of God’s promise to David for a “seed” who would build a “house for My name” is to be found in Jesus Christ, the descendant of David, the Son of God, who is the Chief Cornerstone of a temple of praise, comprised of the New Testament people of God, both Jew and Gentile, in whom God dwells through the Holy Spirit. They do the job that was intended by the Temple God promised, being a temple where the name of God is honoured and praised.

Will we therefore do our part to live lives that bring honour and praise to the name of God and His Son, Jesus Christ? We will if we truly are part of that Temple.

About John Valade

I facilitate and teach in Wascana Fellowship. I have been married to Wanda since 1984. M.Div. from Briercrest Seminary, SK in 2011 and B.R.E. Canadian Bible College (now Ambrose University College) in 2000.
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