God cannot be limited to any one place, least of all some man-made structure. Yet, He is not far from us. In fact, He dwells with His children in a unique way—the infinite God communing with finite creatures. This was the meaning of Solomon’s temple.
With the completion of the great temple of the Lord in Jerusalem during Solomon’s reign, the nation is on the brink of a new era.
For nearly five hundred years, the ark had been housed in a tent called the tabernacle, with a few years in other temporary places. Now this little wooden box overladen with gold is about to become a permanent fixture in the glorious temple in Jerusalem, a place chosen by God Himself.
The parallel account in 2 Chronicles chapters 5 and 6 and part of 7 follows 1 Kings 8 very closely and adds some important details along the way.
Chapter 8 of 1 Kings begins this way:
Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the leaders of the fathers’ houses of the people of Israel, before King Solomon in Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of the city of David, which is Zion.
Now the ark has been kept in that portion of Jerusalem called the City of David; now it is going to be carried by priests to the new temple, even as King Solomon and the people are offering sacrifices in worship of the Lord.
The ark is taken through the temple doors – through the Holy Place and then into the Most Holy Place, where, verse 6 tells us, it is placed “underneath the wings” of the massive and beautiful golden cherubim.
We’re reminded here in verse 9 that the ark of the covenant contained “the two tablets of stone that Moses put there at Horeb, where the Lord made a covenant with the people of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt.” This is a reminder of the nation’s obligation to keep God’s commandments if they want His blessing.
Then, having placed the ark inside the Holy of Holies, something supernatural occurs when the priests come out. Verse 10 tells us:
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.
This is exactly what happened when the tabernacle was completed at the end of Exodus chapter 40. In both cases, God’s glorious presence descends, showing that the Lord is present with His people and dwelling among them.
The Lord’s presence with us may not be so obvious at times, but we can be sure He dwells within us as individuals and among us as His people. Jesus Himself promised us, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
Now Solomon speaks to the crowd about the faithfulness of God here in verse 20:
“Now the Lord has fulfilled his promise that he made. For I have risen in the place of David my father, and sit on the throne of Israel, as the Lord promised, and I have built the house for the name of the Lord, the God of Israel.”
The king then offers a prayer of dedication. He begins by praising God as the unique and only God. “There is no God like you,” Solomon says in verse 23. He also praises the Lord for “keeping covenant and showing steadfast love” to those who follow Him with “all their heart.”
Solomon thanks God for being faithful to His promise to David, specifically God’s promises of a house, a kingdom, and an eternal throne. And let me remind you that ultimately these promises will be fulfilled in the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
King Solomon then confesses in verse 27, “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built!” In other words, no matter how grand this temple is, it is not even close to containing the glory of God. However, in this unique manner, God is going to represent His presence with His people by effectively living in this house—this temple—Solomon has built for Him on earth.
Solomon asks God in verse 29 to hear the prayers of His people as they pray toward this house, where His name dwells. As one writer put it, “To pray in or towards this temple is to pray to or in the name of God to whom it belongs, which is the Old Testament equivalent to praying [today] in the name of Jesus.”
If an Old Testament believer did not pray toward—essentially through—the temple, he was not honoring God’s presence. Likewise, if a New Testament believer is not praying to—or through—Jesus Christ, his prayers are going nowhere. This is because Christ is our Mediator today.
Particularly, Solomon asks the Lord to forgive and restore those who have sinned when they turn from their sin and pray to Him at the temple. Whether they are suffering defeat before enemies, famine, drought, or plague because of their sins, Solomon calls on God to forgive them when they repent. He knows God is merciful and will indeed forgive, so his plea to the Lord is essentially to move those who sin to genuinely repent so they can be restored.
Beloved, this is the longest recorded prayer in all the Bible; it is loaded with timeless principles for us today. And Solomon wraps up his prayer the way we should—by praising the Lord in verse 56 and then praying in verse 60 that “all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God.”
With that, Solomon offers a final exhortation to the people in verse 61:
“Let your heart therefore be wholly true to the Lord our God, walking in his statutes and keeping his commandments, as at this day.”
At this point, the parallel account in 2 Chronicles chapter 7 adds this detail in verse 1:
As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple.
That gets everybody’s attention! This is God’s dramatic statement that He approves of the temple, their offerings, and the prayer of Solomon.
As the cloud of God’s glory fills the temple, all the people now see it, and verse 3 tells us they all bow with their faces to the ground, declaring, “[God] is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”
By the time the dedication of this temple is complete, 142,000 animals are presented up to God as offerings of praise! And of course, all this barbecue is then used to feed the nation in a celebration feast.
Verse 66 says as 1 Kings chapter 8 comes to a close:
“[Solomon] sent the people away, and they blessed the king and went to their homes joyful and glad of heart for all the goodness that the Lord had shown to David his servant and to Israel his people.”
This will be an unforgettable moment in the lives of these Israelites. Imagine what they have seen, what they have experienced, and what they enjoy as the people of God.
As great as this day was—with the fire from heaven, the cloud of God’s presence, and the joyous sacrifices offered to the Lord—it’s simply a shadow of the permanent sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the coming celebration in the presence of our Lord that will begin one day in eternity and never end.
 Martin J. Selman, 2 Chronicles: A Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, vol. 10b (InterVarsity, 1994), 327.