“But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built! Yet regard the prayer of Your servant and his supplication, O Lord my God, and listen to the cry and the prayer which Your servant is praying before You today: that Your eyes may be open toward this temple night and day, toward the place of which You said, ‘My name shall be there,’ that You may hear the prayer which Your servant makes toward this place. And may You hear the supplication of Your servant and of Your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. Hear in heaven Your dwelling place; and when You hear, forgive.”
1 Kings 8:27-30 NKJV
This is the scene where the people of Israel completed the temple, and just like the final touches to a piece of work, what do they have to do to make the temple actually complete? An opening service? Yes, it is an opening service. What are they offering? The ark of the Law has to go inside the temple into the Most Holy Place.
So the moment the priests carried the ark and placed it inside the Most Holy Place, that is when the temple was finally complete. It is as though a painting is finished with the final touches. The temple was completed. No matter how magnificently the temple was built, if the ark was not inside, the temple meant nothing.
Why is the temple sacred? The temple is holy and set apart from the world. So why is the temple holy? Because the ark is inside it. The temple and the world were separated by a sheet of woven linen. Inside the temple was holy, whereas outside was not. Furthermore, if you went in a little more, there was the Holy Place. Which is more holy then? The Holy Place was holy, whereas outside the Holy Place was less holy.
Then, if you entered the Most Holy Place, the Most Holy Place became the most holy, and since that became the most holy, the room next to it is less holy. Is the Most Holy Place holy? Yes, because the ark is inside it, it is holy. Why is the ark holy? Because it contains the tablets of the Law. Why are those tablets holy? Because it has God’s words written on them.
In other words, there must be God’s word for anything to be holy. Without the word, nothing can be holy. In the same way, why is our spirit holy? We have the word inside us. Therefore, we have become holy people. Even if people go to church, if they do not have the word, then they are not holy. Through the word, we have become completely new creations. Through the word, we were brought forth. Through the truth, we were born. We have become totally new.
During the Old Testament times, the ark was placed in the temple as a symbol of this. When that was done, the king offered a prayer to God. He prayed to God on behalf of the people. Usually, in this situation, the king’s prayer would be something like this.
God had promised Abraham to give him descendants and also land. Then, He promised to dwell among them and be their God. And truly, they formed a great nation in Egypt and took over Canaan during his father David’s reign. Finally, the promise that God will be with them and be their God was coming to fulfilment as he finished building the temple and placed the ark inside it.
Thus, every promise made to Abraham was coming to its fulfilment in this final moment when the ark was being placed inside. It was the fruit of hundreds of years of suffering. So it would be natural from man’s perspective to say, “Since God is with us now and is in this place, this is God’s house. So, every person who prays must come here to pray. Whoever prays elsewhere, his prayer is nullified. Whoever prayers or worships God elsewhere will be beheaded.”
Actually, people later on did that. The Catholics, for example, what did they do? They told people that if they did not worship where they designated, they would be killed, and they actually did. Same with Calvin. They created a church-centered faith. Actually, it was worship place-centered faith. And this was for them to maintain ecclesiastical authority.
But Solomon was king. As the king, in order for his kingdom and his nation to have a solid foundation, all of his authority and power had to be focused on the place that he built. He needed to make everyone come here. It is like how some people say, “You have to come to us to learn Berea. If you don’t listen to me, you can’t learn Berea.” See how even the head of the Berea branch has such a mindset. But King Solomon did not make such a decree. Instead, he prayed that when the people were in a foreign land and prayed towards the temple, God in heaven would hear them and answer.
This is not an easy decision to make. You cannot find any political motivation behind it but only his faith towards God and inspiration. He even said, “Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built!” And in 2 Chronicles, he said that it is only to build a temple for His name to be there and burn sacrifices to Him. Offering sacrifice means praying.
So to keep the name of God there and pray. Even if anyone is taken captive, if he prays towards this place with a yearning heart, furthermore, this is a prophecy about how anyone can pray in Jesus’ name wherever he is. Solomon said that the people would pray towards the place where the name of God is. Hence, it is a prophecy of how we can pray in Jesus’ name wherever we are and receive answers.
This inspiration Solomon could not even be found in the Pharisees hundreds of years later. Yet, as a king, he proclaimed after building the temple that God does not actually dwell in it. He was truly a man of faith without any selfish motives. If a person who was not a king said something like this during the time that the Pharisees were dominant before Jesus came, he would have died. Actually, deacon Stephen is that person.
All the people were saying that God was in the temple, but only Solomon said He is not – that He is in heaven and only His name is to be kept here. Stephen likewise said the same. He told the people of Israel, “You people of Israel, you claim that God is here in the temple. But the God you met with was an angel. And you still did not obey the word put into effect through angels.” That is why they were furious. Stephen then went on to say, “Look, God is up in heaven. The Son of Man is at the right hand of God. He is God. He is in heaven. This place is only for His name to be there, that we may offer sacrifices to Him.” After saying this, he was stoned by the Jews.
This is exactly what the people strictly trained by the Law did. Even though they were trained under the Law, when they did not have inspiration, they ended up killing a true man of God. So, it is remarkable that these words can come from the man who built the temple hundreds of years earlier as a king. If it was in the times when the Pharisees were gaining power, they would have conspired something and probably killed the king. But thankfully, since he was the king and the people were not too knowledgeable of the Law, they just took the king’s word as it was. Otherwise, they would have killed him like they did with Stephen.
Indeed, what Jesus Christ came and taught us is that the temple is not where God dwells. He said He would raise the temple again in three days, and finally, after He resurrected, He proclaimed His resurrected body as the temple, where God’s name is. He became the true temple – where the name of God is. The name of God is not placed in Jesus only. We can no longer say that God is in heaven and His name is here.
Now, for whoever believes in Jesus, since the name of God comes into him by the Holy Spirit, this temple is not only where the name is; it is truly where God dwells. In the past, God met with people in the temple through His angels, but now, the Holy Spirit comes and dwells in those who believe in Jesus, acknowledge and have His name. Therefore, we can no longer say that only God’s name is in us. Why? This name is different from the name Jehovah. Jehovah is just a title that one calls.
But the name Jesus is not a title. It is reality. The everlasting reality. Therefore, we cannot separate the name coming into us and God coming into us. If that name comes in, God comes in. He comes in by the Holy Spirit. So, how can God dwell in a temple built by hand? But this could also be said as, how can God dwell in a temple on earth?
We can speak confidently now that God dwells in the temple on earth. Each of us has become the temple, and He dwells inside us, actually. The people of the Old Testament thought the will of God was all fulfilled. They thought the promises made to Abraham were fulfilled. They believed that since God was with them, they would not perish. But they were mistaken. God is everlasting, so how can He dwell in a place in this world that will all perish and disappear? The temple on earth that does not perish is Jesus Christ and the saints who are the members of His body. He dwells in them forever and does not leave them. Therefore, for whoever believes in Jesus, God is Immanuel. It is not that He only puts His name there and just says He is there, too.
Thus, whoever has received the name Jesus and the Holy Spirit has become a temple in whom God dwells. You have to remember that. So you can pray wherever you go. You do not have to come to church to pray. You could pray in prison, you could pray at home, you could pray while you are walking, and so on. It is possible. You do not have to go to Jerusalem to worship. When two or three believers gather in Jesus’ name and pray, He hears them, and the Holy Spirit is at work. Therefore, the church built in the name of the Lord Jesus can worship whichever country they are in. They can see God’s face, pray to Him and receive His answers.
Just because we have gained this, which was fulfilled by the great works and glory of God, does not mean we should treat it lightly. We need to think about the history of how all of this came to fulfilment and acknowledge the amazing works and history that finally came to be fulfilled in us.
Thus, Immanuel – the Lord is in me – is a reality. Whatever you pray for, the Lord will hear. Just as Solomon prayed at that time, that God will hear when the people pray towards where the name is, we also must not fear no matter what the problem is but rely on Jesus’ name within us and pray to receive answers and experience Immanuel. Let’s pray. Lord, since You gave me the name Jesus in me, help me treasure it and pray in the name of Jesus so that I may receive answers.
God our Father, just as King Solomon mentioned, prayer is the first thing to be done in the place where God’s name is. Since we have been given the name Jesus within us, help us not to become lazy in prayer. Help us to pray continuously and in every situation so that we can receive God’s help. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Sermon by Pastor Ki-Taek Lee
The Director of Sungrak Mission Center
Sermon on November 9, 2012
Translated by Sungrak Mission Center English Team