Notes below based on sermon preached at One Church Home on October 2, 2022
One of the most personal yet powerful names of God, and we may not even know or fully understand what it means.
It means, “The LORD is There.” This may sound a bit like the title of a Dr. Seuss book but…
“Where is ‘There?'”
By a burning bush, the parted Red Sea,
On top of a mountain, wherever is He?
In the Ark of the Covenant, the Most Holy Place,
The cleft of the rock, why not face to face?
In Ezekiel, the temple He left, but to where?
Oh, where is the LORD?
Tell me, where is “there?”
The answer exists in a very different book—the Living Word: “There” is wherever His people are. “There” is with His people in covenant relationship.
He is and has always been a covenant-making, covenant-keeping God of relationship.
This, His covenant promise:
I will be your God.
You will be my people.
And I will dwell with you…
I will be “there” with you.
Jehovah Shammah is a biblical theology of the unique, concentrated presence of a covenant-keeping God in an intimate relationship with His people. Biblical theology is just a fancy term for studying God as He is revealed in the Scriptures. We study God’s Word first and foremost to know Him—to discover God through what He has revealed to us about Himself, His purposes, His plans, and His promises. And one of the ways to do that is to see how God uses specific themes that run from the beginning to the end of the Bible—themes like temple, sacrifice, kingdom, and the one that helps us know Him as Jehovah Shammah, The LORD [who] is There: the theme of covenant.
Since before the beginning of the world, God has always planned, always desired to be present with His people in an intimate covenant relationship; to be near, to be “there.”
Ephesians 1:4-5 is worth reading in a few different translations.
New Life Version
4 Even before the world was made, God chose us for Himself because of His love. He planned that we should be holy and without blame as He sees us. 5 God already planned to have us as His own children. This was done by Jesus Christ. In His plan, God wanted this done.
The Living Bible
4 Long ago, even before he made the world, God chose us to be his very own through what Christ would do for us; he decided then to make us holy in his eyes, without a single fault—we who stand before him covered with his love. 5 His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by sending Jesus Christ to die for us. And he did this because he wanted to!
4 Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. 5 Long, long ago, he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!)
4 just as [in His love] He chose us in Christ [actually selected us for Himself as His own]before the foundation of the world, so that we would be holy [that is, consecrated, set apart for Him, purpose-driven] and blameless in His sight. In love 5 He predestined and lovingly planned for us to be adopted to Himself as [His own] children through Jesus Christ, in accordance with the kind intention and good pleasure of His will—
In the carefully selected words of the original text and each translation, we see God’s desire for nearness and intimacy with His people from the beginning of creation. While Elohim, in all His fullness, strength, and power, created and filled the heavens and the earth, it was Yahweh—the LORD—who created man. This is God in relationship; God in covenant.
And while everything else in the created world was spoken into existence by the power of His Word, Yahweh “formed” the man—He created and shaped Him and “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Genesis 2:7).
Ann Voskamp writes in The Greatest Gift, Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas:
“The authority of God made all of creation. But it was the affection of God that made all his children.
The three persons of the Trinity—Father God, Jesus Christ, and Holy Spirit—gathered close together to imagine you. And God and three persons, uncontainable affection, knelt down and kissed warm life into you with the breath of his love.
You are made of the dust of this earth, and you are made of the happiness of heaven, and you are flesh and you are spirit, and you are of two worlds longing for the home of forever and Him.
No matter your story before, this is your beginning now: you were formed by Love…for love.”
It should, therefore, not surprise us to see God talking with Adam in the garden, instructing him in the things that would first and foremost preserve the intimate relationship God so desires, walking with Adam in the cool of the day. This is a God who delights to be near.
When Adam sinned, separating himself and all mankind to come from the perfect relationship he had experienced with Yahweh, God did not make a plan for salvation. God set into motion the plan which had already been made before the foundation of the world to restore all that had been lost…so He could be “there” once again.
It is the essence of our sin to choose something else besides God, and to love something, someone, or ourselves more than Love itself. Our sinful nature attempts to convince us to go our way, separating us from a covenant-keeping Father who wants so much to be near us that He was willing to give His Only Son’s life for it.
The Bible begins in Genesis with God’s presence. And when His presence, His dwelling with man, is lost because of man’s sin, we see throughout the Bible (both Old Testament and the New alike) that the singular story of God’s redemptive plan is to return His presence with His people. To be “there” with them, with us: with Noah in the flood; with Abraham in Canaan; with Moses and the Israelites in the wilderness; to dwell in the tabernacle and the temple; in the Christ—Immanuel; in us through the indwelling of His Holy Spirit; and someday, face to face again in the New Jerusalem.
In Ezekiel, God reluctantly withdraws His presence from Solomon’s temple. Before the temple was constructed, God’s presence had been “there” with His children, the Israelites, in the tabernacle as they traveled through the desert.
The Hebrew word for tabernacle, mishkān, means “residence” or “dwelling place.” It is often referred to as the “Tent of Meeting” because it was the portable earthly dwelling place of God Himself (Yahweh), the place where God would meet with His people, Israel, as the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years and as they entered the Promised Land.
In Exodus 40:34, when Moses had finished constructing the tabernacle as God had commanded, “the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” just as it did the temple after it was completed and the Ark of the LORD’s Covenant was brought in (I Kings 8:11).
Yet after the Israelites failed to keep their covenant promise and persisted in worshiping idols, the presence of God eventually left the temple before it was looted and destroyed by the Babylonians.
The story in Ezekiel chapters 8-11 is so moving. We can almost feel the broken heart of God, His deep sorrow, and his reluctance to leave the midst of His people where He had dwelt. It was not a quick exit but rather a slow step-by-step departure as His glory was withdrawn—first from the Holy of Holies to the steps of Solomon’s Temple (Ezekiel 9:3, 10:4), then to the Eastern Gate (Ezekiel 10:18-19), and finally, to the Mount of Olives just east of the Temple Mount area in Jerusalem (Ezekiel 11:23). From there, He departed. The manifest presence of the LORD was no longer there because of His people’s sin.
It was the same with Adam in the Garden. Isn’t the same often true in our own lives?
There is a complete separation from God when a person has not yet come to know Him as Jehovah Tsidkenu when they have not accepted the gift of His righteousness imputed to them through the death of Jesus on the cross.
But even as Christians, our sin can separate us from experiencing God’s nearness. Like King David, a “man after God’s own heart,” who coveted Uriah’s wife Bathsheba, committed adultery with her, and then arranged for Uriah to be killed to cover his sin, our sin can make us feel as if God is no longer “there.”
Psalm 51, especially verse 11, reveals the deep agony of David’s broken heart:
11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
In those times, it isn’t God who has moved away from us. We have chosen to turn away from Him. As born-again believers, we don’t stop being His children or lose our salvation; the price for our sins has been paid in full. Yet, like a dark cloud on a sunny day, the sun may be shining, but we may not be able to see the brightness of its light or feel its penetrating warmth. We may be missing the peace and joy of living in His light.
Thankfully, we serve a prodigal-forgiving God who loves lavishly and always watches for our return. And when we do, when we repent and turn back to Him, like the Father of the prodigal (Luke 15:11-32), He will run to us, showering us with His extravagant love, and bring us home to dwell with us “there” once again.
Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”
The word “to” in “come to him” in the original New Testament is the Greek word “pros,” the root meaning of which is “face-to-face.” He will come face-to-face with us and make His home with us.
In John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God…,” the Greek word translated “with” is also “pros.” The Word, Jesus, was face-to-face with God. There can be no closer fellowship than that between the Father and the Son. When we love Him and keep His word, He will come and meet us face to face as the Father with his son.
This is spiritual intimacy. We don’t actually see the manifest presence of God physically, and we know that even though we are face to face, our understanding of Him is incomplete. And because intimacy depends on fully knowing and being fully known, our intimacy is still hindered.
But Paul writes of a future intimacy:
I Corinthians 13:12
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
In eternity, all that hinders our relationship with God will be gone. Faith will give way to sight, and we will behold Him in all His manifested glory. Then we will have complete, perfected, unhindered intimacy with God.
And then, He will dwell with us forever. He will always be “there.”
A New Heaven and a New Earth
1 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.
Hallelujah for the climax of redemptive history that is to come! God’s promises, purpose, and plan will be fulfilled in the second coming of Jesus and the establishment of the New Jerusalem. The descending of the Holy City, God Himself, coming down to dwell face to face with His people.
Then the covenant promise that runs throughout Scripture – “I will be your God; you will be my people, and I will dwell with you” – will be finally and forever fulfilled by Jehovah Shammah, the LORD is There. To Him be the glory forever and ever, Amen.
Note: all scripture references are from the New International Version. (2011) BibleGateway.com
Questions for reflection or discussion:
What does it mean to you to know that He is The LORD who is “There?”
Can you think of a time when you knew He was “there?” What helped you sense His nearness, His presence with you?
Can you think of a time when you felt He wasn’t “there?” Looking back, can you see why you may have felt that way? What helped you to see and feel His presence, His nearness again?
Read the passage from Ann Voskamp’s book again. Close your eyes and imagine Yahweh forming your body, kneeling and kissing “warm life into you with the breath of his love.” Say a prayer, thanking Him for making you “by Love…for love.” And pledge your whole heart to Him forever.
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