The Temple structure was finished. The interior had been completed. Now what?
“Solomon then summoned to Jerusalem the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes – the leaders of the ancestral families of the Israelites. They were to bring the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant to the Temple from its location in the City of David, also known as Zion. So all the men of Israel assembled before King Solomon at the annual Festival of Shelters, which is held in early autumn in the month of Ethanim.
When all the elders of Israel arrived, the priests picked up the Ark. The priests and Levites brought up the Ark of the Lord along with the special tent and all the sacred items that had been in it. There, before the Ark, King Solomon and the entire community of Israel sacrificed so many sheep, goats, and cattle that no one could keep count!
Then the priests carried the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant into the inner sanctuary of the Temple – the Most Holy Place – and placed it beneath the wings of the cherubim. The cherubim spread their wings over the Ark, forming a canopy over the Ark and its carrying poles” (I Kings 8:1-7, NLT).
The Temple had been finished in the eighth month of the previous year, yet Solomon waited eleven months for the “grand opening” ceremony. Why? Most likely for the convenience of the people. Many had long distances to travel and, by scheduling the dedication for a time when they would already be coming to Jerusalem for the Festival of Shelters (or Tents or Tabernacles), they were able to celebrate the Festival and the dedication together. Additionally, it was “early autumn,” so crops had already been gathered and the concerns related to harvesting and storing were behind them.
This also made it possible for the “elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes” to be a part of the bringing in of “the Ark of the Lord.” Until the Ark was in place in the Holy of Holies, the Temple wasn’t ready. The very presence of God resided with the Ark and He was about to let everyone know He was there:
“When the priests came out of the Holy Place, a thick cloud filled the Temple of the Lord. The priests could not continue their service because of the cloud, for the glorious presence of the Lord filled the Temple” (I Kings 8:10-11).
The Shekinah glory of God was so overwhelming that the “priests could not continue their service.” God is shown in the midst of this cloud on numerous occasions throughout Scripture. A few examples:
“The Lord went ahead of them. He guided them during the day with a pillar of cloud…” (Exodus 13:21a).
“The Temple was filled with this cloud of glory, and the courtyard glowed brightly with the glory of the Lord” (Ezekiel 10:4b).
“After saying this, He was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see Him” (Acts 1:9).
How long has it been since you’ve been speechlessly in awe of the presence of God?
Copyright © 2013
Judy Woodward Bates