Open Your Bible
1 Kings 8:1-66, 1 Kings 9:1-28, Exodus 25:10-22
Our house is a wreck. At the moment, each piece of furniture we own resides in the middle of its designated room, covered in plastic wrap. The master bathroom is halfway through a renovation, which means that it currently looks worse than it did before the hammer first fell. A crew of painters came last week and rolled our walls white. There are a few unfinished places: a patch in the living room, a circle around the dining room chandelier. Yesterday, our contractor went to open a box containing two porcelain sinks for the bathroom, and as soon as he touched the box, the contents inside clinked and scratched like a windchime. We knew they were broken. He laughed and wiped his nose. I, on the other hand, said some things I’m not so proud of.
Construction is not easy. But through it all, I’ve held onto the hope of what’s to come: a restful, fresh retreat for our family to enjoy for years to come. A place to connect with the people I love, where I will leave renewed to face the trials of the world. When it’s finished—God, please let them finish—I will be the first to sing, “Hallelujah!”
That’s what’s happening in today’s reading of 1 Kings on a far grander, more historic scale. King David dreamed of building a temple worthy of God’s glory—but God reserved the joy of building that temple for his son Solomon. Temple construction had ended, but Solomon knew the job wasn’t complete until the ark of the covenant resided inside. For context, keep in mind that, years earlier, when the Israelites moved the ark, someone died (2 Samuel 6). This was no laughing matter. And though Solomon threw an epic celebration to welcome the ark, no doubt the people trembled with fear and as it was moved into its rightful home.
It’s interesting to me that Solomon’s prayer of dedication addresses a list of worst-case-scenarios: When we are defeated. When there is a drought. When there is famine. If his prayer tells us anything, it’s that the temple wasn’t a magical place to avoid the pain of the world. It was a sacred place to be with God in the midst of that sorrow. He prays that God will forgive, save, and redeem His people, even in the midst of every possible catastrophe. Solomon’s prayer ends with a reminder of why they built the temple in the first place: so that “all the peoples of the earth would know that the LORD is God. There is no other!” (1 Kings 8:60). All this work was to remind the world of the truth: God wants to be with his people.
And he wants to be with us too. So much so, that He didn’t stop moving toward us after Solomon built his temple. Several hundred years later, Jesus was born in Bethlehem. When He began His teaching ministry, Jesus shared radically great news—a time was coming when we wouldn’t have to go to a particular place to commune with God (John 4:21, 23). Because of Jesus’s work on the cross, God can commune with us always, without the barrier of a building. By God’s Spirit, we are welcome to be present in the holy of holies, near to God, sharing in Jesus’s glory right this second.
How do we know this is true? In His final prayer before He was betrayed and crucified, Jesus asks God the Father to be as near to us as He was to Jesus. Jesus asks for God to do a construction project in our hearts. He prays for us, saying, “I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them” (John 17:26).
Even Solomon’s temple in all of its splendor wasn’t as remarkable as the temple that God occupies in the center of our spirit. God is where He wants to be: with us.