The Master Architect Works Alone

What kind of temple is God most interested in?

The Master Architect Works Alone

What kind of temple is God most interested in?


There are a few things in my life that I’m especially proud of. When speaking honestly about them, I must admit that I want others to know that I worked hard for them. They’re things that I primed, polished, and cultivated through work, spit, and grit. Take my writing, for example. I’m proud that I can sit down and put words to the thoughts that roll around in my head from time to time. But this world “helps” me forget that an Artist and Author reigns over my life whose vision and skill are the birthplace and perfect culmination of anything that I could attempt on my own on this side of heaven. I don’t think I’m unique in this misplacement of pride, and while there is a time and place to be proud of the things in our lives, removing that pride from the scarred hands of Jesus into our own will never end well, and will never be rooted in honesty or reality.


This predisposition to believe that we bring artistry, knowledge, or any unique addition to the works of God in our lives is something that we see time and time again throughout the biblical story. It’s been a problem since the garden, and one that will remain with humanity until we and our earth (and along with it, our creativity and imagination) are fully redeemed when Christ returns. Regardless of how majestic and beautiful our works can be on this side of heaven (and man, do we knock it out of the park sometimes, you guys), they will never compare to a mere thought or word that passes from the mind or mouth of God. 


Now, does God work through us to create these inspired and astounding pieces of art or literature or engineering or whatever it is we create in our lives? Absolutely. We see it in the Bible. Consider Noah’s ark, for starters. God ordained what the ark would look like, how it would be built, what it would be built of, and how many doors and decks it would have. And when the last nail was put in, God filled it with his own walking, flying, and buzzing creations, both to witness and to showcase. And from this God-inspired ark, we saw life step out, the enclosure having protected God’s people through Noah’s family.


The newly freed Israelites were also on the receiving end of specific instructions that would help them co-create with their Creator, for another ark, this time for the Ark of the Covenant, the box that contained the Ten Commandments and served as the very throne of God in Old Testament times. Again, we see specific materials, measurements, and flourishments. Not only that, but we see in Exodus 31 that God filled the men working on it with his Spirit, ensuring that the vehicle of his grace and protection would be truly worthy of his presence. Again, just like the ark of Noah, this ark would produce and provide a way for God’s people to live in this world alongside their holy and just Creator.


Then came Solomon, who completed a dream that his father David had and built what was without a doubt one of the most breathtaking pieces of architecture that ever graced the face of this earth: the temple. But this one, though the most ornate and dripping with the most wealth, carries one major difference from the arks. While the construction of both arks was led by God’s instructions, the temple’s was led by Solomon’s. In this section of Scripture, the language is no longer God speaking and providing, but Solomon proclaiming what he is doing to make this building majestic. He sends his skilled men (2 Chronicles 2:13) instead of God’s Spirit being the lead architect. He chooses the wood, he chooses the measurements (3:3). The language is subtle but important. “And he made” appears over and over again, which is not something we see in the other accounts. It is clear that this is Solomon’s temple, and though he dedicates it to the Lord, and God even sends his glory to fill it, its creation was birthed in the minds of David and Solomon. The lack of divine instruction is a glaring omission, but intentional as it’s set within the fabric of the story itself — what comes before and what comes after.


Also important is how these structures fared over time. We are not told about the fate of Noah’s ark after it parked itself on a mountain. We can assume that it eventually disintegrated, but it isn’t a small thing that the Bible doesn’t tell us, because narratively speaking it makes the ark eternal. The same can be said about the Ark of the Covenant. The last we see it is in 2 Chronicles when King Josiah instructs the Levites to return it to the temple. The temple was subsequently destroyed and plundered, but the text remains silent about the fate of the ark. Again, it gets absorbed in the theological timeline of God’s redemption of His people. As mentioned above, however, the Bible is very clear about what happened to Solomon’s temple. It was dismantled and destroyed, brick by brick, as the people of God were led away in chains. There were attempts to rebuild it, but they would pale in comparison to the original. It was a tragic reminder that the best that man could offer was unable to provide them the sanctuary that was freely provided by both arks that came beforehand. 


To punctuate this difference, God spends a good deal of time in Ezekiel talking about not only the purpose that Solomon’s temple ended up serving before it was destroyed (“Behold, I will profane my sanctuary, the pride of your power, the delight of your eyes, and the yearnings of your soul,” which sounds very reminiscent of the tower of Babel, another man-made wonder), but also brings Ezekiel to the doorstep of a greater temple. In a vision that comes just after a promise from God that he would restore His people after their impending destruction and imprisonment, Ezekiel is shown a temple that dwarfs Solomon’s in both size and glory. In it, we find water flowing through the midst of it, which clues us into how this is the new temple that will make its earthly appearance at the end of days when the doors are thrown open and the River of Life will flow from the side of Christ and in our midst for eternity. 


And at this point, in case it wasn’t clear already, the New Testament goes full tilt. Think of Stephen’s sermon, moments before he is stoned to death when he speaks of Solomon’s temple he follows it quickly with a Davidic psalm that proclaims “the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands” (Acts 7:47). Paul, too, declares to the Athenians that the “Lord of heaven and earth does not live in temples made by man,” but that “in him we live and move and have our being.” Despite the grandness of the temple, God urges us to move on from it, and to see that it’s in his work, his building, that we live and rest, not he in ours. Indeed, the only rest we can have is found in the hands and feet of Christ, nailed to the cross, having finished the work, the building of the temple where God would dwell for eternity.


So, was Solomon’s temple magnificent? Absolutely. Was it a sin to create? I don’t think so. But, just as with anything we do, the trap lies in forgetting that our creativity sprouts from Creativity itself, as well as forgetting that the Bible constantly moves us away from the works of our hands and towards the works of Jesus on our behalf. When we do things for our pride, our delight, and our yearning, we harness ourselves to the side of Solomon, whose pride blossomed from this creation and ended up tearing the nation apart. But this is so much more than just a simple lesson in pride. It’s a reminder that when God’s hands are in our lives, we have the opportunity to delight in being swept up in the very source of Imagination itself. It’s a reminder that our eternal protection, provision, and sanctuary all come from the outpouring of God’s creative flow and not our own. It’s a promise that when it comes to what matters most in life, we can stop trying to make something beautiful enough for God to notice us. Instead, he distances himself from our religious charades and invites us to live with him through what his Son has done for us alone.