First Sunday after Epiphany – 1 Kings 8:6-13

Click here for the reading: 1 Kings 8:6-13.

After its fashioning in the wilderness and sojourning among the Philistines, the ark has come to rest, according to Solomon a rest that will be “forever.” For a moment in this long chapter of dedications, sacrifices, intercessions, and benedictions everything and everyone seems at home. The son of David is on the throne, the ark is between the cherubim made for its protection, and the glory of the Lord is in His holy temple. Have we all now arrived?

All of this will come apart. The son of David (cf. the verses immediately following the pericope) will depart from the ways of the Lord and attend to the ways of the women whose foreign gods he has taken along with his many wives. Far from the ancient union of priest and king seen in Melchizedek and now seen again in Solomon in 1 Kgs. 8, the king of Israel will finally fail to guard his heart and the Lord’s Word. After his death, the commonwealth of Israel will fracture because Solomon’s prosperity and power, not the Lord’s Word, held it together during his life.

In the ark, between the cherubim, are the tablets of Moses graven at Horeb (another name for Mount Sinai). Moses’ rage at Israel’s disobedience broke the first copy of the Ten Commandments. Israel’s disobedience will make the second copy of the Ten Commandments a standing accusation against them, a witness of their iniquity.

The glory of the Lord will one day depart the temple, never to return. When the second temple is built, there will be mingled crying and rejoicing, so that all the bystanders hear is a very loud sound, nothing distinctly joyous about it. Never again after this pericope will Israel seem so at home again, nor the land and the kingdom so much at peace and so well off, all enemies and rebels put far away. After this every kind of strife inside and outside the land will come upon the disobedient people.

This is an ominous reading, and the inclusion of more text before or after it from the same chapter will add darker shading as all the bright things of that day are overshadowed by their eventual destruction. Sacrifices too many to number will be replaced by the cannibalism of a city under siege. A king at peace with the God of his nation will be replaced by warring kings and illegitimate puppets appointed by foreigners. The ark will be lost not for a while to the Philistines but forever to time.

Since the people of God now share in an altar of which the adherents of the old covenant know nothing, they can rejoice in the presence and peace of God. Since they have a King and a Priest, the Son of David, who is faithful in everything, they can cry to Him for intercession and mercy and find an answer to their prayers. Everything for which Solomon sacrificed and prayed, God’s people now have in Jesus, Whose body is a temple and Whose blood is poured out in the new covenant God has made with His people, atoning for all their iniquity. Solomon’s bright day was darkened by sin, but behold, a greater than Solomon is now here. The building of the first and second temples took years, foreign expertise, and great treasure. The building of the temple of Jesus’s body was raised in three days. God’s mercies are forever in the temple of His body.