We are back to our popular text: 1 Kings 6:7 “The stones with which the Temple was built had been prepared at the quarry, so that there was no noise made by hammers, axes, or any other iron tools as the Temple was being built”. (GNT)
This gorgeous Temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar nearly twenty-five hundred years ago. Another temple has risen on the same spot and met the same fate; the Lord of the Temple himself has come into his earthly court, not by the emblematic Shekinah — but in bodily form, and has gone back to his original glory; the nation which worshiped in those sanctuaries has been scattered to the four winds of Heaven; yet the deep instruction furnished by this passage remains — let us, through God’s assistance, attempt to search out and apply the lesson.
In the New Testament the Church is termed “God’s building” — “the temple of God” — “the temple of the Holy Spirit” — “the temple of the living God” — “a holy temple of the Lord” — “a habitation of God in the Spirit” — “the house of Christ.” These terms denote that as God by the bright symbol of his glory
manifested his presence in the movable tabernacle erected by Moses, and the stately temple built by Solomon — so does he by his spirit dwell in the hearts of Christians as individuals and in the church collectively. In looking then at this Christian temple, let us observe:
first, the stones of which it is composed;
secondly, the preparation of them;
and thirdly, their destination.
The Living Stones Of Which It Is Composed
- Peter says of Christians, that as living stones they are built up into a spiritual house. A stone is a shapeless mass of rock. It is inert — lifeless — it could never free itself from its native quarry — could never fashion itself into classic shape and beauty, and could never set itself up as a lintel or column in any edifice of man. And such by nature is the spiritual state of all men — having no power to move — hear — see — feel — believe, because of the moral inertia which makes them as passive, hard, insensible as the stones of the earth. Hence, when God would express the hardened condition of a person or people, he speaks of such as having “hearts of stone.”
But believers having been hewn out from the quarry of humanity by the electing grace of God, are termed living stones; not inert masses of rock, not senseless blocks of marble — but full of life, feeling, action; and they are thus designated because Christ, as the tried corner stone, the sure foundation, is called a living stone, and diffuses his own life through all parts of the spiritual temple which rests on him. So that every stone in it, from the foundation of the apostles and prophets to the topmost coping — is made a precious, a glistening, a living stone, through the preciousness and glory and life of Jesus, the prince of life. So long then as the soul of the believer rests on Jesus Christ alone for salvation, and on nothing else, it has spiritual life — build it upon any other foundation, and it is a senseless stone still — only as laid by the Holy Spirit upon the foundation of the prophets and apostles, Jesus Christ being the chief corner stone, can it receive in itself the life of Christ, and become through the impartation of his own vitality, a living stone.
The Preparation Of These Living Stones
- The way in which these living stones are prepared for the temple, furnishes a subject of interesting and profitable thought. The wood and stone used in Solomon’s Temple were carefully prepared at a distance from the place where the edifice was to be built. The sacred house was planned out in minutest detail by David, under the direction of the Spirit of God. Each stone, column, lintel, beam, rafter, had its special and appointed place — but as yet the wood was waving its branches in the forests of Lebanon, and the stone was unquarried in the mountains of Judea.
Under the direction of appointed overseers, the Hebrew workman went up to the sides of Lebanon and cut down the designated tree, and there, before carrying it to Jerusalem, he trimmed and fashioned it by much hewing and carving for its destined place. The Phoenician stonecutter went to the mountain and split out masses of rock from the quarry, and there, by many ponderous blows, he dressed it and shaped it for its appointed position. Many an axe and sharp-edged tool passed over that tree before it became a stately pillar — and many a hammer and instrument of iron was used on that once unsightly block before as a polished stone it was fitted for the Temple’s wall.
Most beautifully does all this illustrate the way of God in building up His spiritual and living temple. In the mind of Him who sees the end from the beginning, and who has devised all things in the counsel of his own will, this temple is already planned in its minutest part — He knows each living stone that shall compose its walls — He has designated them for their several places before the foundation of the world, though as yet many of them are still swaying their green branches in the forests of worldliness, or lie buried in the stony ledges of hardened impenitence. But the Great Architect knows what tree and what rock he wants, and he lays the axe of converting grace at the root of this tree, and speaking by his Spirit to the insensate stone, his word becomes, in his own expressive language, as a fire, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces.
But when the tree is thus felled, when the stone is thus quarried out — is it immediately fitted for its destined place in Heaven? In most cases we answer, no. Though at conversion the child of God is a marked man, though he is justified freely by the grace that is in Christ Jesus — yet how much spiritual trimming and dressing, how much hewing and squaring does he need to fashion him aright for the position which the Divine Architect intends he shall occupy hereafter! There are sharp angles of character to be rounded off — unsightly protuberances of conduct to be chipped away — many roughnesses of temper to be smoothed down — many flaws and cracks of mind and heart to be chiseled out! And then, when the general form of the stone is prepared, how much severe friction is required to give it the right polish, and bring out all its beauties — so that its smooth surface may fling back the rays of the Sun of Righteousness!
Our earth is the place where this is to be done; for, as there was no noise of any axe or hammer, or tool of iron heard on Mount Moriah while the Temple was building — so in the New Jerusalem above, there will be heard no crushing strokes of conviction, no sharp hewings of an awakened conscience, no sound of preparatory discipline. Heaven is not the place to prepare men for glory — but to receive them when prepared! Earth, then, is the preparing place for Heaven, and the preparation is effected by the axe, the hammer, and the tools of iron of God’s wise dispensations. All of God’s dealings with us have respect to our future existence; and these are so wisely adapted to the peculiarities of each case, that no two persons pass through the same course, and no two result in the same development. We are not arbitrarily classed together like plants under certain species, and then each group made to experience the same indiscriminate treatment. Far from it! Each individual in the whole training of his moral nature is as much under the eye and care of God — as if there was no other being in the universe! And there is not a peculiarity of mind or heart or body — not a changing phase of life from the cradle to the coffin — that is not expressly met by infinite wisdom in the arrangement of his Providence and Grace.
Nor does he set in motion a course of preparation suited to your case, and then, leaving it like a piece of machinery to do its allotted work — go off to some other part of his wide domain to superintend some other of his vast designs. No! For as the refiner of silver never removes his eye from the molten mass in the crucible of his furnace, until he sees his own image reflected in the purged and shining metal — so God never leaves the individual soul which he has placed in the furnace fires of this world — until he either sees his own image reflected in the purified spirit, or proves it to be but sinful dross.
The greater part of the preparation to which we are subjected as professing Christians, is of a disciplinary character, and hence is fitly represented by the axe, the hammer, and the tool of iron. Prosperity not only is the destruction of fools — but in the great majority of cases, prosperity hardens the heart of the nominal Christian, so that Christ himself was forced to say how hard shall those who have riches enter into the kingdom of Heaven,” and for many hundreds of years, God by the voice of Jeremiah has complained, “I spoke unto you in your prosperity — but you said: I will not hear. This has been your manner from your youth, that you obeyed not my voice.”
Afflictions come more immediately to the heart, and operate with a more searching and purifying influence upon the life. These show one his weakness and sinfulness — lay open the moral anatomy of his nature — subject his principles to severest test, and cause him to retire into the chambers of his soul and learn there in the light of the Bible and in the light of conscience — his relations and duties to God and man.
Now the axe seems driven into the root of his happiness — now he is broken as a block of granite under the blows of the hammer of God’s Word, and now the iron of a sore adversity has entered into his soul — and he feels himself stricken, smitten, and afflicted. In these dispensations, however severe — he is being fitted by the hand of God himself for a place in glory. God knows for what position in that heavenly temple he has designed us, and he knows when we are prepared for that position; nor will he permit us to receive a single blow or cut more than is necessary to accomplish his divine purpose concerning us.
Let the Christian, then, who is passing through fiery and discouraging trials and afflictions, remember that God is thus hewing and squaring him here, that as a well-prepared and living stone, he may by and by be built up into the living temple not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
The preparing process may be severe; the strokes frequent and heavy; the hewing into shape — painful to the flesh; the polishing into beauty — rasping to the spirit; yet every blow aids to bring it into form; and every tool of iron, though it cuts deep — leaves behind some chiseled beauty; and every grating file of sorrow that rasps the sensitive fibers of the heart — only gives it a higher polish, and makes it reflect a brighter glory. And who will complain of such severe dealings — when such blissful ends are attained by it? Who will murmur at the roughness of a road — which leads to such eternal joys? Who will repine at any chastenings, and not rather esteem them as light afflictions which are but for a moment, when his Heavenly Father assures him that they shall work out for him a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory?
And Oh, let the afflicted saint remember also that as those portions of the earthly Temple which were to be most conspicuous and beautiful, had more cutting and carving and polishing than others — so those whom God designs for eminence in glory, for pillars in his temple — are subjected to heavier blows, deeper chiselings, severer raspings in the process of bringing out in them higher beauties and a more excelling glory.
The Destination Of These Living Stones
- And this leads us to consider, lastly, the end for which these living stones, thus prepared on earth, are designed. We have seen that the stones quarried out and elaborately hewn by the Sidonians, were taken after due preparation to Jerusalem and set up in the Temple. As the house erected for God by Solomon was the most magnificent of all earthly structures, and was designed to show forth the praise of God, and be his earthly abode — so when he would speak of the glory of Heaven, where he dwells in full and visible presence, where he is worshiped in pure and perfect devotion, where he receives his people into close and holy communion, and where he manifests the unveiled perfections of the Godhead — he speaks of it under the figure of a temple — a house — a building. Of a temple, because he is worshiped there. Of a house, because he entertains his children there in its many mansions or apartments. Of a building, because it has been slowly augmented since the foundation of the world. To be continued…