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Many people know some stories from the Bible, but not how the narrative fits together. The Bible is one story that begins in a garden, ends in a city, and all the way through points to Jesus Christ. Open is your guided journey through this powerful, life-transforming story.
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The Ark Brought into the Temple

8:1 Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the leaders of the fathers' houses of the people of Israel, before King Solomon in Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of the city of David, which is Zion. And all the men of Israel assembled to King Solomon at the feast in the month Ethanim, which is the seventh month. And all the elders of Israel came, and the priests took up the ark. And they brought up the ark of the LORD, the tent of meeting, and all the holy vessels that were in the tent; the priests and the Levites brought them up. And King Solomon and all the congregation of Israel, who had assembled before him, were with him before the ark, sacrificing so many sheep and oxen that they could not be counted or numbered. Then the priests brought the ark of the covenant of the LORD to its place in the inner sanctuary of the house, in the Most Holy Place, underneath the wings of the cherubim. For the cherubim spread out their wings over the place of the ark, so that the cherubim overshadowed the ark and its poles. And the poles were so long that the ends of the poles were seen from the Holy Place before the inner sanctuary; but they could not be seen from outside. And they are there to this day. There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets of stone that Moses put there at Horeb, where the LORD made a covenant with the people of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt. 10 And when the priests came out of the Holy Place, a cloud filled the house of the LORD, 11 so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD.

Solomon Blesses the Lord

12 Then Solomon said, “The LORD1 has said that he would dwell in thick darkness. 13 I have indeed built you an exalted house, a place for you to dwell in forever.” 14 Then the king turned around and blessed all the assembly of Israel, while all the assembly of Israel stood. 15 And he said, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who with his hand has fulfilled what he promised with his mouth to David my father, saying, 16 ‘Since the day that I brought my people Israel out of Egypt, I chose no city out of all the tribes of Israel in which to build a house, that my name might be there. But I chose David to be over my people Israel.’ 17 Now it was in the heart of David my father to build a house for the name of the LORD, the God of Israel. 18 But the LORD said to David my father, ‘Whereas it was in your heart to build a house for my name, you did well that it was in your heart. 19 Nevertheless, you shall not build the house, but your son who shall be born to you shall build the house for my name.’ 20 Now the LORD has fulfilled his promise that he made. For I have risen in the place of David my father, and sit on the throne of Israel, as the LORD promised, and I have built the house for the name of the LORD, the God of Israel. 21 And there I have provided a place for the ark, in which is the covenant of the LORD that he made with our fathers, when he brought them out of the land of Egypt.”

Solomon's Prayer of Dedication

22 Then Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the assembly of Israel and spread out his hands toward heaven, 23 and said, “O LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to your servants who walk before you with all their heart; 24 you have kept with your servant David my father what you declared to him. You spoke with your mouth, and with your hand have fulfilled it this day. 25 Now therefore, O LORD, God of Israel, keep for your servant David my father what you have promised him, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man to sit before me on the throne of Israel, if only your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me as you have walked before me.’ 26 Now therefore, O God of Israel, let your word be confirmed, which you have spoken to your servant David my father.

27 “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built! 28 Yet have regard to the prayer of your servant and to his plea, O LORD my God, listening to the cry and to the prayer that your servant prays before you this day, 29 that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which you have said, ‘My name shall be there,’ that you may listen to the prayer that your servant offers toward this place. 30 And listen to the plea of your servant and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. And listen in heaven your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.

31 “If a man sins against his neighbor and is made to take an oath and comes and swears his oath before your altar in this house, 32 then hear in heaven and act and judge your servants, condemning the guilty by bringing his conduct on his own head, and vindicating the righteous by rewarding him according to his righteousness.

33 “When your people Israel are defeated before the enemy because they have sinned against you, and if they turn again to you and acknowledge your name and pray and plead with you in this house, 34 then hear in heaven and forgive the sin of your people Israel and bring them again to the land that you gave to their fathers.

35 “When heaven is shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against you, if they pray toward this place and acknowledge your name and turn from their sin, when you afflict them, 36 then hear in heaven and forgive the sin of your servants, your people Israel, when you teach them the good way in which they should walk, and grant rain upon your land, which you have given to your people as an inheritance.

37 “If there is famine in the land, if there is pestilence or blight or mildew or locust or caterpillar, if their enemy besieges them in the land at their gates,2 whatever plague, whatever sickness there is, 38 whatever prayer, whatever plea is made by any man or by all your people Israel, each knowing the affliction of his own heart and stretching out his hands toward this house, 39 then hear in heaven your dwelling place and forgive and act and render to each whose heart you know, according to all his ways (for you, you only, know the hearts of all the children of mankind), 40 that they may fear you all the days that they live in the land that you gave to our fathers.

41 “Likewise, when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a far country for your name's sake 42 (for they shall hear of your great name and your mighty hand, and of your outstretched arm), when he comes and prays toward this house, 43 hear in heaven your dwelling place and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to you, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that this house that I have built is called by your name.

44 “If your people go out to battle against their enemy, by whatever way you shall send them, and they pray to the LORD toward the city that you have chosen and the house that I have built for your name, 45 then hear in heaven their prayer and their plea, and maintain their cause.

46 “If they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you are angry with them and give them to an enemy, so that they are carried away captive to the land of the enemy, far off or near, 47 yet if they turn their heart in the land to which they have been carried captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captors, saying, ‘We have sinned and have acted perversely and wickedly,’ 48 if they repent with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their enemies, who carried them captive, and pray to you toward their land, which you gave to their fathers, the city that you have chosen, and the house that I have built for your name, 49 then hear in heaven your dwelling place their prayer and their plea, and maintain their cause 50 and forgive your people who have sinned against you, and all their transgressions that they have committed against you, and grant them compassion in the sight of those who carried them captive, that they may have compassion on them 51 (for they are your people, and your heritage, which you brought out of Egypt, from the midst of the iron furnace). 52 Let your eyes be open to the plea of your servant and to the plea of your people Israel, giving ear to them whenever they call to you. 53 For you separated them from among all the peoples of the earth to be your heritage, as you declared through Moses your servant, when you brought our fathers out of Egypt, O Lord GOD.”

Solomon's Benediction

54 Now as Solomon finished offering all this prayer and plea to the LORD, he arose from before the altar of the LORD, where he had knelt with hands outstretched toward heaven. 55 And he stood and blessed all the assembly of Israel with a loud voice, saying, 56 “Blessed be the LORD who has given rest to his people Israel, according to all that he promised. Not one word has failed of all his good promise, which he spoke by Moses his servant. 57 The LORD our God be with us, as he was with our fathers. May he not leave us or forsake us, 58 that he may incline our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments, his statutes, and his rules, which he commanded our fathers. 59 Let these words of mine, with which I have pleaded before the LORD, be near to the LORD our God day and night, and may he maintain the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel, as each day requires, 60 that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God; there is no other. 61 Let your heart therefore be wholly true to the LORD our God, walking in his statutes and keeping his commandments, as at this day.”

Solomon's Sacrifices

62 Then the king, and all Israel with him, offered sacrifice before the LORD. 63 Solomon offered as peace offerings to the LORD 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep. So the king and all the people of Israel dedicated the house of the LORD. 64 The same day the king consecrated the middle of the court that was before the house of the LORD, for there he offered the burnt offering and the grain offering and the fat pieces of the peace offerings, because the bronze altar that was before the LORD was too small to receive the burnt offering and the grain offering and the fat pieces of the peace offerings.

65 So Solomon held the feast at that time, and all Israel with him, a great assembly, from Lebo-hamath to the Brook of Egypt, before the LORD our God, seven days.3 66 On the eighth day he sent the people away, and they blessed the king and went to their homes joyful and glad of heart for all the goodness that the LORD had shown to David his servant and to Israel his people.

Footnotes

[1] 8:12 Septuagint The Lord has set the sun in the heavens, but
[2] 8:37 Septuagint, Syriac in any of their cities
[3] 8:65 Septuagint; Hebrew seven days and seven days, fourteen days

(ESV)

Overview

The cloud of God’s presence in the temple pointed forward to what God would do in Christ. God took human flesh and came down among us in Jesus Christ. When we believe in Him, God’s presence enters our lives by the Holy Spirit, giving us a foretaste of the joys that lie ahead when we will live with Him forever.

The Bible story is about how men and women can live in the presence of God. It begins with the first man and woman enjoying God’s presence in a garden and ends with a vast crowd enjoying the presence of God in a city. Between these two scenes, we have the story of how God’s presence was lost through man’s choice of sin and disobedience, and how the presence of God is restored by God’s initiative of grace.

These initiatives included the appearances of God to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; the presence of God on Mount Sinai when He gave the law; and the ark of the covenant where God promised to come down and meet with the High Priest.

God had said that when His people came into the Promised Land, He would choose a place where He would meet with them (Deuteronomy 12:5). David discerned that Jerusalem was the place, and he wanted to honor God by building a temple that would house the ark of the covenant. But God said to David, “Your son will build a house for me,” and the privilege of building the temple fell to Solomon.

Time for the Temple
Normally, building sites echo with the sounds of cutting, hammering, and shouting, but the temple was put up in total silence. Every stone was cut and dressed in the quarry and then brought to the building site ready for assembly.

When all of the materials were prepared, the command to build was given, and the temple went up in silence. “Neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron was heard in the house while it was being built” (1 Kings 6:7).

This picture is taken up in the New Testament, where God’s people are described as “living stones” (1 Peter 2:5). Everything that God is doing in your life is shaping you for your eternal destiny. Your pain and suffering are like the hammer and chisel in the quarry, preparing you to be a living stone in God’s temple. When Jesus Christ returns, the preparation will be complete, and God’s people will become a glorious temple in which His presence dwells.

God’s Stonecutters
Some years ago, we had the opportunity of welcoming Romanian pastor, Joseph Ton, into our home for several days. He had been imprisoned for his faith, and we listened intently as he talked about the cost of his commitment to Christ.

He described how the prisoners hated the guards because of their cruelty, but Joseph prayed for them and for their families. When one of the guards asked him, “Why are you not filled with bitterness toward me?”

Joseph answered, “Because to me, you are God’s stonecutter.”

Who are God’s stonecutters in your life? They may have brought you pain, but God will use that pain to shape you into the likeness of Christ. God can also use difficult circumstances with your health, family, job or finances to cut you into shape. The process is always painful, but when Christ returns you will be all that He calls you to be, and you will take your place in heaven where you will know and enjoy God’s presence forever.

A Service of Dedication
Once the building was complete, the people gathered for a service of dedication that proved to be one of the greatest occasions in the history of God’s people. When the priests brought the ark of the covenant into the Most Holy Place at the center of the temple, God’s presence came down: “A cloud filled the house of the LORD, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud” (1 Kings 8:10-11).

These people had never experienced the immediate presence of God. The last time God’s glory had shown itself like this was in the desert, more than four hundred years earlier. So Solomon had to explain to the people what was happening: “The LORD has said that he would dwell in thick darkness” (8:12).

The Most Holy Place at the center of the temple was a darkened room built to house the ark of the covenant. On the lid of the ark were golden figures of cherubim representing the judgment of God. So when God’s presence came down, He broke through the separation represented by these figures and came among His people.

Responding with Worship
Solomon’s first response to the presence of God was to worship! “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who with his hand has fulfilled what he promised with his mouth to David my father” (8:15). But Solomon knew that no building could ever contain God, and that the cloud of God’s presence could leave as quickly as it came.

Solomon longed for more than an occasional experience of God’s presence. He wanted the temple to be the place where God’s presence could always be found, so he made this request: “[May] your eyes… be open night and day toward this house, the place of which you have said, ‘My name shall be there’” (8:29).

Solomon also asked that God would hear the prayers of people living many miles from Jerusalem: “Listen to the plea of your servant and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. And listen in heaven your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive” (8:30).

Solomon was filled with joy as he anticipated a future blessed with the presence of God: “Blessed be the LORD who has given rest to his people…. The LORD our God be with us, as he was with our fathers. May he not leave us or forsake us” (8:56, 57).

The Sad Story of the Temple
But the joy did not last. After the time of Solomon, another king by the name of Manasseh promoted the worship of other gods and introduced astrology into God’s temple (2 Kings 21:5). This idolatry was so offensive to God that He gave His people into the hands of their enemies. The Babylonian army laid siege to Jerusalem, the city fell, and the temple was destroyed.

Jerusalem was reduced to a pile of rubble, and in the process, the ark of the covenant was lost, and despite the efforts of Indiana Jones, it has never been found. This fact is of huge significance. Without the ark, the temple could no longer be the place where God meets with His people.

The temple was rebuilt under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah, but it was only a shadow of the one built by Solomon. People gathered for worship, but the cloud of God’s presence never came down. And by the time of our Lord Jesus Christ, the temple had become “a den of robbers” (Matthew 21:13).

The Temple with Us
Describing the birth of Jesus, John said, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). “Dwelt” literally means tabernacled, or pitched his tent, so John is telling us that when Jesus was born the presence of God came down among His people.

Early in His ministry, Jesus came to the temple and said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). Those who heard him thought he was referring to the building, but Jesus was referring to His own body, indicating that He Himself is the meeting place between God and man. “If you want to meet with God,” He was saying, “come to Me.”

In the past, the meeting point between God and man had been a place, but now the meeting point between God and man is a person. Solomon asked that God would listen to the prayers that were directed toward the temple, but Jesus promises that God will hear prayers that are offered in His name. “Whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it you” (John 16:23).

The Spirit in Us
When the disciples were with Jesus, they had open access to the presence of God. God was with them in the person of Jesus, so when Jesus began to speak about leaving, the disciples were troubled.

But Jesus said, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth…for he dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:16-18). The disciples had known the presence of God with them in Jesus, but now they would know the presence of God in them by the Holy Spirit.

The gift of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer is so astonishing that Paul asks: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you?” (1 Corinthians 6:19). Try to take this in: Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. Just as God’s glorious presence came down to Solomon’s temple when it was dedicated, so God’s presence fills the lives of those who are dedicated to Him. That is why Paul prays that believers will “know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19).

The whole of human history is leading up to the day when Jesus Christ will take His people into the immediate presence of God. The apostle John was given a glimpse of what this will be like. He saw a great city and a great crowd of people. Then he heard “a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God’” (Revelation 21:3).

  1. Do you think you would like to live in the presence of God? Why or why not?
  2. Who are God’s stonecutters in your life right now? Talk about the pain. How do you think God might want to use this to make you more like Christ?
  3. When, in human history, did God come down among His people? If we want to meet with God today, where do we need to go?
  4. What did the Apostle Paul mean when he said to believers, “Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit”?
  5. How can we get a taste right now of what life will be like in heaven?
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