Tuesday, May 31
Reader: “The priests could not continue their service because of the cloud,”
Response: “for the glorious presence of the Lord filled the Temple of God.”
Scripture: II Chronicles 5:2-14
Solomon then summoned to Jerusalem the elders of Israel and all the heads of tribes—the leaders of the ancestral families of Israel. They were to bring the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant to the Temple from its location in the City of David, also known as Zion. So all the men of Israel assembled before the king at the annual Festival of Shelters, which is held in early autumn.
When all the elders of Israel arrived, the Levites picked up the Ark. The priests and Levites brought up the Ark along with the special tent and all the sacred items that had been in it. There, before the Ark, King Solomon and the entire community of Israel sacrificed so many sheep, goats, and cattle that no one could keep count!
Then the priests carried the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant into the inner sanctuary of the Temple—the Most Holy Place—and placed it beneath the wings of the cherubim. The cherubim spread their wings over the Ark, forming a canopy over the Ark and its carrying poles. These poles were so long that their ends could be seen from the Holy Place, which is in front of the Most Holy Place, but not from the outside. They are still there to this day. Nothing was in the Ark except the two stone tablets that Moses had placed in it at Mount Sinai, where the Lord made a covenant with the people of Israel when they left Egypt.
Then the priests left the Holy Place. All the priests who were present had purified themselves, whether or not they were on duty that day. And the Levites who were musicians—Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun, and all their sons and brothers—were dressed in fine linen robes and stood at the east side of the altar playing cymbals, lyres, and harps. They were joined by 120 priests who were playing trumpets. The trumpeters and singers performed together in unison to praise and give thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals, and other instruments, they raised their voices and praised the Lord with these words:
“He is good!
His faithful love endures forever!”
At that moment a thick cloud filled the Temple of the Lord. The priests could not continue their service because of the cloud, for the glorious presence of the Lord filled the Temple of God.
Today we move 400 years ahead in history from the moveable Tabernacle in the desert in Moses’ day to around 1000 B.C. in the days of King Solomon. Once again God prescribed the detailed design, how, who, when, and of what materials he wanted the Temple to be built. While God gave Moses a visual picture of what the Tabernacle was to look like, this time God gave King David the description in writing. In David’s words, “Every part of this plan was given to me in writing from the hand of the Lord.” (I Chronicles 28:19) Since David was not allowed to build the Temple, he passed the architectural instructions along to Solomon! With thousands of workers, it took seven years to complete. The highest point was about twenty stories.
Prior to coming to its final resting place, the Ark of the Covenant had been to various places including Shiloh and Gibeon and even in possession of the Philistines at one point! Now it came to its permanent home in the Temple in Jerusalem. You’ll note that the Levites were specifically designated to carry the Ark on two poles put through the four rings on the corners of the Ark. No person was to touch it as God had ordered since it was holy. You’ll recall Uzzah died instantly when he touched the Ark to keep it from falling―it was being transported on a cart instead of the Levitical priests carrying it as God had told Moses. Remember all priests were Levites, but not all Levites were priests. After placing the Ark, which contained the two stone tablets put there by Moses centuries earlier, into the Holy of Holies, the priests left and music began. Apparently the pot of manna put there by Aaron centuries earlier had been lost by this time.
What is interesting to note is that both singers and instrumentalists performed together. I’m not sure we can understand the meaning of “unison” in this case. It may have meant simply that they were performing at the same time or that they were making music on the same pitch. Among the Levites there were twenty-four groups of twelve singers each who rotated duty at the Temple. While we know there were 120 trumpeters, we don’t know how many singers there were. Suffice it to say, the music was loud and the celebration joyous. The presence of God descended and filled the Temple with his glory, the same thing that had happened at the completion of the Tabernacle in Moses’ day.
What do we glean from this First Testament history? Meeting with his assembled people is very significant to God. And gathering in his presence is important to the gathered people. Worshiping God as a united people is an essential expression of faith. God is responsive to his people’s worship. Songs of worship are focused on God and his character. God cares about how worship is done. Every once in a while the presence of God in worship is overwhelming. If you’ve gotten out of the practice of gathering with God’s people in church, it’s time to return. God enjoys being with you and his gathered people.
Music: “Gloria” John Rutter 21st Century setting
Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to all those of good will.
We praise thee. We bless thee. We worship thee. We glorify thee.
We give thanks to thee according to thy great glory.
“Gloria in excelsis Deo” Solimusi Vocesparalalpaz 18th Century setting
My dear Lord, I can but tell thee that thou knowest I long for nothing but thyself, nothing but holiness, nothing but union with thy will. Thou hast given me these desires, and thou alone canst give me the thing desired. My soul longs for communion with thee, for mortification of indwelling corruption, especially spiritual pride. But Lord, I am so full of myself. I think only of thee and me forgetting that I am part of thy body of believers. It has become so easy to gaze only within myself and my small circle of family and friends, ignoring the ordinary followers of Jesus as people unneeded, unimportant in my life with thee. Forgive my foolish, selfish, narrow and false view of my walk with thee. Grant that I may grasp the greatness of thy abundant grace extended to the greatest and least of all thy children. This I pray in the name of Jesus, who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, through all worlds without end. Amen. ―from The Valley of Vision, p.127 adopted Daniel Sharp