How is God present to us? The pilgrims looking over at the place where the ancient temple stood in Jerusalem may be asking that question. Our reading today from 1 Kings describes the temple Solomon built.
When David built a splendid palace for himself in Jerusalem after conquering the city he decides that God also needs a beautiful temple, but God tells David through the Prophet Nathan that he doesn’t need a place to dwell in. ( 2 Samuel 7, 4-17) He dwells in a tent so he can move with his people wherever they are. A beautiful reminder– God is with us wherever we are.
But then David’s son, Solomon, builds a great temple for God on the threshing floor he buys in the upper city in Jerusalem, and God makes his dwelling place there. A dark cloud fills the Holy of Holies of Solomon’s temple, the Book of Kings says; it’s so awesome the priests can’t remain in the place. “… The priests could no longer minister because of the cloud, since the LORD’s glory had filled the temple of the LORD.” (1 Kings 8,22-30)
God is transcendent yet immanent. “Can it indeed be that God dwells on earth? If the heavens and the highest heavens cannot contain you, how much less this temple which I have built!” Recognizing God mysterious presence, Solomon asks God to bless him and his people there: “Listen to the petitions of your servant and of your people Israel which they offer in this place. Listen from your heavenly dwelling and grant pardon.”
A good reading to reflect on the presence of God in our lives. God has promised to be with us, yet God’s presence will always be mysterious, beyond our understanding. He goes with us wherever we go, but then there are also holy places where God meets us– sacraments, signs, places he’s promised to be.
Jesus, the new temple of God, fulfills these Old Testament realities. As God’s Word, he dwells among us, accompanying us on our journey of life in signs and sacraments. Yet his presence is also “a dark cloud,” the mystery of his death and resurrection. Awesome, mysterious, beyond our understanding. Yet we draw close and pray and ask that he listen and bring us life.