1 Kings 8
Have you ever thought about where God is? We know that God exists outside of our reality but we also believe that God is with us. How is it that God can be in heaven and on earth with each and every one of us? For the past few weeks we have been reading from 1 Kings and learning about King Solomon. One of the greatest accomplishments of King Solomon was the building of the first jewish temple. During the dedication of the Temple, Solomon asks, “But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27). Does God dwell on earth? How do you experience His presence? Today we’re going to talk about sacred space and what that means for us. You will surely see how this is a very difficult subject without a clear answer.
What is sacred space? At its very core it is simply an area that is different from every other area. But even more than that sacred space is a place where we believe the divine and the creaturely meet. The thing about sacred space is that we have no control over what is and what isn’t sacred space: that is all up to God. Even a church is just a building until God enters it. What we can do however, is invite God into the space. Obviously, God does not need our invitation but by doing so we are communicating that we are opening our hearts and preparing ourselves to experience God. So then if God is in control of what is and what isn’t sacred space how do we know what sacred space is? Honestly, this is a difficult question to answer. However, I think it is fair to say that figuring out what is sacred space is all based on a feeling. I have never been to Israel, but those that do always talk about a feeling they have when they are there. The really cool thing is that this is nearly an unanimous feeling experienced by all. It is not as if just Christians have this experience. So then can anything be sacred space? I would argue that everywhere has the potential to be touched by God. Because God is limitless, ultimately there is already nowhere that God is not. In scripture we see sacred space take place on mountain tops such as Exodus 3 or Matthew 17, in water as in Exodus 14 or in Mark 6, and many others.
Something that you will notice when reading these verses is how much of a spectacle it was when Solomon was trying to make the temple a sacred space. We see in verse one that Solomon called all of the heads of the tribes of Israel. This would have been a very big deal! BUT, there is something very important that we must pay attention to. Notice that what makes the temple more than just a building is when they bring in the ark of the covenant. Now we as Christians living in 2020, this may be harder to understand. But for Jews during this time the ark of the covenant was the very place that God physically dwelled on earth. Remember that inside of the ark was the tablets of the 10 commandments that God communicated to Moses. This means that inside of the ark was the direct word of God and thus God Himself.
So here we are as post resurrection Christians. It would be easy for us to look at scripture like this and take it as an interesting story and nothing more. But I promise you that there is a lot to be gained from 1 Kings 8 especially with regards to sacred space. The reason that the temple was sacred was because God actually dwelled within it. Though we hear the long prayer from Solomon it was not that that made the area within the temple different from the rest. It was because, and only because, God was there. And because of that Solomon made the event a spectacle. But let’s take a look at John 1:14. It says “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth”. I want to draw your attention to the word dwelling. This is significant because in the same way that God dwelled in the temple, Jesus dwelled amongst us. If you pay very close attention, you will notice that the story of Jesus is linked to the story of Moses. Moses is best known for delivering the word or law to the Israelite people while Jesus was the one who ushered in the new covenant and actually was the Word. But so what? While we often think that the death and resurrection of Jesus was what forgave us of our sins it was much more than that. God took our form and entered into our reality. And because of this, rather than having God dwell amongst a singular building, He dwells amongst us. Because of this Jesus is called Emmanuel or “God with us”. This is also the reason that we tend to view sacred space differently than the way that Solomon and the people of that time did. So when we reference the good news of Jesus Christ not only do we mean the forgiveness of sins, we mean that we are forever connected with God in a way that we weren’t before. God is dwelling amongst us.
Even people outside of the Christian faith understand how important Jesus is to the tradition. But it is easy to forget just how important he was and is for us now and for our life eternal. Jesus is our salvation but also serves as a temple substitute and is the dwelling of God on Earth. This is exactly why we have a hard time in today’s Christian climate to explain sacred space is and what does and doesn’t qualify. Since God has walked this earth, maybe, to some extent, everything is.
Incase you missed it, check out the video of this week’s’ Midweek on our resources page.