Today’s reading: 2 Chronicles 2-5.
What is a temple but a fixed place where God and man meet? By extension, then, it is a place where God dwells or where his glorious presence is found. After the time of the writing of the Old Testament, Jewish religious writers called this glorious presence the shekinah. The word is derived from the Hebrew word meaning dwelling or settling, like a bird settling or dwelling in its nest. Christians have adopted the word and its interpretation as the presence of the glory of the LORD. As Solomon completed the temple in Jerusalem and brought in the ark of the covenant, the glory of the LORD settled into and dwelt within the temple.
The priests then brought the ark of the LORD’s covenant to its place in the inner sanctuary of the temple, the Most Holy Place, and put it beneath the wings of the cherubim… The trumpeters and singers joined in unison, as with one voice, to give praise and thanks to the LORD. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, they raised their voices in praise to the LORD and sang: “He is good; his love endures forever.” Then the temple of the LORD was filled with a cloud, and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the temple of God. 2 Chronicles 5:7, 13-14
The priests serving at the temple dedication saw a visible manifestation of the presence of God. They saw the shekinah glory. Though God is everywhere, at that moment he manifested his glory locally; that was the shekinah. Though God is invisible, at that time he made his glory apparent to the human eye. That was the shekinah, which the Bible calls the glory of the LORD or the glory of Jehovah. There are a number of other times when the glory of the LORD manifested itself visibly and locally:
- God walked with Adam and Eve in the garden, a visible and local manifestation of his presence (Genesis 3:8).
- He showed himself to Moses in the burning bush, and to the Israelites in the pillar of fire or smoke as they exited from Egypt.
- The LORD descended on Mt. Sinai when he gave Moses the Law (Exodus 19:18).
- The glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle in the wilderness when it was dedicated (Exodus 40:34).
There were also a notable time when the glory of the LORD visibly departed:
- Shortly before Solomon’s temple was destroyed, Ezekiel saw it depart in a vision, first from the temple itself, and then from the Mount of Olives (Ezekiel 8-11).
John 1:14 says, speaking of Jesus, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.” Jesus was also the shekinah glory, manifested visibly and locally in Palestine for the thirty-three years of his life. Those who lived with Jesus lived in the presence of God. When Jesus entered Herod’s temple, the glory of God was present in the temple. When the Jewish people rejected Jesus, the glory left the temple. Jesus said the house of Israel was left desolate (Matthew 23:38), and within a generation the temple had been destroyed.
Now the spirit of God dwells within believers, manifesting to them as a down payment or earnest money of the glory that awaits them in heaven. Most importantly, the glory of God should manifest itself to those around us so that they can see God in us and respond to God’s call with conviction, repentance, and faith. Am I, are you, are we humbling ourselves and submitting our wills to God’s will so that his glory can shine through? Or are we keeping our own will on the throne so that God’s glory is veiled by our own flesh?
Image by Lyman Green Sr on Flickr, CC by-nc-sa 2.0