Today the priests brought the ark of the covenant of the Lord and all of the furnishings of the tabernacle to the temple – “Then the priests brought in the ark of the covenant of the Lord to its place, into the inner sanctuary of the temple, to the Most Holy Place, under the wings of the cherubim… Nothing was in the ark except the two tablets of stone which Moses put there at Horeb, when the Lord made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt.” There is no mention of the pot of manna and Aaron’s budding rod which were set before the ark in the wilderness. Some commentaries say that they were placed elsewhere in the temple, and others say that the Philistines probably took them when they captured the ark in battle. However, the final destination of the pot of manna and the budding rod is unclear.
When the priests came out of the Most Holy Place, the Levites who were singers began praising the Lord – “indeed it came to pass, when the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord, and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the Lord, saying: ‘For He is good, For His mercy endures forever,’ that the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God.”
Then Solomon blesses the assembly of Israel – “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who has fulfilled with His hands what He spoke with His mouth to my father David.” The Lord chose Jerusalem as the place to put His name, David and his descendants to rule over His people, and Solomon to build the temple. All that the Lord had spoken is being fulfilled. So Solomon says a prayer dedicating the temple to the Lord:
- “But will God indeed dwell with men on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built! Yet regard the prayer of Your servant and his supplication, O Lord my God, and listen to the cry and the prayer which Your servant is praying before You: that Your eyes may be open toward this temple day and night, toward the place where You said You would put Your name, that You may hear the prayer which Your servant makes toward this place. And may You hear the supplications 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.”
Although the Lord has a distinct presence in the temple, Solomon knows that God can not be limited by a place. The Lord’s presence fills the heavens and the earth. Then Solomon prays specifically on behalf of the people. He says if anyone sins, because we all sin, may they repent and turn to the Lord for forgiveness and restoration. Solomon cites examples of when the people will need God’s grace and mercy:
- “If anyone sins against his neighbor.”
- “Or if Your people Israel are defeated before an enemy because they have sinned against You.”
- “When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against You.” Soon in the story, during the Divided Kingdom Era, the Lord will stop the rain for three and a half years in an effort to get Northern Israel to repent and turn to Him just as Solomon prayed – “that You may teach them the good way in which they should walk; and send rain on Your land which You have given to Your people as an inheritance.”
- “When there is famine in the land, pestilence or blight or mildew, locusts or grasshoppers; when their enemies besiege them in the land of their cities; whatever plague or whatever sickness there is.”
- “Moreover, concerning a foreigner, who is not of Your people Israel, but has come from a far country for the sake of Your great name and Your mighty hand and Your outstretched arm, when they come and pray in this temple.”
- “When Your people go out to battle against their enemies, wherever You send them.”
Solomon says after each, if the people turn from their sins, repent, confess His name, and pray toward the temple, may He forgive their sins and restore them. Solomon concludes his prayer saying, “When they sin against You (for there is no one who does not sin), and You become angry with them and deliver them to the enemy, and they take them captive to a land far or near; yet when they come to themselves in the land where they were carried captive, and repent, and make supplication to You in the land of their captivity, saying, ‘We have sinned, we have done wrong, and have committed wickedness’; and when they return to You with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their captivity, where they have been carried captive, and pray toward their land which You gave to their fathers, the city which You have chosen, and toward the temple which I have built for Your name: then hear from heaven Your dwelling place their prayer and their supplications, and maintain their cause, and forgive Your people who have sinned against You.”
Later in the story, during the Captivity Era, when the Israelites are taken into captivity by the Babylonians, Daniel will risk his life believing this is true. King Darius will approve an ordinance that says anyone worshiping any god or man besides him for thirty days will be thrown into the den of lions. “When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously” (Daniel 6:11). Daniel believes that the Lord will hear the prayers of those who pray toward His temple and that He will deliver them, and Daniel is correct! When he is thrown in the lion’s den — “no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in God” (Daniel 6:23).
However, much more unfolds in this story before we get to the story of Daniel. Tomorrow the Lord responds to Solomon’s prayer and supplication, so keep reading. (1 Kings 8:1-11, 2 Chronicles 5:1-14, 1 Kings 8:12-21, 2 Chronicles 6:1-11, 1 Kings 8:22-53, 2 Chronicles 6:12-42)