Then Solomon began to build the house of the LORD in Jerusalem … The vestibule in front of the nave of the house was twenty cubits long, equal to the width of the house, and its height was 120 cubits. He overlaid it on the inside with pure gold. The nave he lined with cypress and covered it with fine gold and made palms and chains on it. He adorned the house with settings of precious stones. The gold was gold of Parvaim. So he lined the house with gold — its beams, its thresholds, its walls, and its doors — and he carved cherubim on the walls. And he made the Most Holy Place. Its length, corresponding to the breadth of the house, was twenty cubits, and its breadth was twenty cubits. He overlaid it with 600 talents of fine gold. The weight of gold for the nails was fifty shekels. And he overlaid the upper chambers with gold. 2 Chronicles 3.1, 4-9.
When the time came for Solomon to build the temple, he wrote to Hiram, the king of Tyre in the north, and asked him for vast amounts of timber — cedar, pine and so on — “because the temple I build must be large and magnificent” (2 Chronicles 2.9). Yet, as I see from this morning’s reading, once anyone stepped into the temple they would see no timber at all. Absolutely everything within the temple — walls, beams, doors, ceilings — was covered with gold; and even the nails used to fix the coverings were of gold too so that nothing that was not gold would be visible to the eyes of the worshipper. From the outside, the temple, though beautiful, was only of wood and stone, but on the inside … gold, nothing but gold!
This really speaks to me this morning. Gold was the most precious metal known to man in the ancient world. It was unique in its beauty and splendour. It did not tarnish or corrode. It shone with a glory all of its own, and it never changed. So small wonder then that, not only in Judaism but in other religions too, it was a symbol of the divine. And that, surely, is how Solomon saw it and understood it; and is the reason why Solomon ensured that gold was absolutely everywhere within the temple. “When you enter this temple,” he was saying, “you enter the presence of God.” That was the message of the gold.
But there was a greater message being given than Solomon knew when he made the temple a thing of wood and stone on the outside and of gold on the inside. For he was painting a picture of God’s true temple … the Lord Jesus Christ … the one who was to come and who would call himself “a temple not made with hands” (Matthew 14.58). When he came, he was, to all outward appearances, just a man like any other — a thing of flesh and blood and bone, a creature of earth and nothing more. But within, hidden from human sight, all was gold. All was divinity. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1.1), but when Jesus was born in Bethlehem something incredible happened: “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1.14). “Dwelt” there is the Greek verb skenoo meaning “tabernacled” or, we might say, “templed”. And like the temple of Solomon which prefigured him, Jesus possessed both manhood and deity — stone and wood outside, gold within.
As Paul would later put it: “though he was in the form of God, [Jesus] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2.6-8).
Meekness and majesty, manhood and deity,
in perfect harmony, the man who is God:
Lord of eternity dwells in humanity,
kneels in humility and washes our feet.
Oh, what a mystery, meekness and majesty:
bow down and worship, for this is your God,
this is your God!