In the South American country of Bolivia, there is a place called Salar de Uyuni. It is a 4,086 square mile salt flat set at an elevation of 11,995 feet above sea level in the Andes Mountains. During the rainy season, a few inches of water will stand on the flats creating a huge reflecting pool for the “low” hanging clouds. Photographers love the location, for it is where heaven and earth appear to meet. In 2 Chronicles 6:12-7:3, we read about Solomon’s prayer of dedication for the newly built temple in Jerusalem. To the ancient Israelites, as with many civilizations throughout history, the temple was regarded as the place where heaven and earth met.

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One thing we find in Solomon’s dedication of the temple is that the Father in heaven watches over us. Verse 14 tells us there is no one like him in heaven or on earth. Why? Because he keeps his covenant of loyal love with his servants. (Hesed could also be translated as “covenant love,” so the text could be read as, “you who keep your covenant of covenant love . . .”) God had kept his promise to his servant David (v. 15). Solomon says, “With your mouth you have promised” (that is, that David’s son would build the temple) “and with your hand you have fulfilled it” (today the temple stands complete and I am not dedicating it to you). In verse 16, Solomon essentially prays, “Now, LORD, do it again!” That is, God promised that David would never fail to have a successor on the throne (an everlasting kingdom), so Solomon asks that what God had previously said with his mouth would come to pass through God’s own guiding hand.

In verse 20, Solomon prays that God’s eyes would be open day and night on the temple so that he would hear the prayers directed there. Why would he say “eyes” for hearing instead of “ears”, especially when there is the eightfold repetition as part of each case example within Solomon’s prayer that God should “hear from heaven” and respond to the prayer? In fact, it is not until near the end of the prayer that Solomon finally says, “Now, my God, may your eyes be open and your ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place” (v. 40; italics mine). Possibly the reason the emphasis is upon the eyes of God when he hears from heaven is to be found in verse 30. “Deal with everyone according to all they do, since you know their hearts (for you alone know the human heart.” God alone can see the innermost intention and most secret thought. This is an action of the eyes, though certainly his ears are attentive as well.

What type of God is revealed by Solomon’s long list of case examples for the types of prayers that might be brought to this new temple? He is a God of loyal love (hesed, vv. 14, ), which is repeated three times in this passage (vv. 6:14, 42; 7:3). God is faithful because he is loyal to his covenant promises and those who keep his covenant. He forgives those who repent (v. 21). He judges justly the wicked and the innocent (v. 23). He rights injustice and releases the suffering from their sorrows (v. 25). He renews life (v. 27). He defeats illness and death (v. 29). He accepts all who seek him regardless of who they are or where they come from (v. 33). He upholds the righteous in their cause (v. 35). And he returns and restores the repentant wayward soul (vv. 37-38). In all these things, God cares for both the individual and the community.

A second thing we see in the text is that when we pray on earth, God hears us. Solomon sets the example for his people as well as for us. He is on a podium set up in the midst of his people, who he addresses prior to the passage we are considering. Solomon then turns toward the altar (towards the temple) and he humbles himself in front of all of his people by kneeling down and spreading out his hands to the heavens (vv. 12-13). Again, we will not look in depth at the various case examples Solomon gives in his prayer, but we will consider what they say about our actions when we pray to God. We are to confess our sins (v. 21). We should have integrity in our promises (vv. 22-23). (As Jesus told us, we should let our yes and no mean what we say, Matt 5:37.) We should learn from God the right ways to live (v. 27). We should pray for our nation and our community (vv. 28-29). We should fear God and walk in obedience to his commands (v. 31). We should expand the knowledge of the name of YHWH to all nations (v. 33). We should fight only when we are certain it is God who has called us to the fight and has ordained it (vv. 34-35). (There are lots of times, especially in today’s political climate, that we can claim to fight for God when he is sadly shaking his head at our behavior.)

Even in the midst of the dedication of the temple, we can see that Solomon demonstrates by example the need to confess our sins in prayer. Before the passage we are looking at (2 Chron 6:1-2), Solomon thinks to himself, “I have built a magnificent temple for [the LORD], a place for [him] to dwell forever.” He appears boastful and proud of his prowess in the great structure before him. Yet during his prayer (v. 18), Solomon has a notable change of heart. “But will God really dwell on earth with humans? The heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!” This is a confession that his temple is nothing in comparison to the grandeur of God himself. His temple is nothing more than a footstool at best for the great and powerful YHWH.

This leads us to the final idea in the text. The temple is the place that joins heaven and earth. Regardless of the culture or time, high places are often seen as the place where heaven and earth meet. Whether you look at Mount Sinai, where the people of Israel first met with God in the Exodus, the Acropolis in Athens, Greece, the Buddhist temples of Tibet, or even the various worship sites described as “high places” in the Old Testament. Mount Moriah (or Zion) was viewed in the same way. Such high places were where the earth rose up to meet the heavens. The temple Solomon was dedicating was the place on earth where God would “hear from heaven” the cries of people directing their prayers toward the temple. Though Solomon said God could not be contained in the temple, still the end of his prayer is an invocation calling upon God to inhabit the temple. YHWH is called upon to “arise” and come to this “resting place” (v. 41). This language was used in the ancient world for inviting gods to inhabit the images made for them in pagan temples. The invitation in 2 Chronicles, however, is not to an image but to the ark as the resting place, the footstool for God. When a monarch would ascend to his throne, he would arise to it and then rest upon it. So YHWH, the king of heaven and earth, is invited to reign through the temple.

In 2 Chronicles 7:1-3, we see the response of YHWH to this prayerful invitation to inhabit the temple. Fire falls from heaven and consumes the sacrifices on the altar. A dark cloud (5:13-6:1) or the glory of the LORD (7:1-2) fills the temple. This is imagery from the time of Moses and the wilderness. To look at but two examples, in Deuteronomy 5:22-24, we read of the first and dark cloud being upon Mount Sinai, which was called the glory of YHWH. In Leviticus 9:23-24, When Moses and Aaron leave the tent of meeting, the glory of YHWH appeared and fire came down to consume the altar sacrifice. God accepted the temple of Solomon the same way we established the covenant with Israel at Sinai and revealed himself to Moses at the tabernacle. But whereas the priests in Solomon’s day were not able to enter the temple because of the dark cloud of YHWH’s glory, Moses entered the darkness ascending Sinai (Exod 20:21) and Moses and Aaron were in the tabernacle before exiting with the appearance of God’s glory (Lev 9:23), thus the Chronicler seems to show either the greater holiness of Moses and Aaron compared to the temple priests or the greater the presence of YHWH in his temple than at Sinai and in the tabernacle. One thing that is the same between 2 Chron 7:3 and Lev 9:24 is that the people, upon seeing the glory of YHWH, fall face down and worship.

For Christians, Jesus Christ is the true temple and his Spirit in us makes us part of the temple of Christ. He is where heaven and earth met, for God reconciled heaven and earth through Christ (Col 1:20), for “all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form (Col 2:9). John 1:14 tells us that the Word became flesh and dwelt (literally, “tabernacled”) with us and that we have “seen his glory.” On the Mount of the Transfiguration, a cloud descended upon Jesus and his disciples as the voice from heaven spoke to the disciples with Jesus (Matt 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:34). Interestingly, where the cloud at Sinai and the temple was “dark,” Matthew describes the cloud of the transfiguration as “bright.” The dark mystery of God has been revealed in the glorious countenance of Jesus the Messiah. At Pentecost, tongues of fire fall upon each of the Apostles’ heads (for they are now the sacrifices) and they are “filled” with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:3-4). And Paul tells us to be ever filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph 5:18), for it is the glory of YHWH filling his temple! We are to be the meeting of heaven and earth, bringing God’s presence into the dark corners of our world.

Look back at 2 Chronicles 6:41-42. Solomon prays that God will remember his great loyal love that was promised to his servant David and that God would not reject his anointed ones. (The noun is plural even though most English translators assume it is a typo and so translate it as singular, for Solomon.) But what if Solomon doesn’t mean just himself but the promise for sons of David to sit upon the throne to reign over the kingdom of God for all time? The New Testament on several occasions refers to Christians as “Sons of God” (e.g. Matt 5:9, though the NIV translates it as “children of God” to be inclusive, rather than the probably more appropriate “Sons and Daughters of God”), so we are all the anointed of God because we are members of the body of Christ. Not only are we part of this concluding prayer as the anointed ones, but we are also the priests “clothed in salvation” (and we are to clothe others in the salvation of Christ). We are also “those of loyal love” who rejoice in the goodness of God (singing praises to him and serving others in his name). One way we can be the temple of God and priests of his salvation is to pray for our community and our nation during this time of pandemic and electoral confusion. We should be healing the nations, not enflaming the masses.

We find in 2 Chronicles 6:29 that God will hear the prayer “of anyone among your people Israel.” We should be the voices raised up for healing and unity in our land. It says “anyone.” It doesn’t have to be religious leaders. It doesn’t have to be political leaders. You can be the instigator for a great revival of repentance and healing. This promise is specifically in connection with plague (v. 28). And so James tells us, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (Jas 5:13-16). Pray for members of your community who are affected by COVID-19. Pray for local, state, national, and world leaders to know how to govern in the midst of this pandemic. Pray for healthcare workers who are stretched to the limits with their obligations. Pray for the scientists who are working to develop multiple vaccines to bring an end to this struggle. Anyone can pray. Will you?

“Where Heaven and Earth Meet” (2 Chron 6:12-7:3)

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