“A Kingdom Provided”: Solomon Built the Temple
We often talk about how why matters just as much, or perhaps more, than what. It shouldn’t surprise you then that I want to draw our attention beyond the what of the temple—beyond the details—and focus more on its why—why it existed.
While the temple was constructed to replace the tabernacle, they both shared the same trifold purposes: the temple was where God met with His people, it was where God’s people worshiped Him, and it where the world caught a glimpse of who God is. Although these first two purposes are just as important as the third (and the third would be impossible without the first two), I want to summarize them quickly and focus more on that last one.
The Temple: Where God Was with His People
The temple, namely the holy of holies within it, was the intersection of God and humanity. This was a visible manifestation of God’s presence among His people. While the tabernacle added the element of God being in the middle of His people, based on the tribes being instructed to camp around the tabernacle, the temple added the element of permanence. God was always with His people. John 1 speaks of Jesus, the Son of God, tabernacling with us as the ultimate fulfillment of what the temple pictured.
The Temple: Where God’s People Worshiped their God
The temple was not supposed to be a structure that was viewed from afar—God’s people were supposed to gather around it to worship the God who was in relationship with them. The primary worship, of course, took the form of the sacrifices. We know that these sacrifices pointed toward the sacrifice Jesus would make (see Hebrews for a detailed explanation of this). The Israelites were not saved by the blood of the animals being sacrificed, but rather through faith that God would provide a greater sacrifice one day.
The Temple: Where the Watching World Would Come to Know God
The first two purposes of the temple are profoundly beautiful. So is the third. The temple was not just about God and Israel, it was about God and all the people of the earth. We see this in Solomon’s prayer of dedication in chapter 8:
41 Even for the foreigner who is not of your people Israel
but has come from a distant land
because of your name —
42 for they will hear of your great name,
strong hand, and outstretched arm,
and will come and pray toward this temple —
43 may you hear in heaven, your dwelling place,
and do according to all the foreigner asks.
Then all peoples of earth will know your name,
to fear you as your people Israel do
and to know that this temple I have built
bears your name. (1 Kings 8:41-43 CSB)
Notice that Solomon recognized that when the people worshiped God in the temple, the world would notice, and they would draw in closer because of it. When we rightly know God, we will rightly worship Him. And when we rightly worship God, the watching world will notice. Our worship is, in a sense, evangelism. We cannot miss this purpose of the temple—for in it we are reminded of our purpose in life. We exist to live each day on mission. We are here on earth because there are lost people here with us. Our goal ought not be to withdraw into a holy huddle to make it through this life. Rather, our goal should be to live each day on mission, as we love, worship, and obey God and make Him known to all those around us.
Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man.” — John Piper 
Preschool Tip: As we know, preschoolers learn best through repetition. This session provides the opportunity to review and remind your preschoolers about some of the basic truths we covered a while ago when studying the tabernacle. You might want to dig out some of your visuals from that session to help connect the dots.
Kids Tip: More than likely, your kids are somewhat familiar with our call to know God, love God, and worship God. While they surely do not know those truths in full, and they need to continue to learn how to do them, they are at least on their radars. But the third purpose of the temple—to live on mission—may not be as deeply entrenched within them. Consider focusing on that this week. Don’t move past the other factors—again, missions cannot happen apart from knowing and worshiping God—but if you have time to flesh out any of these, I would encourage you to do that with living on mission.
 John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad!, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2010), 35.