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Solomon: The Shekinah Glory

Morning Message: John Cline

Text: 2 Chronicles 2-7

Reader; John Renfree

Just as the New Testament has four books in which the life of Jesus is written about: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. So also, in the O.T., the history of the kings of Israel and Judah is told in four books: 1st and 2nd Kings, and 1st and 2nd Chronicles. We will be flipping back and forth between those four books in this sermon series. Though today, we are focusing for a third sermon in a row on Solomon, the actual topic of this sermon is something he experienced: the Shekinah Glory of God, which was God’s visible manifestation of His presence and majesty.

We read about God’s Shekinah Glory first in Exodus, after Moses – well, really God – had led the Israelites out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, & onto the Sinai Peninsula on the Red Sea’s east side. We read,

By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people. (Exodus 13:21,22)

This was the Shekinah Glory of God. Now, the Israelites, after having gone through the Red Sea ended up at Mount Sinai. At that spot,

The Lord said to Moses, “I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always put their trust in you.” Then Moses told the Lord what the people had said. (Exodus 19:9)

What the people had said was, “We will do everything the Lord says.” The Israelites had lived in Egypt for centuries and worshipped the various Egyptian gods there but those gods never spoke to them or miraculously acted for them. The gods of the sun, moon, night, the river, frogs, locusts, etc. all gods that YHWH had defeated in the plagues. They were in awe of God but wrongly assumed that He was like those Egyptians gods.

On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning,

with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet

blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently. As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and the voice of God answered him. (Exodus 19:16-19)

I always wonder, “Who was blowing the trumpet that grew louder and louder”? In any case, God then spoke the 10 Commandments to the Israelite people but after He had finished speaking those 10 Commandments, we read:

When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.” (Exodus 20:18,19)

Being in the presence of God was too much for the people. It terrified them. So, Moses offered to go alone (actually, with Joshua) up Mount Sinai to speak to God on the people’s behalf. Thus, Moses went back up the mountain into God’s presence several times, up and down, down and up, here and there, and back again. Once, while Moses was on the mountain and in God’s presence, God, using His finger, etched those all-important 10 Commandments onto two stone tablets for him to take to the people. However,

When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them; so, Aaron & all the leaders of the community came back to him, and he spoke to them. Afterward all the Israelites came near him, and he gave them all the commands

the Lord had given him on Mount Sinai. When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. But whenever he entered the

Lord’s presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out and when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the Lord. (Exodus 34:29-35)

Instead of having Moses go up and down Mount Sinai, and down and up, over and over again, God said to Moses, “Build me a place, a Tabernacle, to which I can go and where my presence will be with you.” So, Moses oversaw the construction of the Tabernacle (a large, moveable tent to which the Israelites could go to meet with God. The last few chapters of Exodus detail the constructing of the Tabernacle, as well as its furnishings, of which the most important was the Ark of the Covenant, a wooden structure in which was placed the two stone tablets which had the 10 Commandments written on them. So, the Ark of the Covenant was placed in the Tabernacle, in the room deepest in, the Holy of Holies. Over it rested God’s Shekinah Glory. We read, also, Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set out; but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out—until the day it lifted. So, the cloud of the Lord was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the Israelites during all their travels. (Exodus 40:34-38)

The Shekinah Glory of God led the Israelites as they wandered 40 years throughout the Sinai but after they entered the Promised Land, they set up the Tabernacle in the first place they could after crossing the Jordan River, at Gilgal, but that was an unprotected area in which Israel’s enemies could attack. As well, Gilgal was far away from most of Israel’s 12 tribes. So, after 7 years, the Israelites moved the Tabernacle north to Shiloh, which was not only a more secure place but also a more central location for all 12 tribes to access. The Tabernacle remained there in Shiloh for about 300 years, all through the time of the Judges. Unfortunately, that time of the Judges of was a period of increasing spiritual laziness and pollution, and the Tabernacle and, particularly, the Ark of the Covenant, came to be regarded not as places of worship or objects of veneration but, rather, as superstitious relics to which the Israelites would go to when they needed help. For example, if they were in a military battle, the Israelites would take the Ark of the Covenant out of the Tabernacle and place it on the battlefield, in the belief that they could not be defeated because God’s presence was with them. One time, though, when the Israelites were at war with the Philistines, they were defeated. They couldn’t figure out why they had lost until they realized that they had not taken the Ark of the Covenant with them into battle. So, they went back to Shiloh and grabbed the Ark and went back to fight. They were sure that they would win because God’s presence, their lucky charm stuffed into the Ark – or so they thought – was with them. But God was not amused! As a result, He didn’t go with them. So, the Philistines fought, and the Israelites were defeated, and every man fled to his tent. The slaughter was very great; Israel lost thirty-thousand-foot soldiers. The ark of God was captured, and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, died. (1 Samuel 4:10,11)

Now, that named man, Eli, was the High Priest of the Tabernacle Shiloh at that time. A soldier from the battlefield ran to Eli all the way back to Shiloh and told him that his sons had been killed and the Ark of the Covenant captured by the Philistines.

When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell backward off his chair by the side of the gate. His neck was broken, and he died, for he was an old man, and he was heavy. He had led Israel forty years. His daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, was pregnant and near the time of delivery. When she heard the news that the ark of God had been captured and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she went into labor and gave birth, but was overcome by her labor pains. As she was dying, the women attending her said, “Don’t despair; you have given birth to a son.” But she did not respond or pay any attention. She named the boy Ichabod, saying, “The Glory has departed from Israel”—because of the capture of the ark of God and the deaths of her father-in-law and her husband. She said, “The Glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.” (1 Samuel 4:18-22)

How’s that for a handle? Ichabod – “the glory has departed from Israel”. That dying mother knew that the Israelite people were in trouble without God’s presence. In the progression of Israel’s history, after his death, Eli was succeeded by Samuel the Prophet as the acknowledged leader of the Israelites. In turn, Samuel then anointed Israel’s first two kings, Saul and David. Now, Saul didn’t really care about spiritual things but David did. When the Philistines sent the Ark of the Covenant back to Israel, David knew that it needed a permanent home, so he decided to build a Temple for God in Jerusalem in which the Ark of the Covenant could be housed and God’s presence reside, but it wouldn’t be David who would end up building the Temple. Instead, David’s son Solomon would be the one who had the privilege of building a permanent Temple in Jerusalem for worshipping God, and in which the Ark of the Covenant would be housed and the presence of God reside. Here as we read how long it took Solomon to build it:

In the four hundred and eightieth year after the Israelites came out of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, the second month, he began to build the temple of the Lord. (1 Kings 6:1) The foundation of the temple of the Lord was laid in the fourth year, in the month of Ziv. In the eleventh year in the month of Bul, the eighth month, the temple was finished in all its details according to its specifications. He had spent seven years building it. (1 Kings 6:37,38)

Thus, the permanent Temple replaced the temporary Tabernacle as the earthly place of God’s presence and the scene was set for God’s Shekinah Glory to return to the people.

Then Solomon summoned to Jerusalem the elders of Israel, all the heads of the tribes and the chiefs of the Israelite families, to bring up the ark of the Lord’s covenant from Zion, the City of David. And all the Israelites came together to the king at the time of the festival in the seventh month. When all the elders of Israel had arrived, the Levites took up the ark, and they brought up the ark and the tent of meeting and all the sacred furnishings in it. The Levitical priests carried them up; and King Solomon and the entire assembly of Israel that had gathered about him were before the ark, sacrificing so many sheep and cattle that they could not be recorded or counted. 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 cherubim spread their wings over the place of the ark and covered the ark and its carrying poles. These poles were so long that their ends, extending from the ark, could be seen from in front of the inner sanctuary, but not from outside the Holy Place; and they are still there today. There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets that Moses had placed in it at Horeb, where the Lord made a covenant with the Israelites after they came out of Egypt. The priests then withdrew from the Holy Place. All the priests who were there had consecrated themselves, regardless of their divisions. All the Levites who were musicians—Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun and their sons and relatives—stood on the east side of the altar, dressed in fine linen, and playing cymbals, harps and lyres. They were accompanied by 120 priests sounding trumpets. The trumpeters and musicians joined in unison to give praise and thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, the singers 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 the cloud, and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God. Then Solomon said, “The Lord has said that he would dwell in a dark cloud; I have built a magnificent temple for you, a place for you to dwell forever.” (2 Chronicles 5:2-6:2)

Solomon was hoping for the Shekinah Glory to come. He said,

“My father David had it in his heart to build a temple for the Name of the Lord, the God of Israel. But the Lord said to my father David, ‘You did well to have it in your heart to build a temple for my Name. Nevertheless, you are not the one to build the temple, but your son, your own flesh and blood—he is the one who will build the temple for my Name.’ “The Lord has kept the promise he made. I have succeeded David my father and now I sit on the throne of Israel, just as the Lord promised, and I have built the temple for the Name of the Lord, the God of Israel. There I have placed the ark, in which is the covenant of the LORD that he made with the people of Israel.” (2 Chronicles 6:7-11)

And, the Shekinah Glory would return, in response to Solomon’s prayer: “Now, my God, may your eyes be open and your ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. “Now arise, Lord God, and come to your resting place, you and the ark of your might. May your priests, Lord God, be clothed with salvation, may your faithful people rejoice in your goodness. Lord God, do not reject your anointed one. Remember the great love promised to David your servant.” When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. (2 Chronicles 6:40-7:1)

The priests had offered animals for sacrifice at the Temple dedication. The priests had prepared the offering but they didn’t have to light the fire. God did it, instead. Here is a painting of fire from God coming down to burn up the sacrifices.

A painting of a person in a robe and a person in a robe

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Can you imagine that scene? Reading ahead, we learn that,

The priests could not enter the temple of the Lord because the glory of the Lord filled it. (2 Chronicles 7:2)

Here’s a painting of the Shekinah glory filling the Temple:

A stone building with a bright light coming out of the doorway

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When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the Lord above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying, “He is good; his love endures forever.” (2 Chronicles 7:3)

The Israelites thereafter celebrated that event for 14 days. In the process, Solomon offered to God a sacrifice of 22,000 cattle and 120,000 sheep and goats. He was all in for YHWH God! When Solomon had finished the temple of the Lord and the royal palace, and had succeeded in carrying out all he had in mind to do in the temple of the Lord and in his own palace, the LORD appeared to him at night and said: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices. “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there. As for you, if you walk before me faithfully as David your father did, and do all I command, and observe my decrees and laws, I will establish your royal throne, as I covenanted with David your father when I said, ‘You shall never fail to have a successor to rule over Israel.’” (2 Chronicles 7:11-18)

There are four things we, God’s people, should be doing to bring blessing to our land:

  1. Humble ourselves in our relationship with God,
  2. Pray continually to Him (as we are encouraging people to do during this 40 Days of Prayer time),
  3. Seek God’s face/presence, not just to know about Him or to read more about Him, not just head knowledge but experiential knowledge, and,
  4. Turn from our wicked ways. Repent. This is the message of Jesus when he started his ministry. He called people to, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.”

We will focus more on these topics in the weeks and months to come but Solomon, despite his glorious start, would end up failing on those points for a couple of very specific reasons, and then his successors followed his lead. Centuries later, in 587 B.C., when the Israelites/Jews turned away from God, the Babylonians waltzed into Jerusalem, levelling the city and destroyed the Temple, and God’s presence left that place. The Shekinah Glory of God did not leave the Temple or the people because of the Babylonians coming in but because of the people’s sins and that they had said to God that they no longer wanted His presence nor needed it. That was in 587 B.C. At that time, the prophet Ezekiel had already been taken into Babylonian exile. There, in Babylon, God gave him a vision of His presence leaving the Temple: Now the cherubim were standing on the south side of the temple when the man went in, and a cloud filled the inner court. Then the glory of the Lord rose from above the cherubim and moved to the threshold of the temple. The cloud filled the temple, and the court was full of the radiance of the glory of the Lord…Then the glory of the Lord departed from over the threshold of the temple and stopped above the cherubim. While I watched, the cherubim spread their wings and rose from the ground, and as they went, the wheels went with them. They stopped at the entrance of the east gate of the Lord’s house, and the glory of the God of Israel was above them. (Ezekiel 10:3,4,18,19)

After the 70 years of exile in Babylon ended, the people returned to Jerusalem and rebuilt the Temple, but it should be noted that there is no mention of God’s Shekinah glory ever being in the restored, rebuilt Second Temple, or the Ark of the Covenant being in that Second Temple. However, did that mean that God had given up on being with His people? No, not at all. Indeed, the Shekinah Glory of God would return to the people at the time of Jesus. Specifically we see that in the Mount of Transfiguration event when three of Jesus’ apostles saw the Shekinah glory on Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. We read,

After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. (Matthew 17:1,2)..A bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Matthew 17:5)

Both John and Peter wrote about this experience. First, reading from John’s Gospel: The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

Then, reading from Peter’s writings:

For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain. (2 Peter 1:16-18)

John later recorded in Revelation a vision of heaven in which he saw:

The temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed. (Revelation 15:8)

And, finally, in one last vision for John, we read that at the end of time after Jesus has returned and a New Heaven and a New Earth will be created, and the holy city of Jerusalem has descended to earth:

I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. (Revelation 21:22,23)

So, what do we make of all this? Can we experience God’s Shekinah Glory today? I believe we can. People I know have seen it. At least two guest preachers (Matthew Cline and Shoiab Adabi) have spoken of it as they preached here in recent years, of how the Shekinah Glory of God filled their rooms as they prayed. Now, such an experience is very common in Muslim countries, as we have heard, but visions of God’s Shekinah glory also happen here in Canada. One of my sisters had that experience in a profound worship setting. On a smaller but still significant level, when worship has been real and not disturbed or lessened by people worrying about what other people in the worship service might be thinking, wonderful encounters with God’s presence have been normal. Others have experienced God’s presence when they have been witnessing about Jesus to others, amazed by hearing what God is speaking through their mouths. Moses, Solomon, Ezekiel, Peter, James, and John were all eager to experience the Lord’s presence and He did not disappoint. That same desire same should be true for all followers of the Lord. His Shekinah Glory awaits!

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