The House of Prayer
II Chronicles 5:7-14; 7:12-15
INTRODUCTION We need to keep in mind two great truths about the presence of God. First, He is omnipresent; that is, He is present everywhere, filling heaven and earth with Himself [Jeremiah 23:24]. Second, He is more manifestly present in some places than in others, so that comparatively or relatively speaking we may say, as the Scriptures often do, that God is or is not in this or that place, person, or thing.
Overemphasis of the first truth may degenerate into the superstition of pantheism; overemphasis of the second may degenerate into a superstitious worship of holy institutions. We must keep a balance of complementary truths lest truth be corrupted into error.
Solomon wisely maintained this balance when he acknowledged in his dedicatory prayer that Israel could claim no monopoly on the divine presence:
"But will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house which I have built!" [II Chronicles 6:18].
Yet God does have a special regard for his house, under both the old covenant and the new. We worship God, not His house; but we do well to worship Him in His house.
For an outline of the lesson, we note: 1. Preparation, II Chronicles 5:7-10 a. Ark of covenant carried, 7. b. Ark of covenant covered, 8. c. Ark of covenant concealed, 9. d. Ark of covenant constant, 10. 2. Presence, II Chronicles 5:11-14. a. Devout ministry, 11-12. b. Divine ministry, 13-14. 3. Promise, II Chronicles 7:12-15. a. Suitable sacrifice, 12. b. Chosen chastisements, 13. c. Contrite confession, 14. d. Attentive acceptance, 15.
NOTES ON THE TEXT: PREPARATION, II Chronicles 5:7-10. Construction of the temple had been preceded by preparation of materials; so the official dedication of the temple was preceded by appropriate preparation.
As David had learned earlier, God is to be sought "after the due order" [r Chronicles 15:13]. The shocking lack of reverence in much of what is called worship today is evidence enough that the true God is unknown to many of the people who profess to worship Him. Jesus taught plainly that people who try to worship God while disobeying His Word worship Him in vain [Mark 7:5-8].
Ark of Covenant Carried, 7. By divine order, only priests and Levites were permitted to carry the ark, and the priests alone carried it into the most holy place. Sacred things ought not to be profanely handled, and only the holy should enter into holy places. The carrying of the ark to rest in its appointed place may remind us that decency and proper order should always prevail in the house of God.
Ark of Covenant Covered, 8. Under the wings of the cherubim the ark was perpetually covered. These overshadowing wings perhaps symbolized the protective care of God for the covenant established with His people. Both the ark and its contents, and even the staves by which it was carried, were symbolically secure under those sheltering wings.
Ark of Covenant Concealed, 9. Commentators differ in their attempts to understand exactly what is meant here. The most holy, place, or holy of holies, was behind a heavy curtain or veil, which concealed everything within from outside view. It seems that the staves were drawn out far enough that the ends could be seen when the curtain was opened for the entry of the high priest, or perhaps even so far as to push against the curtain, thus marking the location of the ark; but they were still within the holy of holies, not seen outside.
Whatever the exact arrangement may have been, the original writer of this description assured his readers that at the time of writing it remained the same "unto this day." So long as God was pleased to dwell in fellowship with His people, the symbols of His presence were not disturbed, though concealed from outside view.
Ark of Covenant Constant, 10. No contradiction must be imagined between the statement here and that in Hebrews 9:4. Either the references are to different periods of history, or as some have supposed, the pot of manna and Aaron's rod might have been kept in a shelf or ledge of the ark rather than inside.
Here the emphasis is on the fact that God had not changed the terms of His covenant with His people Israel; the tables of stone on which God had written the ten commandments were still the same as when Moses put them in the ark at Horeb or Sinai (two names for the same place). God's Word is as constant as Himself; it does not change.
PRESENCE, II Chronicles 5:11-14. God sometimes gives special manifestations of His presence, and the dedication of the temple was an appropriate occasion for such manifestation.
Devout Ministry, 11-12. Ordinarily the priests were divided into different groups which took turns in ministering at different times, but for this occasion all joined in the service. Priests and Levites, singers and musicians, "were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord." It was surely a joyful sound "when they lifted up their voice" with the various musical instruments "and praised the Lord, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever."
Divine Manifestation, 13-14. Praise and thanksgiving were followed by a special manifestation of God's presence as "the house was filled with a cloud." So overwhelming was this cloud of "the glory of the Lord" which filled the house that the priests were unable to "stand to minister."
PROMISE, II Chronicles 7:12-15. Following Solomon's prayer of dedication there were further manifestations of the divine presence, including fire from heaven to consume burnt offering and sacrifices. The dedication ceremonies were timed in connection with the feast of tabernacles for seven days, with a "solemn assembly" on the eighth day.
It was not, however, until after Solomon "sent the people away into their tents" that God appeared to him privately by night with promises in answer to his prayer. So always God may give manifestations to the multitude, but His richest blessings are for individual souls in fellowship with Him.
Suitab1e Sacrifice, 12. When God chose the temple to Himself "for an house of sacrifice" it would have been presumptuous and sinful for anyone to build another house somewhere according to his own notions and convenience to draw God's people away from His chosen house. This was the sin of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and this is the sin of modern sects and "denominations" of Christianity. See Acts 20:30. More about this with the "conclusion."
Chosen Chastisements, 13. God judges or chastises nations as well as individuals, and His chastisements are not always such as we would choose, but rather are chosen by Him to accomplish His own purposes. On one occasion He did give David a choice [II Samuel 24:11-15]. We need to remember that droughts, plagues and pestilences, as well as seasons of prosperity and health, come either directively or permissively from God.
Contrite Confession, 14. This verse has been called God's recipe for revival. It holds forth great promises, but the conditions are such as God's people are seldom willing to meet. If we fail to obtain the blessings promised, it is simply because we have not honestly met the conditions.
Attentive Acceptance, 15. Verse 40 of the preceding chapter gives us Solomon's prayer on this point; here we have God's answer. This is by no means an exclusive promise; there is no hint that God would reject prayers offered anywhere else. But it certainly does tell us that God had a special regard for His house.
CONCLUSION [I Peter 2:5] Under the new covenant, God has no material temple in this world; He dwells first in the individual believer and second, in a special sense, He dwells in a genuine church of the Lord Jesus, which means an organized body of baptized believers in Christ having Him alone as their Foundation and Head. Individual members are as living stones in this spiritual house, and constitute a holy (but not exclusive) priesthood.
Let it be understood that a New Testament church claims no monopoly on the grace of God, and could pot enforce such a monopoly if it would, any more than Israel could restrict or contain God under the old covenant. But now as then, God does have a special regard for His own house. ==============
[From Ashland Avenue Baptist paper, October 11, 1974, pp. 2-3. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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