A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post on presence. You can read it here. (For those of you reading from our Scriptures 1 class, it was a post I did not tag for class.) In that post, I share my thoughts on the presence of Jesus with us specifically when we pray. Perhaps this is why the presence of God at the dedication of the temple in 1 Kings 8 stood out to me.
In 1 Kings 8, Solomon has finally completed the temple, and the time has come to dedicate it. The author tells us as the ark was brought to the temple Solomon and the people were “sacrificing so many sheep and oxen that they could not be counted or numbered” (1Kings 8:5 NRS). What a joyous day in the life of Israel. They had finally constructed a permanent dwelling place for God. After the ark was installed in “the most holy place,” the inner sanctuary of the temple, “a 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 filled the house of the LORD” (1 Kings 8:10-11). What an amazing theophany of God’s presence among God’s people!
Sometimes I wish God would show up in such a visible way. Often, our experience of God’s presence while tangible, is nearly indescribable. However, I wonder, if God did show up in a visibly tangible way, would we recognize Him? Or would our western, scientific brains have some explanation for the theophany? Is our view of God big enough to allow for such unexplainable events?
A quick story. One summer during camp, rain was threatening our last night of worship which was to take place in an amphitheater overlooking a lake. Rain was imminent according to the radar and the clouds. Swimming and other outdoor activities had been rained out several times through the week. So I prayed for God to hold the rain until after our service which on the last night of camp could be quite lengthy. We started our service with the distant rumble of thunder, but as we watched the clouds (and the radar) the rain split and went right around us. It was raining nearby, but not at the camp. We were able to finish our worship service, time of response and prayer, and eat s’mores around the bonfire. The rain came right as our campers headed back to their cabins. One of the workers at the camp facility tried to tell me the lake had some impact on preventing the rain, but I choose to believe God acted on our behalf protecting our time of worship and displaying his glory for all to see.