Friday, March 20, 2009

A couple of thoughts on the Temple in 1 Chronicles

So, I am reading through Chronicles this month and have (as tends to happen) spotted some things I hadn't seen before. here's a couple around the theme of the Temple:

1 Chronicles 17. David decides to build a 'house' (i.e. temple) for God because he feels it is wrong that he lives in 'a house of cedar, but the ark of the covenant lives in a tent.' But God stops him and instead promises to build a 'house' (i.e. family line) that will last forever. This is one more example of how this God, in contrast to the other gods of the ancient world, needs nothing from human hands but yet gives abundantly, not in return for favours done, but because it is God's pleasure/will to show love.

1 Chronicles 21:28-22:1. God's wrath comes against Israel for Davids sin in taking a census of all the fighting males. I've not yet figured out exactly what the problem was, but that is a question for later. God's wrath here takes the form of a 'pestilence' and a 'destroying angel'. God himself stops the destroying angel from destroying Jerusalem and the angel comes to a halt at the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. David then builds an altar and offers a sacrifice. Afterwards David decides that this is the spot where the Temple should eventually be built. First it is worth pointing out that God's wrath relents not because of the sacrifice but before it happens. Again, this is a radical reversal of the way ancient people tended to think gods operated. Instead, the sacrifice, David's act of worship, is a response to God's action - not a cause of it. And so this is the significant thing about the location of the Temple, it is put where God's anger stopped and his mercy began. It is put at the point where God's mercy has already taken place and our only task is to respond to what God has already done.

I think perhaps for Christians both things point (especially the second) towards the cross of Christ as our primary topos (place) of worship. When we worship 'at the cross' we are not worshipping to influence God actions towards us but in recognition of what God has already done through Christ.

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