Overwhelmed

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Every time I read 2 Chronicles 5 I am stopped in my mental tracks by this verse: “…and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God” (5:14).

What would it be like for God to fill His house with so much of His presence that everything would come to an immediate stop because of it?

I’ve never been in a service like that. I don’t think something like that can be orchestrated but if we look at what led up to this momentous event in Solomon's life we might get a clue as to why it happened. 2 Chronicles 3 and 4 describe the building of the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem. Solomon took the plans and the provisions that his father, David, had made and began the project of building a house that would bring honour to God—a place where God’s presence would dwell. He knew from the beginning that no matter how magnificent the building and its furnishings it would be a paltry effort. In 2 Chronicles 1 Solomon says: “The temple I am going to build will be great, because our God is greater than all other gods. But who is able to build a temple for him, since the heavens, even the highest heaves, cannot contain him? Who then am I to build a temple for him, except as a place to burn sacrifices before him?” (1:5, 6).

With great care, the King of Israel prepared the building. Then, when the momentous day came to inaugurate it, Solomon brought in the ark of the covenant to the temple along with the tent that had housed it for so long and all the furnishings that had been part of it. The Israelites paved the roadway with their acts of worship “…sacrificing so many sheep and cattle that they could not be recorded or counted” (5:6). The spiritual leaders consecrated themselves for the service they were about to render (5:11) and the great moment of worship came as they raised their voices to praise God: “He is good; his love endures forever” (5:13).

Then the presence of the Lord filled the place and all duties ceased in awe of His arrival.

In the New Testament we learn that each individual believer in Christ has become the temple of God, indwelt by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16, 17; 2 Corinthians 6:16). Comparing the Old Testament picture and my own experience, I wonder when the last time was that I was so overwhelmed by His presence that every other thought and duty ceased because of it?

Solomon considered that his temple would never be beautiful enough or big enough for God. He figured that the best he could do was to prepare it to be a house of sacrifice to the Lord. And I wonder if the level of sacrifice I make in my life in honour of Him has an effect on how often I am overwhelmed by His presence in my life. The preparing of my “temple” so that is a fit place (though never a perfect place) for Him to show His glory is important.

Another verse from Chronicles has moved me this past week—so much so that it is now in bold letters on the desktop of my computer so that I don’t forget it.

1 Chronicles 22:19 says: “Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the Lord your God. Begin to build the sanctuary of the Lord God, so that you may bring the ark of covenant of the Lord and the sacred articles belonging to God into the temple that will be built for the Name of the Lord.

Apart from all the physical things that Solomon did to prepare this dwelling place for the presence of God, he prepared himself spiritually before even beginning the physical building. I doubt that the Lord would have overwhelmed the place with His presence if Solomon and the people had not devoted themselves to seeking the Lord through the whole process.

The heart must be engaged.

I’ve heard a lot lately about the importance of repetition. In my education classes in seminary, the value of repetition as a teaching tool was often stressed. But like many good things, repetition can be abused. The unending repeating of the same thing can turn into a form of thought control, a programmed response, something one does automatically under a particular set of circumstances or when someone pushes the right “command control” button and gives the pre-programmed order. It’s a technique used by cults everywhere (and by terrorist groups!). It's like responding to the beat of the music without having any idea as to the significance of the words of the song. The heart is not engaged.

Only when the heart is engaged, when we concentrate on “being,” on seeking the Lord with our whole heart and soul, will we do the right actions and, in the “doing,” honour God and open the way for Him to overwhelm us with His presence in our “temple.”

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