God’s Presence Fills the Temple
Open Your Bible
1 Kings 8:1-13, 1 Kings 8:22-53, 2 Chronicles 7:1-3, Revelation 11:19
God’s presence filled the temple, and His people drew near and worshiped Him.
My church has been going through a study of the psalms of ascent (Psalms 120–134), fifteen psalms tucked toward the back of the book that chronicle the journey the Israelites made to Jerusalem to worship God in the temple. Each week, as we study another, I feel each step of the journey anew, inextricably linked in this year with the long separation from public worship earlier this year. The psalmist says, “I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let’s go to the house of the Lord” (Psalm 122:1). His longing echoes my own to worship and be near God in His house. It’s a theme that permeates the psalms of ascent, and my heart today.
Why did the temple mean so much to the Israelites, that together they would sing as they walked up its steps? Why did it hurt with every beat of their collective heart when the temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 BC? Why was building a second temple on the foundations of the first so important to the Jewish people when they returned to Jerusalem from exile? (Ezra 1).
Why? Because God’s presence came and dwelt there.
In 1 Kings 8, the elders of Israel bring the ark of the covenant to rest in the inner sanctuary of the newly finished temple. The ark of the covenant symbolized the Lord’s ongoing presence with the Israelites (Numbers 7:89). Since their days with Moses at Mount Sinai, the ark had been on the move. Now, it was brought into a permanent structure—the temple. Once it came to rest in the most holy place, “the glory of the LORD filled the temple” (1Kings 8:11).
King Solomon then offers a prayer of dedication that is one of the most beautiful speeches in all of Scripture. It’s a visceral prayer that must have echoed through the meticulously-planned walls of the temple. On and on Solomon goes, listing and describing the many times and ways and places the people would come to commune with their holy God in His temple (vv.31–42). The temple was different, and Solomon’s prayer punches through scenario after scenario of when the people could come into God’s presence via the representative priests who could enter the most holy place. The temple was a reminder that God was dwelling among His people. And yet, it was still separated by a curtain into the holy of holies, where only the high priest could enter once a year.
That is, until Jesus came as the physical presence of God on earth. And when He ascended into heaven, the Holy Spirit came to commune with God’s people, to guide them and be present with them. And one day, when Jesus comes again and believers live with Him in the new Jerusalem, God will be present with no curtains, no barriers, no fear, and no death.