Wednesday, July 16, 2008

"Living Stones"

As we read about the details of the construction of the temple by Solomon in 1 Kings 5 & 6, we're told that he had 80,000 stonecutters working in the hills in rotation where they quarried large blocks of high quality stone which was then 'dressed' for the temple. All the stonework was done at the quarry so that there was no sound of hammer or chisel at the actual temple site. It was deemed to be too holy for that.

Josephus, a Jewish historian from the first century, wrote the following about this work;
"Now the whole structure of the temple was made with great skill of polished stones, and those laid together so very harmoniously and smoothly, that there appeared to the spectators no sign of any hammer, or other instrument of architecture; but as if, without any use of them, the entire materials had naturally united themselves together, that the agreement of one part with another seemed rather to have been natural, than to have arisen from the force of tools upon them." [ The antiquities of the Jews, Book VIII, Chapter III]

The temple was to be the place where God would put his Name, his Presence, the place of encounter, but it was only ever a type or shadow of the real thing that was to come. The real thing was to be Jesus, and his body. We see this from Jesus' words in John 2:19-21, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days ... the temple he had spoken of was his body." Peter uses this imagery of the temple as he paints a picture of the nature and calling of those who are in Christ, the Church, His body when he says, "As you come to him, the living Stone--rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him-- you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. " [1 Peter 2:4-5]

The new temple is a spiritual edifice made up of real living people who are spiritually alive due to their connection to Jesus Christ, the living, chosen and precious cornerstone. But equally important as our connection to Jesus, is the fact that we are being built together. This can be a painful process as we come in all 'shapes and sizes' and don't always naturally fit together. That is why God has to take his hammer and chisel out at times to hone and shape us until it looks like we were designed to rest against one another. This can be a painful process at times, one we would rather run away from or just keep searching until we find another 'stone' that seems a good enough fit. We don't like change, especially when we are the ones who need to change, to humble ourselves, to surrender, to prefer one another, to sacrifice and go without, to confess our selfish ways, to repent because we realize that we had it wrong, to be faithful when seem to have gone past our limit. Yet these are all characteristics that our Father looks upon with great joy and delight and for which he graciously gives us power through his abiding presence.

The quarry where the work is done represents the earth, and in part, the fellowship of believers, those whom God has wisely put us amongst for his greater glory. It is in part a time of preparation before our 'transportation' to the temple site, namely heaven. It was said of the stones used by Solomon that they were so smooth, so natural as if never touched by human hands (or chisel) that they fitted together flush. There was no need for cement to hold them together or to fill in any gaps.

I sense that one of our greatest needs is for deep and profound connection with at least a few other people in our lives. This is what brings us healing, joy, a sense of fulfillment in life and also an empowering to be all that God desires of us. We can find ourselves yearning for this yet also fearful of it at the same time. Fearful of rejection or what we may need to give up. My prayer is that we would continue to realize and be thankful for the tremendous grace that God has towards us, his unfailing love and compassion. That we would seek to appropriate this grace in our lives as we continually 'come to him' and ask of him. That we would persevere in our relationships whilst we ask for his grace to help us go the extra mile.

"Psalm 127:1
A song of ascents. Of Solomon.

Unless the Lord builds the house,
its builders labor in vain."