“Listen to the pleas of your servant and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. And listen from heaven your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive” (v. 21).
Once the ark of the covenant was placed in the temple (2 Chron. 5:1–6:11), the sanctuary could function as the place for Israel’s worship that it was intended to be. The temple needed only to be dedicated to the Lord, and Solomon led this dedication, as we see in today’s passage.
Solomon’s prayer of dedication for the temple in 2 Chronicles 6:12–42 is theologically rich and specifically connects God’s presence in the temple with the Davidic monarchy and its rule over Israel. The prayer begins with Solomon’s recalling the faithfulness of the Lord to His covenant with David, specifically His promise to raise up a son after him who would build the house of God. But this portion of the prayer also recognizes that David’s descendants would have to remain faithful to God in order to continue enjoying the full blessings of the Lord (vv. 12–17; 2 Sam. 7:1–17).
Next, Solomon’s prayer reflects a proper understanding of what the Lord’s presence in the temple would mean. The holy sanctuary would not put a spatial limit on God, as if He could be contained in the temple or found only there. Even the highest heaven cannot contain our Creator (2 Chron. 6:18). Nevertheless, Solomon asked the Lord to manifest His presence in a special way in the temple and to be particularly attentive to the cries offered to Him there (vv. 19–21). The temple was not a confining space for the Lord but a place where people could fellowship with Him in a special way in the land He gifted them in His grace.
Second Chronicles 6:22–39 describes several specific circumstances under which the people might pray toward the temple, focusing particularly on prayers prompted by God’s discipline that could come in the form of military defeat, famine, drought, or exile (see Deut. 28:15–68). Praying toward the temple was a tangible way that the people focused their attention on the Lord. Solomon asked God to hear the cries of His sinful people on such occasions, pardon their sins, and restore them in accordance with His promises (see Deut. 30:1–10). The king knew that having the temple was no guarantee that God would continue to bless Israel if they fell into gross sin, but He also knew that the Lord would show grace if the people turned from their sin and trusted in Him anew. Even when Israel grossly sinned, He would not forget His covenant with the people and with David (2 Chron. 6:40–42).
Coram DeoLiving before the face of God
God cannot be confined to a particular space, but He does meet with His people in particular spaces. When we gather for worship, the Lord meets with us, and we enjoy His presence. It is fitting to build church sanctuaries for these gatherings, as they help form our expectations for meeting God in worship. But we must remember that the Lord meets His people wherever they come together for worship.