READ: 2 Chronicles 4-6
THINK: This is one of those Bible moments where what is happening is so epic that there’s almost no way we can fully grasp or appreciate it without being there. And we, reading it in the 21st Century, are at an even greater disadvantage because we are separated from this event by not only time, but by space and culture as well. But it’s important for us to understand that the building and dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem was massively important for the nation of Israel. They had been looking forward to this moment for centuries – ever since they began their journey to the Promised Land from Egypt. The temple was God’s dwelling place on earth!
These chapters have a lot to do with God’s presence. The temple was built specifically for his presence – though Solomon rightly acknowledged that God is everywhere and he fills the heavens and the earth and no building could possibly contain him. It was built to house the Ark of the Covenant. It was built to be the center of Israelite worship and religious practice. It was built as a continual reminder that God was very literally with the people of Israel.
And the end of chapter 5 and beginning of chapter 6 are so cool! They describe the way that the physical manifestation of God’s presence and glory moved into the temple and dwelt there. This “cloud” that gets mentioned is the one that led the nation of Israel through the desert. It is God’s Shekinah glory – the symbol of Divine presence that burned for Moses in a bush and led the people through the wilderness. And it filled the temple. It filled the temple in such a powerful way that the priests couldn’t even enter to perform their duties that day. I don’t know about you, but I feel like that would have been outrageously awesome to see!
But the temple that Solomon built was eventually destroyed. It was destroyed because the people of Israel ignored and forgot God’s presence and chased after idols. I want to challenge you today, in view of this passage that describes what God’s presence can be, to not walk down that same road. For us, the temple symbolizes our spirit – created and designed to be the place where God lives and dwells. Take a minute to stop and think about that. Think about the word picture that this passage paints, and then realize that because of the cross of Jesus Christ that very Shekinah glory has come in and filled you up. That very God dwells within your soul!
Today, as you marvel at that, I want to suggest 3 things to stoke the fire of God’s presence in your life and not forget or ignore it, 3 things that come out of the celebration of Israel during the dedication of the temple:
1. Live in love. Israel put away all divisions, frustrations, and hatred and united to dedicate the temple. They became “as one.” It is hard to humble ourselves for the sake of unity, but if we genuinely love others and want to experience God’s presence we must. God is love, and his presence beckons us to show it.
2. Live in worship. They lifted up their voices to God. We were built to worship. God’s presence beckons us to worship. If we don’t, we miss out. I love the way 19th century writer Thomas Carlyle put it: “The man who does not habitually worship is like a pair of spectacles behind which there is no eye.”
3. Live in gratitude. Be awed by who God is and what he has done for us. Like Israel, worship him for his mercy and his love that he shows to us. Thank him for who he is and what he graciously gives us even though we deserve none of it.
PRAY: Make much of the presence of God today! Live in love, worship, and gratitude. Sit in awe that the holy King of the universe lives in your soul. Thank him for it. Ask him to help you cleanse your temple so that it might be a more worthy home for him – so that your life might inwardly reflect the outward beauty of that incredible temple that Solomon built. And look for God’s presence all around you – in every interaction and in every bit of creation – remembering that he fills the heavens and the earth.
LIVE: If you have a couple extra minutes and you are thusly inclined, memorize this poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. It is one of my favorites and committing it to memory has helped me because as often as I recall it I am reminded to keep my eyes peeled for all that God is doing, and to live in reverent wonder at his presence:
“Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.
Again, such richness in this passage! I am so often guilty of the “hurry up” method of reading God’s word…just getting thru….but you so rightly encourage us to open our souls and get a glimpse of the awe of this experience! Incredible! And to think that very presence seeks to shine His glory in our souls! Wow…