1 Kings 8:10-13 (KJV) And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the Lord, So that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of the Lord. Then spake Solomon, The Lord said that he would dwell in the thick darkness. I have surely built thee an house to dwell in, a settled place for thee to abide in forever.
Throughout history, humankind has always been fascinated by the subject of the mysterious nature of God’s presence. It is a subject that has been approached by many individuals from varying schools of thought, and yet there has always been the same conclusion: the subject concerning God’s presence can never be fully exhausted. Why is this? Mainly because the limited finite human mind cannot begin to fathom the depths of the multifaceted nature of the Infinite God.
On one level, God is so far above any human consideration that we cannot attain any level of understanding about His ways and His thoughts (Isa. 55:8-9). On another level, He extends the invitation to know Him through His willingness to reveal Himself to His people (1 Sam. 3:4, 6-8, 10-14, 21). In consideration of this, we must ask ourselves, “How can we move beyond the surface level ritual to experience the mysterious nature of God’s presence for ourselves”?
Understanding The Text
In the text, we observe that the priests have finished their task of putting the Temple furnishings into their proper position (1 Kgs. 8:6-9). Upon the priests’ exit from the holy place, the text states that “the cloud filled the house of the Lord” (1 Kgs. 8:10). The text continues by stating, “…that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of the Lord” (1 Kgs. 8:11). In this setting, we observe a familiar experience similar to the experience in the wilderness when Moses finished setting up the Tabernacle (Ex. 40:34-35). We also find the usage of the same words to describe the words “glory” (kabod) and “cloud” (anan) in both accounts.
The word, glory, comes from the Hebrew word, kabod, and is defined as “weight, honor, esteem, glory, majesty, abundance, or wealth”. It also refers to “a soul”, which is ”the very essence of a being”. The word, cloud, comes from the Hebrew word, anan, and is defined as cloud, more commonly in reference to the presence of God hovering over or covering something. In other words, the text is describing the very essence of God hovering over and filling the most holy place and is synonymous with the Hebrew word, rachaph, used to describe when the Spirit of God hovered over the waters in the creation narrative (Gen. 1:2). To further add to this, the essence of God was so overwhelming that the priests were unable to continue to perform their priestly responsibilities because they had transcended beyond the temporal ritualistic atmosphere into a spiritual manifestation of the heavenly throne room of God (Jn. 4:23-24).
In the following verses, Solomon stated that God would “dwell in the thick darkness…a settled place for You to abide in forever” (1Kgs. 8:12-13). The word, dwell, is defined by the Hebrew word, shakhan, and is used as a figurative term meaning that God’s name would be associated with the Temple. In other words, the association of God’s name with the Temple was being used interchangeably to describe God’s presence in the Temple because of His covenant relationship with Israel.
In verse 12, the word, darkness, is defined by the Hebrew word, araphel, which describes the darkness used by God to veil His presence in the Temple and previously on Mt. Sinai (ref. to Ex. 20:21). The understanding of this particular portion can be found when referring to God’s conversation with Moses wherein He stated that Aaron was not permitted to enter into the holy place at any moment of his own choosing (Lev. 16:2). The reason for this was because God told Moses that He would “appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat”. Why was this so important?
It was important because the word “appear” is defined by the Hebrew word, ra’ah, which means “to show oneself, reveal oneself”. It is the same word used to emphasize the means by which prophets communicated (or communed) with God and a revelation was received when God had chosen to reveal something about Himself or His plan (1 Sam. 9:9). The word, commune, comes from the Hebrew word, dhavar, which is used to describe the essential content of God’s revelation through prophetic means. This is connected to God’s previous conversation with Moses in Exodus wherein God stated, “And I will meet with you, and I will commune with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony…” (Ex. 25:22). Therefore, this prohibition would prevent the priest from yielding to the temptation to “break through unto the Lord to gaze (or see)” (Ex. 19:21).
How can we experience the mysterious nature of God’s presence with modern times?
Why Is This important To Us?
It is important to us because we have become the “temple of the Living God” and now He “dwells” within us (2 Cor. 6:16). In other words, His name is “associated with us” because He now indwells us by the presence of His Holy Spirit as a result of the covenant relationship we have with Him through Christ. It explains why we sometimes become so overwhelmed by His presence when we are engaged in the rendering of our personal worship to Him. We enter into a worship experience and we can literally feel the weight of His presence so strongly because we have transcended from the temporal ritualistic atmosphere into a spiritual manifestation of the heavenly throne room of God similar to the priests (1 Kgs. 8:10-11; Jn. 4:23-24). In these moments, God is preparing our hearts for a revelation of Himself by which He enhances our personal relationships with Himself and others.
Therefore, our daily lifestyles should reflect the lifestyle of a Kingdom citizen. As such, this lifestyle is fueled by the desire to ensure that we have positioned ourselves (similar to the Temple furnishings) in a manner that welcomes the revelation of the mysterious nature of God’s presence. This type of worship should literally encompass every aspect of our being as we should be seeking to “meet with…and commune with” God on a daily basis.
We sometimes read in the Scriptures that God veils Himself with darkness and with clouds. However, in the Believers’ experience, the veil of clouds and darkness has been removed by the finished work of Christ upon the Cross. We can experience the mysterious nature of God’s presence if we seek Him truthfully with our whole hearts (Jer. 29:13). God will appear and commune with us as we position ourselves to receive His self-revelation and hear the word of the Lord.
There are so many unknown dimensions of Who God is that we can literally spend the rest of our lives seeking to know Him. The Apostle Paul says it best, “For we know in part…now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (1 Cor. 13:9, 12).