2 CHRONICLES 5, 6 and 7
The Temple, having been completed, it was now time for the Ark to be transported and installed into the Holy of Holies that had been prepared for it. It had been held in a tent at Zion, the old city of David, where the temple musicians had conducted their daily worship; the remainder of the Tabernacle equipment and altars had remained at Gibeon, where the daily sacrifices had taken place. Thus, for the first time in many years, there was a re-unification of all functions of the worship of God under one roof. 1 Kings 8, and 2 Chronicles 5 describe the scene.
The Ark, representing the presence of the Lord and his Covenant with Israel was the key feature of the Temple and had pride of place in the ‘Most Holy Place’, a room without any natural or artificial light (God alone provided that, Psalm 36:9; 2 Corinthians 4:6) and set aside totally for his presence; only the High Priest was permitted to enter that room – and only then on one occasion per year. The poles that were used to carry the Ark remained in the rings attached to its side. No-one would ever carry it again! Once the Ark had been positioned in its rightful place, the Temple became so full of the cloud of God’s presence that no-one could even enter it for a while. This passage prompts us to ask ourselves whether we have such a zeal and reverence for the presence of the Lord in our lives. We are not talking about visiting a particular building – religious or otherwise – but having the awareness that the Holy One dwells in our bodies and in our lives.
Solomon, acting as High Priest as well as King for the day, turned to the leaders of Israel and, representing God, he blessed them. Afterwards, he turned around to face the altar, this time representing Israel to God, and prayed for the presence of God to fill the temple for ever. He then prayed for the temple to be a platform for justice and for mercy, for the forgiveness of sins and for success in war and in peace. This would be whether those asking were Jews or foreigners, present in person or many thousands of miles away.
They then dedicated the Temple with many sacrifices, in a ceremony lasting 14 days; that was Dedication Week itself, followed by the Feast of Tabernacles, which lasted a week also.
2 Chronicles 5:12 also mentions the key role played by trumpeters, other musicians, and singers in the temple dedication. Sung forms of worship, whilst not the only methods, were regarded as very important to Israel and to God himself. The greatest Old Covenant worshipper himself – David – clearly regarded their role as vital.
The Lord said to Moses, “I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always put their trust in you”. (Exodus 9:19) This was the first time that God revealed his plan to be close to Israel. Solomon quotes this verse – more or less – in today’s reading in 2 Chronicles 6:1. The full glory and visible presence of the Lord would have destroyed mortal men and women and needed to be masked in some way – rather in the same way that we cannot safely look at the sun with the naked eye (Exodus 33:20). So we understand that God is not ‘cloaking himself’ from Israel in order to be more distant, but in order to draw closer to us than he otherwise could. The Temple was another way in which his full glory could be ‘housed’ without causing collateral damage – rather in the same way that a nuclear reactor prevents the spread of deadly atomic nucleides.
“My father David had it in his heart to build a temple for the Name of the Lord, the God of Israel. But the Lord said to my father David, ‘You did well to have it in your heart to build a temple for my Name. Nevertheless, you are not the one to build the temple, but your son, your own flesh and blood – he is the one who will build the temple for my Name’”. (2 Chronicles 6:7-9) Sometimes, even if a particular course of action is ‘in our hearts’, it might not be the will of God for us. God commended David’s motivation and vision but denied that it came from Him on this occasion. Let’s be a little more careful about ascribing to God every plan and vision that we have in our minds – even if they would help advance his Kingdom.
“Now he had made a bronze platform, five cubits long, five cubits wide and three cubits high, and had placed it in the centre of the outer court. He stood on the platform and then knelt down before the whole assembly of Israel and spread out his hands toward heaven.” (2 Chronicles 6:13) “Solomon consecrated the middle part of the courtyard in front of the temple of the Lord, and there he offered burnt offerings and the fat of the fellowship offerings, because the bronze altar he had made could not hold the burnt offerings, the grain offerings and the fat portions.” (7:7) This was because the proper altar was simply too small on its own to cope with the vast number of animal sacrifices that Solomon was planning for the Dedication Ceremony.
“As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm—when they come and pray toward this temple, then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Do whatever the foreigner asks of you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your own people Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears your Name”. (2 Chronicles 6:32-33). God’s plan had always been to expand his covenant of love to all the nations – which of course he has done fully in Christ under the New Covenant. His Temple was the first real symbol of that aim: “My house shall be a house for all nations” (see all Isaiah 56:6-8).
“When they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin…” (6:36) This concept of universal sin is stated here and in Romans 3:23. We all have sinned, and we all need redeeming.
In the next chapter, we read: “When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. The priests could not enter the temple of the Lord because the glory of the Lord filled it. When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the Lord above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying, “He is good; his love endures forever.”” (7:1-3) Sometimes the glory of God is not there to make us work harder, but just to stand in awe and to enjoy his presence.
“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.” (2 Chronicles 7:13-15). These famous verses are found only in the 2 Chronicles version of events, rather than in 1 Kings. They set out the conditions of repentance that will ensure the renewal of prosperity to the nation; we can take these same conditions for our personal walk with God.