"As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the Temple. And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD's house. When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the LORD on the Temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, "For he is good, and his steadfast love endures forever." (2 Chronicles 7:1-3)
Can you imagine what it must have been like to be a Hebrew watching King Solomon, clothed in gold and silk, pray in front of the Temple? The Temple--the house of God, no longer a tent, but a permanent, glorious structure of gold, cedar, and exquisite craftsmanship. As a Jew, a ragtag race of twelve tribes, having come out of slavery and desert wanderings, here was a marvel to behold! God, the Creator, has made his dwelling place with you and your people. You are the chosen people of all the earth. Every person who has ever felt the underdog, every dreamer who thought their dreams could never possibly come true, every victim of oppression and violence--all of them can put themselves in the shoes of these Israelites who at that moment know that they are beloved-chosen of God. He is on their side.
When King Solomon finishes his prayer, the heavens grow so dark that they shut out the sun, and a terrible golden fire blasts from the sky and burns the sacrificial offering. The skies open in the brightest blue, and the Temple is surrounded by smoke and light, the glory of LORD burnishing in technicolor, almost in motion, like heat off hot desert sands distorts any image behind it. And the people are awestruck and afraid, and they bury their faces in the pavement. And this whole theatre of glory has not been misunderstood. The people are humbled, and they know that the steadfast love of the LORD endures forever.
This fantastic event pictured in Scripture shows how humility opens us up to the enduring love of God. When their faces are on the pavement, the people know they are loved. They begin to see that they are not worthy of God's care, that they are dust, yet God cares enough to come to them, to take their offering (like a parent who receives their child's attempt to make breakfast for them and eats it despite it being improperly made).
How this orientation to God will change in the coming years! Israel's humility will turn to pride. Instead of humbling them, the Temple will become a place of arrogance. Soon, they will brag that the Temple's location in their midst makes them invincible. They think they can serve God and other gods. They pursue and court the nations. And it all comes crashing down--quite literally, the Temple is destroyed. Pride goes before a fall.
As we face our own struggles and successes, let us pray that we may be humble. Let us be grateful for whatever God has provided and not become arrogant in what we have or what we've lost. Let us strive to be people who live in the recognition that we possess more than Israel did--we have the Son given to us for our salvation and the salvation of the world. We who were not chosen have become the chosen people of God. Hence, we should pray for humility and a spirit of gentleness. That way, we can be the best kinds of people that God has called us to be. And perhaps, the world will see the glory of God in us.