Tuesday, February 12, 2013

TorahBytes: Living Stones (Terumah)

For the house, when under construction, was built of stone prepared at the quarry; so that no hammer, chisel or iron tool of any kind was heard in the house while it was being built. (1 Melachim / 1 Kings 6:7; CJB)

An interesting aspect of the building of Solomon's temple was that it went up in relative silence. I say relative, because, while, "no hammer, chisel or iron tool of any kind was heard in the house while it was being built," we don't read that it was completely quiet. There was likely all sorts of sounds associated with this building site, except for what's listed. The stone preparation was done off site, so that the on site workers only handled finished stone. For a stone to be qualified to be on site, it had to be prefinished. Only then was it fit to be part of God's house.

We don't know how unusual it might have been in those days to not do any of the stone preparation on site. It was noteworthy enough for the biblical writer to mention it. The lack of hammering and chiseling may have created a particular kind of holy ambiance.

In the New Covenant Scriptures the people of God are called the house of God. Peter uses a mixed metaphor when he writes, , "You yourselves, as living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be cohanim (English: priests) set apart for God to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to him through Yeshua the Messiah" (1 Peter 2:5; ESV). That Peter freely refers to followers of Yeshua as both the stones of the temple and the priests who serve there should caution us from being too specific when using metaphors. This is similar to saying that believers both make up the community in which the God of Israel is present and are also called to sacrificially offer their lives in service to God. The figures of speech used by Peter are much more vivid than my explanation, but we need to be careful not to push any metaphor beyond the intended meaning of its writer, biblical or otherwise.

That said, the temptation to speculate on how the using of only prefinished stone on the temple's building site might illustrate some attribute of Yeshua's spiritual house is almost too much to bear. But before I indulge myself, I will briefly explain how best to avoid misapplication when using something from the Hebrew Scriptures to illustrate or highlight a New Covenant truth. In my opinion for a parallel to be legitimate, the supposed truth drawn out from it must be clearly taught somewhere in the Bible. Otherwise the claim has no basis in God's actual revelation, but rather is only an idea made up in our minds. No matter how clever the attempted parallel might be, we want to avoid twisting the Bible to support our personal ideas.

With that said, let me offer but one possible parallel. The New Covenant teaches that one of the essential aspects of what God does in the life of a believer is that his perfecting work is as good as done. Paul writes, "Therefore, if anyone is united with the Messiah, he is a new creation - the old has passed; look, what has come is fresh and new!" (2 Corinthians 5:17; CJB). At the same time, there is a process going on. Paul also writes, "And I am sure of this: that the One who began a good work among you will keep it growing until it is completed on the Day of the Messiah Yeshua" (Philippians 1:6; CJB). We ourselves tend to be more aware of the process, including our failures and weaknesses, than of the reality of our full acceptance by God. But in spite of our imperfections we are qualified by God now to serve him (see Colossians 1:12). So while the process is still going on, we are truly part of his spiritual house.

It's as if the process of perfecting us is happening off site in the muck and mire of life's everyday hammering and chiseling. At the same time, God is in our midst to use us in his service, to glorify him and bless other believers, representing him wherever we are.

Where the parallel breaks down is we, living stones, experience this as a "both/and." Unlike the stones of Solomon's temple which when done no longer required further hammering and chiseling, we continue to undergo the sometimes painful process of being made more godly. Where this idea may be most useful is in the reminder that in spite of our need of this ongoing process, we as followers of Yeshua can rest in the confidence that we are indeed part of God's spiritual house.

No comments: