5.46 1 Kings -- God's Glory
While the Temple was being built, God spoke to Solomon:
The word of the Lord came to Solomon: "As for this temple you are building, if you follow my decrees, carry out my regulations and keep all my commands and obey them, I will fulfill through you the promise I gave to David your father. And I will live among the Israelites and will not abandon my people Israel" (1 Kings 6:11-13).
This was both an endorsement and a warning. The Temple itself was no guarantee of God's future blessing. Only obedience would bring the continued presence of God among the people.
When the Temple was finished, Solomon called the leaders together. In a solemn procession, the priests brought up Ark, the tent of meeting, and other vessels.
There was nothing in the ark except the two stone tablets that Moses had placed in it at Horeb (1 Kings 8:9).
When the ark was placed in the sanctuary, God's manifest Presence filled the Temple.
When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the Lord. And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled his temple" (1 Kings 8:10-11).
2 Chronicles adds more details:
When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. The priests could not enter the temple of the Lord because the glory of the Lord filled it (2 Chron 7:1-2).
In this account, not only did the cloud appear, but divine fire fell and burned up the sacrifice. God was taking up residence in His dwelling, and letting the people know that He was among them. He had moved out of the "temporary" tent of meeting, which was intended to accompany a people on the move, and into a permanent dwelling that would be His earthly capital for all time. That at least was Solomon's intent:
"I have built you an exalted house, a place for you to dwell in forever" (1 Kings 8:13 NRSV).
Just as the Temple itself was prophetic of the universal purpose of God on earth, including foreigners in its construction, so the manifestation of the glory of God was also a prefigurement of His larger plan:
The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea (Hab 2:14).
It was not God's intention to live in the Temple as if hiding out in a fortress, but rather to go forth from there, to "break out" upon the earth, upon Jew and Gentile alike. And this going forth would not be in wrath and judgment, despite the overwhelming sins of mankind, but in redemption. The Gentiles would respond like the Israelites:
When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the Lord above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying, "He is good; his love endures forever" (2 Chron 7:3).
This response was not a result of book-learning, of recalling the ancient stories of Moses and the Exodus. It was born from direct encounter, from firsthand experience of the presence of the glory of God. This is true Biblical religion, when we get beyond the book and the doctrines to a personal apprehension of God, who permits Himself at times, even if rarely, to be tangibly Present within history. This, more than a plot of land in the Middle East, is the true inheritance of Abraham, and the reason why all nations will bless themselves through him.