“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…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 worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord (2 Chronicles 7:1-3).” God’s presence came to dwell in this earthly Temple—declaring it to be His own. Very visible. Very memorable. I’ve always loved this passage as well as the similar event in Exodus when God comes to dwell in the Tabernacle (Exodus 40:34-38). The Ark of God was present both times—representing the holiness and power of God plus His covenant with Israel. In 2 Chronicles 5:4, the Ark was visible to everyone in Jerusalem that day—a huge crowd including the elders of Israel, all the heads of the tribes and the chiefs of the Israelite families, all the men of Israel, the Levites and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, including the king (verses 2-4). During the Exodus from Egypt, the Ark had been visible to everyone present in the desert (men, women, children, foreigners and Jews alike) whenever the camp moved. The Levites carried the Ark in procession to the next location. When the cloud of God lifted up, the Tabernacle was packed up, and the camp moved following the cloud to the next location. Everyone saw that. Here, only those present in Jerusalem saw the procession moving the Ark of God to its resting place in the Temple, the fire from heaven to the altar, the glory of the Lord above the Temple, and the cloud filling the Temple. Those who remained at home could only hear about it. I felt sad for them. There was no YouTube video they could watch of this event. I wish I was there! Don’t you?
After Solomon’s very public act of installing the Ark in its proper place, he praised God for fulfilling His promises to Israel (2 Chronicles 6:4-11), especially those God had made to David (Solomon to be king, the Temple to be built). Solomon is choosing to submit to God as his own ruler and to God’s covenant with Israel. Solomon follows this declaration with a beautiful prayer for all of Israel and all the situations in which Israelites might find themselves–both personally and nationally.
In verse 40, Solomon calls God “my God.” Sadly, we know what happens later in Solomon’s life when he does not stay faithful and obedient to “my God.” Faith is a matter of loving God wholeheartedly so that you want to approach life His way in obedience. Faith involves elements of hope in the unseen and risk at believing that God is enough to meet any need. Faith does not require seeing the glory cloud or the golden Ark in front of my face in order to believe that God is real. In fact, many of those who saw God’s physical presence on a daily basis didn’t become obedient followers of God. Those Israelites in the desert who saw God’s presence constantly front and center did not obey God and march into their Promised Land to conquer it when given the first opportunity to do so. They rebelled. Having an “experience seeing God” doesn’t guarantee a heart of faith. Solomon saw God, heard directly from God in a dream and through prophets, yet still went against God’s ways later in his life.
Often I wish I could have been there on the day of Pentecost when the Spirit was given (Acts 2). God inaugurated His new Temple (individual believers) with a visible fire. Though I don’t see the flames of fire on the heads of new believers now, I certainly see the presence of God in them (including myself) when I see changed lives–men and women who are “on fire” for Jesus. Today, we don’t need to go to a Temple building or pray in a certain direction toward a Temple building to see God. He is inside each of us. I am in His presence all the time because I am His temple. Whenever I am with my Christians sisters and brothers, I am in the presence of God. When they love God wholeheartedly, it shows in their lives. And, there is joy!
Reboot Renew Rejoice Bible Study of 1 & 2 Chronicles (download pdf)