The ark of the covenant was a small box that contained the tablets of the Ten Commandments, which God had given to Moses on Mount Sinai. It was kept in the holiest part of the tabernacle tent and was moved around only when God directed a change in tabernacle location. It was hand-carried by Levitical priests using long poles which allowed them to support it without physically touching it. This ark was the chosen holy location for the Presence of God at that time.
Once Solomon completed the temple, it was time to move the ark into it. This temple was intended to be its permanent location throughout eternity, a sign of the covenant between God and mankind. Unfortunately, due to our sinful nature, people were inherently unable to keep this covenant, and a new eternal covenant based upon the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was required. In this way, God restored the relationship between humankind and Himself. The sacrifice of Christ covers over all the sins and shortcoming of believers and redeems us from our sinful nature.
Surrounded by a great gathering, King Solomon commenced the ritual of bringing up the ark of the covenant into the new temple in Jerusalem.
4 Then they brought up the ark of the Lord, the tabernacle of meeting, and all the holy furnishings that were in the tabernacle. The priests and the Levites brought them up. 5 Also King Solomon, and all the congregation of Israel who were assembled with him, were with him before the ark, sacrificing sheep and oxen that could not be counted or numbered for multitude. 6 Then the priests brought in the ark of the covenant of the Lord to its place, into the inner sanctuary of the temple, to the Most Holy Place, under the wings of the cherubim. 1 Kings 8:4-6 (NKJV)
Being more than nine hundred years before Christ, the sins of mankind in Solomon’s time could only be covered by a sin sacrifice. Without this cover, it would not have been possible for a sinful person to approach a holy God in the presence of the ark. Today, the blood of Christ provides all the atonement believers need to boldly approach the throne of God. There is no longer a need for the ark, a tabernacle, or a temple. (Revelation 11:19 tells us that the ark is currently in God’s heavenly temple, although this may possibly be the original one before Moses’ earthly version, we are not sure).
When the priests had completed all of their activities and brought the ark into the temple using the methods prescribed in the scriptures, God showed His approval with a manifestation of His glorious presence.
10 And it came to pass, when the priests came out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the Lord, 11 so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord. 1 Kings 8:10-11 (NKJV)
And God still reveals His Shekina glory to worshipers today, from time to time.
The first time I ever went into a prison as the rookie on a prison ministry team, I was paired up with a retired pastor. This was quite an honor, as he was a gentle soul who had impacted so many lives over many decades, and he was now the Pastor Emeritus of his church community.
During a quiet moment, we somehow started talking on the topic of church service length. His church services were known to have run quite long, and I made a comment that a several-hour church service “is not for me.” His reply surprised me:
“You don’t want to leave before God shows up.”
He was referring, of course, to the tangible presence of God. God is always present with us, but from time to time, He may choose to bless us and strengthen our faith by showing us His glory in an unusual, tangible way. We may sometimes sense His actual physical Presence. This could occur anytime He chooses, but often it happens during times of praise and worship:
3 But You are holy, enthroned in the praises of Israel. Psalm 22:3 (NKJV)
God chooses the timing and the method of revealing His glory to us. It may hit each person in a gathering differently, depending upon what each one needs from God, or it may not hit them at all.
This possibility may make some people feel uncomfortable, and they may run away from it. God does not wish to make anyone uneasy. He knows us and deeply loves each one of us and will only gift us with His presence in a way that brings us an inner peace and serenity, and a relief from our burdens, troubles, or even healing from serious infirmities.
Phillip Corbett, in his book “Running with Your Second Wind”, summarizes some of the ways God has tangibly “shown up” in some of the praise and worship services he has been in:
“When His presence comes, it touches people and often manifests in amazing ways. You may see people shouting, running, dancing, and shaking. Other people experience extreme heat or a cool wind or smell a heavenly fragrance. Still others feel the current of an invisible river swirling around their legs, or their body may freeze into a position, making them unable to move while God works inside them. You may see people lying on the floor, and then others may manifest nothing at all. There could be people laughing, rejoicing or just sitting silent while someone next to them sobs uncontrollably.”
Phillip Corbett, “Running with Your Second Wind”, 2013, Mobile AL, Gazelle Press, page 74.
Many Christians may feel left out at not having experienced anything like the tangible presence of God. But their faith is just as precious to Him as anyone’s, and He loves us all the same regardless of the manner of spiritual experience He chooses to give us. Some may experience a slow and almost imperceptible building up of their faith. For others, He may choose to use a physical manifestation, such as a healing, or giving a divine message to build up their strength when facing a demanding struggle.
When Solomon brought up the ark of the covenant into the temple, God rejoiced with him and all the people by revealing His glory tangibly with a cloud of His presence. We may find, at times, that WE are God’s presence for someone in need around us, representing the hands and feet of Christ to them. We may be the first glimpse of God that their spiritual lives have yet been open enough to see. May we all serve the Lord in whatever kingdom role or experience that He has chosen for us to do.
God builds up our faith in many ways, sometimes without ever using a physical manifestation of Himself. We all walk a different path, the very one that He has chosen for us. We want to be in just the right place at just the right time, wherever He has willed for us to be.
Father God, thank you for loving me. Continue to build up my faith through Your word, through answered prayer, and through the wisdom and faith of others around me. Help me to recognize Your voice and presence through divine “coincidences”, unexpected favor, or in any other method You choose to reveal Yourself to me. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.