“But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built! Yet give attention to your servant’s prayer and his plea for mercy, Lord my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence this day. May your eyes be open toward this temple night and day, this place of which you said, ‘My Name shall be there,’ so that you will hear the prayer your servant prays toward this place. Hear the supplication of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place. Hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive. “When anyone wrongs their neighbor and is required to take an oath and they come and swear the oath before your altar in this temple, then hear from heaven and act. Judge between your servants, condemning the guilty by bringing down on their heads what they have done, and vindicating the innocent by treating them in accordance with their innocence. “When your people Israel have been defeated by an enemy because they have sinned against you, and when they turn back to you and give praise to your name, praying and making supplication to you in this temple, then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your people Israel and bring them back to the land you gave to their ancestors. “When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because your people have sinned against you, and when they pray toward this place and give praise to your name and turn from their sin because you have afflicted them, then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your servants, your people Israel. Teach them the right way to live, and send rain on the land you gave your people for an inheritance. – 1 Kings 8:27-36
Solomon is giving a “dedication” of sorts to the temple and asking himself and the Israelites a question that I think many Christians ask themselves…Can God really dwell on earth? Can the God of the universe love me? Can God dwell within me? I think the answer to these questions for those willing to faithfully follow God is yes!
When Jesus showed up in Bethlehem as a Human baby God demonstrated that He really could dwell on earth — not in a temple built by human hands. God answered the rhetorical question posed by Solomon and, in a broad sense, all of humanity.
Jesus also makes the incredible claim that God desires to dwell in us. I think sometimes Christians loose sight of this simple truth. God does not dwell in church buildings no matter how beautiful, solemn, or endowed with espresso bars — He dwells in each of us. As A.W. Tozer said in his book, the Pursuit of God “if my fire is not large it is yet real, and there may be those who can light their candle at it’s flame.” We must gather together to pass more than the offering plate and the attendance register — we are called to pass the very flame of God’s love.
Solomon in his prayer suggests that when the heavens are “shut up” we, the people, are to ask for forgiveness for our sins so that God will restore rain on the land and we will have our inheritance. This rich water imagery is reminiscent of some of the language used when God suggested in Deuteronomy that He would send rain on tender plants (us). There is more at stake than dead plants when the heavens are “shut up”.
The equivalent of the heavens being shut up in the spiritual realm is for our lives to feel spiritually dry or dead — disconnected from God’s life giving rain and living water. I think many Christians experience dry spiritual times. Sometimes these dry times are just part of the spiritual cycle that brings both heavy rain and drought, but dry times can also be because we have moved away from God and His life giving rain. It is reassuring that God promises to send rain if we seek his forgiveness and confidently “pray for rain”.
Prayer: God thank you for the life giving rain you provide and the fire you have placed in us. Help us to confidently pray for rain during dry spiritual times and “pass the flame” when we gather.