Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Cherubs and 1 Kings 8

This passage occurs in the Narrative Lectionary, Year 4 (really the full passage is 1 Kings 5:1-5; 8:1-13).

Summary:  For Lutherans working their way through the narrative lectionary, today's story about Solomon building a temple is a tough one.  I find two powerful reformation themes here though:  Vocation (everyone had to help in building the temple) and semper reformanda (always being reformed;this temple would become a spot that Jesus had to cleanse.)  Indeed, I think today's story, when coupled with the cleansing of the temple, suggests a few avenues for reform:
-Including, not just serving, the poor in the church.
-Stop worshiping our buildings (1 Kings 9; a reminder that its not about the temple)
-Overcoming historical differences to work together (Heram and Solomon)

But if you are focusing on this text, and this text alone, I think a fruitful avenue is the image of the Cherub.  We make them into fluffy childlike angels.  In the Bible they are terrifying.  A reminder of what we do to God -- make him fluffy, ignoring his awesomeness!  Indeed, in the skyscraper era it is hard to imagine what a profound impact the very size of the temple would have had on viewers.

Key Word:
"Cherub"  This word appears a number of times in the Bible falling into five categories:
Garden of Eden:
Genesis 3:24     The cherubs guard the tree of life

Ark of Covenant
Numbers 7:28   This describes the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 26), on which sat two Cherubim, as the place from which God spoke to Moses.  For a picture, you can check here.  Actually, there a number of pictures online, but you get the idea:

In Temple:
1 Kings 6:23 and 24: Massive cherub statues in temple (wings 15 ft long); worth noting is that in 1 Kings 7:29 Cherub are listed next to Lions and Oxen

"Horsemen" of God's sky Chariot:
2 Samuel 2:11  Cherub move God's chariot
Ezekiel 10 has a huge description of Cherubs. 
-They have human hands
-Their entire body, their rims, their spokes, their wings, and the wheels -- the wheels of the four of them -- were full of eyes all around.

-Each one had four faces: the first face was that of the cherub, the second face was that of a human being, the third that of a lion, and the fourth that of an eagle.

Later Ezekiel will add

Ezekiel 41:19  a human face turned toward the palm tree on the one side, and the face of a young lion turned toward the palm tree on the other side. They were carved on the whole temple all around;
In Heaven:
The OT seems to describe God as existing in the temple, but also in the heavens (ie, the temple and then ark become a model and portal to the heavenly worship).  In the New Testament, God's temple is not located in the temple in Jerusalem, but the New Jerusalem in heaven.  Thus, the four creatures of Revelation 4 and 5 are likely Cherubim.

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