The Uncontainable God
If ever there was a building worthy of the name “House of God” it was Solomon’s Temple. As you read chapters 5-7 today, note the wisdom that goes into Solomon’s planning, the quality of the materials, the skill of the construction, and the sacredness of the process. When Solomon proclaims that he intends “to build a house for the name of the Lord my God,” he is echoing God’s own words in 2 Samuel 7:13. To do something for one’s “name,” would mean that it was going to be fitting for his glory, honor, fame, and worth.
If you’ve ever visited Washington D.C. you likely saw many tributes and memorials, but it is easy to understand who we consider our greatest leaders to be – just look at the Washington Monument or the Lincoln Memorial. Solomon reaches as far as he can to build a building worthy of the name of God. When you read the account of the details of the Temple, it doesn’t take much of an imagination to see what a truly amazing building it was.
Does Solomon think he succeeded? “O LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven above or on earth beneath… 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!” (1 Kings 8:23,27 (ESV))
His assessment is right. The very best that people are capable of is insufficient for the glory of God. There is nothing we can do that is good enough to satisfy His glory. This is so important for us to remember when we are tempted to feel that we put God in our debt by doing this or that for Him.
Does God reject Solomon’s Temple then? Certainly not. In 8:10-11, we read how the glory of the Lord filled the Temple with a great cloud making it impossible for the priests to continue their work. Here is another important lesson for us: when we, as Christians saved through the gospel, offer our best service for the glory of God, however far it may fall from that glory, He receives it for His glory.
Finally, let us be astounded that God no longer resides in such a great temple, but in His people as His temple. One of my favorite songs from the 90’s was “All the Heavens” by Third Day. One line said it well, echoing the words of Solomon: “All the heavens cannot hold you, Lord. How much less to dwell in me?” What a weak temple. What an uncontainable God!