But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built! Yet have regard to the prayer of your servant and to his plea, O LORD my God, listening to the cry and to the prayer that your servant prays before you this day, that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which you have said, “My name shall be there,” that you may listen to the prayer that your servant offers toward this place.
—1 Kings 8:27-29
King Solomon, did you hear about the Messiah being called the Lord of the Sabbath who is greater than the temple, the embodiment of it (Matthew 12:6)? Did you hear, following His perfect sacrifice, of God intending to dwell with man, announced with a loud voice (Revelation 21:3)—a declaration matched to man’s innermost desire? How much did you know of the God-Man who will sit on Jerusalem’s throne (Luke 1:32-33)? To what extend did you know that the kingdom of the world will become the kingdom of our Lord, who will reign forever and ever (Revelation 11:15)?
“But will God indeed dwell on the earth?” you pose in your dedication prayer of the temple (1 Kings 8:27a).
You knew the name of the Lord would be with you (1 Kings 8:29), and you also knew that the one true God could know no containment (1 Kings 8:27)—thus, your question of awe. But King Solomon, even more poignant is your question to consider now! God has given further promises, since your time, about the manifestation of His presence.
Will He? Will God dwell with man? King Solomon marveled—and so do I—at what God will do. As Solomon’s dedication prayer progresses, he ends up pointing to God’s Word (1 Kings 8:29), concluding with awe: God has said He would put His name upon this place. So it will be.
Even more, God has spoken prophetic promises for present-day believers to trust:
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.
[…] And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” (Revelation 21:3, 6a)
So it will be.
King Solomon was astonished as he put together seemingly-precarious pieces of theology in his prayer, as if saying, “My great God knows no bounds, and yet He will choose to especially dwell with man in this house? I take Him at His marvelous word!” God’s greatness goes beyond the limitlessness of His presence, being great in all of who He is. Solomon’s question only becomes more perplexing when considered in light of God’s great holiness—a theme Solomon proceeds to consider as the prayer reaches its conclusion. How will the holy God of heaven dwell with sinful man?
He has planned a sure way: one temple foreshadowed another. The sacrifices in one pointed to the perfect sacrifice of the One, and the way for redemption of sinners. Ultimately, this way, this plan, is at the crux of the revelatory glory God destined in great love to bring from His earthly creation—culminating in Christ:
New Testament writers proclaim that the glory of God’s nature, character, power, and purpose is now open to view in the person and role of God’s incarnate Son, Jesus Christ (John 1:14–18; 2 Cor. 4:3–6; Heb. 1:1–3).
God’s glory, shown forth in the plan and work of grace whereby he saves sinners, is meant to call forth praise (Eph. 1:6, 12, 14), that is, the giving of glory to God by spoken words (cf. Rev. 4:9; 19:7).
Matthew Henry writes on the certainty of God completing His plan for this world—from initial creation to a new heaven and a new earth—in his commentary on Revelation 21:3:
As his power and will were the first cause of all things, his pleasure and glory are the last end, and he will not lose his design; for then he would no longer be the Alpha and Omega.
God’s purpose to dwell with His people through Christ is sure: “It is finished!” and “It is done!” (John 19:30, Revelation 23:6). And the glory His people will forever ascribe to Him is as good as accomplished.
Intertwined together are these: the glory of God and the keeping of His revealed design. Such hope—that God would so tie His glory to dwelling with a people of His creation—is confounding, comforting, and best of all, true.
Consequently, the Christian’s glory-giving to God is also tied to gladness about His plans: “Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!” (Revelation 19:7a). When tempted to confine our thoughts to the troubles of this present world, what an incentive to not resist the coming of awe and confident, celebratory within our souls—despite whatever difficulty our joy must pierce through on this earth in order to exist. We know His plan: God with us.
Praise be to the Lord, who has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses.
—1 Kings 8:56
J. I. Packer, Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1993), 60.
Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. VI, Acts to Revelation, https://www.ccel.org/ccel/henry/mhc6.Rev.xxii.html, italics in the original.