THE STORY OF THE TEMPLE – 2 Chronicles 6:41–7:3 – “And now arise, O LORD God, and go to your resting place, you and the ark of your might. Let your priests, O LORD God, be clothed with salvation, and let your saints rejoice in your goodness. O LORD God, do not turn away the face of your anointed one! Remember your steadfast love for David your servant.”
As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD’s house. When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the LORD on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”
I t’s easy to zone out when we arrive at the temple narratives. Much of the Old Testament is filled with intense action— adventure, romance, war. But when we read about King Solomon (David’s son) building the temple, we find ourselves lost in detailed instructions about doorways and curtains and priestly utensils.
For modern readers, especially, we are liable to miss what made the story of the temple so shocking. In this building, God was creating for himself an earthly landing pad. King Solomon called it God’s “resting place,” a unique manifestation of God’s presence in the world (2 Chronicles 6:41).
Of course, until this point in the story, God has not been absent. He is, after all, the main character, there from the very beginning. And at crucial junctures throughout the Old Testament, God made his presence obvious. The trouble for God’s people, though, was that no one could anticipate where God would show up.
Or when. Or how.
For Adam and Eve, God walked directly up to them. For Joseph, God spoke in dreams. For Moses, God appeared as fire—first in the burning bush and later on a burning mountain. For Joshua, God approached in human form as a military commander. For Saul and David, God spoke to them through prophets.
As Solomon commissioned the temple, though, something unique happened. God’s presence, referred to here as his “glory,” descended on the place. Suddenly, Solomon, along with all of God’s people, got dazzling clarity: God’s presence was right there.
God’s presence with Solomon, reminiscent of his fiery appearances to Moses, was hardly safe. Seen in all his glory, God’s presence was so intense that no one could even enter the temple. And yet, amid the glory of God’s supernatural fire, God’s people recognized God’s goodness and his love. The temple, the glory, the fire—all of them served as reminders of God’s desire to reunite with humanity.
Unfortunately, God’s people frequently forgot that even though God had commissioned a resting place for himself, his presence wasn’t a guarantee. One day, centuries later, they would learn this when the temple itself was destroyed. But even while the temple stood, its purity regulations and requirements of sacrifice reminded people that lasting fellowship with God was still tenuous and fragile.
At Christmas, we celebrate God making a new resting place— only this time, the material would not be wood and gold, but flesh and blood:
“Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, Hail the incarnate Deity, Pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel.” 1
When Jesus entered the world, he became a new temple, the unique place where God’s presence dwelled. Through him, we see God’s desire to reunite with humanity.
And, ironically, though his body was fragile—eventually beaten, bruised, pierced, and killed—it would prove to be much more certain and enduring than any building. “Destroy this temple,” Jesus said, referring to himself, “and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). Forever.
Spend one minute meditating on God in all of his majesty and glory. The Creator. Powerful. All-knowing and all-seeing.
Spend one minute meditating on God as he revealed himself in the incarnation. Carpenter and craftsman. Meek and mild. Humble. Human.