The Israelites are at the top of their game. They’ve spent the last 450 years struggling out from under slavery in Egypt, and after wandering through the wilderness with their mighty God shamelessly being given a tent to ‘live in’ – they found their Promise Land, and continued to search and wander through their leadership model. They had these impermanent, flimsy judges, who led their people about as often as they deserted them and deserted their God. Judges certainly weren’t the leadership model of a good, healthy, secure nation.
So the Israelites cried out for a king. They wanted the permanence of the nations that surrounded them. The grass looked so much greener with a king who could rule over them with a dynasty that would last for generations. And now, they had 40 years of David, and the jewel on David’s crown was his wise son, Solomon. Solomon’s pinnacle moment, and maybe, the pinnacle moment of Israel’s entire history as a nation is 2 Chronicles chapter 6 through chapter 9 – the dedication of the Temple of God! Even the Queen of Sheba comes to visit Israel to see all that they have accomplished.
The verse quoted below comes after 6 chapters of onerous detail on the Temple’s construction. Large pillars made of this, giant pools built from that… hundreds of tons of gold, silver, bronze… it just goes on and on.
Now remember…2 Chronicles was very likely written during the exile of this once powerful nation….
Solomon stands up and announces to God —
1 Then Solomon prayed, “O Lord, you have said that you would live in a thick cloud of darkness. 2 Now I have built a glorious Temple for you, a place where you can live forever!” — 2 Chronicles 6:1-2
When I read this at first, I almost skipped past it. Did you catch it? Did you catch the irony? Read the verse again…
1 Then Solomon prayed, “O Lord, you have said that you would live in a thick cloud of darkness. 2 Now I have built a glorious Temple for you, a place where you can live forever!” — 2 Chronicles 6:1-2 (emphasis added)
Now, for all the glory and might of which Solomon was so proud, where prey tell is that temple Solomon was so confident God could live in forever? Can you show it to me on a map today? No! Its long since destroyed, and its subsequent iterations have been destroyed, as will every other human project.
But notice the clouds. Here today, gone…5 minutes from now. Some of the most impermanent, ephemeral, vaporous characters in all Creation. Is it possible that Solomon had it backwards?
Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God. — 1 Corinthians 1: 27-29 (emphasis added)
God still lives in the clouds. Not literally or exclusively of course. But what I mean is that God is still making his home in the weak things, as opposed to ivory towers. He has passed up king’s courts, congressional committees, and has instead chosen to make his home in our fragile, emotive, human hearts. He lives in clouds, not in temples.
So when you look around at what we’ve accomplished for God: The mega-church buildings, the incredible poverty eradication programs, the top-notch universities built to train Christian leaders of tomorrow…remember God’s choice in real estate is not in the things about which we feel like we can beat our chest. He lives in the clouds. He lives with the fragile, the forgotten, the here-today-gone-five-minutes-from-now world.
He lives next door to you, no matter where you’ve run off to…