Celebrating God’s Presence with Us-S6Ep5
This podcast covers Lesson 4 of Reboot Renew Rejoice Bible Study by Melanie Newton.
Celebrating God’s Presence with Us
Hello there. Welcome to Series Six of Satisfied. The Series Six podcasts enhance the Reboot Renew Rejoice Bible Study of the books of 1 and 2 Chronicles. I’m Melanie Newton, just an everyday kind of woman who loves the Lord and His Word.
In the last podcast, we looked at how someone who is trustworthy puts God first. Today’s podcast will cover Lesson 4 of Reboot Renew Rejoice Bible Study. We’ll look at how to celebrate God’s presence with us and how we are to respond to Him in our lives.
In March 2001, two people began praying about planting a church in a large new development in North Texas. Soon, a dozen people joined them. Then, two dozen and more. They met for about a year in a community center, then the newly formed church was forced to find a place to meet outside of that development. After moving to several different locations and even changing the church name, the Lord provided 17 acres of land in a prominent location on a busy road in a nearby community. That small beginning has grown into a large church impacting its community in many positive ways. The people prayed. God responded and gave them the guidance and resources to build in His name. God did the same for Solomon and the people of Israel.
Building in His Name
As I started reading 2 Chronicles chapter 1, several things jumped out at me. In verse 3, the whole assembly of national and tribal leaders assembled in front of the Tabernacle at Gibeon. This large tent and wooden pole assembly was more than 400 years old! Had any of the linen fabric been replaced? What about the poles with silver caps? Or, had this magnificent portable "tent of meeting" withstood the elements of heat and cold, rain and drought, to still be standing 400 years after it was initially created? Perhaps the Levites in charge of keeping it up did a really good job. And, it had been moved a bunch of times, too. Wow!
Solomon was crowned king at the Tabernacle and sought the Lord’s guidance. We don't know what he asked. But, God answered. That night God appeared to him and offered Solomon anything he wanted. I think this was a heart test. Do you remember David’s words to Solomon and the whole assembly before he died? He said that God would test the heart. God was testing this 20-year-old man to see what was really in his heart. Was he a spoiled rich kid? Or, was he a sincere man who would follow the example of his father David?
Solomon asked God, “Give me wisdom and knowledge to lead this people of yours.” He recognized with those words who really was the King over Israel. God was! I think Solomon’s response had been planted in his mind by his wise father David several years earlier. We covered that in the last podcast. God was pleased with Solomon's heart desire so God gave him what he asked (verse 11-12). Wisdom helped him to get ready for the next step—building the Temple.
Solomon does the prep work for the building. To oversee the actual building of the Temple, God provided a contractor named Huram-Abi whom God had gifted with training, experience and artistic skill. He knew how to do metalwork, weaving, embroidery and engraving. Any design! What a resume! And, he is able to work with others. That’s equally important.
The building of this spectacular structure took 7 years. It must have been absolutely breath-taking when completed! I think about some of those old cathedrals in Europe still standing today that took over 100 years to build. They are quite beautiful. But, God never took up residence in those buildings except through His people gathering for worship.
For the Temple in Jerusalem, the craftsmen got to see the inside of the Most Holy Place while it was being built. The place where God would take up residence with His people. They saw those 15-foot tall cherubim guarding the place for the Ark to rest. The craftsmen saw the cedar-lined walls adorned with gold and precious gems and the thick embroidered curtain hanging down. They got to see all the shiny objects and engravings in the Holy Place, the main hall of the Temple. Once the Temple was finished and God had taken residence in it, only the priests could go inside. But, the craftsmen got to see it while it was being built! I love that!
Solomon was a young man of around 22-23 when he started the project. He would have been about 30 when it was finished. During those 7 years, Solomon gained experience as a king and leader. During that time, he also had relative peace from other major challenges to Israel—especially attacks from enemies. Nothing distracted him from his building purpose. God did that for him. The future looked bright for Israel, didn’t it? Sadly, we know the rest of the story. But, at least for now, we can imagine the beauty of that Temple and the joy it brought to the people whenever they were in the Lord's presence there. I wish we had a 360˚ video tour of it. Don’t you?
Celebrating God’s Presence
The building is complete. It’s time to celebrate. But, without God’s presence, it is just a building.
Several months after the temple was completed, Solomon summoned all the leaders of Israel’s tribes to Jerusalem. When everyone arrived, the Levites took the Ark out of the tent that housed it and brought it to the new Temple. The priests then brought the Ark to its place in the inner sanctuary of the Temple, called the Most Holy Place. They put it beneath the wings of the cherubim that extended across the width of the Ark and its carrying poles. Huge!
Picture this: The priests withdrew from inside the Temple. The altar was in front of the Temple. On the east side of the altar, the Levite musicians dressed in fine linen stood and played their cymbals, harps and lyres. Adding to the orchestra were 120 priests sounding trumpets. Then, joining them stood a Levite choir raising their voices in praise to the Lord and singing: “He is good; his love endures forever.”
The Bible tells us that at that time, the Temple of the Lord was filled with the cloud of the glory of the Lord. The priests could not perform their service of offering incense and lighting the Menorah because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the Temple of God.
The cloud represented the presence of God. During the Exodus from Egypt, when the Tabernacle was completed, Exodus chapter 40 tells us,
“[God’s] cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set out; but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out—until the day it lifted. So the cloud of the Lord was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the Israelites during all their travels.” (Exodus 40:34-38)
God inaugurated His Tabernacle and His Temple the same way—with the cloud of His glory.
As magnificent as the Temple was for Israel to see, only a few could enter it. Once the Temple was finished and God had taken residence in it, only the High Priest could go into the Most Holy Place once a year. The priests could be inside the main hall of the Temple (the Holy Place). If the doors were kept open during the day, people on the outside might get a peek inside, but they couldn't go inside. Yet, they knew that God was present with them.
According to Hebrews chapter 9 verse 24, Jesus Christ entered heaven to represent us as our High Priest before God. Now, every believer can enter the presence of God at any time with confidence (Hebrews 10:19-22). What a gift!
But, even more than that, we have the power of our God’s presence with us 24/7. After Jesus’ resurrection, God sent the Holy Spirit to inaugurate His new temple—those who put their faith in His son. Because the Holy Spirit comes to live inside of us, we bear God’s glory today. Everyone from young to old, laborer to accountant, lower class to royalty, church staff and non-church staff. We all have equal access to the power of God’s presence by our faith in Jesus Christ.
Often, I wish I could have been there on the day of Pentecost when the Spirit was given. We read about it in Acts 2. God inaugurated His new Temple (individual believers) with a visible fire. Just like He did for the Tabernacle and the Temple. 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 or to experience His presence. He is inside each of us. I am in His presence all the time because I am His temple. Whenever I am with my Christian sisters and brothers, I am in the presence of God. When they love God wholeheartedly, it shows in their lives. That gives us even more reasons to rejoice than Solomon and his contemporaries had!
Let Jesus satisfy your heart with the power of His presence. Then, live in that power!
Until next time, I’m Melanie Newton. And, this is Series 6 of Satisfied.