It must have been a wonderful moment in the history of the Children of Israel when the people gathered before the newly constructed Temple and witnessed the glory of the Lord filling the Lord’s house (2 Chron. 5. 13, 14; 7. 1). The Temple, taking Solomon seven years to build, and estimated to cost at least 2,000 million pounds, would have been a mere material structure had not the Lord deigned to manifest His presence there. How unspeakable can be the blessedness of the realised presence of the Living God. What JOY, PRESERVATION and TESTIMONY is ever associated with His manifest presence. Such grace may be known by His assembled saints today. “There am I in the midst” (Matt. 18. 20). “God is in you of a truth” (1 Cor. 14. 25). With what reverence and deep earnestness our hearts should prize this vital experience of His nearness.
In chapters 5 to 7 of 2 Chronicles the glory of the Lord filling the Temple is associated with: –
These facts should give us to realise the importance to us today of: –
Where these vital conditions are, the people of God will certainly be given to experience the realised presence of the Lord.
This memorable scene in Chronicles stands out in contrast to the departing of the Glory as recorded in Ezekiel. There the glory is seen in chapter 8. 3 at the inner gate that looketh toward the north, where was the seat of the image of jealousy. Then in 9. 3 it is gone up from the cherub whereupon it was, to the threshold of the house. In 10. 3, 4 we read the cloud filled the inner court. Then the glory of the Lord … stood over the threshold of the house … and the court was full of the brightness of the Lord’s glory.
Verse 18, “Then the glory of the Lord departed from off the threshold of the house, andstood over the cherubims.*” Then, finally, in 11. 23, “The glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city, and stood upon the mountain which is on the east side.”
These varying positions would seem to indicate the great reluctance with which the Lord withdrew this evidence of His presence. He would seem to say, as recorded elsewhere, “How shall I give thee up?” It also indicates how very costly to the people of God is their sin and departure. It is like the ways of the Lord to foretell, before the book of Ezekiel closes, how the glory would return to abide in a day yet future.
There is important instruction for our hearts in noticing some of the more striking events in the history of the Kings which led to the Lord “going far from His sanctuary.” The beginning of the path of decline is found even in the days of Solomon. Read 1 Kings 11. 1-13. Solomon’s love for, and union with many strange wives, led, as God had warned it would, to his heart being turned after other gods. Waning affection toward the Lord is closely associated with disobedience to His word. We read, “Solomon built an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab … and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon. And likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods.” What a tragic warning of the fearful consequences of the unequal yoke. Because of this God rent the kingdom almost wholly from him (1 Kings 11. 11-13), although it was not done in his day for David his father’s sake. Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who so often is spoken of as the one “who made Israel to sin,” is seen turning the tribes of Israel from God’s centre, the place where He had chosen to put His name there. He set up idols in Bethel and Dan; made priests of the lowest of the people and devised a system of false worship from his own heart. (1 Kings 12. 28-33.) God, today, has only one centre for His beloved people, and that the Person and Name of His Son. Is not the divided state of God’s people today largely traceable to a failure to recognise the One uniting Name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ? And has not Christendom devised a form of Church government, priesthood and ministry, quite outside the all-sufficient instructions given us in the New Testament Epistles? In the reign of Rehoboam the son of Solomon, over Judah, the high places, images and groves were built. The king was powerless to preserve the treasures of the House of the Lord from the hand of Shishak, king of Egypt. (1 Kings 14. 21-31.) So compromise on our part today will eventually lead to the yielding up of the spiritual treasures of truth committed to our trust. It is significant we are told that Rehoboam’s mother’s name was Naamah, an Ammonitess. Ahaz turns God’s altar aside to give place to one he had seen in Damascus, thus daring to tamper with that which speaks of the perfection and finality of the one offering of Christ. It is, therefore, not surprising that ultimately he shut up the doors of the house of the Lord. (2 Kings 16. 10-17; 2 Chron. 28. 24.) In the reign of Manasseh we have the very Temple of the Lord turned into a scene of idolatrous worship. The king built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the Lord, and set a graven image of the grove he had made in the house. In recording these solemn facts God again speaks of having put His name there. (2 Kings 21. 3-9.) Thus we see how step by step, the unequal yoke, turning from God’s centre, inability because of sin to guard God’s treasures, the world’s pattern displacing God’s order, and idol worship, bring about the withdrawal of the Divine presence and the destruction of the Temple at the hands of the armies of the King of Babylon.
How blessed and encouraging to remember that there were kings who had affection for God’s house and in their day wrought to restore. These were consequently blessed of God, and were a marked blessing to the nation. The two outstanding kings were Joash, meaning “Jehovah gave,” and Josiah, meaning “Given of Jehovah.” In 2 Kings 12. 5 we read the instructions of Joash, “Let them repair the breaches of the house of the Lord,” and at his command the chest is placed beside the altar to receive the gifts of the people of God for this purpose (verse 9). Josiah’s heart was tender when there was read to him the book of the law that was found in the house of God. Having rent his clothes, he takes immediate steps to cleanse the house of the Lord of the idolatrous worship that had been established there, and called upon the people to keep the passover of the Lord their God. These whole-hearted returns to what was written brought days of true revival. Both of these kings, who had such zeal for the Lord’s house, were brought to the throne of Judah in very tender years. How blessed it is when those who have been saved early in life so regard God’s assembly as to be able to say in the language of another, “Lord, I have loved the habitation of Thy house, And the place of the tabernacle of Thy glory” (Psalm 26. 8, Newberry). May we all be guided by His precious word as to what is suitable to the realised presence of the Lord.