The Glory of God – 1 Kings 8

The glory of God is a tangible reality in 1 Kings 8!

In the history of OT Israel, the days of Solomon were the best. We’re slap-bang in Israel’s “Golden Years” – and 1 Kings 8 is one of the stand-out moments from the very best of times! For Christians today, we know that the OT gives us 2D shadows of the 3D reality to come in Jesus. So it’s no surprise that a chapter that’s a real high-point of the OT should also be one that leads you most directly to Christ.

It’s a pretty huge chapter; the theology is rich both for OT and NT. We’ll be pretty selective, but also try to get a feel for the whole chapter.

The Lord teaches you

In chapter 3, Solomon asked God for wisdom to rule the nation. In chapter 4 (last time), we saw how good it is to live in a nation led by a king whose wisdom comes from God. But if that was a picture of heaven, there was a hole – and the hole was the absence of God among his people. Chapters 5-7 then address that hole. They describe the design, materials and build of the great Temple in Jerusalem. And so chapter 8 is the dedication of the Temple – the big opening day (no idea if they had ribbon and over-sized scissors).

It is a celebratory day, an exciting day. It was happening at the time of the Feast of Tabernacles (or Booths or Shelters) – always a happy festival. That feast was about exodus and travel, so it’s lovely to mark it with the opening of the permanent Temple.

We’re told they brought the Ark of the LORD to the Temple.

  • It was a wooden box overlaid with gold.
  • It had been in the Most Holy Place of the Tabernacle – the portable, tent-Temple from Moses’ day.
  • The Most Holy Place was the cube-shaped space in the Tabernacle – and now the Temple – where God’s own particular presence dwelt among his people.
  • So (v6) the Ark was placed in the Most Holy Place, and the two stone tablets with the 10 Commandments were placed inside (v9).

And, when everything was in place, the wonder happened! Read v10-11.

The glory of God’s presence

It’s exactly what happened in Exodus 40 when the Tabernacle was first erected. No-one could go in, because the glory of the Lord filled it! The cloud is always an image of God. It reveals his presence to us, and yet hides his face too. You’d die if you could look at him. The cloud covered Sinai. The cloud covered the Mt of Transfiguration. God was present, but unseen. There will be a day when he makes all things new and removes all curse. On that day, Rev 22 says, you “will see his face.”  Until then, cloud obscures him. There’s much of him you can’t know.

The glory of God’s words

And yet we can’t ignore the stone tablets. There’s no obscurity there. As Peter puts it in 1 Peter 1, we have God’s “great and precious promises” – his written word to teach us. He teaches you about himself, and about yourself. He teaches you all you need to know to know his will.

“God’s will is that you be holy.”

1 Thessalonians 4:3

There are lots of books about Guidance – coming to know God’s will for your life. The Puritan John Owen wrote a massive 10,000-page, 16-volume collection of rich, wonderful theology – but almost nothing about guidance. That’s quite a modern thing. In truth, God has provided you with the guidance for your life. He has told you what his will is: 1 Thess 4:3, “God’s will is that you be holy.”

Don’t get taken up by what you might be – be taken up by who God is. Reflect on his glory. Then remind yourself that this glory is in Christ, and you are united to him – he is in you, you are in him – and he is holy. It is his will that you be holy; that you live your life recognising that you belong to Christ and that you’re untied to his holiness. Be in awe of him who is too spectacular for you to even look at; and live a life pleasing to him. Trust in his word that he’s told you all you need to know.

And, if you do want guidance over this or that (a job, a big purchase, a romantic interest, etc), remember that the Lord is more interested in your godly priorities than the outcome.

God is with you

After those first verses, Solomon gives words of blessing, remembering God’s faithfulness thus far.

Then in v22-53 comes the main body of Solomon’s prayer. V22-26 is his opening, where he praises God by repeating what he said about God’s faithfulness, keeping the covenant he made with David. But this is about the Temple rather than David, so he comes to that next.

The infinite glory of God

Bearing in mind that Solomon is standing with all the people before the stunning, huge, ornate, expensive Temple, read v27-30. Here’s some rich theology for you! And a mystery! The glory of the LORD has just descended to the Temple – God’s presence, shrouded in cloud, very much there. And yet, “even the highest heavens cannot contain you” says Solomon (v27)! Of course they can’t. God is our creator. He created everything. Everything that exists is either of him (like love) or created by him (like all of time and space and material things).

God is everywhere, and yet he doesn’t have spatial dimensions we think of them. It’s not that part of God is here and another part of him is there. God is everywhere. Always. He is infinitely beyond your imagination or being. And yet, in the very next breath, Solomon is equally surprising: read v28 again.

The intimate glory of God

The infinite creator, who exists independently of everything you can know, is willing to bend his ear to the prayers of his people. V30 in particular is very helpful for your own prayers [read]. Prayers uttered here are heard in heaven.

There is a connection between the small, physical existence that you and I know, and the infinite eternal splendour of God.

All this is, of course, perfectly met in Christ.

  • He is the Son of God, through whom and for whom everything was created.
  • He is the one who sustains the whole universe from beginning to end.
  • And he is also the one who dwells in human flesh
  • He is the ultimate place where the infinite and the finite meet and are held together in mysterious union

John tells us that Jesus “tabernacled” among us – God dwelt among his people when Jesus walked the earth. John also makes clear that Jesus was also the Temple – that would be destroyed but rebuilt within 3 days. And so, as a Christian united to Jesus, who has ascended into heaven itself, you have something better than Solomon’s temple: Jesus himself is with you. The Lord is with you, as promised.

Immanuel – the glory of God with us

Even more, he has sent the Holy Spirit of God into your heart so that you are a temple of God. And, when we gather together, we are a temple of God. Because – and this is the key thing – he is with us.

In prayer, your voice is heard in heaven.

You have union with that which is beyond reach or imagination. In Christ, you are seated in the heavenly realms. In prayer, your voice is heard in heaven.

You might not feel very special as a Christian, but as a child of God you are a Temple of the Living God! Because he is with you. That carries a huge privilege of his presence and an expectation that your prayers will be heard by one who understands you and your situation. It also means, of course, that your sin will inevitably grieve him greatly.

In fact the rest of Solomon’s prayer picks up on 7 situations where the nation is bound to sin, and prays that God will hear prayers of repentance, and forgive. And so:

The glory of God strengthens you

After his prayer, Solomon rises to bless the people. Read v54-61. He has just prayed that God will hear prayers of repentance, but here his blessing is also a prayer for something better:

May he give us the desire to do his will in everything and to obey all the commands, decrees, and regulations that he gave our ancestors. (v58).

This is so much the prayer of Paul in his his NT letters too. A prayer that the Holy Spirit would sanctify us, lead us into paths of righteousness, to live good and holy lives, pleasing to God. It’s one thing to know that God teaches you – that he’s provided the Bible so that you know what he commands. And it’s good to know that he is with you – the Holy Spirit actually within you, sanctifying you. It’s even wonderful to know that God is ready to forgive you when you do sin – as you inevitably will.

A new desire

But how much better actually to life a life where you desire to do what he commands. It’s not something you can do yourself, but you’re not alone anyway. So Solomon wants his prayer registered in heaven! May his prayer stay on file, constantly before God.

Why? Because we all need help every day. Read v59 again. A prayer for each day’s needs. In the grind. In the treatment room, the office, in loneliness. Every day.

What a prayer this Solomon is praying! His tiny voice heard by an infinite God. A God who hears, who helps, who judges, disciplines and forgives. Solomon wrote proverbs and poems, but here we see his highest thoughts about God poured out in prayerful meditation, reflecting on the glory of God.

The Lord teaches you as you reflect on him, meditating on his word, praising him in prayer. He is with you always, and you will experience that most fully in your prayers – whether that’s simply a glance heavenwards or days of prayer and fasting. The Lord strengthens you always – and you will be nourished as you turn to the bread of life, the source of living water, always.