Bring Your Own Sacrifice Part 4: Stop the Machine
In 1 Kings 6:7 Solomon is building the temple of God. Among all the measurements and descriptions of chambers there is an astonishing statement:
“The house, while it was being built, was built of stone prepared at the quarry, and there was neither hammer nor axe nor any iron tool heard in the house while it was being built”.
No tools? That’s all you hear at a worksite- hammering, drilling, and sawing. Aside from marveling at the logistics of fitting foundation stones offsite, one wonders “why?” Solomon didn’t do it for efficiency. He must have done it because that is what God required. So why didn’t God want the sound of iron tools on the site of His Temple? Here’s what I found out.
Strong’s Concordance has two words that are translated “tool”. The first is chereb (a cutting tool, sword, dagger, etc). The other word is kelee, the word used in 1 Kings. Like a lot of Hebrew words, kelee has multiple meanings. Kelee means “something prepared, any apparatus, implement, utensil, dress, vessel, or weapon”. This can even include shepherd’s bags, wagons, or jewelry.
If we return to last week’s blog post we find that David tried to carry the Ark of the Covenant on a wagon. That is a type of vessel, or kelee. God had prohibited that kind of transport for the Ark. That was the root of David’s disobedience, sincerity and enthusiasm aside. So why were wagons and iron tools so unacceptable to God?
The other nations around Israel made idols, or carved images. God chose Israel to be set apart, and there were many things peculiar about them. They rested one day in seven, they had a special diet, they didn’t cut the sides of their heads, and they were circumcised. They also had no image of God that they worshipped, and the priests carried all the sacred vessels (kelee) over the shoulder rather than transport them by cart. No one around them lived like that. God’s law put them at a disadvantage with the nations around them.
On the other hand the sun stood still when they fought battles, their crops were blessed, they rested their land every fiftieth year, rivers and seas parted in front of them, and walls of mighty cities fell down when they shouted. They were a funny little nation with a God who acted on their behalf.
Exodus 20:24 sums up God’s attitude perfectly when He instructs them about making altars:
“In every place where I cause my name to be remembered, I will come to you and bless you.”
God promised Israel He would be there and do miracles on their land. Whenever He did something memorable, they would make an altar, and tell their children and their children’s children. They would receive the blessing. He would receive the glory.
Back to 1Kings 6:7:
“The house, while it was being built, was built of stone prepared at the quarry…”
That word “prepared” is shalem “complete, full, just, made ready, peaceable, quiet, and whole.” It is related to the word shalom.
God wanted peaceable, complete, whole stones as the foundation for His house.
But in the New Testament we, like Jesus, are those stones:
“And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 2:4,5.
Jesus even changed Simon’s name to Peter, or “Rock”. I think he wanted to get this “people-are-stones” point across.
If you look at the events of a typical church Sunday, you see a lot of machinery- lights, sound, video, production cues, live stream, etc. That’s a lot of kelee. None of these kelee are bad. Some are very practical. You can’t talk to 500 people without a sound system.
But if we allow our man-made vessels, implements, and tools to become too precious to us, we are in danger of offering unacceptable sacrifices. God refuses to rest His presence on man-made machines. But we can become so invested in making the machinery of Sunday work that we are beholden to it.
If you ask anyone who has served one too many Sunday mornings, you’ll know what “beholden” looks like. Beholden looks like stress, strife, contentiousness, resentment, feeling undervalued, burn out, low joy, and short tempers right up until 10am. Beholden means putting on a happy face for the second service and sweeping conflict under the rug for another week. Beholden means you can’t pause the machine because, “the show must go on”. That’s the sound of iron tools on the temple grounds.
Beyond that unholy noise, we mistake the structure for the Church. The Lord is not returning for a spotless Sunday service. He is returning for a Body.
In the name of “doing church”, we cannot allow the apparatus to cut people. The people are the living stones God wants whole. We may think we are doing God’s will by offering Him our labor, but if we cut the stones or try to carry His presence on a man-made structure it is unacceptable to Him.
So what is the alternative? Peace.
“This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” James 3:15-18