What would it be like to have God present with us? Religions and cultures around the world have gods that they worship. They are all far removed and separate from the people. Ocassionally, they will come to torment the people, play pranks on them, or use them for their purposes. But most are unreachable, unfathomable, separate, and "out there."
This incredible story relates when the One True God, the God of Heaven, reveals Himself on earth. Israel has taken possession of the Promised Land. David went from the battlefield to eventually become the king. He was instrumental in making Israel the most prosperous it had ever been by leading the people into battle with the opposing nations. David's great desire was to build a temple for God - a place where God's presence would reside. Until then, God would appear above the Ark of the Covenant (which Moses had built according to God's directions) within the tabernacle (a mobile tent that served as a place of worship). David had a great palace but God had nothing.
God desired to dwell among his people as well, but would not allow David to build the temple. Instead, the honor would fall to David's son Solomon. Solomon earned renown as the wisest man ever, due to his request for wisdom from God. He was also the richest and most prosperous man in the world as a result of God's blessing. His greatest accomplishment was building the Temple - God's chosen place of residence on earth.
In chapters 8 and 9, the story turns to the dedication of the temple. This seems weird to us today, because of all of the sacrificing and odd forms of worship. God had instituted a sacrificial system for Israel. Due to the Fall (Genesis 3), only the shedding of blood could bring forgiveness for sins (Heb. 9:22). These animals are sacrificed as a sign of worship to God. The Ark of the Covenant is brought in, which had been designed according to God's directions as His seat on earth.
All of this forms a grand ocassion in Israel. God, their God, the One True God, has come to dwell with them. Since man cannot see Him face to face (Exodus 33:19-20), God comes in a cloud. The coming of His glory is so intense that the priests cannot stay but have to turn away and leave their duties unfulfilled. It is an amazing moment when the God of all Creation comes to make His presence known. Notice Solomon's amazement, "But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built." (1 Kings 8:27) It's remarkable that the God of heaven would confine Himself to a place on earth.
As amazing as this story is, it only gets better. God's plan in the Old Testament is fulfilled in the New Testament. Jesus came to live with us - God with us, living with us, one of us. What would God do in my place? Look at what Jesus did. Not only did God confine Himself to a location in the temple, He went further and confined Himself to a human body. Jesus came to fulfill all of God's law. Something has to die for the punishment of our sins? Forget about sheep and cattle, that have to be offered over and over. What about the matchless Son of God, Jesus? He died as a once-and-for-all sacrifice for our sins. We don't depend on animal sacrifice and our ritual observance of them. We depend on Jesus' death for us and through faith, we transfer our defense before God to Him. He becomes our advocate. He stands in our place, having lived as we should have, having fulfilled God's plan for us, and having paid the penalty for our sins. When God looks at us in judgment, what will He see? The righteousness of Jesus. Amazing.
It gets better. When Jesus died on the cross, several incredible, unexplainable events occurred. One was that the veil of the temple was torn apart. Why is this significant? Because the ark of the covenant, where God resided, was held in the Holy of Holies. This was an inner chamber within the Temple that was separate. The only person who could enter was a priest and then only in a certain manner at a certain time. It separated us from God's presence because we could not withstand it. The veil of the Temple was torn to show that the way to God was now open to everyone.
Jesus came to provide a new and living way. We now have access directly to God due to Jesus' death on our behalf. Now we are able to address God directly, to enter into His presence and offer our prayers directly to Him. More than that, God comes to dwell in us. We are now the Temple of God's presence - our lives and our bodies. He lives in us as the Holy Spirit. The Spirit has come to guide us, to teach us about God, to convict us of sin, to cry out to God on our behalf - He is God within us.
Israel commemorated the coming of God to the Temple with 14 days of celebration. What is your response to the more incredible reality that God has come to live in you?