This is the question that King Solomon asked the Kingdom of Israel when he dedicated the temple before the Lord in 1 Kings 8:27. This is a question that has reverberated down through the millennia and is just as relevant today as it was when Solomon uttered these words. The concept of the temple, sanctuary, and the power of God’s presence is one that provides the connective tissue throughout the narrative of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. Eden was meant by God to be a sanctuary of His presence among His people that was to spread over the whole creation as the human race fulfilled its mandate in Genesis 1:28. This idyllic intent came crashing down when Adam and Eve fell in the Garden. The human race was exiled from the presence of the Lord. However, God had a plan of salvation in place. In the Book of Exodus we read the detailed instruction of the Lord for the people of Israel to build the Tabernacle. This would eventually become the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem. The temple of the Lord is where the shekinah glory would come down. This is where Moses would commune with the Lord. This is where the High Priest would make atonement for the sins of the people by sprinkling the lamb’s blood on the mercy seat. This is where forgiveness happened. This is where so many believed God resided.
Solomon, however, answers his question this way, “Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built!” Solomon did not build a residence in which God was to dwell. If the highest heaven cannot contain the Lord, a house built with human hands certainly could not do so. In his dedication Solomon declares the purpose of the temple. Solomon’s edifice of grandeur was to indicate to the world that the God of Israel was the creator of heaven and earth. The temple was meant to be a beacon to the whole world to declare the glory of the Lord. As Solomon says, “Then all peoples of the earth will know your name, to fear you as your people Israel do and to know that this temple I have built bears your name.” (1 Kings 8:43) The Lord’s sanctuary has always been intended to bring all people to the Lord’s presence. Jesus overturned the money changers’ tables in the temple because they had driven out the Gentile from the only place they could pray at the temple complex and turned it into a bazaar for the Passover festival. Jesus exclaimed, “It is written, ‘my house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a den of thieves.” (Matthew 21:13)
The beauty of God’s temple is that it finds its ultimate fulfillment in the New Covenant. Jesus fulfills the sacrificial elements of the temple service once for all with his sacrificial death on the cross. The power of God’s presence in His sanctuary is ultimately fulfilled by the giving of the Holy Spirit to Christ’s disciples. This makes every believer a walking, talking, living representation of God’s temple, God’s presence in the world. Solomon asks in his dedication prayer, “Will God indeed dwell upon the earth?” The answer to that question is an emphatic YES! But how? God answers, “In the very lives of my children.” What a joyous reality! The Apostle Paul tells us, “Don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God?” (1 Corinthians 6:19) The Apostle Peter puts it this way, “ As you come to him, a living stone—rejected by people but chosen and honored by God you yourselves, as living stones, a spiritual house, are being built to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:5-6)
God has answered Solomon’s question in His people, even today! When we come to church service each Sunday, or how ever often you gather as God’s people, Jesus declares to us, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” (Matthew 18:20) When we arrive at the church building to worship the Lord, the presence of the Lord is not found in the building itself. The Lord’s presence is there because the Lord’s people have arrived. Thus, when God’s people gather, God’s presence has come as well. Jesus declares, “Lo, I am with you, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20) Wherever you go, don’t ever forget that you take the presence of the Lord with you always. And where there is the presence of the Lord also comes the power of that presence. Do not allow the deception of this world to rob you of that power of His presence! Will God indeed dwell upon the earth? The answer is YES! He dwells in you, dear disciple!
-this article was published in the November 9th Edition of the Weakley County Press.
-photo courtesy of unsplash.com