Sometimes the Holy Spirit draws my attention to a phrase in Scripture and blows a trumpet. This happened recently with the phrase “open flowers” in the description of the temple Solomon built. Usually I would blow right past this phrase, even though it is used four times in chapter six of I Kings. We are told that carved into the cedar walls (v.18) and the olive wood doors (v. 32) are cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers.
Throughout Scripture and especially in Ezekiel, the cherubim represent the awesome power of God: both his omniscience and omnipotence. The palm tree in the middle east represents rest, water, and if a date palm, even food. The sight of palm trees indicates the presence of fruitfulness, water, and shade.
What intrigued me were the open flowers. Israel is famous for its wildflowers—thus the honey that flows in this land. But spring is short, and the heat quickly withers the flowers. Psalm 103:15 uses the flowers to express the brevity of life: “As for man, his days are like grass—he blooms like a flower of the field; when the wind passes over, it vanishes and its place remembers it no more.” As I age and spend more time reading my friends’ obituaries, the swift passage of life is always present. There is a wintry melancholy as I contemplate all that is lost and all that is gone. Grandchildren sprout up, things you just painted need repainting, memories fade, and so much is unfinished.
Yet in the presence of God we are forever open flowers. In His presence nothing that is truly good fades. God remembers every expression of love for Him and others—nothing is forgotten, nothing lost. Like the flowers carved in the cedar walls of the temple, we are golden.
It is significant that here in God’s presence, the flowers are open. Here it is safe to bloom. We can open ourselves to God. We can just be and leave behind all worries as to whether we have done enough or become enough. All the competing narratives surrounding our identity and value are silenced.
We value flowers for their beauty and joy, not their utility. The Spirit’s invitation to be an open flower before God is an invitation to enter God’s sabbath rest and to walk with God in the cool of day. Here I need only bloom, not calculate how useful or useless I have been to God.
In God’s presence, I am perfectly known, understood, and loved. Because we are created in God’s image, and recreated by the lavish grace of Christ, we are open flowers—full of beauty and goodness. In God’s presence we not only open our hearts in praise and adoration, we bask in His love and delight in us. We receive the gentle rain of His Spirit and the radiance of His glory.
Yes, in His temple there are powerful cherubim and useful palm trees. But I am grateful God included the open flowers. These too are the glory of God. As David declared (Psalm 29:9): In His temple everything says, “Glory!”