Before the Israelites settled in the Promised Land, the tabernacle was a movable sanctuary, traveling with the people as they journeyed. After subduing their enemies and establishing the nation, however, King Solomon built a temple for the Lord in Jerusalem.
That temple was meant as a permanent dwelling place for God, and the dedication of this space was a significant moment in Israelite history: “All the heads of the tribes and the chiefs of the Israelite families” (v. 1) were present to witness the occasion. The priests processed into the sanctuary with the ark and “all the sacred furnishings” (v. 4). So many sacrifices were offered that “they could not be recorded or counted” (v. 5). Most importantly, the solemn occasion was ratified by God. “When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the Lord. And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled his temple” (vv. 10–11).
God now had a permanent dwelling place on Earth with His people. But Solomon’s prayer indicates that the temple still wasn’t fully adequate. “Even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!” (v. 27). Indeed, elsewhere Scripture proclaims: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool” (Isa. 66:1); the hosts of heaven proclaim: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isa. 6:3).
Then why have a temple? Solomon’s prayer hints at the answer: because of God’s mercy. For a time, the Israelite temple was God’s chosen space to reveal His presence and provide fellowship. The temple was God’s way of offering His presence and forgiveness to His people (v. 30).
As we approach Christmas, consider how you can arrange your home to celebrate our ability to meet with God. Perhaps you can place a “prayer chair” near your Christmas tree or manger scene, or you can create space for friends and family to gather to sing carols or praise the Lord. God’s infinite presence is willing to be in intimate relationship with you.