We have seen that the tabernacle God instructed Moses to build was a portable structure, something that could be taken down and carried with the people as they journeyed to Canaan (Num. 1:50–51). The portability shows that this tabernacle, while important, was not to be a permanent sanctuary; rather, the Lord foretold a day when the people would have a central, immovable sanctuary in the Promised Land as the only location where Israel could rightly worship the Creator (Deut. 12:1–7).
This more permanent tabernacle was the temple that Solomon constructed in Jerusalem based on the model of the portable tabernacle, including all its curtains and furniture (2 Chron. 2–5). After building this temple, Solomon dedicated it to God. The Lord marked His approval with fire from heaven, and a grand feast was held (6:1– 7:10). God then appeared to Solomon, and this meeting is recorded in today’s passage.
One of the most important things to note about this encounter is how the Lord refused to bind Himself absolutely to the temple. That is to say, God would not be contained in the Jerusalem temple, and He reserved the right to reject it and allow foreigners to destroy it if His people continued to break covenant without repentance (7:19–22). The Lord would manifest His presence in a special way in the tabernacle and temple, but would take away that privilege if Israel abandoned Him (Ezek. 10).
Yet even if Israel engaged in heinous sin, all was not lost — provided that they would repent. With the warnings of judgment, God also gave the people hope that they could be restored upon contrition and repentance (2 Chron. 7:11–18). Matthew Henry describes what this repentance looks like: “God expects that his people who are called by his name, if they have dishonored his name by their iniquity, should honor it by accepting the punishment of their iniquity. They must be humble themselves under his hand, must pray for the removal of the judgment, must seek the face and favor of God; and yet all this will not do unless they turn from their wicked ways, and return to the God from whom they have revolted.”
Our Father has brought about ultimate restoration in His Son Christ Jesus. The Jerusalem temple did fall, but Christ is the true temple in whom we now meet with our Creator; thus, He is the only eternal temple of the living God (John 2:13–22).