Dedication Sermon on 1 Kings 8:45-63
The Dedication of Christ the King Lutheran Church & School
A House Fit for the King
Text: 1 Kings 8:45-63
After all those years. After all that hard work. After all that money spent. Finally! Dedication day! On a dedication day the exuberance, joy, and happiness are so real, so tangible, so thick you could almost feel it and touch it—thicker even than the humidity in Florida! What a long journey it was, filled with happiness and joy, sadness and sorrow, laughing and crying. But everyone would wholeheartedly agree it was worth it—if you would just stand back and take a look at the majesty of the building from the outside and then gasp in awe at the beauty of the inside.
It’s no wonder we hear about such a grand celebration and worship service in 1 Kings 8. Indeed, it had been a long time. At times we certainly got a little sick of setting up and tearing down week after week for two and a half years at Wadsworth Elementary School. It was the same old routine over and over again. We got to be so good at it, as everyone had their own little jobs to do, we could tear down and be out of that building in seven minutes flat. But it still wasn’t fun.
Solomon and the Israelites would just laugh at us. “Ha! Three years? Try 300 years!” That’s how long the Israelites had been waiting to have a permanent house of worship. Actually, they never even had a temple to worship in. It was only at the time of Moses that God first gave instructions for a mobile, tent-like sanctuary known as the tabernacle. That was their primary place of worship for over 300 years.
Not only had it been a long time, but it had also been a lot of hard work. This tabernacle was not a few folding chairs and folding tables tucked into the back of an 8’x13’ trailer and hauled behind Solomon’s Dodge Grand Caravan. (As I’ve said before, this is probably a good thing because then it couldn’t have been stolen like ours was) No their tabernacle was a massive structure with many interchangeable parts and many ornate details. We always loved it when it was winter time in Florida because that meant it wasn’t so hot when we were setting up and tearing down. In the summer I used to bring two shirts every Sunday morning because I knew I would sweat right through the first. Again, Solomon and the Israelites would have laughed. “Ha! Wheeling chairs on a chair dolly in Florida? Try thousands of people carrying hundreds of parts in the Sinai Desert and in Israel!”
Finally, they had spent a lot of money on the project. We’ve had plenty of discussions about budget regarding this building. We tried to cut corners as possible. We did some of the work ourselves. Again, Solomon and the Israelites would have a good laugh with us. In modern money Solomon’s temple would not have cost millions, but likely billions of dollars to construct.
But finally after all those years, after all that hard work, and after all that money spent—it was dedication day! Surely they had built A House Fit for the King. Solomon’s temple was a structure that was worthy of bearing his name throughout history. His father, king David, had always wanted to build this temple. Yet God planned that Solomon would carry out his father’s plans. What a beautiful, grand, and glorious structure it was, made by the richest king perhaps in the history of the world.
So, why in all the world would the Israelites do such an atrocious thing as we hear in verse 63? They had spent so much time and so much money on the temple. I’m sure the day before the dedication they scrubbed that temple from floor to ceiling like we did here yesterday. Why in all the world would they want to slaughter a mass of animals and have blood squirting and pouring all over the place? Look at verse 63: “Solomon offered a sacrifice of fellowship offerings to the LORD: 22,000 cattle and 120,000 sheep and goats.” PETA would have had a field day that! What were they thinking?
We can find an answer in Solomon’s prayer. Here is verse 58, “May he turn our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways and to keep the commands, decrees, and regulations he gave our fathers.” What a wonderful prayer by Solomon! Too bad the Israelites weren’t even close to following that prayer. For more than a thousand years the people of Israel had been doing disgusting and terrible things that one would even hesitate to mention in church. For over a thousand years after Solomon the Israelites continued to do the despicable and deplorable. They lied and cheated each other. They worshiped false gods. Their land was filled with adulterous activities.
Then there was Solomon himself. By God’s gracious gift Solomon was the wisest man that ever lived. He may have been the wealthiest man that ever lived. He had a grand and expansive kingdom. Those who saw the temple would have thought, “Yes, this is a A House Fit for the King of Israel.” But he was one atrocious man. You literally turn one page in the Bible from 1 Kings 8 and you read about what Solomon was really like. He lived a life squandering luxury. His income was more than 25 tons of gold every year. He “loved” women. He had 700 wives and 300 more concubines on the side. He began to worship the false gods of these heathen women and forget about the Lord. King Solomon’s life makes Tiger Woods look like Mr. Rogers.
When you think about it, those Israelites had no business being in that beautiful sanctuary in the presence of the Lord. Solomon had no business being in the sanctuary, let alone leading the assembly of Israel in worship. The temple was A House Fit for the King, but the king surely didn’t deserve to be there.
They knew that. Solomon knew that. Listen to his prayer in verse 56: “Praise be to the LORD, who has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses.” Solomon and the Israelites had failed the Lord over and over, but the Lord had never failed them. He kept his promises. He brought them to the promised land. He allowed them to build that marvelous temple. He spared them and forgave them.
So they sacrificed. They sacrificed 142,000 animals as a thank offering for the peace they had in the Lord’s forgiveness. They drained the animals’ blood. They burned the fatty pieces. They burned the leftovers. The smells of death and burning flesh would have overwhelmed the nostrils. The 142,000 animals would have generated over 400,000 gallons of blood, enough to fill this sanctuary completely from floor to ceiling. The sight of death and blood would have been etched in their memories forever. The Israelites would never forget the message God had sent them through the sacrificial system of the Old Testament. When there is sin, there must be death and blood to pay for it. Because their sins had been paid for, the Israelites celebrated and gave thanks to the Lord.
After all those years. After all that hard work. After all that money spent. Now here we are. Finally! Dedication day! Just like with Solomon and the Israelites, the exuberance joy and happiness is so great you can almost feel it. We may not have had quite the wait or the hard work the Israelites experienced in the 300 plus years after Moses, but we’ve had our share experiences along the way. I think we changed how we set up our chairs at Wadsworth at least four times. There were times that tables broke and stacks of chairs fell over. Fingers were pinched in the big sliding walls we put in place. Once the processional cross blew over in the wind and the Jesus that was on it had his arm broken off. We tried an outdoor service once, but the flock of chirping birds, the fire truck passing by, and the car alarm all told us that was a bad idea. A few times the janitor forgot to come and we were locked out and had to worship outside on the school grounds. And as many of you know, a few months ago all of our possessions were stolen so the last few services at Wadsworth Elementary became BYO Chair. But we worked our way through some red tape, we finally complied with all the city codes, and we even survived our site crew quitting and walking off the job. Now we’re here in this beautiful new church and school building!
Yet what have we done to deserve all of this? Or what have we done to even deserve Wadsworth Elementary? What have we done to deserve anything from the Lord? Again we look at Solomon’s words: “Praise be to the LORD . . . Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave.” It’s still true today. The Lord has never failed us. But we surely have failed him. We fail all the time. We make promises to our spouses and promises to our children which we break. We fail to show love to all of our neighbors—especially that guy that clogged his swale and now makes mine flood over! We fail to protect others’ good reputations as we gossip and slander and spread rumors (true and false) on Facebook and Twitter. We fail to be honest. We fail to protect God’s good name in our speech, using his name as if needed for emphasis. We fail to curb our eyes and our ears from the filth of the world around us in books and magazines, on the radio, on the TV, and on the internet. We fail to put the Lord first in our hearts. We squander our wealth on frivolous toys and tools or new fashions of clothing instead of putting it to better use. We make up excuses why we didn’t pray yesterday or why our Bible has been collecting dust lately or why we haven’t been to church in a while. Fail, fail, fail. Or as God would call it—sin, sin, sin.
We have built here A House Fit for a King. It even intentionally has castle-like features to it. The finishing touches look rich and elegant. What business do we have being in the Lord’s presence? How could we possibly think that we sinners deserve to be in the house of a holy God? How could I, a pitiful and pathetic sinner, possibly think that I deserve to preside over worship or preach to people in this glorious place? God’s message in the Old Testament was clear. When there is sin, it must be paid for. When there is sin, there must be bloodshed. When there is sin, there must be death. When I sin, I must die.
But look around you. Look closely. Look at the shape of the soffit above the chancel. Look at the unique and modern shape of the reredos behind the altar. When you leave, look at what is embedded into the bay window out front and then look at what towers 40 plus feet up into the sky on our steeple. Look at what is stained in gold on the floor in the tower. Look at what is suspended in mid air inside the tower. Look at what we focused our attention on at the beginning of worship. Crosses. All around us. Everywhere you look on this campus, and especially in this sanctuary, there are crosses.
As a holy and righteous God, the Lord demands that there be payment for sin. He demands that blood be shed. He demands that there be death. So should we slaughter 142,000 animals on this altar here to reconcile our relationship with God? No. There already was death. Not 142,000 animals. Just one Lamb.
When the service is over today you may want to come and look at the surface of the altar. On it are 10 squares, representing the 10 Commandments. They are in blood wood to remind us of our sins. Yet in the middle of the altar is an almond, the shape created when two circles overlap. This almond represents one person—Jesus Christ, who is both God and man. In the middle of the almond is a large cross. It is the largest of five crosses on the altar. Each stands for a wound of Jesus on the cross—two hands, two feet, and side. Each cross is in blood wood.
You see it didn’t take 142,000 animals or 400,000 gallons of blood to pay for our sin. It took just one Lamb—the Lamb of God. Solomon mentioned in his prayer that, “Not one word has failed of all the good promises [the Lord] gave.” Indeed. The Lord even kept the greatest of all his promises. The promise he made to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden he also made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon, and all the others throughout Israel’s history. That promise he kept. His word did not fail. We fail, but he did not. He sent a Messiah. He sent his Son. He sent his Son who fulfilled all the commands, decrees, and regulations that the Lord has given to us. He sent his Son to become the once and for all sacrifice for sin. God demands bloodshed and death as a payment for sin. That is exactly what there was. Jesus went to the cross to shed his holy blood so that it might wash us clean of all our guilt and all our sin. He endured the depths of hell that our sins deserve. He died the death that should be ours.
No more sacrifices are needed. We don’t have to sacrifice 142,000 animals. We don’t have to pay for it. We don’t have to earn it. The Lamb of God already paid for it. He already earned it. You heard it earlier today: “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” Forgiveness and heaven are yours—freely and fully.
You know we could have saved a lot of money on this project. I bet we could have built for at least half the price. We could have built a multifunctional space that would be a school gym during the week and a sanctuary on the weekends. We could have skipped the tower. We could have carpeted the floors. We could have bought folding chairs. We could have built just a steel shed and slapped a cross on front and called it a church. We could have. But we didn’t.
Those 142,000 animals sacrificed by Solomon and the Israelites were actually not a payment for sin. They were a thank, or peace, offering. They were thanking the Lord for his great mercy and kindness. So also is true of this building. We were determined that to the best of our ability and budget we would build the absolute best school, church, and sanctuary we could. We were determined that we would build something that would show thanks to God and give him glory. We were determined to build a church and sanctuary that would remind us of Jesus Christ our King and Savior.
So that’s what we did. We built A House Fit for A King. Not Christ the King church. This is not for our glory. This is not for our self-satisfaction. This is not so we can say, “Hey, look what we did in only three years.” This house is for the King. This house of worship is built to the glory of Jesus Christ, our King and Savior. In this place and everywhere, to him be all glory forever and ever.